On 31st of December,2015, the appeal court sitting in Owerri gave the indigenes of Abia, the self-styled God’s own state, a shocking New Year gift. The covert upheld the appeal of the Abia State APGA governorship candidate, Dr. Alex Otti, against the ruling of the Election petition Tribunal which had earlier dismissed his appeal and upheld the election of the PDP candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu .
The verdict of the court of appeal expectedly sent shock waves across Abia State and indeed, the nation at large. In many parts of the state, the judgement reportedly elicited spontaneous reactions as supporters of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, celebrated.
In many other parts of the country, there were also expressions of support for the judgement. However, about three days later, demonstrations broke out in the Ukwa Ngwa part of Abia State where Dr. Ikpeazu hails from.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Aba, the main commercial city of Abia State, barricaded the roads and protested what they termed the denial of their fundamental human rights to participate in who governs the state.
Their anger arose from the fact that the Appeal Panel had cancelled the results of the three local governments of Osisioma, Obingwa and Isiala Ngwa West. The three local governments formed part of the Ukwa Ngwa voting bloc that has been the stronghold of PDP and the home base of Dr. Ikpeazu.
Since the demonstrations, the public space has been inundated by arguments for and against the judgement. Many individuals, including respected lawyers and sundry other public commentators have weighed in.
The kernel of the arguments against the judgement by many of those who have commented on it is that the Appeal Tribunal erred by disenfranchising the three local governments in cancelling the results of the election.
Their contention is that if the case of widespread voters’ irregularity as alleged by APGA, was proven, the best recourse of the panel would have been to order for a rerun instead of outright cancellation of the election result.
However, those who support the judgement have argued to the contrary.
They said that the legal provision is that if a case of widespread irregularity is proven against any constituency, the Appeal Tribunal is empowered by law to cancel the election and proceed with the announcement of the result. While the arguments are raging for and against, Dr. Ikpeazu and the PDP have appealed against the ruling of the Appeal Tribunal .
This newspaper is horrified by the tone of the arguments and what has emerged as a blatant attempt to blackmail the Supreme Court through the use of emotion. We are aghast that any person or group of persons could deem it fit to mount public demonstrations against the judgement of the Appeal Tribunal. At best it is an un-civilised response to the simple case of law and at worst it amounts to mob action, emotional blackmail and crude street intimidation of a judicial process; all of which are wrong and unacceptable. These should not be encouraged in any civilised society. If a party to a suit is dissatisfied by a ruling the Constitution makes ample provisions for a civilised response to such a circumstance. That approach is to appeal against the ruling.
We are pleased that the PDP and Dr. Ikpeazu have toed this line of action. Appealing against the ruling is the right thing to do. As a matter of fact, it is the only civilised thing to do. The Supreme Court is best positioned to adjudicate on the matter, and needless to say that the ruling of the apex court would be final. It is not acceptable for any party to the suit to resort to underhand tactics in order to sway the course of justice. Such action tantamounts to mob action and represents a clear threat to law and order. No civilised society should allow that. We feel even more saddened that ordinary members of the public, including those who ought to know better have allowed themselves to become embroiled in this emotional shenanigan.
The Abia situation is very simple and straightforward. It is a puzzle that some people are complicating it. The gubernatorial election which was held in Abia State in April 11th & 25th, 2015 returned Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu of the PDP as the winner and governor-elect and was subsequently sworn in as executive governor of Abia State. The All Progressives Grand Alliance which presented Dr. Alex Otti as its candidate protested the election and filed a case against the result as announced by INEC.
At the core of this is that there were widespread electoral malpractices in three local government areas aforementioned. As such, the results of the elections in those local government areas should be discountenanced and the winner of the elections announced according to the voting in those other local governments where the results are deemed valid. In the event, the electoral tribunal dismissed their case and upheld INEC’’s declaration of results.
Dr. Alex Otti and APGA subsequently filed an appeal against that ruling. The Appeal Tribunal upheld their claim, thereby nullifying the election of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and affirming the election of Dr. Alex Otti.
Understandably, the PDP and Ikpeazu feel aggrieved by the ruling as they should, Dr. Alex Otti and APGA equally felt aggrieved when they lost at the lower tribunal.
But it is noteworthy that Dr. Alex Otti and APGA did not resort to street demonstrations, emotional blackmail, publicity stunts etc, but chose the course of law and filed an appeal. That is the reasonable action to take, and the option any reasonable person would expect the losing party in a suit to exercise.
The attendant explosion of demonstrations, many of which this newspaper is convinced were sponsored and the negative publicity campaign in the mass media, are unfortunate and sad. It is even more disheartening that the demonstrators are demanding that the election be nullified and a rerun ordered.
By so doing they are implicitly admitting to the fact that the elections were rigged ab initio which would then validate Dr. Alex Otti’’s claim that the rigging was an orchestrated attempt to frustrate the democratic process.
The intention was to produce the wrong candidate as winner in order to buy time and prepare for a rerun. Such shenanigan should certainly not be encouraged by law.
We are aware that there is a maxim in law that equity does not favour the indolent. We are not aware that the PDP admitted at any time during the trial that the election was rigged and asked for a rerun.
Also, Dr. Alex Otti never asked for a rerun but outright cancellation and his declaration as the winner.
Why would the court then grant a relief that was not sought ab initio? It is not the intention of this newspaper to pre-empt the Supreme Court, we are confident that the judicial process will take its full course.
However, we frown at a situation where a party to an election would deliberately rig it and use the instrumentality of office to prepare for a rerun. If such cases are proven, the law should not reward the nefarious activity. If anything, it should punish it and severely too. The democratic process in Nigeria has suffered severely in the hands of desperate politicians and incumbent office holders who abuse their offices in order to thwart the will of the people.For publication of your news content, articles, videos or any other news worthy materials, please send to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . For more enquiry, please call +234-903-332-9775 or whatsapp +234-803-792-3602. To place advert, please call 08037923602.