SINCE last Monday, March 7, when Justice I.N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Asaba, Delta State adjourned judgment on the suit filed by Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, seeking the consolidation of his tenure till 2015 to Monday, March 14, the chatter among the political class is: Beware of the Ides of March.
Ides of March, a turn of phrase used by William Shakespare in his book, Julius Ceaser does not necessarily suggest a mystifying frame of mind, but the soothsayer’s warning to Julius Caeser to ”beware of the Ides of March” has forever imbued that date with a sense of foreboding.
However, Ides of March is simply a standard way of saying March 15, but in spite of the fact that Justice Buba adjourned judgment on the matter to March 14; a calendar day before Ides, which was devised by Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome, the word in the mouth of everybody is Ides of March.
A critical look, however, shows that Julius Caesar’s bloody assassination on March 15, 44 B.C. forever marked March 15, or the Ides of March, as a day of infamy. It has fascinated scholars and writers ever since. He was forewarned by a soothsayer about death on that day.
For ancient Romans living before that event, however, an Ides was merely one of several common calendar terms used to mark monthly lunar events. The Ides simply marked the appearance of the full moon.
To some politicians in Delta state, depending on the side of the divide, March 14 is new Ides of March. It is a day of decision, a day of birth, a day of death, a day of lamentation, a day of joy, a day of bitterness, a day of anguish, a red-letter day and a day that scale will fall-off the eyes of many. To some people, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan would either be “killed” like Caeser or shock his opponents with a lethal political uppercut.
Delta State Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, a group of Deltans who are against his governorship right from when he won the primaries at Ogwashi-Uku in 2007, led by the former Federal Commissioner for Information, Chief Edwin Clark, recently took a swipe at the governor, accusing him of being afraid of election, hence his going to court to stop the April governorship poll. . The statement by the Clark group was signed by Chief Godwin Ogbetuo and two others.
But the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Oma Djebah countered the group, saying, “It is a very wrong statement. The governor only went to court to seek an interpretation of the recent judgment by the Federal High Court, Abuja as it relates to him in Delta state. Credible Nigerians and the media have before he went to court suggested that interpretation should be sought on the judgment. I read the editorials and commentaries in the media; he went to court as a listening governor to seek a proper interpretation”.
“How can somebody say that he is not ready for election, the party has set up state and local government campaign councils and he had since started his campaign, you know Court of Appeal ordered a fresh election in the state following the nullification of his election and he took a fresh oath of office, that is why there is need to see interpretation of the judgment”, he said.
Mr. Djebah also dismissed the clam that the governor’s camp has become panicky, hence Udughan ordered his commissioners and top aides to relocate to their constituencies to campaign, saying, “As a politician, you must be in touch with your people, you must be at home with your people, listen to their yearnings and aspirations and address them. That is why the Constitution says every state should have a representative in the Federal Executive Council, FEC”.
“Even though, every local government area in the state may not have a representative in the State Executive Council, they have legislators in the State House of Assembly and there are councilors at the local government level, the idea is a clarion call to duty, that those serving the people should go back to deliver the goods. The governor does not want an up to bottom approach, he wants a bottom to up approach, that is the reasoning and it is a great idea”, he said.
Djebah said there was nothing to fret about March 14 or Ides of March, as some people now call it because the governor has in the last four years, been laying the foundation in the areas of peace and security, human capital development and infrastructural development, so the next four years, would be used for consolidation, expansion and transformation, COT.
His words, “The reliefs sought by the governor are issues that court will give judgment on. I strongly believe that the three senatorial districts of the state need each other to survive because the strength of each one of these zones is the strength of the state. That is why Delta is respected all over the country”.
“My appeal is that we should continue to remain strong, avoid rumour mongering and be united under the leadership of Uduaghan, who God has put as the governor of the state to lead us”, he added.
Mr. Paul Odili, manager, (communication) to the governor, also slammed the opposition groups in the state for deliberately creating a misleading notion that he was afraid of election, hence, his resort to the court to stop governorship polls in April in the state.
“For them to speak as if the opposition has suddenly found a magic formula to stop him (Uduaghan) from winning the office, should there be one to be contested, is a strategy to mask their impotence. Everyone knows the opposition in the state is dead and cannot be resurrected in April elections. They have promised the people nothing, with no large followership or broad base support and no track record anywhere to guarantee them success”, he said.
