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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Before Supreme Court Reviews Itself – By Oguwike Nwachuku



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On Wednesday, January 15, 2020, former Vice President of Nigeria and presidential candidate of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar advised the sacked Governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha to respect and abide by the court ruling.

It was not out of hatred for the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives that Atiku gave the advice. If anything, Atiku gave the advice out of love for Ihedioha.

It was also out of Akitu’s experience in politics and deep understanding of the workings of the judiciary, even though not a lawyer.

Atiku had advised Ihedioha to move on with his life and start in earnest to plan his next political journey if he is still interested in politics instead of wasting his precious time trying to resurrect a dead horse like he is trying to do now through surrogates.

Ihedioha did not heed that fatherly pieces of advice as he has returned to the Supreme Court to seek a review of a matter it had painstakingly adjudicated and given its sincere judgment.

The issue that made Ihedioha, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the March9, 2019 governorship election in Imo state return to the Supreme Court is well known to all and we do not need to be-labour it here. 

However, the summary of his reason to seek a review of the case the apex court had given judgment on January 14, 2020 is that the Supreme Court should sack His Excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma earlier pronounced winner of the governorship election in Imo state by the Justices and bring him back to office after being sacked. But Ihedioha’s prayer is not as simple as it seems. We shall return to this shortly.

For now, let us take a second look at the advice Atiku gave to Ihedioha as one believed in many quarters to have drank from Waziri Adamawa’s reservoir of experience and knowledge of the Nigerian politics.

In a tweet after the Supreme Court’s ruling that changed Ihedioha’s  political fortune Atiku said: “With regard to the judgment of the Supreme Court, which nullified the election of the candidate of the PDP, Emeka Ihedioha, as Governor of the state of Imo, I can only say that since the Supreme Court is final, we must accept its judgment.”

Atiku continued: “However unexpected and unpalatable it may be, the rule of law must guide our paths even if logic sheds light on a different path.”

In taking a position on the Imo State Governorship election after passing through all the legal processes from the Tribunal to the Court of Appeal before berthing at the final court in the land, the Supreme court held that the lower court (Court of Appeal) erred in law when it rejected evidence brought before it that votes due to Senator Hope Uzodinma, candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) from 388 polling units were not credited to him.

Consequently, the apex court did the needful by adding the votes that were cleverly removed from Uzodinma’s score and also ordered that he be immediately sworn-in as the lawful winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo State.

It was a ruling that elicited mixed feeling – joy and gloom at different quarters, and later gave rise to some unbecoming demeanour particularly from the losing camp that question the integrity of many people who call themselves our leaders in a democratic setting.

Many of those who were beneficiaries of the process that brought the sacked PDP government in Imo state into power did not only go berserk in the way they poured venom on the Supreme Court and the Justices of the institution, but they set out to orchestrate strategic distraction of the newly sworn-in Uzodinma administration, even when they know too well about the inviolability of certain decisions of the apex court.

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I am not sure if Ihedioha, a tested lawmaker, must have given vent to the distractive events that followed after the swearing in of Distinguished Senator Uzodinma.

However, not withstanding how reticent Ihedioha has remained, many people are still in shock that he has neither called his supporters to order nor distanced himself from their maddening disposition over the Supreme court ruling, an indication that nobody was ready to heed advice from those who should know, like Atiku.

Instead of heeding advice from the informed, Ihedioha’s supporters resorted to calling out the Justices as corrupt, deriding them as not being worthy to answer Justices while the institution they represent has repeatedly been hurriedly tagged as one destroying Nigeria’s democracy.

Those of them who paused a bit to take a second look at Atiku’s advice where he urged Ihedioha not to be deterred by the court judgement but to overcome his setbacks and “come back stronger”, saw in that advice a window of opportunity to further denigrate Nigeria’s final court.

They saw in it an opportunity to see the hope and future of Imo state and its people lying only in their hands and not in another person’s hands, no matter how well intentioned and competent. Who does such a thing or thinks that way?

When Atiku said, “I urge the people of Imo and the entirety of the Nigerian people not to give in to despair,” he was guided by the fact that Ndi Imo have suffered untold hardship in the hands of those they call their leaders. Atiku was prophetically encouraging the good people of Imo state to continue to persevere because hope is in sight. He did not tell them to heed to distractive activities that would create an environment for miscreants to see Imo as a take off point to further undermine the people. 

