With Emeka Ihedioha back at the Supreme Court to seek a review of his case, the question now is if the apex court would honestly reconsider the contentions. Davidson Iriekpen writes
Sacked former governor of Imo State, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, last week, finally approached the Supreme Court seeking to set aside its judgment, which removed him from office and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma as the governor of the state on January 14.
Giving reasons for approaching the court, the former governor said he had to do so, because the judgment nullifying his victory was a nullity, because the court was misled in arriving at the decision to remove him from office.
The apex court had in a unanimous judgment delivered on January 14, removed Ihedioha from office on the grounds that he was not duly elected, and that he did not win a majority of the votes cast in the March 9, 2019 governorship election. The court, in its decision, said the former governor was returned as governor based on wrong computation of the election results in the state.
But in an application filed through his lawyer, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) last week, Ihedioha said the court was misled, because the petition against his election was speculative.
Among the grounds Ihediaha and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are seeking a review of the case at the apex court is its decision in the presidential petition between Atiku Abubakar and President Muhammadu Buhari, wherein it held that all the witnesses in the polling stations must account for what happened in their respective polling stations.
They also cited the same Supreme Court verdict in the Sokoto State governorship election petition, where they said there are elements of double standard particularly, where Justice Abba Aji said the court has no power to count or allocate votes.
In his judgment, the judge had held that, “It is not the duty of the court to sift through documents tendered by parties, which have not been demonstrated in the open court. It is also not the duty of the court to sort out the various documents, the figures and do the calculations in chambers to arrive at a figure given in a final judgment especially, in an election petition challenging the number of various votes polled by the candidate declared and returned as winner of the election.”
Surprised at the way the court reversed itself, he wondered why it allocated votes to Uzodinma and declared him winner.
Also, the former governor and his party, the PDP said as at the time of the general election on March 9, 2019, Uzodinma was not candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that based on an earlier judgment of the same Supreme Court on December 20, 2019. They argued that APC couldn’t have produced two candidates in one election since Uche Nwosu was declared as the rightful candidate of APC and AA.
The first two paragraphs of the Supreme Court judgment, read: “This appeal deals purely with the issue of double nomination. The appellant contested and won the primaries conducted by APC on October 16, 2018; and his name was forwarded to INEC as gubernatorial candidate of APC at the general election slated for March 9, 2019.
But the appellant also contested and won the primaries conducted by another party, Action Alliance, and on November 2, 2018, he was issued with a certificate of return & confirmation as the duly elected governorship candidate.”
The court further held that by “allowing himself to be nominated by two political parties, the appellant, not only did an act that is not authorised by law, which is illegal, the Electoral Act clearly says in its Section 37, that such a nomination “shall be void”.
Analysts have argued that the implication of the judgment is that Nwosu was the nominated candidate of APC in the election, but that his nomination became void, because he had secured “double nomination,” adding that if Nwosu was factually the candidate of APC in the election, Uzodinma could not have validly also be the APC candidate in the same election.
The judgment that sacked Ihedioha was also faulted on grounds that the court was misled in arriving at its decision. For instance, Agabi alleged that votes from 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded or cancelled from his total votes, and urged the court to include in the computation of the election, results of the votes from those polling units and at the same time, he prayed that fresh elections be conducted in the said polling units, thus rendering the petition speculative.
Another ground he stated is that the APC candidate and his party failed to plead the votes scored by all the parties in the 388 affected polling units as only votes allegedly scored by APC and PDP were pleaded, “an omission which rendered the petition incompetent.”
“This honourable court was consequently misled into making a vague order directing the inclusion of votes from the 388 polling units without stating or specifying the particular number of votes to be included from those polling units for all the parties.
“Without computing the votes for all the parties from the 388 polling units, this honourable court was misled into making a declaration that the 1st Appellant/Respondent was the winner of the gubernatorial election in Imo State – an election that the Appellants/Respondents had themselves branded or stigmatised as invalid on account of non-compliance,” he said.
