THE SUPREME LEGITIMACY OF THE “SUPREME COURT GOVERNOR”

Hope Uzodinma

By Ifeanyi Maduako

All over  the world,  it is  envisaged  that general  elections  may never be perfect,  and  contentious  issues  arising from these elections  should be resolved by the courts. If electoral bodies in all  countries of the world  are  deemed   perfect and  immutable,  there would be  no need for courts  to  adjudicate on matters arising  from them.

That is why even in the most advanced countries of the world, their highest courts are always called upon to resolve disputes arising from elections that are even near perfect. In these developed democracies, it is assumed that the wisdom  of their  courts  takes  precedence over  their  electoral  bodies, and  whatever  judgements  these courts  give  on electoral  disputes are  immutable  and  unassailable.

In  U.S for instance,  their supreme court had resolved  a number of  presidential  litigation in the past  even  when  the elections  appeared credible, free  and fair.

In  Nigeria, the  relevant  provisions of  the  1999 Constitution (as amended) and  the  extant  provisions  of the  Electoral  Act 2010 (as amended) make  it  imperative  that litigation  arising  from  gubernatorial  and  presidential  elections  should  terminate  at the  supreme  court  at the  extreme  case. Whereas  that of  the presidential  litigation begins  from  the  Appeal  Court  which  serves as  the trial  tribunal  and  ends  at the  supreme court, that of the governorship position has three layers  to wit: the tribunal,  the Appeal  Court and  the Supreme Court. Whatever judgement the Supreme Court gives in every case is binding on all parties.

In Imo State,  the opposition  has coined a  derisive  epithet  or  derogatory sobriquet of  “supreme court governor”  for Governor Hope  Uzodinma  who was  declared as the duly elected  governor of Imo state by the supreme  court of  Nigeria on  January 14, 2020. For the minority vocal opposition in Imo, the Supreme Court declaration of Senator Uzodinma as governor against the earlier declaration of INEC is beyond their limited comprehension.

Governor Uzodinma is neither the first governor nor politician in Nigeria to have his mandate retrieved and validated by the Supreme Court. The apex court’s interventions in restoring mandates started in 2007 when it interpreted the tenure of former Governor Peter Obi.

The Apex court restored the mandate of Peter Obi even when there was a sitting governor of Anambra State as that time.  The mere fact  that Sen. Andy Ubah was only  17 days  in office as governor  didn’t  sway  the  emotions of the eminent jurists to pervert justice by  retaining  him on the  seat as governor  instead   of  Peter  Obi whose  four years  mandate  was yet  to  elapse  at the time. After Peter Obi, came Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.

 In the case of Amaechi, it was even far more complicated and worse than  Governor  Uzodinma. Whereas  Amaechi didn’t  campaign  at all  as  governor,  and was  not on the ballot paper having  being  replaced by Celestine Omehia as the  PDP candidate , the  Supreme Court still declared Amaechi as the governor of  Rivers State in an  election he was never a contestant. Between a man who was not on the ballot paper during the election like Amaechi and Senator Uzodinma who was on the ballot paper but was purportedly declared the fourth position by INEC, who is better? There is no governor in Nigeria of today whose mandate was not authenticated or validated by the Supreme Court of Nigeria even those who were deemed to have won their elections in the actual sense. The Apex  court  affirmed their  mandates,  and  that’s why  they are still  in their  offices  as governors  today.

It  happened  in  Zamfara State where the victories  of  all  the candidates of  All Progressives  Congress (APC) were invalidated by the  apex  court  which  gave  the mandates  to the opposition candidates  of the  Peoples  Democratic  Party (PDP). All the  positions, from  House of  Assembly, House of  Representatives, Senators and  governor which APC  won in  Zamfara state were declared null, void,  and of  no legitimate  effect  whatsoever due  to the  fact that the candidates of the  party violated  the Constitution  and the  Electoral  Act in nomination  of their  candidates.  The PDP reaped bountifully from that. The same fate befell APC in Rivers State in the 2019 general election.

The most recent was that of Bayelsa State. The  APC candidate David Lyon, who was declared  as the duly  elected governor  of  Bayelsa State by INEC, and  was due  for  inauguration  on  February 14, had his  mandate truncated and his  hope dashed by the supreme court of Nigeria, few  hours before his  swearing in. That of David Lyon was so  pathetic  and  sympathetic  because  he was already rehearsing  his  parade match which  was meant for his  aborted inauguration. He was still  at the  parade ground when  the heavy  news came  from the supreme court that his mandate has been  quashed  due  to no  fault of his  but that of his deputy. He was like the biblical Moses who saw the promise land very close by, but couldn’t step his feet on it.

With  all these precedents, Governor Uzodinma  should  never feel  hurt or  inferior whenever  the frustrated  opposition in  Imo state pejoratively  refer to him  as a “supreme court governor”. The opposition in Imo state is like a baby whose mouth was violently pushed away from his mother’s breast. They are  still crying  and  sucking  from  that  intervention  of the supreme court on January 14, they should  take  consolation on the fact that they  were able to  suck  the milk  for seven  good months unlike  their counterparts in Bayelsa  who didn’t have the opportunity  to suck for even one day. Governor Uzodinma should be proud of himself in realization that his mandate was authenticated, legalized, and duly affirmed by the highest court in the land. It confers the highest degree of legitimacy on his mandate than any other form of legitimacy. A supreme -court – declared mandate is far better than INEC- declared -mandate. The Governor has a supreme legitimacy.  Maduako, a media practitioner, writes from Owerri. (08061562735)

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