The political ambiance of Ezza South/Ikwo federal constituency in Ebonyi State changed last week following the sack of Lazarus Ogbe, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member representing the constituency by the Court of Appeal in Enugu. In this report, UCHENNA INYA writes on how the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the February 23 election, Comrade Chinedu Ogah, got his mandate restored
About nine months ago, precisely February 23, the National Assembly elections held simultaneously across the 360 federal constituencies of the country and new National Assembly members were elected to represent the constituencies and zones.
In Ezza south/Ikwo federal constituency in Ebonyi state, Hon. Laz Ogbe of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) was declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
According to the electoral body while announcing the outcome of the poll, Ogbe polled 31,296 votes while Ogah scored 27,700 votes.
But dissatisfied with the result, Ogah immediately filed a petition before the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abakaliki to challenge the outcome of the election.
Ogah, who is an APC chieftain alleged that the election was characterised by fraud and that he lost 10,000 votes in the ‘electoral fraud. He prayed the tribunal to declare him the winner by restoring the votes deducted from him.
The tribunal commenced sitting and entertained his petition. After all said and done, the lower court gave its ruling on the matter on September 9, 2019.
Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Sika Henry ruled that from evidence presented before the tribunal to back up his claim, Ogah scored 36,238 votes in the election while Ogbee got 33,263.
The tribunal ordered INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Ogbee and give it to Ogah.
The tribunal said: “It is the first respondent that won the majority of the lawful votes in Ezza south. The total number of votes scored by the petitioner(APC) and first respondent(Ogbe) for Ezza south/ Ikwo federal constituency is tabulated as follows; Ezza south LGA APC 8, 311, PDP 17,139. Ikwo LGA APC 27, 927 PDP 16, 127. The total votes for APC is 36, 238 and the total votes for PDP is 33, 200 votes.
“It is the petitioner that scored the majority of the lawful votes having scored 36, 238 votes as against the PDP candidate the first respondent who scored 33,200 votes. We entirely agreed with the petitioner that he scored the majority of the lawful votes from our own computation.
“The Certificate of Return issued to the 1st respondent by the 3rd respondent(INEC) as representing Ezza south/Ikwo federal constituency is hereby withdrawn forthwith and must be issued to the petitioner, Comrade Chinedu Ogah as the winner of the election conducted on the 23rd of February, 2019 to the membership of the House of representatives to represent Ezza South/Ikwo federal constituency”, the tribunal ruled.
Expectedly, counsel to Ogbee, Chief Roy Umahi protested against the judgment. Addressing journalists at the tribunal premises after the ruling, he said “I want to say that I am not altogether disappointed with the judgment because I expected that it will be this way. We will start drafting the notice of our appeal”.
But Chief Tofa Mba Okweni (SAN) who is the counsel to the petitioner, said “We looked at the entire result of the election when we reviewed the whole thing and found out that the polling unit result which forms the basis of the election was not what was collected at the ward level and we filed our petition challenging the result declared by INEC on the grounds that they did not collate the proper result of the election.
“What they collated did not reflect the outcome of the election at the polling units. We then asked the tribunal which has the power to re-compute the result of the election based on the outcome of the election at the polling units to do so”.
After the tribunal verdict, Hon. Ogbee who was serving his second tenure before his sack by the tribunal filed an Appeal at Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu to challenge the tribunal ruling.
On Friday last week, the Appeal court dismissed the appeal as lacking in merit and affirmed Ogah as the winner of the February 23rd National Assembly election.
Justice Ignatuis Agube delivered the judgment on behalf of Justice Veronica Dongban-Mensem.
Ogah while reacting the Appeal court judgment, said “My victory at the tribunal and Appeal court has shown truly that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man and it has also shown that the judiciary is the people that you cannot toy with, they are upright and doesn’t collect bribe to pervert justice. They believe in what is right and saw that my constituents voted for me the February 23 National Assembly election.
