ANDY UBAâ€™S APPEAL COURT JUDGMENT
By JIDE AJANI, Deputy Editor
THE meeting was between President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua and his attorney general and minister of justice, Michael Aondoaaka, at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. Yarâ€™Adua had sent for Aondoaaka and the meeting had been long in holding. For a man who claims to want to entrench due process in Nigeria, President Yarâ€™Adua needed the counsel of his attorney general. The issue had to do with the case of Andy Uba before the Court of Appeal.
Uba, a brother to the self-styled godfather of Anambra politics, Chris Uba, had served as a special assistant to former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and gone ahead to contest the now ill-fated April 2007 governorship elections in Anambra State.
The Supreme Court ruled that the tenure of Peter Obi was not over when the election which brought Andy to power was held and, therefore, ruled that Obi had to finish his tenure. Uba had again gone to the Supreme Court to seek interpretation and prayer that he should be treated as a governor-in-waiting.
The Supreme Court scuffed at the request and lambasted Andy for even daring to make such a request.Â All this while, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was merely watching events.Â But undaunted, Andy proceeded to the Appeal Court, a fit, proper and final place to determine all matters of governorship dispute. It was at this point that President Yarâ€™Adua sought the counsel of his justice minister.
At the meeting between President Yarâ€™Adua and Aondoaaka, the former requested to be educated on legal voyage Uba had decided to embark upon and the port of embarkation.Â Yarâ€™Adua should have been concerned. Uba is a former presidential aide and a strong leader in the Anambra State chapter of the PDP of which Yarâ€™Adua is the national leader.
But much more than that, the stories making the rounds suggested that the praying mantis move of Uba had presidential backing. It was being suggested that the presidency and some people in the corridors of power were fully behind Andy Uba.
Presidential sources said Aondoaaka made it known to President Yarâ€™Adua that Ubaâ€™s legal voyage was bound to hit an iceberg, the outcome of which would be far worse than the fate that befell the first voyage of the Titanic in the early part of the last century. Aondoaaka, Sunday Vanguard was told, laid the cards on the table for President Yarâ€™Adua.
First, Aondoaaka assured President Yarâ€™Adua that there was no legal excuse that would be given by the justices of the Court of Appeal on which a positive judgment for Andy would rest. The attorney general reportedly said should the Appeal Court rule in Andyâ€™s favour, he would be ready to go to court and challenge such a judgment as the chief law officer of Nigeria.
Besides, he told the president that the number of litigations that would be triggered from such a judgment would be so enormous that even Aso Rock would not provide enough rooms for the paper works that would ensue.
Once Aondoaaka convinced President Yarâ€™Adua of the futility of Andyâ€™s move, same was communicated to the leadership of the PDP. It was based on this that the leadership of the PDP went public to declare that Andy Uba could look for passengers on board for his voyage beyond the PDP. On many occasions PDP, the party on whose platform Uba â€œcontestedâ€ the election never hid its disdain for his case.
That explains why the party looked far beyond him in choosing its governorship candidate for the election which is scheduled for February 2010. Fridayâ€™s ruling of the Court of Appeal, seems the signpost, the beginning of what some would want to describe as a new dawn for Nigeriaâ€™s democracy. It is expected that Andy Uba will now rest his pursuit of a mandate which the Supreme Court had pronounced non-existent.
But the story of Andy Uba needs to be properly put in context with a view to having a proper sense of what was being pursued. He was perhaps the most powerful aide to Obasanjo for the eight years the latter spent in Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Just before the 2007 governorship elections in Anambra State, he had his own challenges regarding how he would get the ticket of his party.
His major opponent was Chris, his brother. Chris was the one who took over the reins of godfather hood from Sir Emeka Offor. Offor it was who ensured the emergence of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju as governor of the state in1999. Once Offor lost out in the power calculus, Chris was thrown up and he did not leave anybody in doubt as to where the power base rested and how the power at his disposal was to be used.
He showed bare-faced, raw power enforcement when he caused the abduction of another Chris, Ngige, who was the state governor, having emerged at the polls in 2003.Â That election was, however, annulled by the gubernatorial tribunal as well as the Appeal Court in 2006, paving the way for Peter Obi of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
Back to the emergence of Andy Uba! With Chris Uba running riot in Anambra, there was the small problem of how to wrest control of the PDP from him; and it wasnâ€™t just wresting power from him but also handing it over to Andy who had to be compensated by Obasanjo. Here was a state where the former and disgraced Chris Ngige had jumped out of PDP and secured the governorship ticket of the Action Congress, AC.
