The Nigerian Supreme Court yesterday said it upheld the election of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as governor of Abia State because the petitioners Alex Otti and his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) failed to substantiate all allegations contained in their petition.
This is as Otti, still nursing the pains of his failed bid to become the governor of Abia State after coming so close, has vowed he would not congratulate Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, whose election was eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court in a long-drawn legal battle.
Ikpeazu and Otti contested the election on the platforms of the PDP and APGA respectively.
Giving reasons for its Feb. 3 judgement, Justice Suleiman Galadima held that Otti and the All Progressives Grand Alliance were unable to prove the allegation of over-voting, violence and corrupt practices allegedly perpetrated by the respondents.
“On the issue of over-voting, the court holds that there was no sufficient proof as the voter register and the card reader report were not tendered.
“The criminal allegation of corrupt malpractices carried out by PDP loyalists for the benefit of the governor was not also proved,’’ he held.
On the cancellation of the election results in Obingwa, Osisioma Ngwa and Isiala Ngwa by the returning officers, Galadima held that it was wrong.
“That action amounted to the disenfranchisement of voters. It was also inappropriate for the tribunal to order the cancellation of election.
“All of this misappropriation only gave room for the unlawful declaration of the APGA candidate by the lower court.
“Those actions were perversion of justice and the apex court could not have allowed them,’’ he said.
Galadima held that the evidence placed before the court showed clearly that the tribunal usurped the constitutional duties of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC.)
“On the card reader, the court maintains its earlier position that the tribunal cannot supplant the voter register.
“The gadget is only meant to authenticate bearers of voter card and not meant to usurp the statutory power of the voter register.
“At the moment, the voter register remains the only authentic document as provided by Section 49 of the Electoral Act to prove allegation of fraud in elections,’’ Galadima declared.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had said that the APGA flag bearer, who gallantry fought the governor all to the apex court, should in the spirit of sportsmanship congratulate the victorious governor.
Otti expressed the finality of his decision yesterday in his address at a thanksgiving rally held at Aba, announcing to his supporters that he was never going to congratulate Governor Ikpeazu.
In his speech entitled “It is not all lost: brighter days are ahead of you”, the APGA flag bearer explained that the demand for him to congratulate Ikpeazu smacked of arrogance on the part of PDP, which he accused of not playing by the rules during the governorship poll.
He said: “While we have accepted the unpopular judgment that injures the sensibilities of Abians, we cannot congratulate you as that would amount to endorsement of criminality. So, rather than arrogantly be demanding for unjust and undeserved congratulatory message from me and my party, the PDP should rather express remorse, seek repentance, and humble enough to seek for forgiveness from God and Abians”.
The former bank boss, who almost upset the grip of PDP on Abia, said that he had expected that his victory at the Court of Appeal sitting Owerri would have been endorsed by the Supreme Court, adding that it unfortunate that the apex court chose to deliver a verdict, which “ran contrary to what happened in the election and clearly hurts the conscience of millions of Abians”.
He stated that while the Supreme Court judgment was “a miscarriage of justice” there was no way he would have allowed APGA faithful to resort to violence hence the need to offer thanksgiving to the Almighty God for saving Abia from being engulfed in orgy of pre-election and post-election violence.
Otti assured that APGA would provide viral opposition which “will ensure that government remains on its toes and delivers on the social contract it has with the people”.
There were initial doubts over the thanksgiving service as the state government statement read on state radio announced that the ban on public gathering was still in force but by the time the eventually kicked off at about 2.00pm security men had a huge task controlling the large crowd of Otti loyalists falling over themselves to mob him.
National chairman of APGA, Dr Victor Ike Oye said that in view of what the party passed through in the course of challenging PDP for the control of Abia there was need for them to come together to thank God for his mercies.
He said that though the battle for the governorship seat did not end in favour of APGA the battle for Abia government house is not yet over.
Earlier in his sermon, Rev. Innocent Udoh insisted that he was aware of the “overwhelming support” enjoyed by the APGA gubernatorial candidate, adding that though the Supreme Court had overturned Otti’s at appeal court “the Supreme court of God will continue to overturn that ruling until the rightful owner of the mandate gets back his mandate”.
“Your mandate will be restored. You will not die before you realize your destiny,” he said, adding that though he did not know how it would be fulfilled it must surely come to pass as power belongs to God and he gives to whomever He wishes. (Thisday)