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By Obinna Akpuchukwu, Esq
I have read a lot of commentaries over the recent Supreme Court judgment declaring Senator Hope Uzodinma as the duly elected Governor of Imo State. Many have wondered how a candidate who came 4th in the election would be declared the winner by the Court. Some others have argued that the court at worst should have ordered for a rerun/runoff election.
A few orders have submitted that in view of the recent decision of the apex court regarding the dual candidacy of Uche Nwosu, the Supreme Court ought not to have declared Hope the winner of the governorship election. I shall attempt to address these issues seriatim.
Firstly, Senator Hope Uzodinma’s petition was predicated on the fact that INEC unlawfully cancelled results in most polling units where he scored majority votes.
He contended that INEC lacks the power to nullify the election of a polling unit after the Presiding Officer had declared the result in that polling unit. He further argued that if you calculate the votes in the polling units unlawfully cancelled by INEC and add it to the existing ones, he scored the highest number of valid votes cast and he ought to have been declared the winner of the election.
Senator Hope Uzodinma through his counsel tendered those results sheets where he won and INEC did not deny that those results were written by their agents (the Presiding Officers). There were no contradictory results tendered by the Respondents in respect of the polling units where Uzodinma claimed he won. The law is already settled that once results have been declared by a presiding officer, the INEC has no power to nullify or cancel the result. Only a competent election petition tribunal has such power.
Secondly, the Apex Court could not have ordered for a rerun or run off because Hope Uzodinma met the constitutional requirement of securing 25% votes in 2/3 of the Local Governments in the State and he won the highest number of valid votes cast in the election. In any event, the petitioner/appellant Hope Uzodinma did not seek such a relief from the tribunal.
Thirdly, the argument on the effect of the Uche Nwosu’s judgment was not canvassed at the Supreme Court in the Uzodinma’s case. The Supreme Court has no power to delve into issues not canvassed or presented before it. There was no cross appeal or issue canvassed at the apex court on whether Hope Uzodinma was a candidate of the APC in the IMO Governorship election or whether his appeal has become incompetent in view of the recent decision of the apex court regarding the dual candidacy of Uche Nwosu. In any event, Hope Uzodinma was not a party to that other case nullifying the candidacy of Uche Nwosu.
The decision of the apex court is not meant to massage the sentiments of a few persons. The Court of law decides a case based on the issues formulated before it and marrying the evidence led at the trial to the law. That to me, is what the Supreme Court just did. We however await the full judgment of the Court so we can make better meaning out of it. We only have to respect it. Of course intellectual critiques are welcomed.
Recall that the leading paragraphs that decided the fates of former Governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha and new Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma read thus:
“Vote due to the appellant Senator Hope Uzodinma and the APC from 388 Polling Units were wrongly excluded from scores ascribed to the appellant (to them).
“It is thereby ordered that the appellant votes from 388 Polling Units unlawfully excluded from the appellant vote declared shall be added and that the first respondent, Emeka Ihedioha, was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the said election.”
“His return as the elected governor of Imo State is hereby declared null and void and accordingly set aside,” the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, January 14, 2020.
*Obinna Akpuchukwu, Esq wrote in from Lagos
Meanwhile, the new state governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who on Wednesday night took oath of office, has announced plans to probe three former governors of the state skipping former Governor Udenwa, his mentor.
The former governors are, Ikedi Ohakim, Rochas Okorocha and Emeka Ihedioha.
The governor who gave the order in his inaugural speech immediately he was sworn in, ordered the Accountant General of the state to within four days from Wednesday forward to him the comprehensive financial status of the state from May 29, 2010, till date.
He equally ordered all permanent Secretaries of all the ministries in the state to within the same period forward to him the status of all the contracts awarded.
The governor ordered the immediate stoppage of payment of all ongoing contracts in the state.
He said that his administration was anchored on rehabilitation, reconstruction and recovery.
According to him, he would revive the state and make it working again.
Uzodinma said that he had forgiven those he said conspired to “rob me of hard-earned victory”.
He said that the judiciary demonstrated huge bravery by declaring him the duly elected governor of the state even as he dedicated the Supreme Court victory to God.
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