The Supreme Court has again reaffirmed Governor Okorocha’s election victory in the 2011 Governorship election in IMO State. Delivering judgment on Friday, 24th, January, 2014 in the appeal brought by Governor Okorocha, the Court lambasted Mr Ohakim who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for his endless and desperate penchant for litigation on the 2011 election petition.
Delivering judgment on the appeal, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi who read the lead judgment held that the Court of Appeal, Owerri erred in granting Ohakim’s application to be joined in a suit which was originally filed by Ifeanyi Ararume, the then candidate of the now defunct All Progressives Congress(ACN)
Justice Ogunbiyi lamented a situation where Chief Ikedi Ohakim and the PDP were so desperate in winning the 2011 election petition to the extent of using a backdoor (APIAM WAY) to achieve a revisit of the case, even when they had exhausted all the opportunities open to them but lost. It will be recalled that long before this judgment of yesterday(24th Jan uary,2014), the PDP and Chief Ohakim had taken their grouse to the Imo State Election Tribunal, the Court of Appeal, Owerri and the Supreme Court and lost woefully in all three courts. Justice Ogunbiyi therefore advised the PDP and Ikedi Ohakim to abide by fate and hope for a better political future instead of using the backdoor to achieve victory on the case. Justice Ogunbiyi recalled that the subject matter which the PDP sought to appeal was the same as that which was finally determined by the Supreme court by way of an election petition.
Furthermore, she held that the issues which the parties raised at the Court of APPEAL, Owerri were post-election matters which could be heard only by an election tribunal. Justice Ogunbiyi said that “This is more so when the time prescribed by law and mandating him (Ohakim) within which to conduct his case had elapsed; Providence expects him to abide by his fate and hope for a better political future”
She berated the Court of Appeal for granting the relief” sought by the PDP and Ikedi Ohakim as this is capable of causing judicial anarchy in the country.” Hear Justice Ogunbiyi:”It is illegal and unconstitutional for a candidate to seek to appeal as an interested party a judgment in an election matter after the election in which he was a candidate had held and the time to file petition against same had also elapsed. By the provision of Section 235 of our Constitution, the decision of the Supreme Court is final in gubernatorial election matters. The Court of Appeal is therefore without any stretch of imagination duty bound by Section 287 of the same Constitution to give effects to the judgments of this court. The implication of the lower court having obliged the application is far reaching, very detrimental and damaging for breaching Section 235 of the Constitution on finality of the judgment of this Court”. She frowned that the Court of Appeal was facilitating an attempt to bring back a matter which had been settled by an Electoral Tribunal that was properly set up.
The Apex Court upheld the submission of Governor Okorocha;s Counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola(SAN) that the PDP’S proposed grounds of appeal were an indirect way of challenging Okorocha’s election victory contrary to Section 134 of the Electoral Act 2010 which prescribed the modality of challenging an election petition.
It is pertinent to recall that the genesis of this case is that after the 2011 governorship election in Imo State which was won by the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Owelle Anayo Okorocha, and the PDP filed a suit in the State Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge the victory of Rochas Okorocha. Delivering judgment in the suit, Hon Justice Kpojime of the State Election Tribunal held:”The Supplementary election held on the 6th of MAY,2011 was held in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended) and Electoral Act 2010(as amended). Furthermore, Hon Justice Kpojime said:”We come to the irresistible conclusion that the petitioner(PDP) has failed to prove that the candidate(Ikedi Ohakim) scored majority of the lawful votes cast at the election, under the circumstance and in consequence therefore, the Tribunal in its unanimous judgment holds that the petition lacks merit, and is accordingly dismissed in its entirety”.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Election Tribunal, the PDP appealed to the Court of Appeal, Owerri. On the 6th day of January, 2012, the Court of Appeal gave its ruling and upheld the ruling of the Election Tribunal. Hon Justice Abdullahi held:”After a careful consideration of the preliminary objection, filed by the appellants, we hold that it lacks merit and is hereby dismissed. The appeal also lacks merit and also dismissed with N50,000 cost against the applicant (PDP)”.
Still dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal, Owerri, the PDP appealed to the Supreme Court. Delivering judgment on the Appeal, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta (JSC) cited Section 285(7) of the Constitution which requires that judgment must be delivered within 60 days. He noted that though the Court of Appeal gave its ruling within the stipulated period of 60 days, it, however, gave the reasons for the ruling on January 24, 2013- a period which was beyond the stipulated 60 days. According to the Supreme Court, the Judgment of the Court of Appeal was therefore a nullity as it was delivered on January 6th, 2012 while an explanation for the ruling was given on January 24th, 2012- a period that made the judgment to fall beyond the statutory period of 60 days. The Supreme Court therefore, declared the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Owerri a nullity and in its place upheld the judgment of the Imo State Governorship Election Tribunal which had declared Owelle Okorocha winner of the election. Please take judicial notice of the fact that, in spite of the error of exceeding the 60-day limit, the Court of Appeal also concurred with the ruling of theTribunal.which upheld Okorocha’s victory.
So, with that judgment of the Supreme Court, the PDP and Ikedi Ohakim exhausted all the opportunities open to them and lost woefully in all three courts. Since it’s trite that judgment must come to an end, one expected them to approach the issue with philosophical calmness and equanimity and strategize for another election. Even whilethe PDP was in court, Senator Ararume had gone to the Federal High Owerri to challenge the declaration of Okorocha as winner in the 2011 governorship election. He lost in the Federal High Court on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. Dissatisfied with the ruling, Senator Ararume appealed to the Court of Appeal, Owerri. It was at this point that Ikedi Ohakim and the PDP applied to be joined as parties to the same course of action which they had pursued and lost in all three courts. The Court of Appeal surprisingly allowed the relief and the PDP and Ikedi Ohakim became parties in the suit.
It was at this point that Governor Okorocha appealed to the Supreme Court to blow the whistle on the wrong and dangerous precedent that was being set up by the Court of Appeal, Owerri –the act of allowing a litigant to pursue multiple courses of litigation on one subject matter. As stated above, the Supreme Court has just delivered judgment in which it berated the Court of Appeal for setting a dangerous precedent which could be tantamount to a judicial coup/anarchy.
The PDP and Ohakim have also been tongue-lashed by the Supreme Court for their indiscretion and desperation to achieve a court victory through the backdoor or by ambush. Even as you read this viewpoint, it is pertinent to state that the petition by Senator Ararume against the 2011 governorship election still lies in the Court of Appeal, Owerri, even though he (ARARUME) defected from his 2011 party, ACN to the PDP on 31st December, 2013 or thereabout. Senator Ararume was the candidate of the All Congress of Nigeria in the 2011 Governorship poll. In the 2011 governorship election in Imo State, Owelle Okorocha of the APGA won with a total of 336809 votes; Ikedi Ohakim of the PDP came second with 290,496 votes while Senator Ararume of the ACN polled 110,171 votes. In his appeal in the Court of Appeal, Owerri, Senator Ararume is praying the court to declare the 2011 governorship election in IMO State null and void and seeking order of court for a fresh election to be conducted in all the27 Local Government Areas of Imo State.
All in all, the summary of the entire report is that Governor Okorocha has again swallowed Ohakim and the PDP as both of them have bowed once more to the superior firepower of the Peoples Support which culminated in the victory of Okorocha in the 2011 election. Governor Okorocha’s victory in 2011 was anchored on People Power; it re-enacted the maxim:”Vox Populi, Vox Dei” a Latin maxim which means: “The voice of the people is the voice of God” .