By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor; Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Gbenga Oke
ASABA—DR. EMMANUELUduaghan’s tenure as Governor of Delta State was brought to an abrupt end, yesterday, after the five-man Court of Appeal panel presided over by Justice Monica Dongban-Mensah, in Benin annulled the process that brought him to power. The panel in a unanimous decision ruled that the election was marred with irregularities.
The court decision was upon the electoral petition filed by the gubernatorial candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, Chief Great Ogboru that there was no election in the State. The court in its ruling ordered that a fresh election should be conducted within 90 days.
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Prince Sam Obi from Ika North East Constituency was ordered to be sworn in as Acting Governor in the interim. Obi was elected as Speaker only last July following the exit of the immediate past Speaker, Mr. Martins Okonta.
Yesterday’s action followed the persistent efforts of Mr. Ogboru to overturn the return of Dr. Uduaghan as the validly elected Governor of Delta State in the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial elections. To his chagrin, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Uduaghan as the winner, issued him certificate of return and he was subsequently sworn-in on may 29, 2007 thus setting the stage for the attendant series of legal combats.
Ogboru, like his Action Congress, AC counterpart, Mr. Peter Okocha approached the Election Tribunal sitting in Asaba, the Delta State Capital, to nullify Uduaghan’s election. While Ogboru anchored his petition on manipulation of the polls, Okocha hinged his on exclusion from the exercise. The tribunal led by Justice Lokulo dismissed his petition and Ogboru headed for the appeal court and got a judgment for the petition to be retried.
On October 20, 2009, a new tribunal chaired by Justice B.S. Mohammed quashed his petition in a 20-page judgment, paving the way for the battle to return to the appeal court. Following the declaration, Ogboru had articulated a petition to the State Election Tribunal praying the tribunal for an “order on third and fourth respondents, INEC, to conduct fresh election for the governorship office in Delta State, devoid of corrupt practices and an order nullifying the governorship election purportedly held in Delta State on April 14, 2007, including returns made thereto.”
His petition was struck out for seemingly technical reasons and he proceeded to the Court of Appeal which ordered that the petition should be retried at the State Election Tribunal. A fresh tribunal also dismissed the case and again Ogboru proceeded to the Court of Appeal for another appeal. The Appeal Panel which ruled on the case, yesterday, was freshly constituted.
God has spoken— Ogboru
Reacting to the development, Chief Ogboru and prominent stakeholders from the State including Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, Minister of State Education among others said: “This is victory for democracy and for the people of Delta State.
Our people have been deprived of their rights for so many years and it is just about time and God has spoken, the suffering of his people has come to an end. Since 2003 we have not had election in Delta State and the court having found that out said we should go for a re-run election and I am sure the people of Delta State will speak and God will speak.
I’m not surprised— Edwin Clark, Ijaw leader
In his reaction, foremost Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark said “the judgment did not come to me as a surprise because there was no election in Delta State in 2007. Uduaghan was imposed on us by his cousin, James Ibori in order to perfect all his misdeeds in Delta State. So, the judgment did not come to me as a surprise.”
The court is doing its job— Gbagi
Also, Minister of State for Education, OlorogunKenneth Gbagi said: “It only goes to show that the court is doing its job, they are living up to their responsibility.
The court must be allowed to do their job at all times. We will all go back to the field as citizens of Delta State and vote for who will be our next governor.”
Also National Chairman of Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwayanwu described the judgment as a good signal for the polity.
His words: “Well, it is a good signal for the PDP ahead of the 2011 elections. It is a good victory for democracy and the rule of law. We must say that the time for free and fair elections has come, to ask for one man, one vote, the time has come and it is no longer Uhuru, it is no matter how long it takes, justice will definitely prevail. So those who claim to be the biggest party in Africa in Nigeria and who are saying they want a number of states squarely should wait and watch that 2011 will be different from 2007.”
Delta State gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of theAction Congress, Mr Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege described the verdict as a well derserved victory. He said: “The judgment sounds the dead knell of the misrule and corrupt administration of Uduaghan and his cabal. The tyrant is gone forever and today’s court ruling is freedom day for all Deltans.”