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Judicial Gamble on Imo Governorship Election Case

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The Great Greek Philosopher, Aristotle, says that, “when people speak of justice, we see that they all mean that kind of state of character that disposes them to perform just acts, and behave in a just manner, and wish for what is just.” To press harder the inevitability of justice in the social realm, Aristotle again asserts that, “that is why, when disputes occur, people have recourse to a Judge; and to do this is to have recourse to justice, because the object of the Judge is to be a sort of personified Justice. Also they look for a Judge as an Intermediary between them (indeed in some places Judges are called 'mediators') in the belief that if they secure a mean they will secure what is just. So justice is a sort of mean, inasmuch as the Judge is one”.

For 25 months now, the gubernatorial election conducted by INEC in Imo State has been a focal-issue of national elites' spectacles. The procedures and turn-about of its judicature these whiles are likened to a scrotal cancer of an only male-child, a personal ailment that has social effects. It is a deadly trap against futuristic biological survival and continuity of name of the family and the general community's existence. This exemplifies the status of continuity, stability, harmony and progress of the Nigerian Democracy and electioneering, vis-à-vis the (Imo Governorship) Election cases in both the Appeal and Supreme Courts.

Firstly, as the 2015 general elections draw closer, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria is at risk of proper self-arrangement due to the litigation of the 2011 Supplementary Election before the Appeal and Supreme Courts. The Imo PDP's (and really the National PDP's) quagmire is that based on the litigations, Chief Ohakim still carries the Imo State PDP's mandate in the case. Should PDP abandon him and begin fresh gubernatorial processes in preparation for the 2015 elections? Should the Party begin another preparation while the 2011 Election remains unsettled? The PDP nationwide is constantly repairing old wounds, would the Imo State's Chapter that gave Mr President one of the highest votes be allowed to be messed up in its gubernatorial election that occurred within the same time frame; by the claims and seeming realities of rumours made-truth coming from Rochas Okorocha and his Northern Allies and really, the Northern Factor in Nigerian Politics?

Secondly, the gubernatorial case in question has turned up to be a Constitutional matter, an interpretation of the part of the Constitution that holds Nigeria together. The Nigerian Constitution is like the human soul, it holds Nigeria together. Keeping delicate issues that have to boarder on the soul of the Nation, is very inimical to the wellbeing of the Country. This is because, if the Imo case is allowed to linger “ad infinitum” as Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad espoused, and eventually this political dispensation passes out, as the caucus voyeurs on Okorocha's plans revealed, then if again similar event of stalemate occurs in another or other states in less than 35 months time, what should the nation's arbiters and bastions of our national norms do? The Imo electoral cases are like the Harmattan fire, blazing at a spot in a mass dry-grass land; soonest, it will be sporadic, then pandemic as imitations, simulations and references are uncommon in the Nigerian polity.

Thirdly, this case is a struggle for supremacy assertion on the sacredness and superiority of the Nigerian Constitution over the sectorial norms of the INEC's Electoral Act- A mere agent for the accomplishment of the Constitution that has now erred. A Christian friend of mine, Prince Stanley U Okoroji, says it is like using the Book of Malachi to condemn the entire Bible and biblical exaltation of the Priests, Prophets and Laws. Are INEC's Electoral Acts controlled and under the umbrella of the Nigerian Constitution or as an independent entity, above the Nigerian Constitutional dictates for elections- Thus “above the law” and has right to fabricate and compel obedience to the Constitution or negligence from Nigerian Lawmakers, Judiciary and national elites? Has INEC the powers to conduct a governorship election outside the time frame stipulated by the Constitution, and can INEC conduct Supplementary Elections? These call for urgency in both the interpretation of the Constitution and objectivity in resolving such issues that may certainly spread to other states of the Federation, which will have elections before or in 2015.

