Friday, December 20, 2019 7:56 am
The 2016 Supreme Court victory by Governor Udom Emmanuel was hard fought. There was tension everywhere, from Uyo to Ikot Ekpene and from Eket to Ikot Abasi. Supporters of the two political parties were visibly apprehensive. Perhaps, only one person, Governor Udom Emmanuel remained unruffled throughout the ensuing episode of February 3,2016. The Governor received in audience some diplomats and investors and went on to carry out his assignments in the office, prompting sceptics to wonder what sterner stuff he was made of.
Recall that on December 18,2015, the Appeal Court in a unanimous decision had given judgement in favour of the APC and its candidate, Umana Umana, calling for a fresh election in Akwa Ibom state. While his supporters were dampened, Governor Emmanuel had arrived beaming with smiles and assuring his faithful that there was no cause for alarm. It was a day to the Carol Festival and the Governor assured everyone there in the Governor’s Lodge, Abuja that it was indeed God’s purpose that such a judgement should come, so that He alone would get the Glory when things are upturned in the supreme court. ” That supreme God that we worship will give us supreme victory at the supreme court “, the Governor enthused.
A critic said on a social media platform that the momentum of the victory is not felt enough on the streets of Uyo as was obtained in 2016. When clearly analysed, the dynamics were completely different. PDP lost partly at the tribunal, and lost fully at the Appeal court. On the day of ruling, APC had supporters on the streets already celebrating. At the Three Arms Zone supreme court location, over 100 APC supporters thronged the court all anticipatory of an affirmation of a victory they were earlier given by the Appeal Court, which as later observed, had taken upon itself to play the role of the omniscient, by delivering judgement based on materials that were merely dumped at the tribunal and granting reliefs that were not sought by the APC.
For those of us in the courtroom, calls from various persons back home almost caused our handheld devices to explode. It was not until about 8.20pm that the judgement was read, dismissing the petition by the APC and upholding the victory of Governor Emmanuel.
Hell was let loose. APC supporters that adorned the streets of Uyo from Plaza to Govt House waiting for the verdict, threw away their brooms and led the victory match to Government House. The Governor who was pleasantly surprised at the sudden u-turn by the broom carriers said severally that the same faces he saw at the plaza shaking brooms at him earlier in the day, where those who dumped the dirty brooms to first arrive his lodge into his warm embrace, another strong indication that political parties should not be tools of division, as they are merely vehicles used in attaining political powers, while the people of the state remained brothers from the same family.
Fast forward to 2019, the win was seamless from the elections to the tribunal, the appeal court…nothing gave any pointer to any possibility of an APC victory magic. At the Supreme Court on that fateful Wednesday, apart from Mr Imo Akpan, Senator Ita Enang and his Personal Assistant on Media, it was difficult to spot any other APC member. It was almost certain that the verdict of the apex court was predictably not going to be different from those of the two lower courts. To further caused instill confidence in his supporters and compound the fear of the opposition, while the supreme court was in session, the Governor was busy signing the 2020 Appropriations Bill into law, visiting the Carol festival venue, fixing the next day for the ground breaking of a science park project, among several other official activities. It appeared nobody dared lose sleep over a case that was described as a decomposing corpse at the Appeal Court.
When the matter was up for hearing, the nervousness of the Appellants’ lead Counsel was easily observed by the 7-man panel which directed that no one should cause Okutepa’s temperature to rise again. The main grounds of their further appeal, as put forward by J. S Okutepa,SAN, was that their case was an uncommon appeal, and that the two lower courts dismissed his case on the premise that his Exhibits lacked certification and also were not backed by CTC of payment of legal fees.
The Appellants also complaint that the report of the inspection of election materials which they brought was rejected by the two lower courts, even when the inspection was carried out on the directives of the Tribunal.
In a swift reaction, Counsel to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN carpeted J. S. Okutepa’s claim, maintaining that there was nothing uncommon about their Appeal.
He explained to the Apex court that the recent judgement of the Apex Court, relying on the Evidence Act was still fresh, in the case brought by Atiku Abubakar against the Independent National Electoral Commission and others(2019).
“The judgement clearly disproved the dumping of Exhibits in the court, which the Appellants resorted to doing.”
Ikpeazu said contrary to their pleadings that they would rely on a statistician to bring their report before the tribunal court, they only went and brought a candidate of their party, and deputy to the 1st Appellant who introduced himself as a political scientist(whatever that meant), averting that the lower courts were right to discard such reports from a person who admitted that he was an interested party in the case and not a statistician, and therefore urged the supreme court to follow suit.
The Counsel to the PDP, Tayo Oyetibo SAN, explained that the Appellants relied on the issue of non compliance in pleading their petition and reasoned that such cases requires proof of non compliance at polling units by polling units, a condition that was unresolved by the Appellants who managed to call 47 witnesses out of which only 18 admitted to being polling agents.
Oyetibo argued that it was impossible for evidences from 18 witnesses to be used to justify non compliance in polling unit results obtained from 2980 units in the state.
While summarising his position, Counsel to the INEC, Sylva Ogwemoh,SAN told the supreme court that contrary to the claims of non compliance by the Appellants, that even the witnesses of the Appellants came before the tribunal to give evidences that elections held in substantial compliance with the electoral law.
He furthered that an APC caucus member Elder Enefiok Ekefre in testifying in the lower court admitted that his party APC lost elections because it did not campaign at the grassroots and boasted that it would rely on ‘federal might’.
The INEC Counsel also further explained that the Exhibits allowed into the lower courts were done because it was agreed at the pre – hearing sessions of the tribunal that all objections to inadmissibility of Exhibits be reserved by parties and raised in their respective addresses.
Delivering the lead judgement, Justice Musa Mohammed, in very stern tone, held that the Appeal lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.
The Court however announced that it would set aside a later date for details of the judgement, while the respective parties bear their cost.
The supreme court judgement of 2019, was never going to be different from what was obtained, especially given the admission of the APC candidate Mr Nsima Ekere that he did not win the March 9,2015 election, but would wish it to be cancelled and re-conducted.