The feeling rife everywhere in Imo State currently is of rue; the dolour is palpable on almost everyone, as it concerns what many have described the biggest daylight fraud of the moment. That fraud and the basis of the feeling is the recent verdict of the Supreme Court ousting Emeka Ihedioha as governor.
That verdict by the Supreme Court is one that’s very remarkable, but hugely in a sense not impressive. Its remarkableness hinges on its judicial buffoonery; on its misapplication of justice by upturning the majority decision of the people of Imo State in what’s seen as the most frivolous and most ridiculous judgment so far.
The approval of conjured figures by the unanimous decision of the seven member panel that sat on the Imo governorship appeal was more frightening and so terrifying than the conjured figures themselves. What that unexplained branded figures, couched in no less a bag than the popular Ghana-must-go which notoriety in corrupt theatrics is well known, did was to push up the eventual numbers of votes cast far beyond the credible number of accredited voters.
What this action essentially means is the ultimate fleecing of credibility in the process that produced a democratically elected governor and the infliction of pains to the genuine Imo electorates, whose votes and whose values were rubbished just by the unanalysed consent of the learned justices to a fraudulent electoral concoction. It’s indeed smelling so strongly, the ooze of that manipulated concoction.
Following basic reasoning, of which all judicial processes ought to follow, an electoral process where there’s such discrepancy to the extent that the number of accredited voters is dwarfed by what becomes the total valid votes cast is not only legally untenable but one which should be dismissed as so shameful. It’s ordinary that whatever number of votes said to have been cast should come from those whose names appear on the register and who are accredited. So it becomes a shady area that requires not just clarification (because such cannot be clarified) but outright condemnation. And this is what the current situation calls for.
In the declaration of the 2019 gubernatorial election of Imo State, the returning officer, Prof Atunta, had given a view of what was the voting dynamics in the state, and which of course should guide the analysis here (as the statutory and credible source). It was given that while the number of accredited voters stood at 823,743, the total number of votes cast was 739,485. There are the invalid votes et al. We might not need bother with the other details, since the following analysis would rely on these principal statistics.
In the breakdown, Emeka Ihedioha/PDP was said to have polled 273,404 votes to win the contest, while their closest rival, Uche Nwosu/AA garnered 190,364 votes. It was said that Ifeanyi Araraume/APGA and Hope Uzodinma/APC scored 114,676 and 96,458 votes respectively to come third and fourth. In adding these numbers of votes to those of the remaining 66 candidates and their parties, the total valid votes tallies to 714,355.
A dissatisfied Hope Uzodinma, coming from the complaint of been denied some lawful votes headed to the tribunal and up to the Supreme Court to seek redress. And on January 14, 2020, the apex court (assumably, after studying the submissions before it), granted audience to the alleged excluded 338 polling units from Uzodinma/APC. The court not only consider the votes from those units as valid, it completely awarded them to the appellate and consequently declared him validly elected governor of Imo State.
That judgment struck like a thunderstorm. How come, everyone wondered? They can’t believe this arithmetic jiggery-pokery.
Let’s say we admit that the results of those 338 polling units, hauled into a Ghana-must-go bag were valid votes, should we be made to admit also without disbelief that those votes in their entirety belong to just a single candidate? How admissible could that be, and this is a question whose answer definitely would be as hard to grasp as the explanation of how the coconut couched water.
It’s highly unfortunate that the decisions of the two lower courts as it regards the credibility of the content in the Ghana-must-go claimed to be the votes from 338 polling units were jettisoned by the apex without a more verified reason and on such ludicrous and imbecilic stand that makes mockery not only of the basic grand norm of electoral conscientiousness but of simple statistics. Wasn’t the apex court supposed to review the judicial credibility of the lower courts and correct the errors where necessary? They failed woefully in the review process and instead foisted what can be considered as the most legal folly of the decade. It’s laughable as it’s painful how such could be procured by the highest temple of justice in the land.
Primarily, it is the duty of the court to interpret the constitution and its processes like the electoral process. But this power of the court to review election processes does not in any way include to delegate the function that it should review, to wit counting and allocation of votes. Given that it has the power to invalidate any perceived wrong in the electoral process (be it exclusion or inclusion of votes), the Supreme Court however, erred in taking upon itself the role to determine whose votes was higher even when such was not given credence by the authority responsible for that. INEC had excluded and never those units on the basis that it was contentious. And this obviously is the haze that the court should have cleared.
The court left it jurisdiction and took upon the power to count those votes, without considering its limitations to determine which and what votes were valid. And this would have necessitate the wholesome allocation of votes from the said 338 units to a single party. Indeed it was so, for the court had stated that by putting into consideration votes from these units, the hitherto 3rd runner up overjumped his leading rivals to secure the highest valid votes to be declared winner. But what were the votes? We were only told that, adding excess votes from the 388 units INEC never declared, Hope Uzodinma garnered an astronomic votes that saw him win the poll.
The thing that follows is the implications of this additional vote numbers to the entire votes statistics certified by the electoral umpire. As revealed by INEC, the total number of accredited voters was 823,743. Imperatively, whatever figure that falls above this is not only fictitious but sternly dubious. And this obviously becomes a burden that the Supreme Court judgment must prove, if indeed it must reliably rest as a fair, just and truly cogent verdict.
Without adducing the obvious possibility of amassing a greater amount of the votes in the 388 units through whatever means possible, it would be unimaginable to assume also that the entirety of the votes went to just one party. Hope Uzodinma’s anchor, ab initio, in his fight for perceived electoral justice has been on the reliance of what the 338 units produced. He held them so tightly because they defined what was his stronghold. And it’s obvious what stronghold entails in politics. He banked on this strength, and scooped everything that was to be scooped in the excess 103,887 votes, at least according to the Justice Tanko Mohammed-led panel.
But that decision of the Supreme Court to award the entirety of those votes to Uzodinma and thereby raising his total votes to an astronomic amount that wows even the total number of accredited 823,747 voters okayed by INEC, does it not taint and invalidate the entire process of that 2019 governorship poll and punch its verdict? (For, by that inclusion, pushed further the total accredited voters to 927,000).
One fact however, is drawn from the raging verdict of the seven man panel: that the learned justices never took into account serious dynamics in the election that should have led them making a clear judgment. They were hasty and so performed a poor surgery on the case they adjudicated. At best, they succeeded in upturning the mandate of the greater Imolites, and heavily so without taking recourse to the process through which they exercised that mandate. I think that would have been the most appropriate ground to do that (if indeed it was that necessary). For at the end, democracy was slain and justice robbed as far as the Imo people are concerned.
Ahanonu Kingsley writes from Owerri