The native connectivity between democracy and judiciary in any society has been succinctly established by the rather protracted and prolonged legal hostilities among external and internal godfathers and godsons, squabbling over who produces the “candidate” and who emerges the “direct beneficiary” of the December 5, 2020 Imo North Senatorial Bye-election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on December 6, 2020 decided that the bye-election was won by the All Progressives Congress (APC) without declaring any candidate as the direct beneficiary, leaving many people asking if political parties can win elections without candidates.
It has been averred that it’s for the lacks, lags, lapses and limitations of the Courts that democracy suffers acute go-slow that cripples its very raison d’etre, creating avoidable lacuna that put on the throes the appropriate delivery of dividends of democracy, with the electorates being the biggest losers of returns on their huge investments in democracy.
For instance, before, during, and now over one hundred days after the afore-stated bye-election, camps of the APC have been in a tug-of-war over the person between Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Mr. Frank Ibezim, who’ll become the APC “candidate” of “direct beneficiary” of the party’s purported “victory” in the bye-election.
The matter has lately been further encumbered with the recourse by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo State with their candidate in the bye-election, Distinguished Chief Emmanuel Okewulonu, to the Election Petitions Tribunal opened for aggrieved parties and their candidates.
As it is now, there are countless lawsuits on the bye-election by the APC, which hamper and hinder the progress of democracy with regards to the Okigwe North bye-election, with the good people of Okigwe Zone enduring lack of representation in the Senate for over one full year now and still counting.
From the post-party-primary litigations among the APC aspirants, and with suits unresolved, two Courts, a Federal High Court, and the Court of Appeal disqualified Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Mr. Frank Ibezim on the eve of the bye-election on December 4, 2020.
The former was disqualified for not winning the primary election conducted by the party, the latter for the committing the felony of perjury by vice of presenting questionable academic certificates to INEC.
For that surprising ruling by the Courts, APC hadn’t any candidate for the bye-election the next day, December 5, 2020 as reflected in the official INEC list of candidates for the election. In the row and columns for the name of the APC candidate were left open without any name.
It’s the views of some pundits that after the December 4, 2020 disqualification of both Senator Ifeanyi Araraume and Mr. Frank Ibezim, and with the confirmation of that fact by INEC, APC as shouldn’t have been accepted by INEC as a participant in the bye-election.
At the end of the voting, however, the great expectations of political pundits was that INEC would without let or hindrance expressly declare PDP winner of the bye-election and Distinguished Chief Emmanuel Okewulonu as the direct beneficiary, based on the discrepancies in the qualifications of the two APC aspirants, Araraume and Ibezim.
But that wasn’t to be as INEC went to deliver an abnormal declaration of APC as winner of bye-election, having scored about 36,000 votes against its closest rival, PDP, which garnered about 31,000 votes.
The next thing that followed was high uproar and strong disagreement by PDP and concerned citizens over the wrong action and indeed inaction of INEC declaration APC winner of the bye-election, without declaring the direct beneficiary of the win.
Fielding two aspirants by APC, so to say, was underscored by many people as the awkward signal that democracy was facing a very big litmus test that was set by INEC and the very variable and flexible judiciary.
It’s such now that the observable character of the APC political warlords in the Courts is that as Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is declared the “APC’s candidate” in the morning, a Court will counter him and declare Mr. Frank Ibezim the “APC’s candidate” in the evening of the same day.
In one of such absurdities of the APC, a High Court over-ruled the Supreme Court, and issued a fresh order that countered an order of the Supreme Court! It’s as bad as that!
That has been the prevailing experience with the Okigwe North bye-election, which has stalled the declaration of the winner of the bye-election till date, sustaining Okigwe Zone as the only Senatorial District without a Senator in the Senate.
Expectedly, the PDP has also made efforts to deploy litigations and counter-litigations to resist the abnormalities in observed in the judiciary. The ultimate being its recourse to the Election Petitions Tribunal that was set up for the bye-election
The unfortunate situations at the Courts have been interpreted by some pundits as an unlawful and illegal ploy to manufacture an illegal candidate for APC, which didn’t have any candidate on the Election Day.
Recently, an Abuja Court gave an order for INEC to issue the Certificate of Return to Araraume as winner of the bye-election. But before anyone could spell “Order” another High Court in Owerri on the same day issued a counter-order stopping INEC from issuing the Certificate of Return to Araraume.
The entire legal hostilities by the APC leaders, godfathers and godsons, Araraume and Ibezim specifically, have taken the shine away from the bye-election, robbed it of credibility, and exposed APC in poor light as power mongering and power rustling adventurists.
It still beats imagination, questions comprehensibility, and creates enough opprobrium among the people, particularly the good people of Okigwe Zone, who have been denied representation in the Senate for over a calendar year.
Many people feel that since it’s proven beyond reasonable doubts that APC didn’t have any candidate in the election, all the votes it garnered in the bye-election were inconsequential wasted, voided votes.
Hence, the popular opinion of a rather large number of respondents is that PDP and Distinguished Chief Emmanuel Okewulonu should have been declared winner of the bye-election, since they didn’t have any encumbering issues, and came second on the winners’ table.
And that proposition has been accorded impetus by the popular opinion among critics and analysts, which argue that the most legally reasonable thing to do under the circumstance would be for INEC to declare PDP and Distinguished Chief Emmanuel Okewulonu as winner of the Imo North Senatorial Bye-election and direct beneficiary of the win, respectively and collectively.
It’s the reasoning of many pundits that the wangling in legal forests seeking a Made-in-Supreme Court candidate for APC isn’t only an abuse of legalism, but also a severe insult on democracy.
They argue that the judicial support of such self-help by APC is very injurious to democracy, causing hurt and harm to the practice and the practitioners alike. Manufacturing candidates for parties without candidates in an election isn’t part of the constitutionally stipulated terms of reference of the Nigerian democracy.
The good advice under the circumstance would, therefore, be for the Supreme Court to issue a final ruling that’ll be truly final, that’ll re-establish the earlier rulings by Courts, which remains that APC hadn’t any candidate in the bye-election.
Then, INEC should save its face and do needful by announcing PDP winner and Distinguished Chief Emmanuel Okewulonu, the direct beneficiary of the victory. The world is watching!
*Ogubundu Nwadike, is the State Publicity Secretary, Imo PDP.