Barr. Ozioma Nwadike
Owerri, Imo State.
George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, Petitioners v. Albert Gore, Jr. and Joseph Lieberman, et al, 531 U.S. 98 (2000):
On election night, November 7, 2000, one hour after the polls closed, the Associated Press called the state of Florida for Vice President Al Gore. By the evening of the same day, the national networks reversed their call, moving to “too close to call”, before giving it to Bush. Gore phoned Bush the night of the election to concede, later that same night, Gore retracted his concession.
George Bush led the election-night vote count in Florida by 1,784 votes. The small margin produced an automatic recount under Florida state law. On December 9, 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5–4 (four dissenting justices) to stay the Florida recount, because according to the now late Justice Antonin Scalia:
“The counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner Bush, and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election”.
Otherwise, the manual counting of the votes in Florida would do irreparable harm to the great 200-year old American democratic experiment.
On January 20, 2001, George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946), American politician and businessman, a member of the Republican Party, who had previously served as the 46th governor of the state Texas from 1995 to 2000, was sworn in as the 43rd President of the United States of American and leader of the Free World on the basis of the Supreme Court decision stopping the Florida manual recount.
This was a deeply polarizing and controversial decision at the time. Members of the liberal elite and the Democratic party were aghast and sneered at what they perceived as a partisan and political decision by a conservative majority Supreme Court. There were some who believed that a manual recount would have led to an Al Gore victory. But as soon as Bush was sworn in, America moved on. Al Gore moved on. Gore went on to be winner of the 2007 Nobel peace prize and a Grammy award.
Senator Hope Uzodinma v Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha SC. 1462/2019
On 14th January, 2020, Supreme Court of Nigeria in a unanimous decision by all 7 Supreme Court Justices, declared Senator Hope Uzodinma the duly elected Governor of Imo state on the basis of wrongful exclusion of valid votes.
According to Justice Kudirat Motonmori Olatokunbo Kekere Edun, JSC-
‘However in the instant case, the contention was that at the ward collation stage, votes scored by the applicants were unlawfully excluded. The documents required to prove this allegation would be Form EC8A series, which is the primary evidence in an election i.e statement of results from polling units and Form EC8B, the ward collated results. The appellants called 54 witnesses and tendered Forms EC8A, EC8B, EC8C, EC8D and EC8E…. Having pleaded that the documents are false, the respondents [Ihedioha] made allegations of a criminal nature against the appellants [Uzodinma]. They were required to plead the specific elements of fraud and lead evidence showing the genuine results. Not only must the allegation be proved beyond reasonable doubt, it must also be proved that the appellants personally committed the forgery or aided and abetted the commission of the crime or that the procured the commission of the crime through their agents or officials. It is well settled that mere averment in pleadings do not constitute evidence’.
Otherwise, that feelings aren’t facts and our legal system is founded on the preponderance of evidence. That the Supreme court will rely on original INEC elections documents before it and not what Ikechukwu, who lives in Ikenegbu Layout, thinks happened on election day.
On the night of January 15, Senator Hope Odidika Uzodinma (born 12 December 1958), Nigerian politician and businessman, who had previously served as Senator representing Imo West Senatorial district, from 2011 to 2019, took the oath of office and allegiance before the Chief Judge Pascal Nnadi at 7:28 pm before a cheering mammoth crowd at the Heroes Square Arena, in Owerri, the state capital.
In the small matter of Imo state, this was also a controversial decision.
The displaced Ihedioha of the PDP filed a motion for reversal of the judgement by the Supreme Court. On 3rd March, 2020, that application was dismissed by the Supreme Court 6-1, reaffirming Hope Uzodinma as the validly elected Governor. For statesmen and men of goodwill, this should settle the matter for all time, as it did in the USA, despite how polarizing it is for the different camps. But for some Imo politicians, it is still hunting season all year round. It is still as if elections are to hold today and tomorrow. In the comments section on Facebook, vituperations and visceral angst hold sway. And you wonder, where is the atmosphere for good governance? To whose detriment is this unending political acrimony? Surely it has to be the masses, the majority of whose day to day drudgery give little time for atavistic partisanship.
Attempts to make Imo State Ungovernable
After the supreme court decision declaring Uzodinma governor, the opposition PDP went on a delegitimizing Blitzkrieg, led by a raucous online media mob and unwittingly aligned with militant elements of a disbanded secessionist group. The truth is that the ruling national party APC suffers a trust deficit among the urban class in Igboland and the opposition PDP has found a way to use this to its advantage.
This was widely exacerbated by the former Governor Rochas Okorocha attempt to impose his son-in-law Uche Nwosu as the APC governorship candidate. Ironically, Governor Hope Uzodinma led the fierce opposition to Okorocha power drunken scheme. Grassroots politicians and keen observers of Imo politics would confidently posit that baring Uzodinma’s intervention, Uche Nwosu would have emerged as the APC flagbearer and perhaps in all likelihood won the Governorship election and we will not even be talking about a controversial court decision at the moment.
Yet the brazen manner of the PDP’s attempt to make Imo state ungovernable and delegitimize the government of Governor Hope Uzodinma is unprecedented in Imo politics. It should cause pause and ponder. Prayer sessions were organized. There were rallies and protests on a weekly basis, disrupting economic activities in the state capital sometimes for a whole day with the attendant incalculable loss. Even the nihilistic Charly Boy joined the crusade! The Facebook mob went on an unforgiving onslaught; the United States of America was asked to intervene by arresting the Supreme Court Justices. It was a terrifying spectacle the days leading up to the Supreme Court review judgement. The state was almost on a standstill for a whole month. And you wonder to whose detriment? You would rather cut off your nose to spite your face?