Unfortunately, those who have rabid hatred for Governor Uzodinma for the fun of it and are averse to his coming on board Imo topmost leadership cadre to bring hope to the hopeless in the state are at work trying to undermine the plan. But they will fail. They have been busy throwing stones into the market square oblivious of who the stone will hit.

They are the ones crying blue murder over the Supreme Court judgment that brought Senator Uzodinma to power on January 15, the day he was sworn in as governor.

They are ready to stop at nothing to arm-twist the hands of the Justices to do the unthinkable as long as that will serve their selfish purpose, forgetting that judicial process thrives on facts, hard facts; or what in judicial parlance is known as evidence before the court.

Those who ought to know are not swayed by the unnecessary gyration that is going on at some quarters across the country – Owerri, Abuja, Lagos and laughably outside the country. The open Disco they resorted to be dancing for weeks now in some cities across the country is nothing but attempts to pressure the apex court to undo the decision its seven Justices unanimously took on the Imo governorship election of March 9, 2019 after painstakingly considering the facts before them.

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We know them for what they are and love doing – meddlesome interlopers and stand-by hired protesters. Their trade is not seasonal. They follow the man ready to pick their bills. I am almost sure after tomorrow they will make themselves available to be hired even by the persons they are protesting against today.

Before the seven Justices gave their ruling that met the expectations of informed legal minds and many Imolites, Senator Uzodinma laid all the facts available to him before the honourable courts.

His story right from the tribunal through to the Court of Appeal and eventually the Supreme Court, was not only similar but contained incontrovertible facts as the last court of the land eventually discovered on January 14 before taking that historic decision to affirm him duly and lawfully elected governor of Imo state.

Unfortunately, the PDP and Ihedioha camp that alleged irregularities were unable to present before the court (Supreme Court) evidence or data to contradict the ones Uzodinma presented.

They were quick to allege criminal acts but not ready to present their facts to substantiate their allegation. Is it no longer a judicial norm that he who alleges must prove?

Even the electoral umpire that everyone knows was complicit in all the irreconcilable election matters in Nigeria with regard to the 2019 election was content playing hide and seek.

It baffles critical minds how anyone wants the Supreme Court to review a matter where facts, if any, were not presented ab initio before it. That would mean asking for the impossible from such a respected institution that is the pride of any nation that has respect for its rule of law and democratic tenets.

Why are we keen on destroying what is left as the only hope of the common man – the judiciary? Why are our judicial officers speaking from where they appear, which suggests they are more interested in what they get from their clients than the things that preserve their honour, integrity and national legacy?

One of such lawyers – Evan Ufeli- who spoke on Channels Television Sunday Politics on February 16, reminds me of the danger our country faces when opinion is free, and how vulnerable we can all become if those who claim to know are leading all of us to perdition.

Speaking for himself and a camp of Civil Society Organisation Ufeli advised the Supreme Court to order a fresh election in Imo, contending that neither Ihedioha nor Uzodinma got the requisite spread to make them governor.

Ufeli wants the Supreme Court to even take a position on a matter Ihedioha and the PDP have not prayed for, all in an attempt to justify his calling as a lawyer without taking into consideration the processes that got Ihedioha back to the apex court for it to review its judgment.

It beats the imagination that even lawyers who have read the provisions of the Electoral Act as regards timelines in electoral contest are trying to substitute facts with their personal opinion on the Supreme Court and its duties. Such persons with their views are actually the problem we have as a society.

Because some hired lawyers and their collaborators in the civil society have resorted to interpreting the law in ways that are misleading, the ranks of “lawyers” in our public space has swayed and suddenly, everybody has turned to a lawyer and telling the Supreme Court how to do its work.

The good news is that deep down Ihedioha, he knows there is not much the Supreme Court as presently constituted can do regarding the case he is being pressure to pursue. His greatest problem is how he can tell his associates goading him to “recover his mandate” that he cannot do anything. So, going to the Supreme Court to seek review is expected if only that would give Ihedioha the elixir he needs to be off the hook and firm grip of those making a living from his current predicament.

Unfortunately, the undeniable snag that stands between Ihedioha and his prayer that the Supreme Court will be considering tomorrow is that his supporters and associates do not have confidence in the apex court and they have eloquently vouched their minds on that.

It rankles that people’s conscience tells them they can eat your cake and still keep it.

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