By Elizabeth Chukwuma
The last may not have been heard about the Imo West Senatorial district election in south east Nigeria. between last February and now, the election had been under dispute on who is the real winner. Rochas Okorocha, a former governor of the state, who many believed had ruled the state for eight years as an Emperor , claimed he won the election and ought to have been issued his Certificate of Return by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to join other elected Senators who had been issued their Certificates in the hallowed. Chamber. At least he would participated in casting his one vote to decide who becomes the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President Tuesday, June 11, 2019.
Note that Innocent Ibeabuchi, a Professor, and the Imo West Senatorial district Returning Officer, had petitioned Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and the Chairman of the Commission that he had declared the former governor as the winner duress. According to him,” he had showed up at the collation centre and said that he must be declared the winner , threatening they will not leave the place until it is done”. The Professor had expected the security agencies personnel who were at the scene to intervene to save the situation from degenerating but he disclosed that ”they simply did not do anything” as the electoral umpire officials have no option but to choose between their own lives and the governor’s victory and they subsequently choose the later.
He had forwarded the photograph of the attach on the INEC officials to the Headquarters, which was said to have been investigated and found to be true. It was not surprising why the Commission refused to the former the Certificate of Return but declared Jones Onereri, the People’s Democratic Candidate in the election in the election as the winner. The Commission may not have given the Certificate to the PDP, Cadidate because of a Court ruling in Owerri, the state Capital , that enjoined the government agency not to isuue the Certificate to any of the Candidates claiming victory in the election.
This may have strengthened the resolved of the Commission not to issue the Certificate to any of them. Rochas Anayo Ehelbert Okorocha, which was the name used in contesting the election may have resorted to plan B when it became obvious that he may not get the Certificate by taking the case to a Federal High Cour in Abujat , presided over in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, presided over by Justice Okon Abang. He got it right. This is because the Court on Friday, June 7, 2019, the Court ordered INEC to issue a Certificate of Return to him, having been declared the winner of the February 23, 2019, Senatorial election in Imo West.
The Commission may have been hesitant to respond to the Court immediately because of its insistence tht the governor engaged in akward actions to obtain the favourable results based on the photograph before it which Okorocha had described as fake.
Yakubu, the INEC, may have known the implication of not complying with the Federal High Court order that he quickly called for a Management meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, to take a decision on the Court order and the next line of action to be followed on the matter. The Commission had yielded to the Court order and quickly presented the former Imo state governor his Certificate of Return as Senator -elect of Imo West Senatorial district. Another decision that was said to have been held at the top level INEC meeting was to appeal against the Abang Judgment, an indication that the case may drag on to the Supreme Court as did the case of Zamfara state where all the APC elected NASS, state House of Assembly members and the governor elect were disqualified on the ground that there was no valid election and victory awarded to PDP and other parties Candidate who came second during the election.
The Commission may have bowed to the Court order to issue the a Certificate of Return to Okorocha but expresses concern about the likely consequences of the Abang judgment for the country electoral process and nascent democracy ”as” people who seek elective offices could perceive the Judgment an irrelevance of due process and acting within the law” . The Commission fears that ”’ some of them could in the future regard laid down process, including voting arm themselves and mobilise thugs and compel Returning officers to declare them elected, irrespective of the true outcomes of the election”.
The major worry of Yakubu and his management team was that the Court Judgment has made it increasingly difficult for the Commission to convince its officials that they are safe to carry out their legitimate functions without fear of being harassed, held to ransom or visited with bodily harm. Although, INEC, has bowed to Court orders to present Okorocha a Certificate of Return as Senator-elect, Imo West, despite the weight allegations of wrong doing against him at the Collation Center,” it has restated it commitment to due process and obedience to the rule of law in its dealings with all parties and Candidates, an indication that the former governor’s stay in the Senate will be short-lived if it wins its appeal in the Supreme Court. ”We will not waiver in our determination to enthrone credible electoral process in the country”, the Commission insists.
An elated Okorocha has said that INEC, issuing him a
He may have shot himself on the leg when he
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