It is no longer news that
the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr John Odigie-Oyegun publicly lamented the loss of Rivers State by his party at the Supreme Court . The APC National Chairman went ahead to impugn the integrity of the Apex Court, questioning the rationale for the landmark decision that reinstated the confidence Nigerians have in the judiciary.
Like every other Nigerian, I cannot pretend not to know why Mr John Odigie-Oyegun is shedding tears profusely. The APC Chieftain explained it himself. It’s all about the money. The resources of Rivers State.
Hear Odigie-Oyegun : “We have lost very important resource-rich state to the PDP.
No matter how crude oil prices have fallen, it is still the most important revenue earner for the country.”
He was shocked that the Supreme Court chose to uphold the Rule of Law in the election petition filed by the Rivers APC rather than dance to the tunes of propaganda and falsehood circulated by the party. For Rivers State, the truth prevailed and the will of the good people of the state affirmed by the judicial process.
Though Mr Odigie-Oyegun is older than myself, I have a duty to place the records before him. I believe that his guests misled him with lies, hence, his unfounded conclusion on the Rivers State Governorship Election.
There were two key issues formulated by the Rivers APC in their petition against the election of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike. First, the Rivers State APC complained of over-voting, claiming that the number of votes returned by INEC were in excess of the number of those accredited via card readers. Secondly, the Rivers APC alleged that the governorship election was marred by violence across the 4,442 polling units of the state.
Mr APC National Chairman, with due respect, your party members failed to prove these two allegations. They merely relied on documentary hearsay and human hearsay.
The issue of accreditation for elections in Nigeria is clearly spelt out in the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. Section 49 (1 & 2) are unambiguous. I recommend it to Mr John Odigie-Oyegun. They read”, A person intending to vote with his voter’s card, shall present himself to a Presiding Officer at the polling unit in the constituency in which his name is registered with his voter’s card.”The presiding officer shall on being satisfied that the name of the person is on the register of voters, issue him a ballot paper and indicate on the register that the person has voted”.
Therefore, the critical factor in an accreditation process is the voter register.
The INEC guideline which introduced the card reader was only meant to assist the accreditation process. In Rivers State, both card reader and manual accreditation took place like other states.
At the tribunal, the Rivers State PDP tendered the incident forms used for the manual accreditation and all the voters registers used for the 4442 polling units in the state. The Rivers APC restricted themselves to the card reader accreditation process. In the Lagos State Governorship Election Dispute between Jimi Agbaje (PDP) and Governor Akinwunmi Ambode (APC), the Appeal Court held that the card reader cannot have a life of its own. Indeed, at the Supreme Court on January 27, it was duly established during the adoption of briefs that the INEC guideline cannot be superior to the Electoral Act.
At the Appeal Court, Lagos Division, resolving the card reader issue in APC’s favour, Justice Festus Ogbunya held: “The paragraph (13b) displays a vitriolic attack on the irregularities germinating from the improper or non-use of the smart card readers in the polling units.
“As it is, it has no life of its own as a ground. It endeavours to introduce the defects in the use of smart card readers. The evolution of the concept of smart card reader is a familiar one. It came to being during the last general election. On this score, it is a nascent procedure injected into our infant and fledgling electoral system to ensure credible and transparent election.
“The extant Electoral Act (2010) which predates the concept (of card reader) is not its parent or progenitor. Since it is not the progeny of the Electoral Act, fronting it as a ground to challenge any election does not have its (the Electoral Act’s) blessing, nay Section 138 (1) of it.
“Put simply, a petitioner cannot project the non-presence or improper use of smart card reader as a ground for questioning an election. It does not qualify as one”.
I know that Mr John Odigie-Oyegun would understand the above.
On the issue of several wild allegations of violence by the defeated Rivers State APC, they made no serious attempt to prove this at the courts. They swam in falsehood, propaganda and self deceit. Mr APC National Chairman, your party members made no attempt to call relevant witnesses to prove their allegations.
Out of the 4442 polling units in the state, your party members called only three voters. Of these three voters only one claimed that violence disrupted voting in his unit. Mr APC National Chairman would you have in all honesty nullified an election just on the basis of one polling unit out of 4442 polling units? The Supreme Court refused to be deceived by lies and propaganda.
Section 53 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended stipulates how to prove over voting. It is strictly on a polling unit by polling unit basis.
It reads: “Where the votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of the election in that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission where the result at that polling unit may affect the overall result in the constituency”.
Deciding the election petition filed by Senator Ucha against the election of former Governor Elechi of Ebonyi State in 2012, the Supreme Court declared: “The results declared by INEC are prima facie correct and the onus is on the petitioner to prove the contrary. Where a petitioner complains of non-compliance with provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), he has a duty to prove it polling unit by polling unit, ward by ward and the standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities and not on minimal proof. He must show figures that the adverse party was credited with as a result of the non-compliance, Forms EC8A, election materials not stamped/signed by Presiding Officers. He must establish that non-compliance was substantial, that it affected the election result”.
Barrister Kenneth Ikonne noted : “The principles relating to the proof of Over-voting, especially in relation to the indispensability of the voters register, weren’t set today; that aspect of our jurisprudence has long been settled.
Petitioners hinging their allegation of overvoting on disparities in the card reader accreditation data, and withholding the voters registers, were just being clever by half. They knew the registers would not bear out such allegations, and that was why they withheld them. A technology as erratic as the card reader cannot, for now, be the measure by which to test whether an election was conducted substantially in accordance with the law. Were it to be, not even one single election conducted with the card reader will pass the test of judicial scrutiny, including the presidential election where 2 million votes were cast in Kano, but where the card reader successfully read less than 400,000 voters cards. Who knows whether the card reader even successfully read the Chief Justice of Nigeria, since it was irreverent enough not to successfully read even former President Jonathan and his wife?”
I understand that the APC and her members are disappointed that their falsehood and propaganda have failed. But my candid advice to Mr APC National Chairman is for him to respect the judgment of the Supreme Court despite his pecuniary interest in Rivers State.
For the Rivers APC members, Governor Wike is a governor for all. He has extended his hand of friendship to them for the communal development of Rivers State.
Under the leadership of Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, there will be no orphans in the state. Nobody will be left out in the cold. There is no need for anyone to fear.
Governor Wike will continue to lead a state where the will of the people will continue to prevail. Therefore, those in Abuja begging for security and electoral infrastructure to rig the forthcoming legislative rerun elections should think again. Rivers State belongs to the people and nobody will send political armed robbers to come to the state to rob the people of their mandate.
Like Governor Wike said when he addressed civil servants, anyone who plans to rig elections in the State will be treated as an armed robber. Nigerians can now understand the governor’s message.
My last word to Mr John Odigie-Oyegun: the Supreme Court delivered judgments on several states and it applied same principles. Why must Mr APC National Chairman cry when the Rivers people are celebrating the judgment? This nefarious plot to financially rape Rivers State perpetually was why the Rivers people completely rejected the APC.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media