Imo state now has a new Governor and a fresh Deputy Governor. Governor Hope Uzodinma and Deputy Governor Professor Placid Njoku were sworn into office on Wednesday by the Chief Justice of the state Justice Pascal Nnadi.
The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Imo State Government House, just hours after Senator Uzodinma received his certificate of return from INEC in Abuja.
It came only one day after the Supreme Court nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha and declared Uzodinma as the duly elected governor of the state.
local newspapers reported that the National Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, former Governor of the State, Senator Rochas Okorocha and governorship candidate of APGA in the 2019 governorship election, Ifeanyi Ararume were among those in attendance at the swearing-in ceremony.
Local newspapers reported that the Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka, who had predicted that Senator Uzodinma will emerge as governor of the state, was among those who were present at the event.
He was said to have drawn a large crowd upon his arrival as many swarmed his car praising him for his prediction.
HOW WE ALL GOT HERE
Ihedioha is a member of Nigeria’s biggest opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, while Uzodinma is a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Party, APC.
The Supreme Court decision, led by President Buhari’s appointee, Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, was unanimous.
Justice Tanko led a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court to sack Ihedioha.
The apex court held that Uzodinma won the March 9, 2019, governorship election in Imo State.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who read the lead judgment, ordered that the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha be immediately withdrawn and directed that a fresh certificate of return be issued to Uzodinma.
Kekere-Ekun said Uzodinma must be immediately sworn in as the Governor of Imo State.
HOW SUPREME COURT JUSTIFIED ITS DECISION
According to Justice Kekere-Ekun, with the results from the 388 polling units added, Mr Uzodinma polled a majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared the winner of the election by the independent national electoral commission, INEC.
The new tabulation therefore voided and set aside the declaration of Mr lhedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election.
“Vote due to the appellant Senator Hope Uzodinma and the APC from 388 Polling Units were wrongly excluded from scores ascribed to the appellant(to them).
“It is thereby ordered that the appellant votes from 388 Polling Units unlawfully excluded from the appellant vote declared shall be added and that the first respondent, Emeka Ihedioha, was not duly elected by a majority of lawful votes cast at the said election,” she said.
“His return as the elected governor of Imo State is hereby declared null and void and accordingly set aside
“It is hereby declared that the first appellant (Mr Uzodinma) holds the majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship election held in Imo State on March 9, 2019.”
The judge said Mr Uzodinma has satisfied the mandatory constitutional requirement.
“It is hereby declared that first appellant, Senator Hope Uzodinma is the winner of the governorship of Imo State held on March 9, 2019.
“The certificate issued to the first defendant (Mr Ihedioha) is hereby withdrawn.
“It is hereby ordered that the certificate of return shall be issued to the first appellant, Senator Hope Uzodinma, forthwith and he should be sworn in as the governor of Imo State,” she ruled.
HOW THE LOWER COURTS RULED LAST YEAR AND WHY THIS IS SHOCKING
The Supreme Court decision was at variance with the Court of Appeal ruling which on November 19 affirmed the victory of Mr Ihedioha as the duly elected governor of Imo State.
In that other ruling, a five-member panel of the court led by Oyebisi Omoleye delivered the judgement following the appeals filed by the Action Alliance, the All Progressive Grand Alliance and the All Progressives Congress challenging the election of the governor.
The three appellants argued that Mr Ihedioha did not obtain the constitutionally required one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, as provided under Section 179 of the Constitution, and asked the court to set aside the decision of the election petition tribunal, which had ruled in favor of Mr. Ihedioha, and declare them the winner of the election or or order a rerun.
Before today’s ruling at the Supreme Court and September 2019 judgment at the Court of Appeals, the three appeals had filed a petition against the judgment of
The Imo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had upheld the election of Mr Ihedioha.
But the candidates of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Ifeanyi Ararume; the Action Alliance (AA), Uche Nwosu and the All Progressives Party, Hope Uzodinma, disagreed with the judgement and approached the Appeals Court.
They asked the Court of Appeal to void the election of Mr Ihedioha on grounds that he did not obtain the constitutional one-quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, in line with Section 179 of the Constitution.
But the Appeals Court disagreed with them and upheld Ihedioha’s election. The three appellants then approached the Supreme Court which on Tuesday declared Hope Uzodinma the winner and sacked Ihedioha.
WHERE IS IMO EVEN LOCATED?
Imo is one of the 36 States in Nigeria, and is in the south east region of the West African country.
