SINCE last Friday’s ruling of the Court of Appeal quashing the election of Mr. Udom Emmanuel of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as governor of Akwa Ibom State on the basis of irregularities, fraud and violence, the party appears to be gripped by the fear of the unknown.
By Chioma Onuegbu
ALTHOUGH there was tension and anxiety in the camps of the two contending political parties, All Progressives Congress, APC and the PDP few days before the judgement, the PDP and its supporters never expected to come off worst.
In fact, many PDP supporters had widely speculated that even if the court did not uphold their appeal, the verdict will not go beyond that of the Election Tribunal (lower court) which had on October 21 cancelled elections in only 18 of 31 local councils of the state and ordered a rerun in those LGAs.
An indication of that optimism was given by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the election of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the immediate past governor of the state as the senator representing Akwa Ibom North Senatorial District on the platform of the PDP.
However, many in the state do not see the decision of the party to continue the legal battle by going to the apex court as changing the appeal verdict. To them, it was rather a way of buying more time as the electorate is already looking forward to a rerun in the state.
How will re-run polls go?
Accordingly, the issue of what the outcome of the rerun will be is dominating public discussions and it is the most talked about issue in beer parlours, motor parks, newspaper stands, market places and social gatherings. Surprisingly the usual crowd at the popular newspaper stands at the plaza has reduced drastically since the judgement as the place looked deserted last Saturday and Sunday.
The PDP’s fear over the re-run election is, however, not unconnected to the fact that as the ruling government at the centre, the APC may influence the outcome of a rerun coupled with the fact that Akwa Ibom in its political history always align with the ruling party at the centre. The scenario is that the candidates of the two political parties – Mr. Umana Okon Umana of the APC and Udom Emmanuel of the PDP now have equal chances in the rerun election and PDP supporters do not appear to be comfortable with that.
Some have even alleged that the ruling was part of the plot by the ruling APC to get Akwa Ibom state and other oil rich states of Bayelsa and Rivers. The National President of South South Solidarity Forum, Dr Bassey Umoh, on Sunday lamented, “the recent political situations in the South -South region ranging from the annulment of the People’s mandate in the just concluded general elections to the back and forth court judgements are raising serious concern and anxiety.”
Remain calm, Udom urges PDP faithful, supporters
Addressing PDP supporters, who came to receive him at the Ibom International Airport at the weekend after the judgement, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, urged them to remain calm and not discouraged as he was optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold his election.” On his part, the State party Chairman of the PDP, Obong Paul Ekpo, “I want to assure you our teeming supporters that there is no cause for alarm”
We have been vindicated – APC
However, the APC buoyed by its victory of the appeal last Friday now appears more confident to go for a rerun even as some of them who spoke to Vanguard earlier before and after the judgement were hopeful that they will get justice from the appellate court considering the party’s substantial evidence against the PDP.
The APC Publicity Secretary, Mr Ita Awak had said: “We have done everything in our power to convince the court that after INEC record has shown that there were only 437, 128 voters that were accredited for the governorship election in Akwa Ibom state and there is no way that 400,000 voters can produce a vote of one million.
“So we are expecting the court of appeal to return the verdict that in Akwa Ibom state the PDP over rigged the election and nullify the elections completely in the 31 local government areas. That is the justice that Akwa Ibom people and the APC are expecting tomorrow. We are not expecting anything less”
Similarly the National President of Buhari/Osinbajo Supporters Club Prince David Benjamin who spoke in Uyo last Saturday, a day after the ruling said: “The nullification of the election that brought in Udom Emmanuel as the governor of Akwa Ibom state did not come to me as a surprise.
I was hopeful that with the era of anti-corruption in the country justice will be done. And what this judgment means to me is that the Judges that handled the matter are not corrupt and that is why they did the right thing; that was justice given”.
The appeal court verdict has put to rest widespread speculations and publications in the state that the governorship appeal had been compromised by the PDP.
PDP chieftain, Otuekong Idongesit Nkanga, frowned at such allegations saying, “In building democracy we must also encourage the judiciary because the rule of law is a very important aspect of democracy. It is not every time you lose election you start talking about compromise of the judiciary, it is bad; that is not good sportsmanship”.