In this analysis, OKEY MADUFORO, interrogates the on-going impasses at the Anambra Elections Petitions Tribunal as the Ubah brothers challenge the election of the Senator Ifeanyi Ubah in the Anambra South poll
Anambra South Senatorial District is arguably the hot bed of electoral controversy given the fact that the gladiators within showcase the brand of politics by alterations and altercation being in the area. The last general election was the fight of the Titans when self-styled godfather, Chief Chris Uba, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), wrestled the senatorial seat with his brother, Senator Andy Uba of the All progressive Congress (APC) and Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young Progressives Party (YPP). The election which also produced a major upset saw the emergence of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah as the winner against all odds, dusting of bookmakers’ choice, Sen. Andy Uba, causing the waterloo of Chris Uba who has always prided himself as a political field marshal.
Today the political battle has shifted from the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the Election Petitions Tribunal, Awka, with the two brothers filling a petition challenging the victory of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah.
In their respective petitions, the two brothers are calling for the cancellation of the exercise and demanding a fresh poll if they cannot be declared winner of the said election. The president of the Appeal Court after duly understanding the prayers of the petitions granted that the cases be consolidated.
But strange happenings came into the power play when it was being rumored that Senator Andy Uba is allegedly demanding that his petition be heard by a different tribunal without recourse to the consolidation of the matters.
According to Anambra South Integrity Forum (ASIF) led by its co-coordinator Mr. Maximus Okafor Ibeadi who spoke to reporters shortly after the meeting of the group in Awka: “We have confidence in the three panelists in Anambra State and what they have done so far is impressive because they act in accordance with the point of law.
“But some forces whose candidates did not will the senatorial election are making underground moves for the panelists to be changed with new members who would dance to their tune put in place.
“There are some forces which have been benefiting from the locust of the past eight years that have lost their deposits at the end of this election and they are remotely contacting their co-travelers to impress on the revered president of the Appeal Court to change the judges.”
He further noted: “We know that His Lordship, the President of the Appeal Court is not somebody that can be pushed around and he believes in the rule of law and sacrosanct nature of the judicial process and urge him not to allow those desperate politicians to have their ways.”
Ibeadi also contended that: “These two petitioners I know were compelled by their supporters to challenge the outcome of the election in court and going by the people I know very well they are not given to overheating the polity by trying to change the goal post in the middle of a football match.”
“We use this medium to urge the petitioners not to give in to the machinations of their desperate supporters who would not allow an all inclusive representation to come in place but to benefit individually from the collective interest of the people of Anambra South Senatorial District.”
Consequent upon the above, the respondent Senator Ifeanyi Ubah petitioned the President of the Appeal Court insisting that the due process is following if the matter will be deconsolidated.
According to the petition signed by counsels to Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) Mr. DC Denwigwe, (SAN), and three orders and copied to registrar of the election tribunal Anambra and to all the petitioners it prayed; “My Lord, we humbly pray that if any of the petitioners do not wish to proceed with the hearing of the petitioners as consolidated pursuant to the order of the tribunal made on June 12, 2019, such petitioner should adopt the proper procedure should be for the aggrieved petitioner to present a formal application with good reasons set forth before the Court, in which case, due opportunity & far hearing will be afforded the respondent to react.
“Given the foregoing, we humbly pray the Hon. President of the Court of Appeal to decline any request or invitation to administratively interfere with the judicial decision of the honorable tribunal (the order made on June 12, 2019), by acceding to the request of the petitioner in EPT/AN/SEN/09/2019 for the de-consolidation of the EPT/AN/SEN/09/2019 and EPT/AN/SEN/11/2019.”
Ubah further contended that even when he as a respondent have been ensuring the quick dispensation of the matter, the petitioners, Andy and Chris have been neck deep in frustrating the proceedings of the tribunal by not following the legal procedure for hearing on the matter.
“My lord, we also note the unfortunate indulgence by the petitioners in the two petitions in time consuming distractions which inhibit the free flow of the hearing of their petitions. This is in spite of our cooperation and the commitment of the tribunal in ensuring that the Petitions are accorded due and expeditious public hearing. We also note the attitude of the Petitioners inept/AN/SEN/09/2019 and EPT/AN/SEN/11/2019 of writing applications by way of letter to the tribunal/the Court of Appeal without putting other parties in copy.”
As it stands now, there is a stalemate at the tribunal in respect of the petition and when this reporter visited the state High Court housing the three tribunals, a staff in the area said that the matter is not being entertained follow some gray areas that needs to be addressed.
While the continuation of the matter is being expected, legal watchers are apprehensive that the stalemate must take cognisance of the statutory 180 days provided for the dispensation of all electoral petitions at the lower tribunal.
The questions are that, should the stalemate linger too long, would the 180 days for the hearing of the petition be counted? Similarly, they contend that the Appeal Court President should ensure that there will not be any unlawful attempt to change the goal post in the middle of the football game by extending the mandatory 180 days to apparently favour any of the petitioners.
Again should the deconsolidation of the petitions be carried out without the due legal process, observers contend that the integrity of both the Appeal Court President and the lower tribunal as unbiased umpires would certainly be put to question.