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Ihedioha, Uzodinma: The triumph of justice

Published by The Nation on Thu, 16 Jan 2020

The Supreme Court has ruled that Imo State All Progressives Congress (APC) flagbearer Senator Hope Uzodinma is governor. What next for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, who has been in the saddle for almost eight months' What are the challenges that will confront the new governor' Deputy Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU examines the significance of the verdict.The table has turned against former House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha.The Supreme Court described him as an interloper, who got to the Imo State Government House through the back door.The Certificate of Return issued to him in error by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after the February 9, 2019 governorship election was withdrawn.Ihedioha woke up on Tuesday as chief executive. But, he went to bed as a dethroned ruler with a track record of stolen mandate.According to Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who read the lead judgment of the Supreme Court, the umpire must issue an authentic Certificate of Return to the former loser turned winner, Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC).Uzodinma is also to be sworn in immediately. His portrait will replace that of Ihedioha, who will not even be accorded the status of an ex-governor, despite warming the seat for almost sight months.The contest for the soul of Imo has been won and lost. The Supreme Court verdict was final. It means that APC still has a footing in the Southeast.With immediate effect, all purported actions of the illegal governor became null and void. The cabinet eclipsed. The report of the commission of inquiry set up by him ceased to exist. All proposed activities and engagements will not hold.Power is transient. No condition is permanent. The lessons stare the beleaguered polity in the face. The sanctity of the electoral box is still a tall dream. Unless this is achieved, Nigeria can only glow in mere civil rule.Democracy is still a far cry. That the battle should often shift from the ballot box to the temple of justice underscores the lack of electoral maturity.The crux of the matter in Imo was the miscalculation of lawful votes cast, to the disadvantage of the APC. The bone of contention was the exclusion of results from 318 polling units from votes recorded for Uzodinma. The court said that electoral officer erred by excluding the results from the polling units.The excluded votes were put at 213,695 while that of Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was 1,903. Thus, Uzodinmas stronghold was emasculated by master riggers.Yet, as noted by the jurists, these core facts were glossed over by the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal.Ihediohas lawyers could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the exclusion of the disputed units was right in law. They did not file a cross petition for the nullification of the results from the excluded units.Although Ihedioha also challenged Uzodinmas candidacy for the poll, referring to the apex courts earlier judgment that Uche Nwosu was the APC flag bearer, the court disagreed.In its view, the valid nomination of a candidate at the primary is a pre-election matter. The validity of the first appellants (Uzodinma) nomination cannot be enquired into by this court in a post-election appeal, the court ruled.Ihedioha is a brave and courageous politician. Since 2015, he had been eyeing the coveted seat. He is popular in his party. In 2015 and 2019, he braced the odds to emerge as the PDP candidate. During the electioneering, he campaigned vigorously across the three senatorial districts.According to the umpire, he defeated Uzodinma, Nwosu of Action Alliance (AA) and Senator Ifeanyi Araurume of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).On May 29, last year, Ihedioha was sworn in. He became a member of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). He has been an active chief executive trying to thread the populist path.In particular, he had taken on his predecessor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, who he berated for poor governance. Senator Okorocha had refuted the allegations and listed his achievements in office for eight years.Recently, a panel set up to investigate the former governor found him guilty. Ihedioha promised that a white paper on its report will be out soon. Now, that was in the realm of the past.Ihedioha may continue to nurse governorship ambition. He may return to the drawing board ahead of 2023. Age is still on his side. His structure is still formidable.The ousted governor is not a baby politician. In 1992, Ihedioha was appointed press officer to the Senate President, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu. A year later, he was appointed chief press secretary to the Deputy Senate President.Following military incursion in November 1993, Ihedioha returned to his communications practice as Chief Executive Officer of First Page Communications. He became Director of Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Movement, the purveyor of the PDP in 1998.Read Also:Uzodinma replaces Ihedioha as Supreme Court sacks Imo governorHe was appointed special assistant to the Presidential Adviser on Utilities in July 1999, special assistant on media and publicity to the Senate President in November 1999 and special assistant on political matters to the Vice President in September 2001. He won a seat in the House of Representatives as a member representing Aboh-Mbasie-Ngor Okpala Constituency in 2003.He was the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015.The man UzodinmaSince Tuesday, attention shifted to Uzodinma. Will he be a good governor' He has inherited the assets and liabilities of the state. He should put the past behind him and become the governor of all.Many challenges will confront him.Uzodinma may face predictable hostility from the PDP-dominated House of Assembly. He has to moderate his actions in utter sensitivity to the disposition of lawmakers who may retain partisan loyalty to the ousted governor.As the new leader of the crisis-ridden Imo APC, he is not expected to run a government of exclusion and vendetta. He should be prepared to close ranks with the other bloc or faction, led by the aggrieved senator, Owelle Okorocha. He should form a cabinet of unity, which will reflect all the tendencies in the chapter.Uzodinma was elected Senator for the Orlu (Imo West) District in the April 2011 polls on the platform of the PDP. His victory was challenged on the ground that he was not the valid PDP candidate. But on May 5, 2011, the Supreme Court declared that his election was valid.A businessman, Uzodinma holds the ceremonial title of Onwa-Netiri Oha of Omuma in Oru Local Government. In 2003, he ran for governor on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He lost his deposit. Later, he retraced his steps to the PDP.In 2006, he vied for the PDP governorship ticket. He trailed Araraume who got the ticket in the primary. Uzodinma was appointed a member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT). He was among those who endorsed the bid by Ikedi Ohakim to run again for governor in 2011 after his return to the PDP.Many believe that Uzodinma is a controversial figure. On February 10, 2009, the Economic Financial Crimes Commsission (EFCC) invited him, following a petition against him.Uzodinma won the PDP primary for the Imo West Senatorial race on January 9, 2011. He got 2,147 votes while the incumbent Senator Osita Izunaso came second with 891 votes. However, he suffered a setback. On February 5, 2011, a Federal High court declared that Izunaso was the candidate.Uzodinma had not been cleared by the PDPs electoral panel headed by Orji Nwafor-Orizu. The judge ordered the PDP to submit Izunasos name the INEC. A Court of Appeal issued a stay of execution on March 17, 2011 while the case was being decided, leaving Uzodinma free to campaign.On April 5, the Court of Appeal upheld the February high court judgement and declared that Uzodinma was not qualified to run and should not represent himself as a candidate. Uzodinma appealed this decision at the Supreme Court.In the April 9, 2011elections, Uzodinma received 85,042 votes, ahead of former Imo Governor Achike Adenwa of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with 64,228 votes and Rajis Okpalan Benedicta of the All Progressives Grand Alliance with 57,110 votes.On May 5, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that Uzodinma was the authentic candidate. The decision was influenced by the minutes of a January 5, 2011 meeting of the PDP National Working Committee that was attached to the April appeal to the Supreme Court.The meeting overruled Nwafor-Orizus decision to disqualify Uzodinma and rejected the December 2010 petition, saying: There was no evidence that Chief Hope Uzodinma has been convicted for murder, armed-robbery, obtaining money by false pretense and or for bankruptcy.
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