Matters came to a head when the Governor Uzodinma visited a restive oil producing Ohaji/Egbema community to deliberate with its traditional and political leaders and the youths over crisis relating to road deaths caused by tankers used by the oil companies operating in the area. At that event, while the Governor was meeting with stakeholders, a disgruntled man smashed the windscreen to the Governor’s car parked outside the traditional ruler’s palace. The opposition went to town, cheering this violent attack on the Governor, without thinking of the import of such a dastardly act. How did we get to the point where we are encouraging violent attacks on the office of the Governor? For the online PDP Facebook mob, smithereens of disgruntled political jobbers and armchair militant extremists, this singular event was a victory for their brand of nihilism and it was widely celebrated. For them, it is their way or the highway. A vociferous mob that would broke no opposition. Dee Sam Mbakwe did not cry tears at Ndiegoro flood in Aba for we to get this point.
Even in official statements and press releases, the Imo PDP continues to refer to Ihedioha as ‘the elected governor’ of Imo state. Nobody has called anybody to congratulate anybody as is the norm in all parts of the civilized world. This zero sum approach by the PDP is terrifying and sets a dangerous precedent. Some days ago the PDP, purportedly in conjunction with a militant secessionist group (whose leader continues to play on the intelligence of impassioned young people, and will rather I, a University of Lagos educated lawyer, take up arms against the Nigerian government while he flies private jets around the world in expensive designer suits, claiming to be Jewish and not Igbo), planned a welcome back rally for their ‘elected governor’ Ihedioha.
This rally would have shut down economic activities for a whole day in the state capital and in all probability led to a likely breakdown of law and order, considering the violent antecedents of those involved. It took the intervention and a strong worded statement by the Commissioner of Police for this foolhardy idea to be quashed. You wonder is this ever going to end?
Some people forget that even by the discredited results announced by INEC which saw Ihedioha emerge at first as Governor, Ihedioha did not win a majority of all the votes cast. Meaning, there were more people in Imo state who voted for other candidates as Governor and did not want Ihedioha as Governor than they were people who voted for him. Yes, we practice a first past the post system where a winner emerges even with a one extra vote but this fact should cause some of the people who will rather we self-destruct or put Imo state on the pressure cooker for the next 4 years to be sober and reflect for a moment.
Contrary to make-believe, not everybody wants Ihedioha to be Governor. No doubt, there is a sectional and ethnic angle to this unending angst. Emeka Ihedioha comes from Owerri zone with the behemoth Mbaise clan as his base and Governor Uzodinma is from Orlu zone. It beggars belief that this is where we have gotten to. I would rather digress than elaborate on this point because Imo state is a homogeneous Igbo state and should remain so.
In Imo State, Governor Uzodinma has no breathing space
In Imo state, the Governor knows that he either performs or he faces an uphill re-election battle. His opposition are not the average political jobbers but unappeasable purists driven by deep rooted primordial hate and would stop at nothing to uproot him, even at the extent of cheering violent attacks on his convoy. To the unbiased observer of the last 2 months, there is no doubt that Governor Uzodinma looks up to the task with a spring in his step. The Governor’s appointments so far have received widespread commendation; infusing fresh ideas and new hands into the government of Imo state. The former Governor Ihedioha seemed to have a penchant of recycling old hands whose previous scorecards are nothing to write home about.
In a powerful break from the past, Governor Hope Uzodinma has committed to organizing free and fair local government elections in the state. One cannot begin to restate the benefits of such a bold move. This will in no small measure energize the grassroots and bring the government closer to the people. The Governor talks about a Greater Imo project, details which we have yet to be fully informed, but surely there is still time to lay the groundwork. The demeanor of the Governor is calm and professional, he talks about a government of shared prosperity and it is evident from his utterances that the Governor is a pragmatist, a patriot and a peaceable man. There have been no attempts to witch-hunt his political opponents. The Governor has reinstated the 5000 job offers canceled by Ihedioha. In 8 years in the Nigerian Senate the Governor achieved a brilliant reputation as an under the radar astute political strategist, willing to work across the aisle with both opponents and friends alike to get things done. One can see that this is a Governor who just wants to end the acrimonious politiking and get to work.
In the coming months, the Governor would need to lay out the vision for his Greater Imo and shared prosperity agenda. He would need to come up with his own signature construction projects. A skills acquisition programme for the teeming youth population is needed urgently. The Imo state university needs a total makeover. The Governor’s taskforce for the coronavirus crisis needs to be set up as soon as possible. A pragmatic economic vision for the state in this era of dwindling oil revenue should be designed and put into action. Govenor Uzodinma would need to figure out how we can we fully harness our comparative advantage of tourism, agriculture and ICT.
But there is no question that the naysayers would rather this government fails, affording it not a single shred of doubt. Good governance is impossible in an atmosphere of acrimonious political bickering. To those for whom it is either their way or the highway, patriots and men of goodwill must resist them.
Ozioma Nwadike Esq, is a legal practitioner and social commentator . He writes in from Owerri, Imo state.