In the next few hours, the Imo State Governorship election petition tribunal will deliver what has been termed a landmark judgment in the tussle over who is the authentic governor of the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had on March 11 declared Emeka Ihedioha of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state by 273,404 votes to defeat his closest rival, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance, (AA), who polled 190,364 votes, Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, polled 114,676 followed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who scored 96,458 votes.
However few weeks later the trio of Nwosu, Araraume and Uzodinma headed to the tribunal claiming that Ihedioha did not get the required votes to warrant his declaration as the governor of the state.
Nwosu canvassed his argument on the fact that Ihedioha did not get the required constitutional spread of one quarter of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 27 local government areas of the state, which is 18.
He said that Ihedioha could only make it in nine local government areas.
Moreover he also averred that the votes Ihedioha got in three local government areas of Aboh, Ahiazu and Ezinihitte Mbaise, were inflated as the votes did not tall with the number of registered voters.
He therefore urged the tribunal to either declare him the winner or order a supplementary election between him as the runner-up and the declared winner.
Araraume in his own petition claimed that the election was not conducted in compliance with the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act as amended and urged INEC to conduct a fresh governorship election in the state, in compliance with the relevant laws.
He claimed that all the votes from Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ehime Mbano and 17 other local government areas of the states, were unlawful votes and that there were massive hijacking and diversion of ballot papers and other electoral materials to places other than polling units.
Araraume also alleged that booklets of ballot papers were massively thumb-printed by agents of the PDP in favour of Ihedohia in the affected local government areas. He asked the electoral body to order a fresh election in the state.
Uzodinma, on the third angle of the petition, wants the tribunal to declare him as the winner, coming from his fourth position in the election. He claimed that INEC failed to record for him the correct number of votes he garnered at the election and even called as his witness a senior police officer, who testified that the results from 388 polling units were not recorded for Uzodinma.
However, having canvassed all these arguments, which they adopted on September 8, all eyes are on the tribunal to determine which side the pendulum of justice wold swing to. Since the tribunal started, there had been apprehension in the state, especially after the conclusion of the hearing.
The anxiety was further heightened by the announcement of the date for the judgment.
But political watchers are wondering why the judgment venue was shifted to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
However, sources at the tribunal and the state police command told our correspondent that the tensed situation in the state necessitated the shift.
According to the source, it became a big cause for worry when the state government ordered the arrest of former governor Rochas Okorocha.
It was also gathered that the justices of the tribunal expressed worry about their personal safety.
All sides are however upbeat about the prospect of victory in today’s verdict. A Special Assistant to Ihedioha on Research and Documentation, Ogu Bundu Nwadike, said that what the governor achieved at the election would be re-enacted at the tribunal today.
He said that the ruling party is the least perturbed and can go to sleep with the outcome of the judgment.
He said that with about 100,000 votes ahead of the closest loser, the winners proved that the party and the candidate are truly the most popular, the most acceptable, the most credible and the most popular candidate.
Nwadike said, “At the field of the election proper, on Saturday, March 9, 2019 the people of Imo State, in their resolute resolution, trooped out to retrieve their State from the vice grips of the enemies that connived, conspired and planned to perpetually hold the State to ransom and the people to subjugation.
Uzodinma’s media adviser, Declan Emelumba, expressed hope that his principal will be declared the winner. He said, “We are very optimistic evil done and we trust that all the injustices done during the election will be rectified.”