Ogboru's Litigations And Unwavering Quest For Justice!

By Comrade Esiri Onodarho

Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, popularly known as the People's General is a successful businessman and a politician who has been active in the Delta State politics since the year 2000 despite detractors, traitors within and outside his political party. After journeying through the South South Rainbow Coalition (SSRC), he led his teeming supporters into joining the Alliance for Democracy (AD) where he contested the 19th April, 2003 governorship election against Chief James Onanefe Ibori of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Dissatisfied with the poor conduct of the said election by the electoral umpire and the eventual illusive outcome and acclaimed victory of the PDP, Ogboru filed a petition to the Election Petition Tribunal, Asaba on the grounds that elections were not conducted and prayed the court to nullify the acclaimed election by ordering INEC to conduct a fresh election into the office of the governor. But the Trial Tribunal dismissed the petition for lacking in merit. Ogboru filed an appeal at the Appellant Court, Benin City where the case was returned to the Trial Tribunal for proper hearing. While that was on going, a 5-man panel was set up by the National Judicial Council (NJC), headed by the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Honourable Justice Mohammah Uwais (Rtd.) based on a petition to the NJC asking it to stop Ibori's second term Oath of Office as the acclaimed governor-elect been the same James Onanefe Ibori convicted and sentenced by the Bwari Court, Abuja on the 28th September 1995.

Again, the Trial Tribunal dismissed the petition, the appeal was struck out by the Court of Appeal and James Onanefe Ibori was freed by the NJC with allegations of some financial inducement worth N250million. With the ex-convict case running through a Federal High Court, Abuja where the Judge decided that the said Ibori was only sentenced and not convicted, the Court of Appeal, Abuja and the Supreme Court respectively confirmed that indeed one James Onanefe Ibori was convicted and sentenced but that there was no proper identification of the said James Onanefe Ibori. It is a shame to the Nigeria Judiciary in the case of Ibori - An Ex-convict, that a supposed respected High Court Judge could inform the world that in the Nigeria legal practice, James Onanefe Ibori was sentenced without conviction; and its courts (from the Federal High Court to the Supreme Court) were unable to show to the world by establishing that the said James Onanefe Ibori was indeed an ex-convict with the overwhelming evidences before them (respected Justices), same case and person proven by a local court in the United Kingdom.

After a delayed and lengthy pursuit of his stolen mandate, Ogboru showed up and indicated his interest to contest the 14th April, 2007 governorship election under the platform of the Democratic People's Party (DPP) against Dr. Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). Taking a clue from the purported April 2003 general elections where votes were allocated to candidates of the ruling party in virtually all the states of the federation, INEC unlawfully announced and declared Emmanuel Uduaghan as the winner of the said election. Dissatisfied with INEC's claim, Chief Great Ogboru approached the Election Petition Tribunal, Asaba. In his petition, Ogboru alleged that election did not hold in any part of the state, and delivering its judgment, the Trial Tribunal dismissed the petition. Ogboru challenged the frivolous judgment of the Trial Tribunal by filing an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Benin City, Edo State.

In the landmark judgment of the Appellant Court it delivered on the 9th November, 2010, the respected Honourable Justice Monica Dogbam-Mensem nullified the governorship election INEC claimed it conducted as neither it (INEC) nor Uduaghan were able to support their so-called polling units results with what she termed as the core, critical and crucial forms EC 17(Oath/Affirmation of Neutrality), EC 25B (Electoral Material Receipt), EC 40A (Ballot Paper Account and Verification Statement) and EC 40C (Statement of Invalid, Rejected and Cancelled Ballot Papers) respectively. It will interest you to know that the erudite Honourable Justice Monica Dogbam-Mensem judgment had shown to the world that indeed it is only the use of those aforementioned core, critical and crucial forms that evidences a due process election as prescribed by the INEC manual, the Electoral Act and the Constitution and that the polling unit results which are termed as the forms EC 8A is a product of a process controlled by the respective forms EC 17, EC 25B, EC 40A and EC 40C in the Nigeria electoral processes.

