Pro-democracy activist and legal researcher, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, tells Nseobong Okon-Ekong that the best option before the Peoples Democratic Party in the contentious matter of Imo governorship election is to go back to the Supreme Court rather than embark on street protests
What options do you think PDP and Ihedioha have over the recent Supreme Court ruling on Imo governorship tussle?
I challenge the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Judgment of the Supreme Court in Appeal SC. 1462/2019 delivered on Tuesday 14th January 2020 must be challenged on grounds of want of jurisdiction. Therefore, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP should quickly assemble a legal team to bring application by the party for the following reasons:
* For setting aside of the judgment in SC. 142/2019 dated Tuesday, 14th January, 2020, under the inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
*For an Order of Court nullifying all acts done on the basis of the aforesaid judgment dated 14/01/2020 inclusive of those performed by the delegates and agents of Senator Hope Uzodinma, the financial benefits earned while occupying the seat of Governor Imo State, as a result of the voidable judgment of this Court in SC. 1462/2019 dated 14/01/2020 for want of jurisdiction ab initio.
In this instance, on what grounds do you think the judgement could be waived?
I do not give free advice, but because of the tragedy of the injustice on Imo people and Emeka Ihedioha and the relationship of one of our leaders, who is now the leader of the party, I will give you a provisor, free and I challenge any Nigerian lawyer to look at it and fault it.
PDP also said Justice Tanko was not qualified to hold the office of CJN, do you think there is any basis for such statement?
You can understand when you take a decision out of anger. So I believe they should not go that far. The man is the Chief Justice of Nigeria already so if you are talking about him not being qualified that is another issue and it is libellous. So PDP should also be careful.
You were in court in Ohakim’s case, what really transpired?
I went to court because I saw another injustice in Imo State, this is the second time and this is why I sat in my own library and prepared the processes. In Imo State, sometime in 2007, there was an election between Ikedi Ohakim, Araraume and Agbaso and after that they said the election was inconclusive. Then INEC, the typical inefficient INEC tried to do an interpretation of the law by saying that there should a supplementary election and that supplementary election they conducted was an infraction of the constitution because they did it outside the statutes and nobody saw it. So I went to the Federal High Court to challenge it, I brought an action at the Federal High Court, the governor of Imo State, then Ohakim, not in his person hired one Chris Uche (SAN) to bring an application in that my matter for judgement, they all know me and I opposed the application because I used the case of Bamaiyi against the Federal Republic of Nigeria that whatever interpretation the court gives to the constitutional matter does not affect the governor, he can make use of it. Trial court at the Federal High Court, agreed with me but somersaulted and said that I do not have locus, I went to a Court of Appeal, the matter is still pending, it has not been done. All I want to show them is that law is so serious a subject to be left for lawyers only.
Now PDP is saying that Ihedioha should go to court to reconsider the decision taken and remembering that you have once gone to court in Peter Obi’s matter, how do you think this will pan out?
If you say that you are a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, you show me your process. I am one person that has gone to Supreme Court. The present Chief Justice is one of the panellists, he called me all kinds of names but at the end of the day I defeated all of them. To set aside a judgement they gave in Obi against INEC, it was recorded in Nigerian Weekly Law Report. It was an unconstitutional judgement. I was not attacking Obi’s tenure, I was talking about a judgement you gave on the day you sacked the then governor, Andy Ubah; we were eight parties and the day you gave your reasons it was seven parties and Peter Obi’s notice of appeal filed by Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) did not contain my name, how come that these things happened, it is a recorded at case Per term 46, Nigerian Weekly Law Report.
I brought an application on the grounds of ex lobito justicia, that I was not heard, that the court lacked jurisdiction and that the judgement was a nullity and asked the court to set aside all the acts on Peter Obi. And they asked how a layman could be so bold with this kind of knowledge, they said I took money and rest of them but at the end of the day, I fought them with intellectual sagacity, they were able to bend and wrote a letter to me to bring my application; only for them to organise and say that they will hear it after Obi’s tenure.
I told Justice Kekere Ekun that wrote the judgment that my application is not on Obi’s tenure, but on the issue of the illegal judgement, that issue is a life issue. In constitutional matters, there is no issue of academics, so that I know.
We all went to the University with a good knowledge of philosophy and we read; I have a very good library and I can research, so using my science background, I am deeper than some of the people that feel why should a layman venture into such? Well, that is your limitation. Law is a science and not an art.
In Nigeria, those that practice law wrongly are empty, they know me, my record is there. The justices know who appeared before them. But this is not a matter for me, it is about decadence in our jurisprudence that is what we need to clean up. I dare PDP to leave Governor Emeka Ihedioha out of this; it is PDP’s fight versus Nigeria’s Supreme Court.
Does PDP have the locus?
PDP is the second respondent in the appeal which was brought by APC Hope Uzodinma after PDP had made a copious finding that APC as a political party had another candidate and this is a course of action estoppel, it is an illegality. When you go through with the presentation I will make available to you, put it in the public domain, let Nigerians read and know whether law should be left for the lawyers alone.
Was PDP right to ask the CJN, Tanko Mohammed to resign?
