The streets of Abia, the God’s Own State erupted in jubilation Monday afternoon as the people celebrated the well-deserved victory of their Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu at the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, the state capital.
Dr. Alex Otti, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA petition was earlier in the day struck out at the tribunal for lacking merit and inability of the APGA witnesses to establish their claim of irregularities.
Chairman of the tribunal, Usman Bwala, said that the petitioners, Alex Otti and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), did not prove their claim to have won the election ‘’beyond doubt”.
Mr. Bwala said the petitioners had on one hand, urged the court to nullify the election on grounds that it was marred by irregularities and massive fraud and on the other hand, sought that they should be declared winners of the same election.
He said the petitioners reckoned with the card reader as a means of accreditation during the election of April 11 but failed to agree with use of voter’s register.
The tribunal further refused to grant the petitioners’ request to uphold the cancellation of the results of the election in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala-Ngwa North Local Government Areas of the state.
Mr. Bwala said the State Returning Officer, Benjamin Ozumba, was not allowed under the law, to cancel the said results in the first place, hence the subsequent reversal by him had no effect.
He said the onus lay heavily on the petitioners to prove beyond doubt that they won the election as they claimed in their petition.
The tribunal chairman, therefore, dismissed the petition because of the failure of the petitioners to convince the tribunal beyond doubt that they won the election.
“Abia first” is Dr. Alex Otti’s campaign mantra which seemingly portrays him as having the interest of Abians at heart. Now, the time is ripe to test him whether he would dramatise this mantra and match what he preaches with action.
Ikpeazu’s victory has been trailed with barrage of advice, from well- meaning Abians and groups, to Otti to the do the needful by jettisoning any ambition of proceeding to the appellate court. The first to fire the salvo was South East Progressives Assembly (SEPA).
The group in a statement entitled “Why Otti Should Not Appeal Against Abia Tribunal Judgment” and signed by its President, Ebere Uzoukwa, urged Otti to shun the idea of appealing against the ruling and dramatize his campaign mantra which says ‘Abia First’ “at this very crucial moment by joining hands with his brother to rediscover the state in terms development”.
“The South East Progressives Assembly (SEPA) wishes to rejoice with the good people of Abia State and their Governor, Okezie Victor Ikpeazu PhD on their well deserved victory at the Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the election of the governor on Wednesday November 3, 2015.
“The judicial ratification and endorsement of Dr. Ikpeazu’s election as Governor of Abia State under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) has become yet another clear testimony that the election of the Obingwa-born scholar is mostly divine and apt at this very crucial moment in the history of our nation.
“Having showcased uncommon commitment and utmost desire to propel speedy socio-economic development of Abia state within a very short period of time by carefully marshaling out people-oriented policies and programmes, SEPA as a social organization and a political watch-dog in the south east remains convinced that Dr. Ikpeazu has substantially the needed qualities and capacity to rediscover Abia in terms of development.
“We therefore enjoin the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Alex Otti, to dramatize his campaign mantra which says ‘Abia First’ by not appealing against the judgment.
“ SEPA at this critical moment expects the APGA governorship candidate to think ‘Abia first’ by joining hands with his brother Dr. Ikpeazu and Abia people to move the state to higher heights. Prolonging the legal battle such as appealing against the ruling of the Abia Governorship Election Petition Tribunal , which has the potency of further distracting the governor and his team, will neither portray Dr. Otti as a true son of Abia nor someone that truly thinks ‘Abia first’.
“In the spirit of no victor no vanquish, SEPA also admonishes the governor to extend hands of fellowship to his closest rival Dr. Otti and other members of the opposition to prove his magnanimity in victory”.
A foremost traditional rulers and Chairman Umuahia South Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Godfrey C. Onwuka wants Otti to borrow a leaf from the former President Jonathan who accepted the Presidential election results in order to give peace a chance.
“l thank God for the verdict. We usually say that the law court is the last hope of the common man and the ruling today has reflected the voting pattern. I congratulate the governor for his winning at the tribunal. In every election, there must be a winner and if we keep on going to court, it means we do not love Abia State. Let us cue from what former President Jonathan did. He accepted the presidential election result and that moved Nigeria to another step. So if we all should accept the tribunal ruling, it will move Abia State to the next level of growth and development”. Eze Onwuka wants Otti to congratulate Ikpeazu and look for ways of moving the state forward.
Will Otti do the needful by heeding to these voices of wisdom? Will he toe the path of honour and heed to the advice of the mainstream APGA in the state by” accepting defeat, observing a break, putting himself together, and forge ahead with life”.
Indeed, there is no victor, no vanquished in Abia but a collective ambition to reclaim the state. Otti should not hesitate in embracing the clarion call of Governor Ikpeazu for” all aggrieved parties to show sense of patriotism by joining hands with him to develop the state”. “The voice of the people is the voice of God”.
Ukegbu, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Umuahia, Abia State.