Date Published: 10/22/09
Another Unclear Agenda As Rivers Governorship Election Case Returns To Supreme Court By Ifeanyi Izeze
When the Holy Bible declared that “My people perish for lack of knowledge,” the scripture did not have Rivers state politicians in mind. However, everything that happens in the state’s political arena seems to affirm that the people referred to in that scripture were politicians from the state.
Two years after the Supreme Court decided the vexed issue of who the flagbearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State in the April 14, 2007 governorship election was between Chibuike Amaechi and Celestine Omehia, the latter has gone back to the apex court to set aside its judgment or more aptly, reverse self.
In the court processes filed through a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Section 1(ii), Section 4 (iv) and Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution, Omehia is arguing that the reasons given by the court on January 18, 2008 for its decision was a nullity because it lacked the jurisdiction and was incompetent to do so.
He is contending that the said judgment of the court amounted to a special repeal of Sections 177, 178 (iii) and 179 of the 1999 Constitution, adding that a judgment which deemed a candidate who had not contested an election as having won and lost same was unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.
In the judgment delivered on October 25, 2007, the apex court had not only recognised Amaechi as the PDP candidate in the poll but also declared him as the duly elected governor of the state, thus displacing Omehia.
The question now is why the sudden wake up by the displaced former governor of the state? Where has he been since the apex court ruled on the matter? Who is coercing the displaced former governor on this new project?
Frankly, Omehia cannot be attributed with rascality- political or civil and he was not known for self centredness. In his public and even private life, he profiled an impressive credentials of a perfect, quiet and peace loving politician who would do anything to avoid confrontation and preserve status quo. So is Omehia being driven into this course by unseen hands or has the Ubima- born politician metamorphosed into a militant politician as he sojourns in Abuja?
The former governor wants to argue, after two good years, that the Supreme court decision where it declared Amaechi as the winner of the election, which he did not contest was not based on any fact, available evidence, law or precedent but in the apex court’s decree that “it is only a party that canvasses for votes that wins an election.”
Omehia therefore wants the court to make an order restoring the parties to their status quo as of the date preceeding the date of the judgment (October 24, 2007).
If the two Ikwerre cousins- Cele and Rotimi had not publicly maintained their pretence of enmity even down to the family level, one would have been tempted to conclude that this latest development represents nothing but a well worked –out conspiracy against the overall interests (political) of other ethnic nationalities in Rivers state.
Though it may look like a mischief to think along that line but we cannot help but perceive that Omehia’s going back to the Supreme court to ask for the reversal of its earlier judgment looks more like an agenda to covertly extend the Ikwerre’s stay at the Brick House.
An interesting scenario from the renewed legal battle may present an agenda for bigger political crisis in the state. From an unbiased standpoint, supposing the apex court reverses self and restores the parties to their status quo (returning Omehia as the duly elected governor) as of the date preceding the date of the judgment (October 24, 2007)? It means Amaechi would vacate the Government House for his cousin to move in. And by the way, the earliest the supreme court can hear and rule on Omehia’s appeal is next year that is if it doesn’t even get up to 2011.
Omehia as governor would then want to serve out the two tenures that have come to be agreed as status quo in the prevailing unwritten understanding in the state’s political arithmetic.
That means the Ikwerres will do 12 years at the helm of affairs of the state before the power will shift to another part of the state.
This scenario may be very wrong but supposing it comes out to be true? This is food for serious thought for those who think they are doing Omehia favour by coercing him to return to the supreme court against Amaechi. And it is disheartening that our people don’t think beyond themselves and their immediate families. Majority of the so called strategists in the Odili/Omehia camp are people from other sections of the state clamouring to take a shot at the Brick House come 2011 or 2015 at least for sure.
It is obvious that somebody or a group (especially in the legal profession) just wants to milk the Odili/Omehia camp by cajoling them to go back to the Supreme court because from privileged information, it is well known that such election related cases especially the (governorship and the presidential) costs hundreds of millions if not billions of Naira as fee for the legal teams on both sides. Rather than waste such huge sums of money on sterile academic adventure, why can’t Omehia and his league come together to form a political structure, as it’s now happening all over the country, to present a strong front to fight Amaechi and maybe the PDP at the 2011 polls.
The big question is: can a court, the Supreme Court in this case, commit an error against itself?
Legal experts were unanimous in their stand that it is not proper for a litigant to go back to the Supreme Court to ask it to reverse itself on a decision it had reached on a case. Experts maintained that it is clear under our laws that the Supreme Court is Nigeria’s apex court. Once it has taken a decision, no other person, not even the Supreme Court, can change that decision. “Now, the point must be made that in our system of jurisprudence, there is a doctrine of the hierarchy of courts under it, The Supreme Court is the apex court. So, it is unconscionable and unreasonable for anybody to drag the Supreme Court into the political arena of having to interpret its judgment.”
Unfortunately, there seems to be no elders in Ubima that can call their two sons to order to stop this show of shame between two blood- cousins? Maybe the elders of the community are benefitting from the disagreement between the two young men if not, who is Chubike or Celestine that the community cannot summon for peace and reconciliation. If elders of Ubima cannot settle their sons, who do they expect to achieve that feat- an Ijawman or Ogoniman? The Ubima’s case is clear example of papa deceive pikin (pdp).
IFEANYI IZEZE IS AN ABUJA-BASED CONSULTANT ON POLITICAL STRATEGY AND COMMUNICATIONS ( firstname.lastname@example.org)