A good number of people in Imo State are not in a good mood. Sections of the state are engulfed in crisis following the January 14, 2020 controversial judgment of the apex court which sacked Chief Emeka Ihedioha as governor of the state and declared Senator Hope Uzodinma as the governor. The ruling has sparked different reactions from the various interest groups in the polity. Especially, while Ihedioha’s sympathisers variously described it as ill-motivated and induced, beneficiaries of the verdict say it was the best under the circumstance.
In a bid to draw attention to the perceived injustice from the Supreme Court, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on whose platform Ihedioha was elected called on its members across the country to stage a protest. In Imo thousands of protesters thronged the streets of Owerri, the Imo State capital on Sunday to peacefully to register their feelings against the removal of Ihedioha from office as governor of the state by the Supreme Court.
Many chose to join the protest than to attend church service. Those who couldn’t turn up for the protest were busy praying for justice to be done. At the Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parishes, Owerri, just as it happened in many other parishes and church venues, worshippers prayed openly for Ihedioha to be given fair treatment by revisiting the “unpopular” ruling.
They lamented that the apex court did not take into consideration the feelings of thousands of voters who trooped out to cast their votes for Ihedioha on March 19, 2019, irrespective of the alleged padding that arose from the controversial 388 polling units that the apex court used to determine the final ruling. They recounted the process of rebuilding the state started by Ihedioha, including the streamlining of payment of salaries of civil servants, pensioners, introduction of due process, ease of doing business, road contract awards to reputable construction companies, introduction of treasury single account (TSA) to the state economy which brought about increase in internal generating revenue (IGR), etc.
Although the protest against the judgment was called by the headquarters of the PDP, Imo state leg witnessed unprecedented compliance because the protesters came from all segments of the society, adults and young people, men and women.
Protesters, who were clad in black attires, carried placards with such inscriptions as ‘Reverse the Injustice Now’; ‘Ihedioha won landslide’; ‘Tanko must go’, amongst others. They were also singing sorrowful songs to explain their agitations.
The protest shut down the state capital for hours while security forces were on ground with over 15 truckloads of policemen accompanying the protesters to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Speaking to journalists, one of the protesters and immediate past chief of staff to the government house, Chief Chris Okewulonu said the people of the state were in shock to hear the Supreme Court remove Emeka Ihedioha as the governor of the state, after he won decisively during the March 2019 governorship election.
“We were all in shock when on the 14th of January; the Supreme Court reversed the judgment and awarded victory to APC candidate. We discovered that initially, that the Supreme Court did not devote much time to hear the matter. We deduced that there was some funny movement. Our fears were confirmed when on the day of judgment, the Supreme Court went on break and resumed about 4 pm.
“The judgment was not in consonant with the arguments in court and the judgment did not reflect the election that took place in Imo State in March 9 last year. We are all Imo people and participated in the election and noticed that Ihedioha clearly won the election”, Okewulonu said.
He described the judgment as highly compromising, adding that the people of the state decided to embark on the protest because they did not want to resort to violence.
The protesters therefore called on the apex court to reverse the judgment on the grounds that it had made a mistake.
“The Supreme Court must reverse the judgment. It has happened in the past. They should quickly reconvene and do justice. There are a number of instances where the Supreme Court realized it made a mistake and reconvened to do justice to the matter. The most important thing is the interest of the people of the state”, he said.
Suing for Peace, the leadership of Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) represented by its President, Mr. Elliot Ugochukwu-Uko enjoined the people of Imo State to accept the Supreme Court judgement in good faith and join hands with Senator Hope Uzodinma to move Imo state forward.
“It is absolutely useless, crying over spilled milk.The apex court in the land has decided. And that’s it,” said Ugochukwu-Uko.
He alerted Imo people to the antics of those who may want to profit from the crisis. ” We warn those spoiling for war to sheath their swords. Both Ihedioha and Uzodinma are Imo sons offering themselves for service to make Imo great. There’s no reason on earth to fight over what has already been decided by the apex court.”
“Both politicians are by experience and exposure, legislators,one a senator, the other a former deputy speaker of House of Representatives. They are both untested as administrators. One was just removed after seven months, the other has just been given opportunity to prove his mettle as an administrator. So Imo people should join hands with Senator Hope Uzodinma to make Imo great.”
According to the IYM, there is a need to maintain decorum under the circumstance. “Yes, a legion of acolytes, associates and politicians will feel hurt ,especially those who have lined up for patronage and political flavours under Ihedioha. To them I plead they remember that politics is a game and a sport. There’s no need to bring down the roof. They should calm down and restrategize.Uzodinma should immediately make peace with all and carry everybody along. He must key in to the restructuring agenda, join and drive the Igbo agenda with other South-east leaders. Let peace, concord and harmony reign in Imo.We congratulate Senator Hope Uzodinma. “
However, Ihedioha’s kinsmen are still agitated. The Ezuruezu Mbaise, an apex socio-cultural organization representing the people of Mbaise in the three Local Government Areas of Aboh Mbaise, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Ahiazu Mbaise, where Ihedioha comes from expressed dismay over the ruling and called on the Apex court to review its decision.
The group at its emergency meeting held on 19th January 2020 considered that the election has been accorded more votes than the number of voters accredited to vote at the said election.
According to a communique signed by President General of the organization and Secretary general, Barrister Cyril Anyanwu and Hon. Oliver Enwenerem respectively, it observed that the “addition of 213,258 votes by the Supreme Court has created mathematical error which must be corrected by the same Supreme Court as an accidental slip, clerical error or omission.”
“We request the Supreme Court to take steps to correct the error in computing the votes scored by the candidates in line with the accredited voters at the said election. We believe that the Supreme Court has the power to correct this error as it had done in the past in some decided cases like; (a) Adegoke Motors Ltd. V. Adesanya (1989) 13 NWLR (PT. 109) 250 AT 27A (b) Johnson v. Lawanson (1971)7 NSCC 82.
“These cases have established that the Supreme Court has the power to over-rule itself when it appears that any of its decision has been given per incuriam (in error). We agree with the then Justice GBA Coker, JSC and Justice C.A. Oputa, JSC that it is far better to admit an error that to persevere in error.
The statement continued, “We therefore call on all well-meaning and law-abiding citizens to watch and pray for justice in the Imo State governorship contest.”
The Mbaise leaders also noted that a people deserve what they collectively want and in this case, they were appealing to the apex court and the revered justices to maintain peace and justice in Imo by reviewing the January14 ruling so that international community would hail Nigeria as a country that listens to the cries of her citizens.
Taking a different view of the development, Chief Longers Anyanwu, a veteran political strategist said Supreme Court verdict reconfirms Ìmo state as an APC stronghold.
Anyanwu asserted the victory belongs to Ìmo people. This is not about. This is nothing personal or about clans. Therefore, it’s not a personal fight between Uzodinma and Ihedioha .
“The beauty of this judgement is that it’s in favour of a man with a large heart and tremendous goodwill with no time for vendetta.”
He assured Ndi Imo that an APC government under Uzodinma will bring prosperity and happiness to the good people of Ìmo state. He called on all and sundry to rally round the brand new governor for a better Ìmo. “It is God that gives power to whoever He wishes and it is God’s will that Uzodinma will rule Ìmo now. Everyone should embrace the Devine verdict,” said Anyanwu.
He also e pressed hope that with Uzodinma as governor, Ìmo state can now be counted as a major player in the Nigeria project and called on the APC federal government to include Ìmo state this time into the league of states under the ruling party with all necessary extra political dividends and perks.