By: Dr Michael Odichi-Dan Ugorji
Sequel to my May 26, 2020 op-ed on the protest by the governor of Imo state, Hope Uzodinma, and his supporters over our people’s reference to him as the ‘supreme court governor, I would want to elucidate a few issues raised in my article which have recently caught the interest of some politically-engaged personalities. In that article, I clearly outlined my objective opinion and my unbiased commitment to meaningful and consistent governance for not only Imo Sate, but for Nigeria. While discussing my thoughts on the issue of ‘supreme court governor’, which was perceived as a derogatory appellation for a political office holder, I gave my reasons as follows:
Firstly, I was among those miffed that the candidate of a political party that came in fourth in an election would be eventually installed as the winner of an election in which three parties performed better than it did. Secondly, I was disappointed with the Nigerian Supreme Court because I found it grossly illogical to say that Sen. Uzodinma won an election in which a subsisting supreme court ruling had indirectly declared him a non-candidate. Thirdly, I believe that above all, there shouldn’t be a vacuum at the seat of power and Imo needs to move forward, albeit in the positive direction.
A member of the ruling party recently accosted me and expressed his frustration that my article seemed to suggest that Governor Uzodinma did not win the election and is usurping an office, a mandate of which he does not have. In response to this charge, I would want to state categorically that I still do not believe that Mr Uzodinma won any election because he did not legally contest any. Having stated that, I would also not be caught saying anything inordinate or malicious to the reputation of the apex court of Nigeria. However, my notion of justice was subverted in that epochal judgement which seems to have made a twaddle of an earlier ruling of the same ‘respectable’ court.
Also, in my op-ed, I made it clear why I thought the removal of Ex-Governor Emeka Ihedioha from office was not only justice denied, but also justice logically and morally dented. I explained it as follows:
Sen. Uzodinma became the governor of Imo state as the chief beneficiary of a controversial ruling by the apex court in Nigeria. That ruling removed then governor of Imo state, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and recognized Uzodinma as the governor-elect of the state. It would be recalled that Mr Uche Nwosu who is a family member of former governor, Rochas Okorocha, was declared the rightful candidate of the All Progressives Congress in a different ruling by the same Supreme Court sitting on the same Imo gubernatorial election. In its judgement delivered by Justice Adamu Augie on the 19th of December 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria said Uche Nwosu was not qualified to vie for the election being that he doubled as both the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Action Alliance (AA). This would then mean the court acknowledged that Sen. Uzodinma was never a candidate of the APC in that same election and therefore did not participate in it. How then could he have won an election in which he was never legally a candidate?
To justify my perspective on this matter is the fact that the candidate of Reform and Advancement Party (RAP), one of the parties in the 2019 Imo state governorship election has recently gone to court seeking to restrain Mr Hope Uzodinma from acting as Imo governor. The RAP candidate, Mr Okere Kingdom, even went further to ask the court to declare Emeka Ihedioha as the duly elected governor of Imo State. His prayer on the court appears to have reinforced my take on the matter. Mr Okere Kingdom, among other things, affirmed his conviction that Mr Uzodinma did not contest in that election as his party (APC) had a supreme court recognised candidate in the person of Mr Uche Nwosu. Mr Kingdom who is also a lawyer, wants the court to determine whether Mr Uzodinma lawfully participated and was sponsored by the APC to contest the 2019 Imo governorship election according to Section 177 (C) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. The implication of this litigation is that if Mr Uche Nwosu has been recognised by the supreme court as the rightful candidate of the APC, which cannot sponsor two different candidates in the same election, then Mr Uzodinma’s candidacy is automatically null and void. He continues to also state that Mr Nwosu’s candidacy is also compromised because he was fielded by another party in that election and cannot represent two political parties in the same election. In the foregoing, both Mr Uzodinma and Mr Nwosu would stand disqualified ab-initio. This is exactly my take on the legal aspects of this matter.
The striking thing about the current case is that the RAP candidate goes further to demand that Mr Emeka Ihedioha be recognised as the governor of Imo State based on the same supreme court ruling which had made Uzodinma governor. Going by that ruling if Uzodinma’s candidacy was nullified, then the next candidate with the largest number of votes would be Ihedioha. This would be a curious development and a shocking outcome for some, but not for me or anybody who has taken time to rationalise the judicial miasma that Imo State got enmeshed in. Mr Ihedioha was unjustly removed from office and that is my understanding of this matter.
In my op-ed, I had called on the incumbent governor, Mr Uzodinma, to take to heart the cause of true and impactful leadership of the state, being the one currently saddled with that authority. This does not in any way thwart my view of the flawed process through which he became governor and would never assuage the gross injustice and controversy that heralded his elevation to office. I had also admonished the incumbent to ignore the name-calling and the shenanigans of fleeting political gain, but focus on achieving a glorious ending, not only for himself, but most importantly for Ndimo. This remains my advice to the governor. This would also be my advice to Governor Emeka Ihedioha should he by any means be restored to his mandate. I would not capitulate my ethics to any form of inane political ‘daara m’ ka m’ daara gi’.
Dr Michael Odichi-Dan Ugorji
Social Entrepreneurship & Political Communication Scholar
The beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author is his personal opinion and not Per Second News editorial.