When Governor Emmanuel Udom was declared winner of the April 11, 2015 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Akwa Ibom State erupted in rapturous joy, the type that can only be compared with a football loving nation winning the FIFA Senior World Cup. No doubt, that was an incontrovertible proof that the people’s will had prevailed and that the uncommon transformation of the state as started by former governor Godswill Akpabio would not suffer any painful and premature termination as has most times been the case in most states in Nigeria.
Apart from this, Emmanuel Udom’s victory signalled the readiness of the people of Akwa Ibom to permanently imbue in their political system the principles of fairness, equity and justice in the rotation of its governorship position among the three senatorial districts of Uyo, Ikot Ekpene and Eket that make up the state. This arrangement met with the earnest yearnings of the people of the state who are known to be fair-minded in their dealings. Three of the state’s former governors had come from the Uyo Senatorial District while Gopdswill Akpabio, the immediate past governor hails from Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District. Of the three Districts that make up Akwa Ibom State, it was only Eket, despite being a major oil producing District, that was yet to produce a governor for the state. Little wonder then the people rejoiced over the victory of the incumbent as it was in tandem with the agreement reached by the State’s PDP at the Town Hall meetings held across the ten federal constituencies of the state.
However, the judgement of the Akwa Ibom State Election Petition Tribunal which ordered a re-run in 18 of the 31 local government areas of the state was one that had left many Akwa Ibomites befuddled, jolted and ultimately sad. Many were still wondering what had become of our justice system where the judiciary now gives verdicts that are contradictory and, therefore, inconsistent with the law when the Appeal Court sitting on the same matter at its own level went further to cancel the entire election while ordering a fresh one within 90 days.
While giving its ruling, the court declared that there was no election in the state. It said it relied on evidence of principal witnesses, video evidence, and evidence from collation agents to reach its verdict. However, this is quite surprising as one would wonder what the honourable court did with the evidence of PDP’s principal witnesses and video evidence that clearly showed and as very widely covered and reported by media houses that the governorship/state house of assembly elections did not only hold in the state but was seen by the world to have held in the state.
It is quite curious for the honourable judges to have reached that conclusion. If there was no election as the honourable justices would want us to believe, on what basis did some members of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly have their own elections upheld by the election petition tribunals? Of course, it was the same election as that of the governor that brought them in, so where is this inconsistency leading to a grave miscarriage of justice coming from? It was such glaring inconsistencies in the dispensation of justice as this that made the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, at the Annual Conference of the Appeal Court held recently in Abuja, lament the aspersions being cast at the judiciary by members of the public as a result of glaringly faulty judgements that contradict each other from one state to the other
In other words, why would a court verdict reached based on certain premise favour APC in a state and the same premise when applied in another state would be used to rule against the PDP? This is exactly what some judges at the appellate court have caused the public to believe and the All Progressives Congress (APC) seem to be excited about these inconsistencies as they are mischievously latching on it to attempt to subvert the people’s will at the polls through the courts. They have boasted severally about their “federal might” in getting anything they want in any state in the country.
However, the people of Akwa Ibom particularly and Nigerians generally can take solace in the fact that the hurdle which Governor Emmanuel Udom has to scale to have his mandate affirmed does not end with the Appeal Court. There is still the Supreme Court to go to. The cheery news is that while some judges at the lower courts might have been inconsistent and contradictory with their verdicts, the confidence Nigerians have in the Supreme Court to dispense justice dispassionately and judiciously has never been in doubt as the Apex Court has always shown itself to always be above board in all matters and settled all controversial legal issues that come to it in manners that still give Nigerians hope and a sense of justice.
Akwa Ibomites know that they cannot afford to return their state to the APC only based on the fact that the party is the ruling party at the centre. The perfunctory performance of the party at the federal level is scary enough to make every Akwa Ibomite and indeed every Nigerian worry for our nation. The economic hardship, which our nation has been subjected to since May 29, 2015, is the more reason Akwa Ibomites want their votes to count even at the courts.
It is based on this fact that the people of the state believe and rely strongly on the Supreme Court to ultimately protect their votes and uphold the mandate they so freely and willingly gave to Emmanuel Udom to lead them further into unlocking the opportunities that abound in the 21st century world, and ultimately graduate the state from a land of promise it had always been before the emergence of Godswill Akpabio to the land of fulfilment it is destined by God to be.
Jude Ndukwe is a political analyst who lives and works in Abuja, Nigeria. He tweets from@stjudendukwe.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.