UDUAGHAN’S OUSTER AND RERUN POLL
Though belated, the Court of Appeal verdict removing Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan as Delta State Governor is significant. The judicial balm is a relief from the wounds inflicted by a mindless, partisan umpire. The five-man Court of Appeal in Benin, Edo State confirmed Nov 9: 'There were a lot of election malpractices by the umpire (Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC) in favour of Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, which placed undue advantage on him and his party to the detriment of other contestants in the election.'
The sack of Uduaghan brings to six the PDP state governors that have been removed from office by the judiciary since 2007 on account of rigged election and dishonorable conduct of the electoral umpire. The states involved are Anambra, Rivers, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Delta.
It is not farfetched to conjecture that a similar manipulation of the judicial process could have enabled Uduaghan to spend, illegally, three-and-a-half years of a four-year tenure. The forward and backward motion of the petition of Great Ogboru of the Democratic Peoples Party in the courts is instructive. It shows that all is not well with the nation's judicial process, despite this remarkable verdict.
Will the reconstituted electoral commission under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega be able to remove INEC's soiled garment of shame? The Delta State rerun, which is coming before the general national elections, will be the acid test to verify the stuff he is made of: wood that rots, or gold that endures. Of course, the responsibility of ensuring credible and acceptable poll also rests with the electorate, who should make it more difficult for contestants to rig elections.
The State Election Tribunal in Asaba had, at the outset, dismissed Ogboru's petition that no election held in Delta and that INEC wrote fraudulent results in favour of Uduaghan and PDP. But the Court of Appeal overruled the lower court and ordered a retrial by a reconstituted Tribunal, which, once again, threw out Ogboru's petition. This paved the way for return to a reconstituted Court of Appeal, which has upheld Ogboru's petition and ordered a rerun of the April 14, 2007 governorship election within 90 days.
The National Judicial Council (NJC) should ensure that corrupt judges are publicly sanctioned to deter others. Law scholars should assemble all the contradictory judicial verdicts on these political cases, with similar basic facts, in order to show the hurt these discordant rulings have on judicial precedent. Government should sanction electoral officials responsible for scandalous elections.
The cost of rogue governance by usurpers of stolen mandates is too great for a fragile economy. So, electoral reforms must ensure that election petitions are discharged in court before a victor is sworn into office.
We must all help to consolidate on the gains of democracy through fraud-free polls. Ghana and other smaller countries have achieved the feat. We nearly achieved it under Prof. Humphrey Nwosu. In Ghana, an incumbent lost the presidential poll and heavens did not fall. Let us get it right now!