By CHUKS Ofurum
Arguably, it is crunch time in Imo state. It has been coming for quite some time, but it has now arrived with fearsome fury. It exempts no one.
A malignant downpour does not spare anybody, the lords and the lorded over. In any case, you cannot purchase dizziness and start complaining of fuzziness. In order to rise from its current prostrate position, Imo state requires maximum efforts from all stakeholders: the state, the political society and the teeming masses either in antagonistic cooperation or paradoxical complicity or something more daring and devastating in the long run. It is not a situation for hoary exhortations.
They will fall on deaf ears. But there is no way we can come to terms with the dismal plight of the state without confronting the origins of the current phase of the crisis and without coming to grips with the unfailing and prompt recurrence of some of its malignant manifeststions.
Chief among this is the stalemate in the 2019 governorship election where three (3) results allegedly from INEC are being bandied in the Imo State Guber Election Petition Tribunal. INEC declared the candidate of PDP, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha as winner of the election which the candidates of AA, APC and APGA, Ugwumba Uche Nwosu, Hope Uzodinma and Senator Ifeanyi Araraume respectively are challenging at the Tribunal alleging rigging, non meeting up of the constitutional provision of 25% in 2/3 of the LGAs, non compliance to the electoral guidelines, wrong mathematical tabulations, among others.
We know that Elections are primarily conducted at the booth level and results declared in the same polling unit (Form EC8A), while collation takes place at the ward level. After the collation at the wards, the Collation Officers (COs) will proceed to the LGA Returning Officer (RO) who will in turn declare the results at the LGA (Form EC8C) before proceeding to the state Collation Centre (SCC). There are the normal electoral movement prescribed by the laws of both the Electoral Act and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. But unfortunately, what took place on the 9th of March can only be described as a complete charade and a deliberate affront to constitutionality.
The 9th of March, 2019, will remain a watershed in the political history of Imo state. In fact, it has exposed the worst political deceit and brought to the fore, the extent politicians and their cohorts are willing to go in the pursuit of political power. We cannot feign ignorance of what exactly happened on the 9th of March because it affects all of us.
But what we must find out are ways of redeeming the bad situation and save the state of this parlous image. It is all but certain that the next few weeks before the fateful day of judgement of the Imo state Guber Election Petition Tribunal, will be pockmarked by intensive lobbyings, intrigues and bitter wranglings between opposing parties and perhaps open, provocative plots by the current state government.
It is also certain that the ruling PDP will bare all fangs daring anybody. Faced with a Hobson’s choice, a choice the judicious will find very unpleasant to make, perhaps the most unpleasant since the founding of Imo state, Imolites will hold their hearts in their hands and hope for the best. It has been noted that in an organic crisis of a state, once nationalists forces appear too weak, too enfeebled and disoriented to impose a solution on a crisis, it will be done for them by sectional and regionalist forces claiming to act on behalf of the entire society.
Given the current balance of forces and the hegemonic powers in contention, it will then amount to a foolish error to confuse strategic deployment of offensive means with mere tactical manoeuvres on the chessboard. So unable and unwilling to resolve the political logjam, the Imo political elite especially the combatants, will resort in bribing members of the tribunal to thwart justice. Already, there are rumours making rounds that a particular candidate has released huge sums of money to this regard. That is why patriotism demands that we invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to monitor what is going on concerning the Imo state Guber Election Petition Tribunal. Not that we are questioning the integrity of the Judges of the tribunal, the presence of the EFCC will deter the candidates and their parties from compromising the Judges. Not only that, their presence will add some credibility to the proceedings of the tribunal and eventual pronouncements, and will equally restore the confidence of the people on the judiciary. It is no gainsaying the fact that the credibility of Judges are at stake in the Imo case.
What remains here is to see whether men of the Imo state Guber election petition Tribunal, will find the residual courage, the strength of character and the nobility of patriotic purpose to do the needful and save the judiciary from indignity. However, the case before the tribunal is very simple. With the avalanche of evidences before it, the Tribunal has two options: uphold the result as announced by INEC or cancel the entire process and order for another election. Whichever way it goes, the Tribunal judges would have satisfied their conscience that they did their best in this regard.