EDO GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION APPEAL: TRIUMPH OF INJUSTICE?
BY: OSHOMHA IMOAGENE
Popular adage that silence is golden perfectly works when dealing with people who truly have mindsets for transparency. In situations where the principal actors especially the determinants show clear signs of blurred motives, it automatically invokes the opposite adage that: The man dies that keeps quite in the face of oppression or rather injustice.
The bar was supposed to be the main pivotal in the development of democracies like ours but how the Nigerian appellate court is contributing to this highly needed development is at best blurred and at worst obscured at least judging from events since the election petition tribunal for the April 2007 elections particularly the Edo state governorship tussle.
As was rightly said by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu; given the importance of the Edo state case, judges should have treated it with the urgency it deserves since both appellant and respondent have filed their briefs in accordance with the provisions of the existing electoral law.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the Action Congress governorship candidate in the state was declared winner of the April 2007 governorship election about seven months ago. And till today the President of the Appeal Court either by design or omission has refused to constitute the panel of judges to hear the appeal filed by Oserhiemen Osunbor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the tribunal ruling that asked him to relinquish the office of the governor of Edo State to Oshiomhole.
Awkwardly, it is still uncertain why the President of the Court of Appeal is yet to assemble the judges to hear the appeal. All processes have been filed, the appellant has filed his brief; the respondent has filed his brief and the plaintiff has replied. So the question is: why has it become so difficult to bring together a panel of judges to hear the appeal?
The peculiar trend in Edo state is not only disturbing but highly suspicious following series of allegations across the country against the top hierarchy of the nation’s appellate court in its alleged opaque handling and rulings in several elections – related cases.
Nigerian judiciary actually showed itself as the last hope of sustaining our democracy. But the manner in which some judges handled glaring cases of electoral frauds at the various tribunals and subsequent appeals heavily caste doubt as to whether aggrieved Nigerians can actually seek and get justice in our courts especially the appellate court.
The appellate court and the judiciary in general should insist on showing itself as a shinning light to right the wrongs resulting in the massively manipulated 2007 general elections.
Needless to say that there is a growing perception in the nation’s polity that the judiciary has been colluding with the ruling PDP to pervert the course of justice and this dangerous or rather derogatory impression should be corrected as fast as possible by the judiciary itself.
How can anybody explain that almost seven months that the tribunal nullified the election of Osunbo, no panel has been constituted to hear the appeal? Several other similar election- related cases are scattered across the country: in Abia state, where Governor Theodore Orji appealed against the declaration of Onyema Ugochukwu as winner in the state’s governorship election; Ondo state where Olusegun Agagu appealed against the declaration of Olusegun Mimiko as the elected governor.
In addition, there are pending retrials ordered by the Appeal Court in Delta and Ogun states governorship election petitions and all these cases have been deliberately put in the cooler.
The big question is: How long will the listed cases languish in the doldrums just because the President of the Court of Appeal is yet to carry out his constitutional obligation?
The unjustifiable delay by the President of the Court of Appeal is definitely tasking the patience of those who have put their hopes in the judiciary and this may lead them to explore other options of getting redress and in this situation, the likely option is violence and its attendant breakdown of law and order. It would be very unfortunate if the inaction of the Appeal Court President throws Edo state and some other areas into unnecessary chaos.
It is very necessary to quickly hear and settle all matters relating to the Edo state governorship election so that whoever the court finally declares the winner can seriously settle down to the business of delivering the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
What we have today in Edo as governance could best be described as cosmetic simply because the man sitting as the governor is not sure he will be confirmed as the rightfully elected governor. So he can not, in tangible terms, undertake any meaningful development initiatives. All there has been thus far as service from government are “patch-patch” development initiatives..
Also Oshiomhole who was declared the rightful winner by the tribunal and who claims to have the entire magic wand to turn the fortunes of the state into an Eldora do cannot actually be challenge to deliver because he is not sitting on the throne of power.
Both the NBA and the President of the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court President should intervene in the Edo state matter to clear the uncertainty that has beclouded governance in the state since the tribunal ruling.
OSHOMHA IMOAGENE WROTE FROM PORT HARCOURT firstname.lastname@example.org