Apparently bothered by the massive nature of the protests by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders and supporters, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has lashed out at the leaders, even accusing the opposition party of plans to destabilise the nation.
Said APC, through its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, “The All Progressives Congress (APC) finds the indecorous and contemptuous actions and remarks by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) worrisome. The disgraceful and senseless protest embarked upon by the opposition party is being done with the sole purpose of dragging the apex Court of our land, and indeed our great country into odium and scorn before the international community.
“We also view the irascible actions and irresponsible remarks by the PDP as a calculated attempt to overheat the polity. PDP has become a present threat to our peaceful coexistence.”
In their scores the PDP supporters on Sunday and Monday protested against the sacking of Emeka Ihedioha by the Supreme Court and the declaration of Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, as the duly elected governor of the state.
The PDP members in Imo, Taraba, Abia and Ogun states urged the apex court to reverse itself and declare Ihedioha the winner.
In Owerri, the Imo State capital, protesters blocked major streets to show their grievances.
Police and military authorities in the state also positioned their personnel in strategic locations to forestall a possible breakdown of law and order.
The PDP protesters who were decked in black attires, engaged in procession round the state capital, calling on the jurists to revisit the Tuesday’s verdict which sacked Ihedioha.
They vowed that the protest would continue if the apex court refused to resolve the Imo governorship debacle in their party’s favour.
A member of the House of Representatives, Henry Nwawuba, who spoke to journalists, alleged that the Supreme Court justices had murdered democracy in the state.
He said, “I believe that the Supreme Court must redeem the judiciary. Since the judgment was delivered, the state has become a graveyard. This is unlike what happened when the PDP was holding sway.
“How the Supreme Court justices gave victory to a candidate who came fourth at the election remains a mystery to many of us. We call on them to revisit the Imo case and do justice.”
In Abia State, the PDP members on Sunday asked the Supreme Court to reverse itself over the removal of Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State.
Leading the peaceful protest across major streets in Umuahia, the chairman of the party in the state, Chief Johnson Onuigbo, said, “We gather to express our anger over the Supreme Court judgment on Imo State.
“We are concerned as it is not only about Abia and Imo states, but about Nigeria and because we are Nigerians. Injury to one is injury to all.
“We are demanding that the Supreme Court reverse itself.”
Also, a coalition of civil rights organisations under the aegis of the Alliance for Preservation of Democracy on Sunday described the judgment as political.
They also accused the apex court of performing the function of the Independent National Electoral Commission when it accepted uncertified results it relied on to sack Ihedioha.
The group said, “By declaring Hope Uzodinma as the winner, the court had usurped the responsibility of INEC.”
The Director, Advocacy and Communication of Make A Difference Initiative, Lemmy Ughegbe, spoke on behalf of the APD, during a press briefing held in Abuja.
He said, “Judgments are now more political, rather than relying on the existing laws. Judges are now ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the interest of those in power.
“Today, judgments are more political than judicial. Judges are ruled by fear of what could befall them if they act contrary to the famed ‘body language’ of those that wield executive powers.
“It is in this sense that we are concerned. We challenge all Nigerians to come together and seek for ways to save the judiciary from self-destruct.”
The PDP in Imo State also on Sunday said the Supreme Court was destroying the country’s democracy with its Tuesday judgment.
The state Publicity Secretary, Damian Opara, said the justices of the apex court had “ridiculed and annihilated democracy” by sacking Ihedioha from office.
He said, “Arising from a meeting on Friday, the party described as unbelievable, ridiculous and annihilation of democracy, the decision of the apex court to void the lawful election of its candidate, Emeka Ihedioha, who polled 276,404 votes and awarded victory to Hope Uzodimma of the APC with just 96,458 votes.
“The party in the state finds it difficult to understand how the Supreme Court arrived at its verdict, even to the point that the seven panelists who sat on the petition gave a unanimous judgment.”
There were also protests by the PDP members in Anambra and Katsina states.
The protesters who turned out in large numbers called for the reversal of the Supreme Court’s judgement and the reinstatement of Ihedioha as the governor of Imo State.
They called on the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to sustain democracy in Nigeria.