First of all, I feel it is a tragedy that the judgement of the 14th day of January 2020 became as prophesied by a lay-pastor. The pastor is like the man who saw tomorrow, that is what it is today, but the normal parlance is that a man with the intellectual capacity of understanding law and its processes would have predicted what will be the outcome of an election. And that now brings us to the leadership of a political party calling upon the Chief Justice of Nigeria to resign, because a judgement was given in a matter, I think it is misplaced.
I believe that what they would be looking for is a solution that will put a bandage on the tragedy that befell them in Imo State which was an accident; I could describe it as an accident not calling for the resignation of the Chief Justice of Nigeria because it does not cure the damage that was done. I thought the first thing that would be done is to look for the chemistry to change whatever position that put them in this terrible situation today that, if you now call it a quagmire, it becomes something that cannot be resolved. So, what I am looking at is if PDP became interested in removing Justice Tanko, it is not by media advocacy, they will ask those who have documents or judgements that can indict Justice Tanko, I would have been very willing to present myself to aid them in a matter that is still a disgrace in this country. So that is not the issue.
The issue is for them to look at where they slipped, not where they fell. I believe that that call was not necessary. What PDP should do now is to come into the ring and take it all over from Governor Ihedioha and go to battle with the Nigerian judiciary; that judgement is perverse, it is unconstitutional. At the date that judgement was given, the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction and I say it and I dare any lawyer in Nigeria with certain documents and issues and statements of law I will provide to you that the judgment should not have been allowed to stand. It must be a defining issue in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Nigeria been a final court.
What is the solution?
The solution is for them to look for those who have the capacity to look at that judgement with an eagle eye and show them the best way to approach the issue and not necessarily to go to the market place and start name calling or calling for review.
That judgement could be set aside but you know that most of our lawyers, because the legal profession is a very close conservative club, they hate progressives so our lawyers are intimidated, maybe some because of the limited knowledge of the law and appreciation of procedure, practice and evidence they have; that they cannot come to challenge a court of law within the jurisprudential parish in Nigeria to set aside a judgement.
I am one person that has done that. The Supreme Court tried to intimidate me in Obi’s case but at the end of the day, I fought them squarely and they called me back after calling me all kind of names. So it is on record that they turned around and said that the application I brought had become academic when I was challenging the legality of their judgement and not Obi’s tenure; that matter is a matter for another day so the PDP as a political party, this is your defining moments.
The just administration of law is a public matter of the utmost importance. Every citizen is not required to obtain a degree in law. Unless sound laws are openly and fairly administered, it is hardly likely that the courts of law will be held in high respect by those for whom the laws exist.
Ihedioha earlier said that he has accepted to abide by the outcome…
Emeka Ihedioha will definitely go back to Imo State Government House, take my word for it. I am not Father Mbaka, I am scientifically and empirically looking at the law. The Supreme Court should be confronted.
First of all you must understand that the man was traumatised. Secondly, I do not know if he is a lawyer, if he actually understands what the issues are in that matter. I will not be prejudicial to him but he has no choice than to accept the judgement, turn around and come back like a cobra. Looking at what I have seen, the Supreme Court has only one choice, set aside that judgement because it was unconstitutional; the day they gave the judgment, the APC by their conduct, is estopped from coming back to that court with another masquerade called Hope Uzodinma and that is the law,
In the Judgment delivered on Friday, 20th day of December, 2019, the Supreme Court made the following finding of facts: “This appeal deals purely with the issue of double nomination. The Appellant contested and won the primaries conducted by All Progressive Congress (APC) on 6/10/2018; and his name was forwarded to INEC (fourth respondent) as gubernatorial candidate of APC at the general election slated for 9/3/2019.
But the appellant also contested and won the primaries conducted by another party, Action Alliance, and on 2/11/2018, he was issued with a certificate of Return and Confirmation as the duly elected governorship candidate of the said party.”
“In this case, INEC fourth respondent, attested to the fact that it monitored APC’s primary election, which the appellant won; that it was later served with an Order of the FCT High Court in suit No. FCT/HC/CV/9265/2018 – Ugwumba Uche Nwosu vs. APC & Anor, restraining it from substituting the appellant’s name as gubernatorial candidate of APC for the General Election; that it was also served with another Court Order in suit No. FHC/OW/CS/143/2018 – Ekwebelum Kelechi & Ors V. APC & 3 ors, ordering it not to accept any other name other than that of the appellant as Governorship Candidate of the APC; and that while these court orders were still subsisting, appellant was nominated by Action Alliance as its governorship candidate.”
At page 14 of the judgment the apex court stated: “The compelling part of the story is that since “nomination” is complete when INEC receives the necessary documents from a political party, its receipt of two forms CF001, which were both sworn to by the appellant himself, leads to an irresistible conclusion that he knowingly allowed himself to be nominated as the gubernatorial candidate of the two political parties; and by Section 37 of the Electoral Act, 2010, his nomination is void.”
With all due respect to the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) after the Supreme Court delivered judgment in Appeal No. SC 1384/2019 on 20/12/2019 (Ugwumba Uche Nwosu vs. Action Peoples Party & 3 others), they failed or neglected to ask their legal representatives to approach the same Supreme Court with an application to be joined as 5th Respondent for reason of fair hearing, and for the Supreme Court to set aside its copious findings and pronouncement to rebut the conclusion that “Ugwumba Uche Nwosu is not the gubernatorial candidate of APC in the general election fixed for 9/3/2019.” The APC never did anything to change that finding of fact.