Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men – men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”-Ellen G. White.
The law is always referred to as the hope of the common man.Indeed,it is the last resort and hope of the common man. But recently, few elements in the judiciary have dragged the name of that revered arm of government to the mud by delivering judgments that have generated of unimaginable scale of controversy.
The elements are continuously contravening the above principles proffered by White as the solutions to the malady bedeviling this world. They are either bought or sold. Their conscience is not as true as needle to the pole, and they cannot stand for the right though the heavens fall.
The latest is the Abia episode where over 300,000 voters from Obingwa, Osisioma and Isialangwa North local government areas were disenfranchised, including the governor of the state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. The judges of the Appeal Court sitting in Owerri made the episode more comical by nullifying the mandate of Ikpeazu which was earlier by affirmed both by the Abia people and the lower tribunal.
The Appellate Court since the judgment last Friday stirred the hornet’s nest. The ruling has attracted barrage of Innuendo: “Rape of justice”, “Miscarriage of justice”, Greatest joke of the century”, amongst others.
Abians, especially the Ukwa-Ngwa ethnic nationality received the judgment with huge shock. The reasons for their agitation are not far- fetched. One, Abians massively voted for Ikpeazu. Two, they will not entertain any attempt and plot that would truncate the reformation process Ikpeazu has set in motion in the state.
For the Ukwa- Ngwa people, any attempt to steal the mandate of one of their own, Ikpeazu, who they massively and unanimously gave their mandate, would meet the brick wall. It will be recalled that Ikpeazu is the first Ukwa- Ngwa man to have a shot at the governorship position in the state, since its creation in 1991.
The day light robbery provoked a massive peaceful protest on the streets of Aba . A former President of the Senate, Adolphus Wabara who led the protest, is optimistic that the ignoble judgment would be quashed at the apex court, and called on the National Judicial Council, NJC, to sanction those judges in the appeal court for compromise.” I have never seen in my whole political life such a judgment in any law court and we all claim that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, but they have not demonstrated that now. So what we are saying is that people should remain calm, demonstrate peacefully, we will get that”.
“We are on the street to register our displeasure over the court of appeal ruling. All we are saying that our votes should and must be allowed to count. We must be part of the decision of who governs us. And we did when we voted overwhelmingly for our son Dr Ikpeazu as our governor. This attempt to rob us our hard earned -mandate which we have through the court of appeal is unacceptable to us. While the ruling will be challenged, we shall remains on the streets,” Wabara said.
Hon. Eziuche Ubani, Commissioner for Works and two-term member of the House of Representatives questioned the evidence of rigging, adding the Otti never campaigned in Obingwa, the local government area of Gov. Ikpeazu, and had no agent there.
Ubani’s argument is buttressed further by the fact that the lower tribunal ruled that Obingwa votes were in order and decided that there will be a re-run in two wards in Osisioma, one in Isiala Ngwa North, two wards in Ugwunagbo . The implication of this is that the issues arising from the first election were determined by the order for a supplementary election. But unfortunately, the appellate court went back to those issues that have been determined by the lower tribunal.
According to Ubani, “We know what this place (Aba) is and what it represents. If that doesn’t happen, we won’t have any control about what may actually happen. We are threatening anybody but the fact is that the facts are there, we can’t predict what would happen. So, that is why the leaders have come to organize peaceful protest and then let people do the right thing. This state has been held down for 16years. The state has taken off and we don’t want anyone to take us back to Egypt”.
Another serious poser this rape of justice raises is” why would the appeal court declare Otti winner with a supposed margin of 50,000 based on results from 14 local government areas while invalidating results from three local government areas with a voter population of over 300,000?
It will be recalled that during April 11 governorship election in Abia State, a winner could not be declared immediately after the election because the margin of leadership of Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu was about 30,000 while the areas where elections could not hold for sundry reasons had about 50,000 registered voters. A supplementary election was held two weeks later and Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu was declared winner afterwards.
South East Progressives Assembly (SEPA) in a statement accused the 5-man panel, whom were allegedly drawn from Lagos division of the court of appeal, of striking a deal with some APC chieftains to the detriment of the electoral act and constitution. The group further alleged that motive behind the deal is that should they help Otti grab Abia governorship seat through the court of appeal, that he would defect to APC and surrender the state to the control of the party.
SEPA is of a strong view that a judgment that clearly disenfranchise over 300,000 registered voters from the strong-hold of Gov. Ikpeazu can never survive the judicial scrutiny of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, adding” is no gainsaying that the said judgment in entirety terribly unleashed a devastating blow to our nascent democracy which provocatively shocked Abia people, Nigerians and lovers of democracy outside the shores of our country”.
“How did the justices determine and decided the substantial non-compliance in Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu’s local government area and two other Ngwa local government areas as alleged by the appellant? How did they arrive at over-voting to cancel those legitimately collated and returned results from these LGAs? What did our law and electoral act provide in situations where over-voting is substantially proven? What informed the acceptability and invalidation of the cooked evidence of the second appellant which finally formed the bedrock and figures upon which Alex Otti was declared winner of the governorship election by the court of appeal?”
There is a consensus among Abians and other justice- loving citizens across the world that the mandate of their performing- governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, cannot be tampered with. The feeling is pervasive and has assumed a popular phrase” any attempt to tamper with the mandate of our performing- governing would strongly resisted. Abians have made their statement by massively voting Gov. Ikpeazu, the desperado called Otti does not have any other option than to concede defeat. “The voice of the people is the voice of God”. “Vox populi, vox dei”. Attention should be paid to the voice of the people.
“When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. Where evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice”.-Martin Luther King Jr (1929 – 1968).
Ukegbu, a public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia , Abia State.