The Ludicrousness of the Abia Appeal Court Verdict Written by Uche Nwosu

Times flies! Situations and seasons change very rapidly. Great souls who had seen how the natural goodness of the good old days had taken a flight are now asking: how did we go this far? Who brought this blight unto our clime? Indeed, these are perilous times; a time when the noblest of most animals are clothed with blighted apparels.

When men in reputable robes whose decisions before now were taken as those from God; when other mortals chorused their choice of legal decisions with the expression of ‘as court pleases’ now become subjects of ridicule. The development has gone so bad that virtually every judgment of our learned men at the bench is queried: simply because some of them whose appetite is gluttonous are on rampage.

Our judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But is it so in Nigeria where men (women) in the noble profession and revered stool of lordship and exalted magistracy take decisions that bewitch the society? Take the five-man Appeal Court in Owerri that nullified the election of Abia governor, Okezie Ikpeazu PhD of the PDP and declared Alex Otti of APGA winner of the April 2015 governorship poll in Abia state as an example.

This judgment would have come out neatly and birthed contentedly on a peaceful horizon and indeed freed from controversies if it had been couched with the basic elements of legal and natural justice. Is it not legally agreeable that in major judicial cases like the Abia governorship matter of April 2015, justices that should have presided over the appeal should have been picked from different divisions to alleviate any feeling or suspicion of bias?

But instead of selecting each of the judges from the five of the 16 divisions, four of the justices were picked from Lagos Division of the Appeal Court alone. The respondents (the PDP and Gov Ikpeazu), we understood, protested this decision of the authorities of the Appeal Court, but their protest was ignored. Fundamentally, when a party doubts the impartiality of the judge/judges that are assigned to preside over his/her case and the person goes further to put it down in writing before the presiding judge or panel of judges, what expediently follows is for the judge/judges to disqualify himself or themselves from the matter.

The PDP and Gov Okezie Ikpeazu filed their objection to this unilateral constitution of the Appeal panel but instead of considering the merit of the petition, the panel made its way to Owerri, slam the contentious judgment on the state; paying no attention to the objection. In fact, the manner by which the five-Appeal Court were foisted on the rest of us and how it hurriedly passed its verdict reminds one of those breezy motion pictures of the Hollywood; fast in action, less in entertainment. It was a two-day show of judicial abracadabra. This is a panel that only sat on Monday December 21and on Thursday, December 31, 2015 delivered its verdict: the outcome devastating to over 80 percent of Abia people.

This indeed was a despicable New Year gift for Abians who voted for power shift and rotation of the office of the governor. It was a blow that left everybody dazed.

Actually, if not for the matured way the state government handled the matter the Ukwa Ngwa people of the state who have not had the singular opportunity of producing a governor since the creation of Abia state would have literarily shut down the state. Certainly, the judgment to say the least is legally deceptive as it is democratically liquidating. Many reasons to support this assertion suffice; the delay in the pronouncement of the verdict (it should noted that the delivering of the verdict started by 3:10pm and was rounded off at about an hour later); timing of the date, December 31, when nothing could be done to prepare for immediate appeal; handwritten of the judgment and so on.

On the issue of substantial non compliance in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isiala Ngwa, the judges shockingly canceled the results from these local government areas; and by so doing deprived about 250,000 electorates (about ¼ of the Abia electoral strength) their votes and electoral power which are their inalienable right to choose who governs them at that level. What justified the invalidation the result of these three LGAs remains a puzzle to many.

If there is any area the judges had found the conduct of the poll heinous, the alternative would have been to order for a rerun. The total cancellation of the result actually depleted the votes freely given to Gov Ikpeazu by his kinsmen and others living in those areas; a decision which is not only a rape of democracy, but a slap on the rule of law.

Since the PDP and Gov Ikpeazu have appealed against the verdict at the Supreme Court, the apex court of the land, in the interest of justice and rule of law and in furtherance of our hard earned democracy should set aside this controversial judgment and uphold the election of Gov Okezie Ikpeazu.

The people of the state expect nothing less than a sound judgment which is based on truth, rule of law and the advancement of democracy. In deciding any electoral matter, several factors that include the above as well as the sustenance of a peaceful society should be the determining factor. Any judgment that is based on mischief will only promote anarchy which the Nigerian society which is experiencing its worse economic downturn would not accommodate for now.

The revered Justices of the Supreme Court should bring their wealth of experience to bear in the defence of our democracy. They should ensure that majority of Abia populace which by the Appeal Court verdict has been disenfranchised is made to have its votes count again. The Supreme Court should be guided by the wise counsel of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman statesman that:“the fundamentals of justice are that no one shall suffer wrong and that the public good be served”.

Every vote must count. No vote should be dispensed with on the altar of unproved ‘substantial non compliance to the Electoral Act’. One thing that gladdens our hearts is the fact the Supreme Court is not known for circumventing the law. Its decisions are laws; frequently cited by jurists around the world. It is peopled with seasoned old men (and women too) who do not soil their image because of a pottage of stew.

They are always conscious of the fact the good of the people is highest law.
And to those who carry our commonwealth to those in the temple of justice to subvert justice: I say, what goes round comes around and like Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, Irish author said, “fate is not an eagle, it creeps like a rat”.

Uche Nwosu, a Public Affairs Commentator, wrote from Umuahia Abia State

Note: ABA IS GOOD ONLINE MAGAZINE remains apolitical and thus, the opinion shared above does not represent that of organisation.