By Dirisu Yakubu
Ahead of the Supreme Court’s final verdict on the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo state, anxiety, fear and uncertainty have since gripped the political firmament. For pundits who are always quick to point the direction the pendulum would swing, the conundrum in the South-East state is quite a different beast.
On January 14, 2010, the apex court nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha, earlier declared governor of Imo state, and tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to issue a new certificate of return to Senator Hope Uzodinma, who has since stamped his feet of authority as governor of Imo state.
Although the governor called on aggrieved parties to join him in building a new Imo, the PDP wasted no time in approaching the apex court to revisit its judgment, arguing that apart from the votes later credited to Uzodinma not adding up; there were sufficient grounds, it claimed, to return Ihedioha to the Government House.
The Supreme Court has therefore fixed Tuesday for the hearing of an application filed by Ihediaoha and his party seeking the reversal of the judgement.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the notice for the hearing was served on the parties penultimate Thursday.
But our correspondent gathered that scheduled proceedings may not proceed to the substantive hearing on Tuesday, due to the fact that the respondents to the application had yet to file their replies to the application.
The respondents are Uzodinma, APC and INEC.
An official of the apex court who pleaded anonymity told this medium that “even if the respondents file and serve their replies on Monday, the applicants – Ihedioha and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party – may still ask for time to which they are entitled to file their responses to the replies of the respondents.
“So, there is likely to be further adjournment of the case before the application can be finally heard.”
A seven-man panel of Supreme Court justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, had in its January 14, 2020, judgment removed Ihedioha, stressing that the declaration of the PDP candidate as governor was anchored on a faulty premise.
Reading the lead judgment, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, argued that Uzodinma became the new governor following the addition of votes in 388 polling units, which the umpire failed to compute initially.
Ihedioha, through his lead counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, a former Attorney-General of the Federation, had on February 5, 2020, filed an application before the court seeking “an order setting aside as a nullity the judgment delivered by this Honourable Court on the 14th of January 2020 in Appeal No. SC.1462/2019 and Cross Appeal No. SC.1470/2019.”
Ihedioha is relying on Section 6 (6) of Nigerian Constitution and Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act 2004, that the apex court was misled into giving a wrong judgment..
In alleging the fraud however, Ihedioha and the PDP claimed that Uzodinma and his party fraudulently misled the apex court into holding that 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes they scored in the governorship election held on March 9, 2019.
They noted, “the fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the first appellant/respondent’s computation was more than the total number of voters accredited for the election and in some polling units more than the total number of registered voters.
“The fraud was also demonstrated by the fact that the result computed by the first appellant/respondent showed only the votes of the first applicant and the first appellant/respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.”
They further argued that having regard to Section 140 (2) of the Electoral Act as amended, the appellants/respondents divested the court of the relevant jurisdiction to declare the first appellant/respondent as the winner of the election by branding or stigmatising the entire election as invalid.
Is the PDP argument potent enough to convince their Lordships to upturn their January 14 earlier judgment?
Diran Odeyemi, deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP said there’s no basis for comparing a similar situation in Zamfara with Imo but added that the apex court would do its job, nonetheless.
“Zamfara is not Imo and Imo is not Zamfara. The best thing to do is to leave the exercise in the hands of the learned justices who would do what is right in the interest of Nigeria, justice and democracy,” he said.