Owerri is its capital and among the largest town in the State. Its other notable towns are Orlu, Obowo, Oguta, Mbaise and Okigwe.
Located in the south-eastern region of Nigeria, it occupies the area between the lower River Niger and the upper and middle Imo River.
WHAT HAPPENED IN IMO AFTER THE RULING?
Local newspaper, The Punch, reported that the entrance gate to the Imo State Government House in Owerri, the state capital was locked immediately news filtered that Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress was returned as the duly elected governor of the state by the Supreme Court.
“Our correspondent, who visited the government house was told by some security officers that there was an order for them to restrict movement in and out of the Government House,” The newspaper wrote, adding that “Thereafter, the security officers locked up the Government House”
WHAT IS THE PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY SAYING ABOUT IMO RULING?
In a statement on Tuesday, the Peoples Democratic Party described the ruling as another sad commentary on Nigeria’s nascent democracy.
“The party finds it difficult to understand how Senator Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, who came 4th in the March 9, 2019 governorship election, with just 96,458 votes, will suddenly, by the token of the judgment of the Supreme Court, defeat Chief Emeka Ihedioha/PDP who scored 276,404 votes,” read the statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan.
“In fact, the PDP and indeed, most Nigerians are still at a loss as to understand the basis upon which the Supreme Court arrived at its decision.
“The party says it is lamentable that the destiny of the people of Imo state is being taken from the governor they chose and voted for and handed over to individuals and a political party that do not have their blessing and mandate and which they rejected at the election,” he added.
Ologbondiyan said the people in Imo will now be led by a strange government unable to relate with, adding that all the gains, including the development and stability already achieved by the people-based government, Ihedioha/PDP administration in the state, are now heavily jeopardized.
He said following the ruling, Imo State was enveloped by by a mournful and despondent ambience, a gloomy atmosphere he described as a loud testimony that the judgment did not reflect the expectation of the people as expressed at the polls.
“While recognising that the judgment of the Supreme Court is final, the PDP, however, urges all party stakeholders in the state to remain united and calm, and await further instruction from the national leadership on this very sad development.”
WHAT IS PRESIDENT BUHARI SAYING ABOUT IMO RULING?
President Muhammadu Buhari finally reacted to the ruling on Wednesday, commending the Supreme Court and Hope Uzodinma.
In a statement issued by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, Mr Buhari said: “The road to justice may be long and tortuous, but it is the best path for anyone aggrieved.
“Under the new administration, a new journey to build a new Imo with new energy is about to begin. In this outcome, it is the people of Imo State who have emerged victorious,” he added.
President Buhari called on Uzodinma to promote the ideals of the APC and run an inclusive government.
HOW DID ATIKU REACT TO IMO RULING?
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar called on Nigerians to join hands and resist the “prevailing despotism and despair” under Buhari.
WHAT DID INEC SAY?
The Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission said on Wednesday it would obey the Supreme Court ruling and issue a certificate of return to Hope Uzodinma, which will pave the way for his swearing in.
A local newspaper, Premium Times, quoted an INEC spokesperson, Festus Okoye, as saying that the commission was constitutionally and legally bound to give effect to the judgement and orders of the Supreme Court.
“The judgement of the Supreme Court is final and the commission is not empowered to question or debate the propriety of the judgement or orders of the Supreme Court,” he told the newspaper in a statement.
“As a public institution, we are constitutionally and legally bound to give effect to the judgements and orders of the Supreme Court. The commission will give effect to the judgement of the court the moment we receive the enrolled order of the court and will issue the candidate the requisite Certificate of Return”.
WHY DID UZODINMA FREEZE IMO STATE ACCOUNTS?
Senator Hope Uzodinma, who is yet to be sworn in, promptly directed banks not to honor draft bill till further notice, just hours after the Supreme Court declared him the duly elected governor of the state on Tuesday.
In a letter to the regional directors and managers of all financial institutions in Imo State, Cosmos Iwu, director-general of Senator Hope Uzodinma campaign organization, who was writing on behalf of the governor-elect, ordered all financial institutions to “post no debit” on all the accounts.
“Following the Supreme Court judgment of 14, January 2020, I am directed by his excellency, Senator Hope Uzodinma, to take this as your authority/instruction to place a post no debit order on all accounts of the Imo state government maintained in your various institutions.
“You are by this letter directed to comply and await further instructions from the office of his excellency, the executive governor of Imo state. Thanks for your cooperation,” the letter read.