In Abuja, the protest was led by PDP national chairman Uche Secondus, and the party’s 2019 vice-presidential candidate Anambra State Peter Obi, former lawmaker Dino Melaye and other members from different states of Nigeria in attendance.
The protest began from the party’s campaign headquarters, Legacy House, in Maitama district of Abuja to the Supreme Court headquaters.
A similar protest was held in Imo State on Sunday by supporters of the sacked governor.
Dressed in black attires, the protesters alleged that their choice of leadership was subverted by the apex court.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday nullified Ihedioha’s election as governor and declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressive Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.
In the final result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said Uzodinma was fourth in the election, behind Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) and Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
But the seven-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Tanko Muhammad said the evidence tendered by Uzodinma and APC was lawful.
The court said votes due to Uzodinma and APC from 388 polling units were not credited in the final result.
In reaction, Ihedioha said the Supreme Court’s verdict has put the electoral process, the judiciary and democracy in Nigeria on trial.
“It is not about Emeka Ihedioha, it is not about Imo State. It is about tomorrow. Do you go into an electoral process without having an idea? It has to be resolved one way or the other,” Ihedioha said.
On Monday, Secondus called on eminent Nigerians and lovers of democracy to speak out on the matter.
“Today, it is at the door of Imo. Tomorrow, it will be at another person’s door. So, people must speak out,” Secondus said.
But former Nigeria Vice President Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate in the 2019 election, urged Ihedioha and the PDP to accept the Supreme Court verdict.
He urged Ihedioha not to be deterred by the court judgement but to overcome his setbacks and “come back stronger.”
But the APC, in its statement by Onilu-Issa stated: “For the avoidance of doubt, it is important to put the issues PDP is reacting to in context.
“On January 14, 2020 the Supreme Court delivered a bold and very remarkable Judgment in the case involving the Governorship election of Imo State. Like all judicial contests, there was a winner and there was a loser. The crux of the decision was that the PDP candidate (who had been adjudged to have been wrongfully declared the winner by the Resident Electoral Commissioner of Imo State) was removed by the apex Court and Sen. Hope Uzodinma of our party was declared the rightful winner of the election.
“The Court directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue a Certificate of Return to Sen. Hope Uzodinma and that he should be sworn in as the Governor of Imo State. This decision by the apex Court was not made lightly but was, in fact, based on the facts presented by the Parties and the law canvassed before it by their respective Counsel. How else should a Court of law determine a case before it? Based on innuendos, conjecture, suspicions and conspiracy theories? Certainly not.
“Since then, the PDP has issued press statements and made series of wild and unsubstantiated allegations as well as casting aspersion at the Court for its decision. We know that the PDP will find justice served by our Courts very hard to swallow because it had become accustomed to crooked manipulation of due process to its benefit and at the expense of the entire system. Weaning it from this bad modus operandi has proven difficult if not impossible. Every time the PDP loses in Court, it declares the decision suspect and our democracy on life support.
“For the records, APC, through no fault of ours, even as the ruling party, has suffered monumental losses in our Courts in respect of elections conducted in 2019. Let us start with Rivers State where the party was deprived an opportunity to even field any candidate. Never before had such an occurrence been experienced in our political history. What many do not appreciate is that the decision that led to this state of affairs was itself the first of its kind in our history since 1960. The Court determined that a case which, in every material particular, arose in respect of congresses which are held before elections, constituted a pre-election matter and consequently was said to have contaminated the legal ability of the party to even nominate candidates for the general election. As a result, the PDP, who was the sole beneficiary of this decision, had a clear run for all the elective offices in Rivers State. APC did not produce a Governorship candidate as well as candidates for the 3 (Three) Senatorial seats, 11 (Eleven) House of Representative seats and 32 (Thirty-Two) State House of Assembly seats. In essence, APC lost out in 46 elective positions even before the starter pistol was fired! We took it in our stride.
“What about Zamfara State? We won every elective position in Zamfara State. However, when the Court determined that all the votes willfully given to us by the good people of Zamfara State were wasted votes (which again was the first of its kind in our electoral jurisprudence), the APC lost everything. In essence, we went to bed occupying all 35 elective offices in Zamfara State and woke up occupying none on account of the decision of the Court. We did not bring down the nation but accepted our loss because democracy is as much about losing as it is about winning in any election contest.
