INEC IS UNJUST TO OGUTA PEOPLE
Last week while in a convrsation with a mutual friend I expressed my deep concern about INEC's refusal to conduct election in Oguta to elect the representative of the people to the Imo State House of Assembly and my friend who comes from Anambra State sought to know why I of all people is worried about the unnecessary delay on the part of INEC to so conduct the election. My response is to first commend him for appropriately calling a spade by its name by insisting that the delay on the side of INEC to conduct the said election was unnecessary and I further informed him that I speak as a national stakeholder in the democracy project of Nigeria and also as one person who was in the forefront of the credible non-governmental bodies that observed the 2011 general election. Our organization which champions the respect of the fundamental human rights of all persons was accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission as one of the local observers.
From a professional point of view, I am of the opinion that it is a political crime against humanity for the Independent National Election Commission to deny any community of Nigerians, either through act of willful commission or omission, their constitutional right to representation. As is well known in a democracy such as ours which is constitutional, the House of Assembly of any State is clothed with the powers to make laws for the good governance of the state. The framers of our ‘grund norm’ [supreme body of laws] made it in such a way that all component parts of the federating units at all levels of our geo-political spread, are adequately represented at both the House of Representatives at the National Level and state House of Assembly. In section 100(1) of the constitution as amended, the power of a House of Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by the House of Assembly and, except as otherwise provided by this assented to by the Governor.
What this section of the law means symbolically is that the fundamental duty of the members of the State House of Assembly is to make good laws for the betterment of the society and all communities ought to be represented as of constitutional right or else it would amount to grave breach of the civil and political Right of such people. In Imo state, the people of Oguta State constituency have never enjoyed their constitutional right of representation. When our attention as a leading civil society group was drawn to this grave abuse of the fundamental human rights of the entire people of Oguta State Constituency, we decided to intervene by way of advocacy so that the National leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission can very quickly effect remedy to this gross and subsisting breach of these basic constitutional rights of the Oguta People who are some of the most vibrant, educationally advanced and very patriotic Nigerians.
We have extensively held consultative sessions with respected persons from Oguta State constituency and we have come out with the general impression that Oguta people are not happy that they are apparently left out in the political scheme of things due to the failure and/or refusal of the electoral umpire to conduct a state constituency poll among the accredited and elected candidates of the registered political parties as a matter of urgency because one clear year is gone and yet Oguta interest is not represented and protected in the Imo State House of Assembly due to no fault of theirs. INEC should quickly conduct the state constituency election in Oguta so that the people can very freely exercise their franchise and elect one of their sons and/or daughter to competently represent their interest in the Imo State House of Assembly which is one year today after 2011 general election that brought them to office. Professor Attahiru Jega should not go around the World pontificating that the commission did a good job in 2011 when some persons in Nigeria have been unfortunately left out and shortchanged in the general scheme of things due to the illegality of the electoral umpire that seems to be dancing to a tune of some powerful political forces.
Factually speaking, the People of the constituency are increasingly agitated that the controversy that initially characterized the Governorship poll in Imo State when their State Constituency became a focal point has been satisfactorily resolved with the All Progressive Grand Alliance Candidate Chief Rochas Owele Okorocha emerging as the legally elected and inaugurated Imo State Governor for one year now but yet they are not allowed to elect their own representative in the Imo State House of Assembly. The people of Oguta are worried that they are systematically short changed by the Independent National Electoral Commission and as lovers of democracy have decided not to take the law into their hands but are rather relying on the use of civil means to actualize their constitutional right of getting one of their own into the Imo state House of Assembly so that they can properly key in into the transformational, developmental agenda that is going on in Imo State.
The people of Oguta wonder daily that for the Governorship candidates who could be said to be the real actors in the feud that followed the last Governorship poll have all but had their legal challenge settled up to the highest court in the land but yet INEC has failed to conduct state constituency election in Oguta and as it is there is no legal impediment to the conduct of the said election. One question that emerged from all of this is why Oguta people are now treated as the sacrificial lambs, in the entire fracas because it no longer a case of when two elephants fights and the grass suffers since all political litigations that followed the last year’s Governorship election have been decided by the Supreme Court and the same final court of the land has made a considered pronouncement that there has to be an election in Oguta since from evidence adduced before them there was no evidence to the contrary. What could have been total political warfare between two great elephants: Governor Okorocha and his predecessor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, is now the problem of four Oguta state Assembly candidates namely: Walter Uzonwanne (All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA); Eugene Dibiagwu (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP); Henry Igbomezie (Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN) and Frank Ugboma (All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP). These four gentlemen now have their fate literary hanging in the balance since then and each passing day is so very traumatic to them.
In a certified copy of the judgment of the Tribunal presided over by Justice E. N. Kpojime (Chairman), Justice M. I. Sirajo and Justice E. O. Osinuga as members, which was delivered on November 12th, 2011 which is a public document, it was held that “there was no evidence from the petitioner (PDP) that the results which it has tendered before this Tribunal concerning this local government (Oguta) were generated from any lawful election conducted by the 3rd respondent (INEC) on the 26th April, 2011. We therefore hold that the petitioner has not proved its allegations that election took place in Oguta local government area on the 26th April, 2011, except in the 40 listed polling units.
Conversely, the Supreme Court through the leading but unanimous judgment of Justice Ngwuta stated: “For the avoidance of doubt and to forestall a rush to the court for interpretation of, or consequential order arising from, the judgment or both, I hasten to add that the judgment of the Election Petition Tribunal in Imo State delivered on 12th November, 2011 is subsisting”. This seems to have sealed all the problems concerning the election, but that was not to be in the weird thinking of certain forces within INEC that are bent on creating further damaging public image problem for INEC.
Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko