By Ifeanyi Maduako
Governor Hope Uzodimma became the governor of Imo State through the instrumentality of a court pronouncement-the supreme court of Nigeria-which is the highest court in the land. He’s the first in the history of Imo State to achieve such a feat by removing a sitting governor through the law court.
Recently, the governorship candidate of a proscribed political party , the Reformed and Advanced Party (RAP) who participated in the 2019 Imo gubernatorial election, one Barrister Kingdom Okere, approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja with a view to nullifying the divine mandate given to Governor Uzodimma by God Almighty, the people of Imo State and the Supreme Court which finally affirmed its legitimacy on January 14, 2020.
Yes, Governor Uzodimma is today the governor of Imo state by God’s design , otherwise his successful movement from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Party (APC) within a relatively short period and grabbed the ticket of APC to contest the gubernatorial election wouldn’t have been possible. If Governor Uzodimma didn’t leave PDP in early 2018, he might not have been the governor of Imo State today. He could have elected to return to the senate if he was comfortable in PDP.
No political effort yields desired results if God does not approve or support such efforts. Late Chief M.K.O Abiola and Chief Obafemi Awolowo made the best efforts humanly possible to be the President of Nigeria in their lifetime, but they couldn’t achieve that dream. Whereas President Goodluck Jonathan, who comes from the smallest state in Nigeria, became the President of Nigeria with little or no effort. As human beings, we are told and are meant to believe that nothing happens in this world without the knowledge of God, the creator of Heaven and Earth. The one who controls the affairs of men. It’s neither of him that runneth nor of him that willeth but of Him that showeth mercy.
Another senior lawyer, Chief Philip Umeadi , SAN, has reportedly approached the Supreme Court to invalidate Governor Uzodimma’s mandate, and he’s asking the apex court to declare his client, Chief Emeka Ihedioha , as the duly elected governor of Imo State. The latest litigations of these aforementioned lawyers have triggered a rash of panic and palpable uneasiness among the uninformed.
Everywhere one goes these days, the buzz word on the lips of most people, who are mostly ignorant of the nuances of law and jurisprudence, is that Governor Uzodimma will soon be removed. That former governor Emeka Ihedioha will soon be restored to his seat as the governor of the state. My voice has gone hoarse explaining or arguing with people about the impossibility of that happening. I am not a lawyer. I am an economist with a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism to boost.
However my elementary knowledge of law and jurisprudence makes me to understand that there is always a time limit for litigations on elections matters. The extant or relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) have time limits for electoral litigations. For governorship position which is the subject of this article , the election petition tribunal, which is the court of first instance, has six months (180 days) to give judgment on any litigations involving election. The court of Appeal has a time limit of 60 days. Ditto for the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Any judgment outside the stipulated time limit becomes statute barred.
Furthermore, before judgments , litigations, especially the complainants or plaintiffs also have a constitutional time limit to file their cases, otherwise the cases become victims of statute barred. It means that the cases must be filed within 21 days, if they are post election matters or they would be adjudged to have been filed out of time. In election matters, there are pre- election and post election matters. Pre- election, as the name suggests, are matters that border on qualification, eligibility, etc. But, it must be filed before the general election itself. Post election matters, as earlier said, are matters that usually border on the general election or simply put, matters after the elections. Both of them have statutory or constitutional time limit to file them.
After the declaration of Senator Uzodimma as the governor by the Supreme Court on Jan 14,the ousted Governor Ihedioha approached the apex court for a review of the matter. After some weeks of uncertainty and palpable anxiety among Imolites, the highest court in the land dismissed the matter. Why is Chief Umeadi, SAN, going back to the same court again? Is his latest matter a pre-election or post-election matter? Can election matter last ad infinitum? Is it open- ended? What is the locus of Barr. Okere whose political party has been de-registered or proscribed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ? Did he approach the court as a candidate of the 2019 election or as what?
The earlier the opposition realises or accepts the fact that the APC government will control the affairs of Imo State till January 15, 2023, in the first instance, the better for them.
Does Barr. Okere want the High Court which he has approached to reverse the judgment of the highest court in the land ? Does Chief Umeadi, SAN, want the apex court to reverse itself after the same court had thrown out the matter? Are their prayers or reliefs before these courts possible? What’s the jurisdiction of the High Court in adjudicating on matters already decided by the Supreme Court? Does it have such powers or jurisdiction? Some say their latest action is for interpretation of the judgment given by the Supreme Court.
However, the Supreme Court or even the High Court is not under obligation to give any interpretation to anybody. There must be an end to litigation.
Maduako, a media practitioner, writes from Owerri. (08061562735)