The logjam in Abia State over who is the governor could have been avoided, if the Federal High Court, the parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had not been in an unnecessary haste. While we cannot comment on who is right or wrong between the contending parties in the suit, we think that in such a sensitive matter as to who is the duly elected governor of a state, the electoral commission and the parties should have patiently waited for the opinion of the highest court of the land, if any of the parties pursues that process.
For reasons best known to the court, presided over by Justice Okon Abang, the court made a post-haste order compelling INEC to immediately issue a certificate of return to the beneficiary of the judgment, as if there is no higher court, before which the judgment can be tested. The judge also went ahead to sign and hand over the certified true copy of the judgment, even when the time limited for possible appeal by the losing party had not elapsed. Of course as lay men, we thought that the reason for allowing such period to elapse before the process of execution is initiated is to allow parties to enjoy their constitutional right of appeal.
INEC, on its part, acted suspiciously by issuing the court ordered certificate of return, even when a notice of appeal had been served on the commission. This strange behaviour was compounded by the initial denial of the commission that there was no proper service of the notice of appeal, despite the alleged service on the legal department of the commission. Strangely, INEC reportedly changed the story, with the commission claiming that though it was served the notice of appeal, the commission was not also served a motion for stay of proceeding.
If these reports in the media are correct, then the commission in our view did not act as a disinterested party as it should in the matter. The claim by INEC’s national commissioner in charge of the south east, Mr Lawrence Nwuruku, that it did not want to be charged with contempt if it refused to issue the certificate of return immediately, flies in the face of what the commission had done elsewhere. We refer to Anambra State, where the commission has been prevaricating on the handing over of certificate of return to some lawmakers, for which the commission is now threatened by a contempt proceeding.
On his part, with a certificate in hand, the court declared the beneficiary of the 2015 gubernatorial election, Samson Ogah, triumphantly set out for Umuahia, the capital of Abia, to upstage the sitting governor, even when he has been served a notice of appeal, and a motion for stay of execution. But for another strange intervention by a state high court in Abia State, effectively rendering the judgment of the federal high court impossible to execute, Mr Ogah and his party were willing to forcefully take over the seat of power, despite the pending appeal.
Now that an appeal has been lodged, the parties should maintain the status quo, until the final determination by the highest court of the land, that is, if any of the parties wishes to test his rights there. The restraint also encouraged by the security agencies and the federal attorney general, to forestall the degeneration into anarchy is commendable.
In the meantime, we urge the appeal court to expeditiously deal with the matter, so that normalcy can return to the state, while the parties and the electoral commission must show interest, by their conduct, in the sustenance of our fledgling democracy.
- Credit: http://thenationonlineng.net