PDP fumes as Supreme Court sacks Ihe­dioha, de­clares Uzod­inma win­ner

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• We are at a loss on apex court’s judg­ment, says PDP • My stolen man­date has been re­cov­ered – Imo gov-elect

THE Supreme Court on Tues­day nul­li­fied the elec­tion of Emeka Ihe­dioha as the Gov­er­nor of Imo State.

A seven-man panel of the apex court led by the Chief Jus­tice of Nige­ria, Jus­tice Tanko Muham­mad, unan­i­mously de­clared Hope Uzod­inma of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress as win­ner of the March 9, 2019 gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion and the validly elected gov­er­nor of the state.

There was a lull in the court­room as the apex court handed down the judg­ment. Ihe­dioha’s lawyers and sup­port­ers were vis­i­bly shocked af­ter the apex court de­liv­ered the judg­ment at 6:20pm dur­ing an eighthour sit­ting with two in­ter­mit­tent breaks.

More than 10 min­utes af­ter the apex court panel mem­bers de­parted the court­room, Ihe­dioha’s lawyers and sup­port­ers were un­able to move as they re­mained stuck to the same po­si­tion

But Uzod­inma’s sup­port­ers in the court­room burst into shouts of joy as they stepped out of the court­room.

They joined oth­ers, who could not gain en­try into the court­room, to cel­e­brate the court’s pro­nounce­ment. Some of them ap­peared to be making calls in­form­ing their sup­port­ers back home of their court vic­tory.

Jus­tice Kudi­rat Kekere-ekun, who read the lead judg­ment, or­dered that the cer­tifi­cate of re­turn is­sued to Ihe­dioha be im­me­di­ately with­drawn. She di­rected that a fresh cer­tifi­cate of re­turn should be is­sued to Uzod­inma.

She also di­rected that Uzod­inma, who came dis­tant fourth in the re­sults of the elec­tion de­clared on March 11, 2019 be im­me­di­ately sworn in as the Gov­er­nor of Imo State.

Jus­tice Kekere-ekun dis­missed the All Pro­gres­sives Grand Al­liance’s Ifeanyi Ararume’s ap­peal for be­ing aca­demic fol­low­ing the court’s dec­la­ra­tion of Uzod­inma as the win­ner of the elec­tion.

In up­hold­ing Uzod­inma’s ap­peal on Tues­day, the Supreme Court agreed with him that the votes polled in 388 out of the 3,523 polling units were ex­cluded in the fi­nal re­sults de­clared by the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion in the states, on March 11, 2019.

Jus­tice Kekere-ekun ruled that with the ad­di­tion of the ex­cluded votes to the ear­lier de­clared fi­nal re­sults, Uzod­inma polled the high­est law­ful votes with the re­quired spread of votes in the state.

She set aside the judg­ments of both the Imo State Gov­er­nor­ship Elec­tion Pe­ti­tions Tri­bunal and the Court of Ap­peal which had both af­firmed Ihe­dioha’s elec­tion.

She stated, “The lower court mis­un­der­stood the case of the ap­pel­lants,” she ruled, adding that “the case was not a case of ex­clu­sion from the elec­tion but ex­clu­sion of votes from fi­nal re­sults.”

She ex­plained that the lower courts were wrong to have re­jected the re­sults of the 388 polling units on the grounds that they were not ten­dered be­fore the tri­bunal by the proper per­son.

The re­sults were said to have been ten­dered by the 54th pe­ti­tion­ers’ wit­ness.

“P54, a po­lice of­fi­cer who ten­dered the re­sults was sub­poe­naed to pro­duce the re­sults. Hav­ing been sub­poe­naed to pro­duce the re­sults, it was wrong for the lower courts to hold that P54 was not the proper per­son to ten­der the re­sults,” Jus­tice Kekere-ekun ruled.

Ihe­dioha had ar­gued that the Supreme Court had ear­lier in its judg­ment de­liv­ered on De­cem­ber 20, 2019 de­clared that Uche Nwosu was the can­di­date of both the APC and the Ac­tion Al­liance and on the ba­sis of that de­clared the nom­i­na­tion of Nwosu for the March 2019 elec­tion as null and void.

His lawyers ar­gued that the apex court’s judg­ment im­plied that Uzod­inma was not the APC’S can­di­date in the elec­tion.

But ad­dress­ing this ar­gu­ment in the Tues­day’s judg­ment, Jus­tice Kekere-ekun held that the is­sue of nom­i­na­tion was a pre-elec­tion is­sue that could not be raised in a post-elec­tion lit­i­ga­tion.