“The judiciary has restored the hope of the masses by restoring my stolen mandate. My coming into the National Assembly will bring tremendous changes in my constituency and the state in general in the sense that there will be no more time than the quota of Ebonyi in federal recruitment will be sold out as it used to be.
“I can’t be a legislator and there is quota of police in the recruitment for Ebonyi and it will be sold out. In the recent recruitment, Ebonyi quota was reduced from 150 to 100. I can’t be in the National Assembly and such a thing will continue to happen. I cannot be a National Assembly member and Ecological fund will be going to another place and it will not come to my constituency. I am not going to the National Assembly to fight people, I am going there to do what is right and speak for my constituents”.
On his part, Ogbee thanked his supporters for their support. He opined that in the February 23rd election, he won against all odds. He alleged that the court truncated his victory at the polls and congratulated Chinedu Ogah for emerging victorious at the tribunal and Appeal court.
“I want to thank the people of Ezza south and Ikwo Federal constituency for all the supports they have given to me. I want to appreciate the Governor of our state, Chief David Umahi. I want to thank the Divine Mandate and PDP families. I want to specially appreciate my people-the people of Amazekwe for giving me their supports and I want to appeal to them to accept the verdicts of the court in good fate.
“By the special grace of God, I shall bounce back next time. I want to thank and appreciate my party, the PDP from my ward, local government, State to the national levels. I thank them for giving me all the opportunities all these while to serve. I thank them for all the various capacities I have served. In chronicling my journey in political positions, I want to sincerely appreciate God. God is a faithful God. I as Laz Ogbee cannot actually equate the love God has bestowed on me as an individual. From being a supervisory councilor in a military era from 1998-1999; I became a local government party chairman from PDP to ANPP.
“I came in again as supervisory councillor for education for Ezza East Development Center from 2005-2006. By 2007, I was appointed as the pioneer Coordinator of Ezza South East Development center. I was there for two years and two months and I resigned to contest for the chairmanship of Ezza south local government and I won. I was sworn in on November 1, 2010- 2013 and I contested again and I also won. By 2014, because of our support for the government of Ebonyi state today, the local government system was sacked and it was because of my support for the government that is in place in Ebonyi today.
“The local government system in Ebonyi was sacked through Court. By 2015, I won as Honourable member Federal House of Representatives, representing Ezza south and Ikwo Federal constituency. And by 2019, against all odds, I won again. To this I want to sincerely thank God Almighty and appreciate the people of Ezza South and Ikwo Federal constituency. They gave me their mandate and Court truncated it. I defended it to the Court of Appeal and the Court gave it to my opponent. On this note, I want to congratulate my opponent, Comrade Chinedu Ogah”, he said.
A constituent of the area and Public Affairs Analysts, Dennis Uzim said Ebonyi Central Senatorial Zone zone which Ezza south/Ikwo federal constituency is part of has remained the bastion of Ebonyi politics and a beehive of recalcitrant since 1999 in Ebonyi state.
According to him, in 2003 general election, Ezza/ Ikwo federal constituency returned ANPP candidate, Hon Francis Elem.
“Again in 2011 general election from the same Ebonyi Central Senatorial Zone, Hon Engr Peter Edeh of the ANPP was returned elected by Ezza North/ Ishielu Federal Constituency to represent them as member, Federal House of Representatives.
“Now in 2019, eight years after as usual, Comrade Chinedu Ogah have been affirmed by the Appeal Court as the duly elected representative of Ezza south/ Ikwo federal constituency all in Ebonyi Central Senatorial zone. All those took place while PDP held sway at the state level as the political party in the seat of power.
“All the above occurred during the election for the second tenure in office of Dr Sam Egwu, Chief Martin Elechi, and Engr David Umahi respectively. Suffix it to say that Ebonyi Central Zone adds zest and verve to Ebonyi politics. In election for political offices in Ebonyi Central it is never over until it is over” Uzim said.