Fourthly, the Apex Legal Luminaries of Nigeria, with due respect to their Lordships involved in the June 4, 2013 hearing, seem to be gambling with the vital and inimical nature of the Nigerian Constitution, vis-à-vis the INEC Supplementary Election raid on its sacredness. Certainly, the CJN has shown the apexship of the Judiciary in mediating disputes of crucial natures as the Imo Guber cases, by disallowing Gov Okorocha's personal friend, Justice M.M. Coomasie, from being a member of the panel that is hearing the electoral case. Yet, rumours which provenance has great somewhat reliability have it that Justices Tanko Muhammad, Munkata Coomasie and Suleiman Galadima are personal friends of Governor Okorocha. If these allegations and claims are true, Nigeria is again playing with the soul of its existence as the CJN allows these personal friends to interpret, mutilate in a way that will favour their personal friend, and thus rule as final arbiters the crucial case that purports assault on the supremacy of the Nigerian Constitution over any other sectional norms of Agencies, Commissions, Ministries, etc., in the Country.

Fifthly, rumours also have it that the Apex Judges led by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Mohammad received a bribe of #4 Billion, in order to grant long adjournment to the case. This allegation mere certainly be false. If this it is false, certainly Nigerians are rough-playing their apex arbiters, making them object of ridicule nationwide and internationally. Based on this falsehood, as every rumour is an information, the CJN should use his good office to cut short the over 100days adjournment on a crucial and urgent matter bordering on the Nigerian Constitution and thus redeem the estimable image of his colleagues under him. If also the allegation is true, it is a rape of justice and a play with the Nigerian Constitution.

Certainly, doubts about the credibility of the rumours abound. Yet, what transpired at the Court seems to justify the elite citizens' fears that Gov Okorocha has infiltrated the apex judges as he boasted and assured his allies. More so, the sort of jubilation and celebration that heralded the Imo State Government House on the over-stretched adjournment on mere hearing of the case, could really justify the speculations and fears that something fishy is on- The claims and boasts of Gov Okorocha that he has given the panel money and that the matter will be adjourned till the end of his regime, is probably true as rumoured. Nigerians are all watching the end of the Imo gubernatorial election case with keen interest, like coaches and teams would in a crucial match, in order to know how to play their own game. Should the apex judges lay a faux pass foundation?

Certainly, the Nigerian Legal Sector: The Legislative Arm, the Judiciary and the Law Enforcement Agencies have all advanced to internationally reputable and imitable height that mere personal interest of a 4 year-target for Gov Okorocha can never drag to the mire and ruins the high reputations, the bastions of our national norms and national community soul have for ages laboured to build and revere.

Certainly, many apex legal luminaries in Nigeria have handled similar electoral cases as the Imo type, even in the Southern Nigeria: Rivers, Anambra, etc., and delivered just judgements, applauded and adored nationwide and worldwide, notwithstanding whose ox is gnawed. Even here in Imo State where Gov Okorocha reigns supreme, similar cases have been handled between Okorocha and individuals or group: Okorocha and Athan Ogoh (that upheld Justice Azuama as a worthy Justices who sees the position of Lordship as man's arbitration in Loco Dei) and Imo State Government (Executive, Attorney General and Legislature) and the Town Union Presidents (that showed Justice Ikpeama as one who cannot be infiltrated or influenced by power, money or affinity).

The conception of Justice and the personification of it in the person of a (Chief ) Judge, Head of a Panel, etc., are issues which integrity surpasses amity- interest and affinity or bonds with dubious and do-or-die politicians who reign whimsically and go. A Judge is on a life-vocation and remains a “Justice” for life. The Imo case is a vocational challenge to the Nigerian Lawyers and because of the delicate nature of the matter, it is highly suggestive that the CJN calls the Panel to order, cut short the long adjournment as the Judiciary had more time before vacation. After all, the issue is short and simple- To interpret the Constitution and declare INEC Independence on Constitutional matter and the Supplementary Election constitutionally valid or not; then rule on the 2011 guber election of Imo State- As the Supreme and Infallible Arbiter whose decision finalises fate, legitimizes or not the said Election.

By Prof. Nathan Protus Uzorma

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Articles by Nathan Protus Uzorma