In compliance with the Appellant Court's judgment, INEC fixed 6th January, 2011 for the Re-run election into the office of the governor. Shockingly, the electoral umpire shamelessly declared Uduaghan as the winner of the said election without correcting the illegalities that led to the earlier nullification. Dissatisfied by INEC's declaration, Great Ogboru on the 26th January, 2011 filed a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal on the grounds that elections did not take place in eight (8) LGAs. In delivering its judgment, Justice Uzor D. Ogwurike dismissed the petition that Ogboru failed to prove his case, as it purportedly asserted the burden of proof was on him (Ogboru). Again, dissatisfied with the Trial Tribunal's judgment, he (Ogboru) lodged an appeal at the Appellant Court and in delivering its judgment, Justice Raphael Chikwe Agbo struck out the appeal on the ground that the appeal was an academic exercise. And in his unrelenting faith continuous desire for legal redress, Ogboru lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court where the court also consented to the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

It will interest you to know that while Ogboru pursued the January 6th Re-run governorship election, the 26th April, 2011 governorship election was around the corner and he had contested the said election against Uduaghan, where INEC in its usual practice, unlawfully announced and declared Uduaghan as the winner of the election with a score of 525,793 votes against Ogboru's 433,834 votes. In his usual undying and unending courage and belief in the Nigeria judicial system, Ogboru filed a petition at the Election Petition Tribunal, Asaba, that Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election to the office of the governor, that the alleged 525,793 votes recorded on the forms EC 8E comprised of 291,840 unlawful votes from Bomadi, Burutu, Warri North, parts of Ethiope West, Warri South and Warri South West LGAs respectively, in that they were not votes cast by registered voters in the course of a due electoral process and that no election was conducted by INEC.

In delivering the Trial Tribunal's judgment, Justice Joy Unwana on one hand agreed with Ogboru that indeed elections did not hold in some parts of the State as alleged by Ogboru and that some INEC materials (ballot papers) showed that election was conducted by INEC on Friday 25th April, 2011 as against Saturday 26th April, 2011 being the real date of the said election, which was confirmed and shown to the open court by Mr. Chris Nwosu, (Director of Operation, INEC's state headquarters) had nullified 103,287 unlawful votes for Uduaghan and 23,278 Greek votes for Ogboru. The Trial Tribunal's reasons for its decision were that there were no ballot papers to support the polling unit results, the ballot papers produced by INEC were inconsistent with the scores recorded on the said polling unit results, as some of the ballot papers were dated 25th April & 28th April respectively and yet went ahead to declare Emmanuel Uduaghan as the winner of the said election thereafter. The Trial Tribunal deliberately ignored the same reasons and application in outright cancellation of the entire Warri North LGA, where 112 polling units of the 116 polling units with its inconsistency of the ballot papers with the polling unit results.

Being wholly dissatisfied, Ogboru filed an appeal at the Appellant Court that the Trial Tribunal committed an error when it deliberately ignored cancellation of the entire Warri North, parts of Ethiope West, Warri South and Warri South West LGAs respectively which were sources that produced a total of 175,583 unlawful votes for Uduaghan and 9,220 Greek votes for Ogboru. Also, Ogboru who scored a majority of 401,336 lawful votes against Uduaghan's 246,926 lawful votes was not declared the lawful winner of the 26th April, 2011 governorship election and therefore prayed the Appellate Court that he (Ogboru) be declared the lawful winner and be sworn-in as the elected governor of Delta State.

Surprisingly, the Appellant Court dismissed Ogboru's appeal without looking at the merit of the appeal before it, upheld the judgment of the Trial Tribunal and deliberately ate up time so as to frustrate Ogboru's appeal even up to the Supreme Court when it only gave its reasons for its decision outside the provisions of Section 285 Subsection 7 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which is presently under contention at the Supreme Court. It failed to look at the fact that the Trial Tribunal deliberately ignored applying the same reasons it gave in invalidating a total of 103,287 unlawful votes for Uduaghan and 23,278 Greek votes for Ogboru, and consequently failed to nullify 201,432 unlawful votes which would be by cancelling the entire Warri North LGA (Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan's LGA), parts of Ethiope West, Warri South and Warri South West LGAs respectively.

Dissatisfied, Ogboru lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court, where he prayed the Court to set aside the judgment of the Appellant Court on the ground that it outrightly violated the contentious Section 285 (7) which reads thus:

'an appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60days from the day of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal or Court of Appeal',

In that it (the Appellate Court) gave its reasons for its decision on the 72nd day which was outside the 60 days prescribed in the aforementioned contentious Section of the Nigerian Constitution (as amended). Also, Ogboru prayed the Supreme Court to allow his appeal by setting aside the judgment of the Trial Tribunal and to invalidate the said remaining total of 201,432 unlawful votes for Uduaghan & himself and to invoke Section 22 of the Supreme Court Act 1990 in declaring him the lawful winner and be sworn-in as the governor-elect of Delta State. The Apex Court agreed with Ogboru in setting aside the judgment of the Appellant Court but upheld the Trial Tribunal's judgment.