As the con­se­quence of the find­ings, she or­dered, “The judg­ment of the lower court which de­clared the first ap­pel­lant as the win­ner with the ma­jor­ity of law­ful votes is hereby set aside.

“It is hereby de­clared that votes due to the ap­pel­lants – Hope Uzod­inma and the All Pro­gres­sives Congress – were wrong­fully ex­cluded.

“It is or­dered that the votes un­law­fully ex­cluded should be added.

“The first re­spon­dent (Ihe­dioha) was not duly elected by the ma­jor­ity of law­ful votes and his re­turn as the win­ner of the elec­tion is hereby de­clared null and void.

“The first ap­pel­lant (Uzod­inma) polled the ma­jor­ity of the Imo State gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion held on March 9, 2019 and got the re­quired spread across the state.

“The first ap­pel­lant is the win­ner of the gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion held on March 9, 2019 in Imo State.”

AA’S Nwosu with­draws ap­peal

Mean­while, Ac­tion Al­liance’s gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date in the March 9, 2019 gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion in Imo State, Uche Nwosu, on Tues­day, with­drew the ap­peal he filed against the elec­tion of Ihe­dioha.

Nwosu is a son-in-law to the im­me­di­ate-past gov­er­nor of Imo State, Rochas Oko­rocha, who was elected to the Se­nate on the plat­form of the APC in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion in the state.

On Tues­day, Nwosu’s lawyer, Mr. Solomon Umoh (SAN), told the seven-man panel of the Supreme Court that the de­ci­sion to with­draw the ap­peal chal­leng­ing the out­come of the last gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion in Imo State was based on the judg­ment of the apex court de­liv­ered on De­cem­ber 20, 2019.

The ref­er­enced judg­ment of the Supreme Court was on a case marked SC. 1384/2019 , which had de­clared that Nwosu was not validly nom­i­nated as a can­di­date of the AA to par­tic­i­pate in the March 9, 2019 gov­er­nor­ship poll, thus lacked the lo­cus standi to file any case in con­nec­tion with the elec­tion.

We are at a loss how Uzod­inma who came fourth be­came win­ner – PDP

Be­sides Ihe­dioha’s sup­port­ers, the na­tion’s main op­po­si­tion party, the PDP, also ex­pressed sur­prise over the judg­ment.

The PDP Na­tional Public­ity Sec­re­tary, Mr Kola Olog­bondiyan, in a state­ment, de­scribed the judg­ment as yet an­other very sad com­men­tary on the na­tion’s demo­cratic or­der.

He said, “The party finds it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand how Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress, who came 4th in the March 9, 2019 gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion, with just 96,458 votes, will sud­denly, by the token of the judg­ment of the Supreme Court, de­feat Chief Emeka Ihe­dioha/pdp who scored 276,404 votes.

“In fact, the PDP and in­deed, most Nige­ri­ans are still at a loss as to un­der­stand the ba­sis upon which the Supreme Court ar­rived at its de­ci­sion.

“The party says it is lam­en­ta­ble that the destiny of the peo­ple of Imo state is be­ing taken from the gov­er­nor they chose and voted for and handed over to in­di­vid­u­als and a po­lit­i­cal party that do not have their bless­ing and man­date and which they re­jected at the elec­tion.”

My stolen man­date has been re­cov­ered – Imo gov­er­nor elect

But Uzod­inma said that his stolen man­date had been re­cov­ered by the Supreme Court.

Uzod­inma, who spoke to our cor­re­spon­dent through his spokesper­son, De­clan Emelumba, shortly af­ter the apex court de­clared him the duly elected gov­er­nor of the state, said that the court had demon­strated brav­ery.

He said “The Supreme Court has de­clared Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma as the duly elected gov­er­nor of Imo state. The beau­ti­ful thing is that our stolen man­date has been re­cov­ered.

“The gov­er­nor will ar­rive Imo state on Wed­nes­day and he will ad­dress the peo­ple of the state. He has bet­ter plans for the peo­ple of the state. He is ex­pe­ri­enced and the state is in for good things.”

Mixed feel­ings in Imo

There were mixed feel­ings in Ow­erri, the Imo State cap­i­tal on Tues­day fol­low­ing the Supreme Court judg­ment that de­clared Uzod­inma as the duly elected gov­er­nor of the state.

While peo­ple cel­e­brated the apex court’s ver­dict, oth­ers de­scribed it as very shock­ing.

