By Simeon Nwakaudu
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 states 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 4442 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 part