The Supreme Court failed woefully by declining to invoke Section 22 as to exercise natural justice but because of suspected huge financial inducement and political pressure from the Defendants, it struck out the appeal without looking at the merit of the appeal. The said Section 22 empowers the Supreme Court to step into the situation where the Appellant Courts are found to have been negligent in duty and to assume jurisdiction to determine the appeal of such litigants (like Ogboru). The Apex Court set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the premise that it out rightly violated the said contentious Section 285(7), but declined heeding Ogboru's prayers before it.

Dissatisfied with the judgment delivered by the Supreme Court, Ogboru filed a motion at the same Supreme Court where he requested that it review and reverse its earlier judgment it delivered on the 2nd March, 2012 on the ground that there was controversy and suspicion of foul play in the purported lead judgment delivered by Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad in that the appeal was struck out, no consequential orders granted and order as to costs whereas in the contributing judgment of the Chairman of the panel, Honourable Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen it was clearly stated that it allowed the appeal, abided by all the consequential orders made in the said lead judgment including the order as to costs and Justice Olufunmola Oyelola Adekeye in that it abided by the consequential orders including the order of costs respectively.

Commonsense had it and which is knowledgeable to even a 100 Level Law student that the 5-man panel agreed that the lead judgment be delivered by one of its members (not the Chairman) and allowed the appeal by granting consequential orders including order as to costs, which gave birth to the contributory judgment of Honourable Justice W. S. Onnoghen and Justice O. O. Adekeye respectively that abided by all consequential orders including order as to costs in the said lead judgment delivered by their learned brother, Justice I. T. Muhammad and which was invisible (consequential orders & order as to costs) in the said lead judgment so delivered on 2nd March, 2012. Ogboru alleged that the Supreme Court's judgment was sufficiently at variance with the principle of treating like cases alike which was a semblance of the 26th April, 2011 Borno State governorship election case between All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and People's Democratic Party (PDP), where the merit of the case was looked at, and justice dispensed by the same member panel. Ogboru was more confident when he got wind of the judgment of Justice Oputa, JSC in the case of Adegoke Motors Ltd vs Adesanya & Odesanya (1989) 3 NWLR (pt 109) 250 S.C.:

'We (Justices of the Supreme Court) are final not because we are infallible rather we are infallible because we are final. Justices of this court are human beings, capable of erring. It will certainly be short-sighted arrogance not to accept this obvious truth. It is also true that this court can do incalculable harm through its mistakes. When therefore it appears to learned counsels that any decision of this court has been given per incuraim, such decision shall be overruled. This court has the power to overrule itself'.

Interestingly, the court fixed 15th October, 2012 for the hearing of the case. So shocking, Ogboru's former counsel, Mr. Sebastian Hon (SAN) applied to withdraw the motion for review filed after the court led by its Chairman, Honourable Justice W. S. Onnoghen had made a clear roadmap for counsels and had adjourned to 8th November, 2012 in which the case was dismissed.

In continuation of his doggedness, commitment to the rule of law and his strong belief in the Nigeria justice system, despite all the injustices meted on him, Ogboru wrote a letter to complain of the actions of his former lawyer to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honourable Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar and relisted his motion for review on the 19th November, 2012 through a new lead counsel, Dr. Osuala Dickson in which the argument was based on the fundamental error the Court committed and the facts of not hearing the appeal on its merits. Unfortunately, on 21st June, 2013, the court struck out the motion when in its ruling gave an end to the litigation.

It is pertinent to know that in the course of Ogboru's pursuit for justice of his stolen mandate, some political gladiators tried to create a state of indebted status on him (Ogboru) and his business that will make it impossible for him to contest elections again and making Nigerians think he is a bankrupt politician or businessman. His political enemies went through the banks and gave the Assets Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) a document obtained by fraud by changing the legal mortgage title to a debenture, a case which has been and is still before the law courts and when the truth shall come out, it will definitely prove Great Ovedje Ogboru's uprightness. Interestingly, Great Ogboru's continual legal pursuit has indeed shown to the world that the use of courts in new democracies ought to be seen as a positive step towards democratic consolidation.