Odili’s words, “In the last couple of days, some elements in the opposition groups want to make it look like Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan wants to avoid election in April, nothing can be farther from the truth. This is laughable, considering the massive victory he secured at the January 6th election and his standing today in the state as the most popular political figure”.
“Indeed, if an election is called today, I am certain his acceptability and the successes of the administration in meeting the yearnings of the Deltans will ensure total victory”.
He said, “Governor Uduaghan, as a true democrat and leader, believes there should be a proper constitutional interpretation of the oath of office he took on February 10th following the Court of Appeal order of fresh election. It is in the exercise of his right that he is court”.
“Since this matter is already before a court of competent jurisdiction, it is idle speculating what the court will rule; although there is a precedent in the judgment of five other governors, which gives us a lot of confidence even if it is being unwisely appealed by INEC”, he said.
According to him, “Governor Uduaghan as a loyal party man and leader of the PDP has enormous responsibilities on his shoulders and in the coming days, is going to lead the party in the state to campaign for all the candidates of the party for President Jonathan to every office open to contest at the April election”.
Last Monday, Uduaghan in his submission at the Federal High Court, Asaba, said his tenure would come to an end in 2015 by virtue of the fact that he took a new oath of office on January 10, 2011, after winning a fresh election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, consequent upon the nullification of his earlier election and oath of office in 2007 by the Court of Appeal, Benin City, November 9, 2010.
He made the submission through his lawyer, Alex Izinyon, SAN, at the hearing of his case for tenure elongation before Justice I. N. Buba.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, however, countered his position, through its lawyer, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, saying his tenure would draw to a close May, 2011, in accordance with the amended Section 180 (2) a of the 1999 Constitution, having taking his first oath office in May, 2007.
Besides INEC, the Democratic People’s Party, DPP, governorship candidate, Chief Great Ogboru, Action Congress of Nigeria governorship candidate, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, a former commissioner in the state, Mr. George Timinimi and the Delta Political Forum opposed the application by the governor by the court to extend his tenure.
Justice Buba who demonstrated his readiness to hear the case despite the several applications that came up on the matter adjourned the case to March14 for judgment after hearing the parties and dismissing three applications for joinder.
Izinyon, SAN, who adopted the originating summons, dated March2, six-paragraph affidavit in support with three exhibits, statement of claim, his written address, reply on points of law to written address by INEC, second and third defendants, dated March 4, filed on behalf of the plaintiff, Dr. Uduaghan told the court that since the Court of Appeal nullified Uduaghan’s 2007 election, it was deemed that nothing existed as at January 6, 2011 when a fresh election was held in the state.
His words, “Our contention is that by the judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, it is clear that the entire election of Delta state in 2007 was nullified, when an issue has been nullified, it is deemed in law that it never existed”.
“And so, when a fresh election was ordered, a new, fresh lease of four years commences”, he added, pointing out that the oath of office and oath of allegiance, which Governor Uduaghan took in 2007 were affected by the nullification.
He said the contention that the oath of office taken by the governor in 2007 was not nullified by virtue of the Court of Appeal judgment could not stand in the present case, as once the election was annulled; the oath of office taken thereto was invalidated.
Izinyon also submitted that the amended Section 180 (2) a of the 1999 Constitution, which was signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan, January 10, 2010, could not apply in the instant case, which is an derivative of the 2007 governorship election, adding, that legal position on laws with retrospective was clear.
He posited that even if the assumption of the defendants on Section 180 (2) a as amended was conceded but not admitted, it was a prospective legislation that says from now on, if you assume office, and something happened, leading to a re-run, your tenure starts to count from when you took your oath of office, which is completely different from the Uduaghan’s election that was nullified.
Izinyon maintained, “Law is law, moral is moral” and urged the court to grant the reliefs sought by the plaintiff.
Ikpeazu, SAN, who also adopted his counter affidavits, written address, dated February 14 and other processes he filed in
the case, urged the court to dismiss the originating summons by Uduaghan, saying exhibit A (Court of Appeal judgement) did not make any pronouncement on the oath of office and oath of allegiance taken by the plaintiff when he was first sworn in.
He said that INEC had shown upon being sworn-in in 2007, the plaintiff proceeded to execute the functions of the office of the governor of Delta State and signed bills into law, adding the actions he took within the three and half years he was in office before his election was cancelled were not nullified by the judgment.