The state APC Public­ity Sec­re­tary, Enyin­naya Onuegbu, in an in­ter­view with one of our cor­re­spon­dents, said that the party was happy that its can­di­date had been re­turned by the Supreme Court.

He said, “We are ju­bi­lat­ing, our can­di­date, Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma is now the gov­er­nor of Imo State. This is great news for us.”

A mem­ber of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party, Ikenna Eme, de­scribed the ver­dict as shock­ing. Ac­cord­ing to him, the APC used the court to hi­jack the state.

Imo Govt House gate locked The entrance gate to Imo State Govern­ment House in Ow­erri, the state cap­i­tal, was locked im­me­di­ately news fil­tered in that Uzod­inma had been re­turned as the duly elected gov­er­nor of the state by the Supreme Court.

The PUNCH cor­re­spon­dent, who vis­ited the entrance gate heard se­cu­rity say­ing that there was or­der for them to re­strict move­ment in and out of the Govern­ment House.

But the APC mem­bers thronged the party Sec­re­tar­iat lo­cated at

Ow­erri - Okigwe Road in Ow­erri to cel­e­brate the emer­gence of Uzod­inma as the new gov­er­nor of the state.

Our cor­re­spon­dent saw the APC sup­port­ers danc­ing from the round­about at Govern­ment House to­wards Rock View Ho­tel av­enue.

I am ready to sup­port Uzod­inma--oko­rocha

On his part, a for­mer gov­er­nor of the state, Sen­a­tor Rochas Oko­rocha, con­grat­u­lated Uzod­inma.oko­rocha, in a state­ment by his me­dia aide, Sam On­wue­meodo, pledged to sup­port the new gov­er­nor of the state.

Omo-agege con­grat­u­lates Uzod­inma

The Deputy Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate, Ovie Omo-agege, also con­grat­u­lated Uzod­inma on his vic­tory at the Supreme Court.

Omo-agege, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by his me­dia aide, Yomi Odunuga, on Tues­day, de­scribed the de­vel­op­ment as vic­tory for democ­racy.

Oyetola, Abio­dun, Lawan con­grat­u­late Uzod­inma

The Osun State Gov­er­nor, Adeg­boyega Oyetola, in a state­ment by his Chief Press Sec­re­tary, Is­mail

Omip­i­dan, de­scribed Uzod­inma’s vic­tory as a well de­served New Year gift.

The Ogun State Gov­er­nor, Dapo Abio­dun, in a state­ment by his Chief Press Sec­re­tary, Kunle So­morin, lauded the Supreme Court for its coura­geous judg­ment.

Also, the Pres­i­dent of the Se­nate, Ah­mad Lawan, in a state­ment by his me­dia aide, Ola Awoniyi, con­grat­u­lated Uzod­inma.

“This is a vic­tory for democ­racy, the rule of law, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress and the good peo­ple of Imo State,” he stated.

Give Uzod­inma cer­tifi­cate of re­turn, APC tells INEC

The APC, in a state­ment by its Na­tional Public­ity Sec­re­tary, Lanre Issa-onilu, asked INEC to im­me­di­ately is­sue cer­tifi­cate of re­turn to Uzod­inma.

The state­ment stated, “Even as we are still won­der­ing why we lost elec­tions we clearly won in Zam­fara State at the Supreme Court and how the same court ruled our party out of the elec­toral race in Rivers State, we have never, as a po­lit­i­cal party, lost faith in the ju­di­ciary.

“We salute Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma, our sup­port­ers and mem­bers for their tem­per­ance dis­played in the af­ter­math of the bla­tant rig­ging of the Imo gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion.

“We chose to fo­cus on the ju­di­cial route to re­claim the party’s man­date. We are con­fi­dent that our other stolen elec­toral man­dates will be re­stored by the courts.

“The APC calls on all Imo State APC stake­hold­ers to come to­gether in sup­port of Sen­a­tor Uzod­inma to en­sure the suc­cess of the party’s Next Level agenda and to demo­crat­i­cally en­trench the APC in the state and the en­tire South-east.”

The Pres­i­dent, Ma­jor Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari (retd.), con­grat­u­lated Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma, ac­cord­ing to a State House state­ment re­leased last night.

The state­ment signed by his Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant on Me­dia and Public­ity, Mr Garba Shehu, read, “Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari has com­mended the Supreme Court for their courage and per­se­ver­ance in the de­ci­sion to re­turn a well-de­served vic­tory to the All Pro­gres­sives Congress and its can­di­date in Imo State gov­er­nor­ship con­test, Sen­a­tor Hope Uzod­inma.”

•Uzod­inma

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