“We have just lost Sokoto State governorship to PDP on account of the judgement delivered today by the Supreme Court. We should state that the judgement is completely strange to our expectation based on the facts before us. For the record, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwa, the current Governor of Sokoto State, is on his seat with 324 votes with over 30,000 canceled votes in the March governorship election. PDP does not see anything wrong in this, but it is comfortable with Mr. Emeka Ihedioha occupying the governorship seat in Imo State for seven months without meeting the constitutional requirement of 25 percent in two-third of the Local Government Councils in the state.
“Unlike PDP, we are not going to behave like spoilt brats and threatened the peace of the country over the surprising judgement of the Supreme Court on the Sokoto State seat.
“As our records show, APC has lost several seats in the Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly across the country. Many have offered real confusion as the decisions departed from our knowledge of our electoral laws. Yet, we have carried ourselves with candor and dignity even in defeat.
“It is against this backdrop that we find the reckless and insensitive actions by the PDP in reaction to the Judgment of the apex Court regarding Imo State very irresponsible and indeed contemptuous. The PDP, without any scintilla or iota of fact, has alleged bribery, inducement, coercion and collusion between the Executive arm of Government and the Judiciary. These are very weighty allegations that can completely undermine any democracy and damage our judiciary beyond repairs. It is therefore incumbent on the PDP to provide the evidence to back these senseless allegations.
“In any democracy, no one should be allowed to inflame tempers within the polity, set the nation alight with such damaging allegations thereby threatening its peaceful coexistence and retire to his own home in peace as if he has done nothing. All those behind the statements issued by the PDP pouring invectives on our judiciary and leveling baseless allegations against the Executive arm of government should feel ashamed of themselves.
“The question to ask the PDP is whether the same Executive arm it accuses today were not the same ones in government when APC lost over 100 elective positions to Court decisions? Why did the same Executives not intervene to stop it and could that have even happened if indeed there was any form of collusion with the judiciary. The PDP must not lend its platform to conspiracy theorists, propagandists and rumour peddlers if it wants to be taken seriously as a partner in our democratic experience. It must accept the role of a responsible opposition or face the wrath of Nigerians who cherish their hard-earned democracy and will do all to defend it.
“You all will note that we have deliberately avoided addressing the well known facts of the insurmountable legal impairment faced by the PDP Governorship candidate in Imo State; Hon. Emeka Ihedioha. We have also steered clear off the ignoble role played by the Returning Electoral Commissioner for Imo State in the said election which culminated in the dubious return of the PDP candidate. These are now matters that have been finally determined by the apex Court and anyone with lingering complaints and grievances must ventilate same through the appropriate channels. Law jurists can take up the duty of reviewing the decision so that every one learns from it as we work to perfect our democracy. It is not for us, as political parties beclouded by political bias, to conduct a surgery on the reasoning of our eminent Judges in a way as to deliberately cause embarrassment and derision.
“In concluding, we urge the relevant agencies to immediately take the necessary steps to bring to account anyone attempting at causing chaos and inciting violence in our cities while hiding under dubious political protest. We also urge our teeming members to remain calm but steadfast. When we offered ourselves as a party of change personified in the person of the President of the Republic, President Muhammadu Buhari, we meant it in every sense. Change is a process and it can be slow and painful at times. However, we are assured by the continued support of millions of Nigerians to remain squarely focused on the task at hand, which is building a strong, prosperous nation based on the principles of rule of law, zero tolerance for corruption and justice to all no matter whose ox is gored.
“To the people of Imo State, we promise you that our new administration will quickly abandon the “tear-them-down” policy of the ousted PDP administration as well as all acts of state-sponsored brigandry in an attempt to cow political opponents. All persons who were dehumanized and summarily dismissed albeit illegally from their positions will have their cases reviewed appropriately. The public infrastructures that were damaged as a result of the PDP war of desperate vendetta will be restored as these are assets belonging to the good people of the State and not a single individual. We will quickly restore the pride of Imolites through constructive engagements of every strata of society and implement an aggressive programme of building both human capital and infrastructure within the State. Imo will once again assume its pride of place as a shining example among the South Eastern States.”
Additional reports by The Punch and Politics Digest