Sunday Vanguard was reliably informed that the fate which befall Ngige, the abduction saga, was handed down to Chris, too. It was revealed that during one of his visits to Aso Rock for discussions on how to move Anambra State forward, that the then president found an ingenious way of dealing with what had become known as â€œthe Chris Uba issue.â€ A source told Sunday Vanguard that â€œthe man told us when we went for the PDP primaries in Anambra State last month that he was practically locked up inside Aso Rock and was not allowed to leave.
He said they ensured that he was held down there. That was how the process for the emergence of a new kingmaker in the state was wrought. This was what he told us himselfâ€, the source said.
But Uba, a man full of surprises was to bounce back by mobilizing massively for the recent ill-fated PDP primaries, buying cars, bags of rice, wrappers and spending hugely. The congresses were never concluded, leading to the emergence of Chukwuma Soludo, picked by the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP. For Uba, anything could have happened had the person occupying Aso Rock Presidential Villa as his principal, were in charge.
Last Fridayâ€™s judgment was clear. The court said it was in support of the position of the Supreme Court on the matter which had earlier held that there was no vacancy in the gubernatorial seat of Anambra as at the time the said election which purportedly returned Uba was conducted.
The appellate court was unequivocal in its decision to reject Ubaâ€™s prayer to declare him governor-in-waiting on the strength of his earlier victory at the polls saying the governorship seat was not a traditional stool that should be hereditary.
In a unanimous judgment delivered by the five-man panel of justices led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, the court held that although it had jurisdiction to entertain the application, after due consideration and looking at the arguments by the applicant and respondents, the court had no choice than to dismiss the application in its entirety as it â€œlacks merit and has no moral basis and will be a judicial blunder of immense proportion to grant these reliefs being sought.â€
He said that the Supreme Court eventually ruled that Peter Obiâ€™s tenure runs from March 17, 2006 to March 17, 2010, and ordered that Uba who had been returned by INEC and sworn in as the winner of April 14, 2007 governorship election of Anambra State, vacate the office immediately for Obi to complete his tenure since there was no vacancy in the first instance.
Ngwuta maintained that Ubaâ€™s argument that he was governor in waiting since no tribunal or court nullified his election, does not hold water since, according to him, the court or tribunal cannot nullify what does not exist. He wondered where Uba got the governor-in-waiting appellation.
â€œThe seat of power in Anambra State is not a hereditary stool, it is only through due process as prescribed by the electoral act and the constitution can somebody be elected to occupy that seat. The election that brought Uba was an illegal act and nobody demands right or relief on illegal act. Accordingly reliefs 1 to 4 are hereby dismissed and consequently the application is dismissed.
Each party should bear its cost,â€ he ruled. Justice Ngwuta said based on the Supreme Court judgment, which said that Obi remains governor till March 17, 2010, the election of Uba therefore violates Section 178 (2) of the 1999 Constitution which prescribes that election to the office of the governor should hold not earlier that 60 days and not less than 30 days to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent.
Granting the application, according to him will equally rob Obi of his right to seek a second term in office in line with the law, as well as disenfranchise those who were not of voting age in April 14, 2007 but who will be in March 17, 2010.
The appellate court maintained that the consequential relief being sought by the applicant was substantial in nature after critical examination but that enough evidence were not taken in that regard. He stated that since the court remained the final court in governorship election cases, it had become very important for it to be careful in granting the relief so as not to foreclose the right of others to seek further redress.
The other justices Kekere Ekun, Paul Galinje, Abdul Adoki and Jean Omokiri all aligned themselves with the lead judgment. Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it would abide by the judgment by going ahead with the planned governorship election scheduled to take place in Anambra on February 6, next year. It said the judgment had finally laid to rest all the ambiguities and controversies surrounding the conduct of the April 14 gubernatorial election in Anambra state.
Speaking with newsmen, Counsel to INEC in the case, Chief Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN) hailed the judgment as been â€œvery thorough and in-depthâ€ noting that they had finally secured the clarification and guidance which the commission had all while the case lasted prayed the appellate court to provide to them.
The judgment is a landmark decision in the sense that the court has laid to rest all the controversies concerning the governorship seat of Anambra after March 17 next year. Weâ€™ll abide by the judgment by going ahead to conduct the scheduled election in the state next year. We are happy,â€ Nwaiwu stated.