Imo: The people no longer decide

by Oke Umurhohwo

When we thought we have seen it all with the controversial manner in which most petitions that arose from the 2019 general election were resolved, the Imo state governorship debacle stare right in our faces. Like scenes in Nollywood plays, Nigerians were left dumbfounded as a Supreme Court panel made the impossible by upturning the victory of a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedoha, and pronounced a former Senator, Hope Uzodinma, as the validly elected governor of Imo state.

For several hours, Nigerians struggled to reconcile the ground for the controversial verdict. Earlier in the day, Uzodinma was sitting at the fourth spot of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced results with 96, 458 votes compared to Ihedioha 273,404 tally but by the time the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, he had moved from fourth to be regarded as governor.

Isn’t that incredible? Let’s look at the judgment of the panel and you’ll have nothing but worries for the nation’s judicial system. Justice Kudiral Kekere-Ekun, who read the unanimous judgment after long hours of delays, said the court found merit in the appeal of Uzodinma and restored a purportedly excluded 213,295 votes from 388 polling units to shoot up the tally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to 309,753.

Just like that, the magic was done and Uzodinma who started the day as fourth on the result log had dislodged Ihedioha to emerge governor. But that development threw up more questions than answers, and just like some previous pronouncements by the country’s apex court, cast serious doubts in the minds of Nigerians on the propensity of the nation’s judiciary to dispense justice.

For all the justified outrage that trailed how Ihedioha lost out, one thing, and a frightening reality that the Supreme Court judgment represents is that the people no longer decides. And, here is why. The panel held that the contentious votes from 388 polling units should be ascribed to Uzodinma and his party. Just like that, Uzodinma benefited from votes whose validity isn’t ascertained, yet, the panel declared them lawful.

That has provoked questions from conscious citizens who wonder how it was only Uzodinma that got votes from those units. Because as shown from the judge’s verdict, only Uzodinma votes saw an upsurge from the accepting results from the 388 units. Nothing for Action Alliance (AA), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who contested the March 9, 2019 governorship election with Uzodinma– only him and his party, APC, benefited.

Is that sounding unbelievable and illogical? But that was the impression that the judgement gave. This may come as a surprise to those who are not observant enough as the signs were too obvious. At a crossover service ushering 2020, a controversial clergy, Rev Fr Mbaka, gave hint on the possible replacement of Ihedioha with Uzodinma.

Though many were naive to take it for a prophecy, the history of the clergyman with APC and the precision of his prediction, was enough guide to know the direction of things. In the build-up to the 2015 presidential election, Mbaka turned his pulpit to canvass for Muhammadu Buhari, who at that time was the presidential candidate of APC and after he won, the controversial cleric visited the president at the Villa in Abuja. Even more, there are pictures of Uzodinma in the church of Mbaka lately spreading on the internet.

You could hear supporters of APC try to play down the significance of Mbaka’s ‘political’ prophesy and its precision with the outcome of the court. They would easily proclaim their belief that ‘Judges make decisions based on fact, not on emotion, not based on political pressure, not based on the identities of political parties’ among other narratives but deep down in them, they conceal the obvious reality.

Step back for a moment and consider the implications of what just happened in the Imo governorship issue. The Supreme Court accepted that results from 388 polling units, which stood at 213,295 votes in favour of Uzodinma. There are 3,523 polling units in the state, out of which Uzodinma was able to garner 96,458 from 3,135 polling units, but then went on to poll inexplicable 221.13 percent of votes in just 388 polling units.

I’m sure this was the mathematically impossible circumstance that alerted INEC and made the electoral body to reject the results. Though, some supporters of APC would shout ‘stronghold’ as justification for those numbers but we all know that they’re transparent lies. Except there is something about elections they’re not telling us, looking at the figures was clear enough for any objective mind to make their deductions.

Let’s even examine the ascribed 213,295 votes and see how possible such could come from 388 polling units. If you divide the 213,295 accepted votes by the 388 polling units, what you’ll have on the average is 549 electorates per polling unit voting for Uzodinma alone. And, going by INEC guidelines, the limit of voters in a polling unit is 500, after which a voting point would absorb the excess voters.

But right at the country’s apex court, those votes were accepted as lawful. That’s a disturbing signal. Now, satisfied with the outcome of the court that gave it a state it hitherto feared was lost, APC failed to recognize the implication of the Imo governorship decision on the diminishing value on the thumb of the electorate and future bearings.

Yes, they are the ruling party as of today but that status can’t be sustained forever. Today, the APC may essentially find the Supreme Court verdict relishing, and hailed the judgement as profound that restored a ‘lost’ state but the truth is that such feelings will ever be temporary because power is ever transient. That is why, no matter the politics, everything must be done to ensure the sanctity of the power of the people to decide who leads them.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels odd about the court turning to a mathematical ground, where calculations are now made to determine a winner. I’m reminded of the view earnestly canvassed by Justice Muhammad Sirajo that going by Section 140 of the Electoral Act, 2010, the court is not permitted to calculate votes to arrive at a winner. Or, is that no longer applicable?

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