Excitement, apprehension as clock ticks for Supreme Court’s review of Imo verdict
The twin factors of excitement and palpable apprehension have overtaken the National Secretariats of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the commencement of Supreme Court hearing on the request by the former to review the apex court’s verdict, which sacked Emeka Ihedioha and pronounced Hope Uzodinma as governor of Imo state. Checks across the two parties have revealed that key party leaders in the executive and the National Assembly entertained mixed feelings about the issue, which has attracted national and international attention since January.
The time for protests and counter-protests, when PDP leaders, members, and supporters took to the streets chanting slogans and songs against the Supreme Court’s verdict is over. The APC too has equally seen no use in engaging in counter-protests as well as passing confidence votes on the judiciary. The stage is now set for serious legal warfare. And the very last opportunity to do so is now. So both parties have gone to the drawing board to fashion out the best legal weapons.
Although opinions may have been freely canvassed, the facts remain that while the apex court has the power to review and possibly reverse itself on certain decisions it had taken, it can equally restate its position.
This is the point of uncertainty that has made even those with high hopes either way to exercise caution in expressing their positions.
Professionals in law and legal warfare have taken over and unlearned men have become mere onlookers in a judicial matter that has attracted unprecedented controversy.
Lead counsel to Ihedioha and former Attorney-General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, while submitting his application for review of the case on February 5, 2020 did not hesitate to draw attention to the sensitivity and utmost importance of the case.
Agabi noted, “At this of all times, our Supreme Court has been afforded this unique opportunity of allaying the fears of those who cast aspersions on the credibility of our courts. Those who mean well for the nation will agree that we have here an opportunity for the Supreme Court to mitigate the rising unpopularity of our courts and to rehabilitate her damaged reputation and restore the good name of the judiciary by setting aside this judgment which seems to us to be a nullity.”
But he did not rule out the fact that things might equally not turn the way of the PDP when he said: “We may be quite wrong. In that case, please, forgive us.”
However, he advised the apex court to try as much as possible to match its verdict on this matter with the solemn oath it has taken, noting, “Remember that every decision of this honourable court involves the good name of the judiciary. Prove to the world that this court is sacred. Let your verdict help to retain the good graces of our people.
“It is owed to the work of this Supreme Court that the nation continues to survive. It is that work that gives us the confidence to present this application. That you are willing to reconsider your decision gives you honour and glory.
“We come before you firmly convinced that you will act in aid of the cause of justice. In this application we appeal to you, we urge you, we beg you to preserve the glorious reputation of this court. We appeal to you to prove wrong all those who have an evil opinion of our judiciary. Here is a great opportunity for your lordships, to act. Free the judiciary from suspicion. Give no one cause to despise our courts. Prove to the world that you are the equals of the courts of other nations.”
Above all, he charged the court to “Remember always that as you sit in judgment over us, so the nation sits in judgment over you. And you should worry, not just over the judgment of this generation, but also the judgment of generations to come when none of us will be alive to defend our actions.
So charged is the political and judicial atmosphere that many others including even Secretariat workers who had great emotional attachment for their employers are caught up in the hope and fear syndrome thrown up by the epic judicial battle.”
“It is a case I am very sure will at the end of the day give those of us in the PDP a reason to rejoice because of the great merit in the application for review. You can see that even the international community is supporting us,” Julius Obi, who does clerical work in the Wadata Plaza, Zone Five PDP National Secretariat, submitted.
Conversely, a staff in APC National Secretariat, located on Wuse 2, Abuja, but would not want his name revealed, said he was hopeful that the joy and excitement that was experienced when Uzodinma was declared winner last month by the Supreme Court would not be truncated.
Many had equally expressed diverse opinions about the matter with some believing that on grounds of facts and figures, the request has merit while others opined that on technical ground, the request might not see the light of the day.
The Supreme Court has since fixed Tuesday, March 2 for the hearing of the application filed by Ihediaoha seeking the reversal of the January 14, 2020 judgment, which removed him as Imo State governor and installed Uzodinma of All Progressives Congress as his replacement. The notice for the hearing has equally been served on the parties to the case.
Agabi, in filing the application, pointed out what he felt were the grounds on which the January 14 verdict of the Supreme Court should be reversed. Based on those grounds, he actually sought “an order setting aside as a nullity the judgment delivered by this Honourable Court on the 14th of January 2020 in Appeal No. SC.1462/2019 and Cross Appeal No. SC.1470/2019.”
He argument in the application anchors on Section 6 (6) of Nigerian Constitution and Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act 2004, that the judgment was obtained by fraud or deceit. He added that the apex court was misled to give the judgment.
In alleging fraud, however, Ihedioha and PDP claimed that Uzodinma and his party fraudulently misled the apex court into holding that 213,495 votes were unlawfully excluded from the votes they scored in the governorship election held on March 9, 2019. They said Uzodinma admitted under cross-examination that he was the person, and not the Independent National Electoral Commission, who computed the result that gave him the 213,495 votes alleged to have been excluded from his total votes in the election.
They added, “The fraudulent nature of the additional votes was demonstrated by the fact that the total votes cast as shown in the first appellant/respondent’s computation was more than the total number of voters accredited for the election and in some polling units more than the total number of registered voters.
“The fraud was also demonstrated by the fact that the result computed by the first appellant/respondent showed only the votes of the first applicant and the first appellant/respondent without specifying the votes scored by the other 68 candidates who participated in the election.”
They also claimed that the judgment sought to be set aside is a nullity in that it was delivered without jurisdiction. They claimed that having regard to Section 140 (2) of the Electoral Act as amended, the appellants/respondents divested the court of the relevant jurisdiction to declare the first appellant/respondent as the winner of the election by branding or stigmatising the entire election as invalid.
They further argued that the judgment sought to be set aside is a nullity in that it was given per incuriam. They said by Exhibit A1, the total number of voters accredited for the election was 823,743 while the total valid votes cast was 731,485. The inclusion of 213,695 votes for the first appellant/respondent, they argued, made the total number of votes cast at the election to be more than the total number of votes accredited for the election.
The applicants also, among other grounds, argued that the judgment of the Court of Appeal dismissing Uzodinma’s petition as incompetent continues to subsist as the appeal against that decision was not considered by the apex court.