It is on record that in the history of Delta State politics, the man Olorogun Great Ovedje Ogboru stands out as the only one who has come out to run for elective political office with a genuine purpose of instituting true change and massive development of the entire state. He is the only one to have consistently refused to accept financial inducements in the form of bribes and 'settlement' including high level pressure from so many quarters for him to either join the PDP or accept monetary or otherwise 'settlement' like ministerial appointment etc and forget about the pursuit of the governorship position in the state.

But because his ambition has never been based on selfishness or greed, he has proven his God-given grace to be able to withstand the highest bidder in rejecting all their offers of bribe-a thing even majority of the respected and learned members of the Bench have not been able to do. This ability and capacity to resist the temptation of every form of inducements is a rare gift from God, and it aligns with the strong philosophy held by Thomas Jefferson which says, 'Do not bite at the bait of pleasure, till you know there is no hook beneath it'.

In fact and indeed, only very few politicians in Nigeria have the capacity to consistently say no to mouth watering offers from the criminal gangs of notorious politicians whose unscrupulous and criminal activities have seen this nation continue to downslide and retrogress. The man Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru holds so much sound philosophy that empowers his spirit, soul, heart and mind to restrain and refrain from keeping bad company so as not to suffer contamination; like Benjamin Franklin would say, 'He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.

Again, apart from his consistent refusal to dine with the devil, he has also consistently refused to resort to the use of arms and thuggery, even though there were youths who were urging for and opining the use of arms to be able to combat the PDP thugs and ballot snatchers- He bluntly refused to heed to such counsels and opinions. He is one man that believes like Benjamin Franklin that, 'he that can have patience can have what he will'; and for this reason, he has remained steadfastly committed to the use of every available legal and legitimate instrument and means; this, I think makes him the right man to follow, and to follow all the way; the right man to govern Delta State, to set the pace and true standard of genuine leadership and democracy first for Delta State and secondly for the entire nation called Nigeria.

One thing many people fail to understand is that the battle to dethrone evil has never at any time been a mean business. It has never been an easy project, and that in most cases it takes joint effort of all or majority of the good men of society to achieve this; and for those who think they will succeed in dethroning the PDP simply by defections or by mere joining a political party, may just end up being disappointed at the end of the day. The masses, constituted majorly by the grassroot members of society must at this time wake up and stand up for their rights and for the security of their future, to join in the fight against evil, and the consequent enthronement of good governance and a true people-oriented government in Delta State.

Surprisingly, at the time Deltans were recuperating from the ills of INEC's electoral frauds, the injustices of the Nigeria justice system and the defection of her respective masqueraded National and State House of Assembly members, their, like gangbuster leader, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru stood tall again in his usual commitment to the rule of law, and had in November 2013 filed another motion at the Supreme Court asking it to set aside its previous judgment by looking at the merit of the 26th April, 2011 governorship case on the ground that the contentious Section 285(7) which the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court built its respective judgments was not constitutionally passed into law as required by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), a case which has been fixed for hearing on 22nd April, 2014.

With the case of the 26th April, 2011 governorship election at the Supreme Court, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru has again re-awaken the hopes of Deltans in his usual style of courage, doggedness, huge personal financial inputs and total commitment in the bid to making Delta State a land flowing with milk and honey with absolute disregard to activities of detractors and their selfish interests and acts of mediocrities. The Nigerian Judiciary should also try to wake up from her slumber and inability to resist temptation of monetary and otherwise inducements.

They should remember that as a matter of constitution, they remain the last hope of the common man, but beyond that, there is a God in heaven who rules over the affairs of the entire universe, and that this God pays all men according to what they've done with the talents, positions and opportunities he had given them; and like Thomas Jefferson, I speak out today, through this article that 'I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever'. As everyone awaits the Supreme Court hearing cum ruling, Deltans still believe that justice delayed would not be justice denied. Deltans strongly believe that with the Honourable Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar's leadership of the Nigerian judicial system, justice shall be dispensed. All the Progressives and well-meaning Deltans and indeed Nigerians are waiting patiently on them (the Nigerian Judiciary) to dispense Justice in this all-important electoral matter concerning Delta State irrespective of how long it may have taken, because to us and for us, and as posited by Thomas Jefferson, 'Delay is preferable to error' as long as the delay eventually brings about justice.

Comrade Onodarho, E. M. Esiri
President - United Conscience for Democracy (UCD) writes from Port-Harcourt

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