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The Politics of Wike’s Supreme Court Victory

By Uche Igwe

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – I have just been informed that the Nigerian Supreme Court has upheld and affirmed the PDP candidate in the last governorship election, Mr Nyesom Wike as a validly elected governor. As the apex court of the land, that ruling lays to rest a protracted legal battle between him and the candidate of the rival All Progressives Congress, Dr. Dakuku Adolphus Peterside. So in the eyes of the law, Nyesom Ezubunwo Wike remains the governor of Rivers State till further notice. To many Nigerians who keenly observed the process – including the PDP faithfuls in the state, that verdict came as a big shock. Both the elections petitions tribunal and the Appeal Court had earlier ruled that the elections in that state were fraught with a lot of irregularities and ordered a re-run. However the Justices of the Supreme Court felt otherwise and that is final. Many international observers and journalists who visited the state during the elections unanimously reported several cases of violence and electoral malpractices. Even the monitoring team sent from INEC concurred that the elections neither complied with stipulated regulations issued by INEC and nor the electoral act.

From the tumultuous celebrations that has been going on in Port Harcourt, it is obvious that even Governor Wike and his supporters did not see his victory coming. In the last few weeks he has been openly aggressive in trying to hit the ground running with new projects to garner support. He hastily constituted his cabinet and appointed many political aides across the state ostensibly to spread his political influence. His visibility in the social media increased substantially as someone preparing to face elections. Even his utterances during his outings gave him away as someone who had already started campaigning for a re-run. From the reports submitted by the International Observers like the European Union and the British High Commission, no one will ever imagine that such an election will have any chance of legal survival but here we are.  Imagine that recently the governor was said to have influenced the resignation of a former speaker Ikuiyi Owaji-Ibani and the emergence of his loyalist Hon Adams Dabotorudima, as the new one. Clearly, that action was taken in anticipation of a possible removal by the courts. The expectation was that if the Supreme Court ruling went the other way, the new Speaker should be able to hold brief as Acting Governor until fresh elections are conducted.

The Supreme Court promised to release their reasons for that judgement on the 12th of February. While it is wrong to pre-empt them, it is important to examine the implications on the politics of Rivers State in particular and Niger Delta in general. The first is that a majority of the elections conducted in Rivers State including those for Senate, House of Representatives and even the House of Assembly (conducted the same day as the guber) were all cancelled and are going for a re-run. The simple question any inquisitive person will ask is why an exception was made for the gubernatorial elections and not others? One of the reasons put forward during the litigation was the fact that the card reader was not used as recommended by INEC. Now it is either that those card reader deployed in the state grossly malfunctioned or were deliberately sabotaged all over the state. How can INEC overlook a regulation that they issued themselves?

There are already some sections of the media who are insinuating that the reasons that necessitated the ruling could be security related. They are trying to associate the ruling to some pedestrian intelligence that some hoodlums were planning to unleash terror on residents of the garden city if the ruling went another way. To them, the Supreme Court might have acted to avert impending bloodshed in Rivers State. They wanted peace to reign. Really.  I cannot make any comment until it is validated by the right quarters. However the last time I checked the role of the Supreme Court is to interpret the law and not to enforce it. If by any chance their mandate have been extended then what will be the role of the Police, Army, Department of Security Services and others.

When did issues like one person signing as ward collation officer for ten wards, total number of accredited persons in two elections that held the same day turning out to be different, diversion and destruction of electoral materials, unavailability of results sheets and violence been reduced to the level of insignificant electoral offences? What about the other inconsistencies that made it look like the results were written in the backyard? Why abandon the card reader? The introduction of the card reader brightened the hopes of a potential sanity into the Nigerian electoral process. Does it mean that the whole efforts and resources expended in that reform efforts the last time have been consumed by legal gymnastics? Some will say that there is a difference between public opinion and legal opinion but let us leave it there.

On a positive note, what the PDP victory in Rivers State means is that the Niger Delta region can be said to have become the party’s stronghold. With the recent victory in Bayelsa, one will imagine that the party is consolidating. In a few days, the Supreme Court will rule in Akwa Ibom State and there are heightened fears that it may still go the way of Rivers. If that happens then any hope of reviving the party from its near comatose state will have to start from the region.

I do not want to comment on several layers of conspiracy theories flying around.  There are those that suggest that the Supreme Court ruling is acceptable if only to clip the political wings of the former Governor of Rivers State and now transportation Minister, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. I do not also want to bother about the well-known antecedents of the Governor Wike lest you accuse me of being too personal. I guess that Rivers people know who has been enthroned as their governor and they should live with it.  However let the truth be told. This verdict of the Supreme Court and the reasons they will give to back it up may become a turning point in how the Nigerian public will perceive the apex court of the land in years to come. If it is true that many people were murdered during that elections. If it is true that there were sporadic gunshots are stockpiles of weapons in the state. Can there be peace without justice?  What it means is that the verdict has either postponed the doomsday or added a new paragraph in our electoral lexicon – that you can simply shoot your way to power as much as you like as far as you can find your way around to court to get validation.



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