The appeal made by Governor Victor Okezie Ikpeazu to his political rivals to sheathe their swords as a mark of patriotism yesterday failed to yield results as his All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) main rival, Alex Otti, challenged his victory at the tribunal. Otti said he would ‘drag’ the matter to higher courts.
In his reaction to the Tuesday judgment of the tribunal, which was forwarded to The Guardian by Otti’s Personal Assistant on Media, Mrs. Jennifer Ben-Okereke, Otti said the judgment ‘cannot stand.’
According to him, “the judgment scuttled the people’s hope and desire for positive change and thus silenced and denied the people the mandate they freely gave to me and my party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) during the April general elections in the state.”
According to the statement, “the judgment certainly did not reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people which they expressed through the ballot. Therefore, it certainly cannot stand; the battle has not ended.
“We shall explore the next judicial window to seek redress in order to ensure that justice is done and that we recover our mandate.
“We did not envisage that this our struggle of 16 years to liberate ourselves from the stranglehold of the slave masters would be a tea party, and this judgment cannot deter us or vitiate our determination. The State Election Petition Tribunal chaired by Justice Usman Bwala had endorsed the governorship election victory of Ikpeazu.
The governor contested in the election held on April 11 and 25 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). His closest rival, Otti of the APGA, challenged his victory at the tribunal.
The Tribunal began sitting in Umuahia High Court premises by 9.15 am and read its judgment that lasted more than two hours. It dismissed Otti’s petition for failing to prove his allegations.
Justice Bwala in his judgment said that Otti contradicted himself when he both asked the tribunal to cancel the election and at the same time declare him (Otti) the winner of the election, just as some of his witnesses made contradictory statements.
The Tribunal consequently dismissed Otti’s petition without awarding costs. Justice Bwala said: “Everything with a beginning must have an end. Today comes the end of our sitting in Abia State.
“What we did was in our professional capacity. After today, we can begin to embrace people when we meet them. We are grateful and thankful to petitioners, counsels, workers, reporters for your cooperation and we appreciate immensely the level-headedness of the counsels.”
In a swift reaction to the judgment, National Chairman of APGA, Dr Victor Ike Oye, while addressing party members at its office in Umuahia, said: “We had complained that we would not get justice in Abia State. We are taking the matter to Abuja where we expect to get justice. Please remain calm and be hopeful that we shall get justice no matter how long it takes.”
Governor Ikpeazu in his remarks said the judgment “has given us further impetus to continue with the state development. I appeal to all aggrieved parties to show patriotism and join hands with us in the service of our people. For me, there is no victor, no vanquished; the victory is for democracy”.
Chairman of the PDP in the state, Emma Nwaka, said the party expected the victory “because we worked for it. Abians who voted for us would have been disappointed if the judgment went to Otti and APGA.”
For the immediate past Nigeria’s ambassador to Argentina, Chief Empire Kanu: “this is the true victory expected.” (The Guardian)