The applicants further argued that by Exhibit A1 (Form EC8D) the total number of voters accredited for the governorship election held on March 9, 2019 in Imo State was 823,743,while the total valid votes cast was 731,485.
He submitted that with the inclusion of 213,695 votes for the 1st appellant/ respondent and 1,903 to the votes of the 1st applicant, as ordered by the apex court, the total number of votes cast at the election now stands at 953,083 (i.e. 731,485 + 213,695 + 1,903) making the total number of votes cast at the election to be far in excess of the total number of voters accredited for the election, by 129,340.
“It is unlawful for the total number of votes cast in an election to exceed the number of accredited voters and that illegality rendered the judgment sought to be set aside null and void,” Ihedioha and PDP said.
This is why many analysts believe that judgment was the greatest heist in election petition in the country. For instance, from the table Uzodinma compiled from the 388 polling units, there were 252,452 registered voters, out of which 213,695 voted for APC, and 1,903 voted for Ihedioha. But the table does not indicate either the total number of accredited voters or the number of invalid votes, if any, and the votes allocated to the remaining 68 candidates that contested the election, aside from Uzodinma and Ihedioha.
Also, the duplicate Forms EC8A tendered by the PW54, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Rabiu Hussein, showed that there were no fewer than six polling units, where more votes were recorded above the registered number of voters.
For instance, on number 69, which shows votes cast at Eziama/Okpala (Umualum Village Square, Eziama), the total number of registered voters was 492, whereas the table shows that the APC scored 819 votes and PDP scored 7 votes, meaning that 334 more votes than the registered voters were recorded, apart from the votes polled by the other candidates at the election that were not shown on the table.
On page 22 of the petition referencing polling unit 282, the number of registered voters was put at 591, whereas the tabulation shows that APC polled 586 votes and PDP nine votes, indicating a total of four votes higher than the registered number of voters. This, again, excluded the votes scored by the other candidates.
On the same page 22 of the record, at the polling unit 285 (Obudi/Aro, Central Assembly Square, Unusable 11) with 449 registered voters, APC was credited with 780 votes and PDP with four votes, leaving a total of 335 votes higher than the actual number of registered voters.
Figures obtained from page 79 of the record of appeal under item 384 showed that APC scored 526 votes, while PDP was credited with two votes, and the total votes cast was put at 526, indicating two votes higher than the total number of registered voters in the area.
But in its judgment, the Supreme Court said the votes from the disputed 388 polling units were wrongly excluded from the votes of Uzodinma. Apart from the fact that votes tabulated by the Supreme Court were more than votes cast during the election, analysts have continued to wonder if the Supreme Court has powers to allocate votes to any candidate or the power to increase the number of people accredited by INEC.
They also believe that by relying on the tabulation made by Uzodinma, the court arrived at a figure of 950,952 votes, which is more than the 823,743 votes cast at the election with 127,209 excess votes.
Another fault raised in the request, among others, is whether Uzodinma fulfilled the provision of Section 179 (2b) of the Constitution, which states that for a candidate to be declared governor, he must have scored not only the majority of the total votes cast but also one/quarter of the votes in two/third of the local government of the state.
While Uzodinma has not legally responded to the request for a review of the case, last week, he advised Ihedioha and PDP not to dissipate their energy on the case, which according to him, had been rested by the Supreme Court. He further advised them to prepare for 2023 election.
But a Lagos-based civil society organisation, Peoples’ Will, has appealed to the apex court to consider the case on merit. In a statement, its convener, Mr. Victor Imoukhuede, urged the justices of the court not to hurriedly throw out the application, adding that a cursory look at the case shows that there was indeed a substantial miscarriage of justice when the apex court first heard it on January 14, 2020.
Imoukhuede advised the justices of the court to diligently examine the case based on the judgment of the revered late former justice of the court, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa where he said justices of the court are human beings, capable of erring. He noted that based on Justice Oputa’s judgment, the justices of the court can correct the mistakes they might have made in the case as against persevering in error.