…Just Thinking Aloud!
The frenzy moment following the verdict by the Delta State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting at Asaba, reaffirming the declaration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as the winner of the April 11 governorship election may be gradually subsiding.
However, the judgement which many legal and political analyst have described as controversial have thrown up many unanswered questions and unresolved puzzles’ surrounding the grounds which the tribunal judges relied upon to dismiss the APC and LP petitions for being incompetent. Whereas, the Rivers state tribunal on the same grounds of over voting, improper and non-use of Card Reader for accreditation and other electoral irregularities nullified the governorship election in Rivers state.
Unlike Rivers and Akwa-Ibom states, shockingly the APC and LP petitions were dismissed based merely on technicalities’, without taking into account facts and evidence before the tribunal.
The events that played out, before, during and after the judgement of all the panels in Delta State have made curious minds to start questioning, why the Delta elections which was reportedly marred by electoral irregularities, have now became the model for credible elections in Nigeria, where no single polling unit result was upturned, or a rerun ordered in any polling unit or ward across Delta state, as was done in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.
Haba! When did Delta state become the model for credible elections in Nigeria; that the entire panels that sat in the state could not see any flaw or observe any noncompliance in the conduct of the elections in the spirit and letter of the Electoral Act?
To many Deltans, this is incredible and too good to be true, leading credence to the media reports that the Delta tribunal judgments were auctioned to a bidder who bargained on behalf of the PDP and bought the judgments wholesale in order to dismiss all the suits of opposition candidates before the tribunal, including that of some PDP candidate to as scapegoats.
It is hard to believe that it’s a mere coincidence that Gov. Okowa’s lawyer allegedly lost about N44.6million about 4days to the tribunal judgement in his hotel room at Asaba, as was reported in Nations Newspapers, till date, neither Okowa, his party, or his lawyer has come out to debunk the report.
What would Okowa’s lawyer be doing with N44.6m in a hotel room in this era of CBN’s cashless policy if not that the money could be part of the leftover of the N3billion allegedly sourced by the PDP and Okowa to compromise the panel members as was reported in the media.
Was it a coincidence that an online media SaharaReporters, reported on October 25, a day before the tribunal judgement reported that, “The Chief Judge of Delta State, has compromised at least two of the three members of the tribunal handling governorship, House of Assembly and National Assembly elections petitions in the state”?
According to the report, “the Chief Judge invited all the tribunal judges handling election petitions in Delta State to Port Harcourt, capital of Rivers State. Two of the three judges accepted the invitation, with the chairman, Justice Nasiru Gunmi, holding out, and then allegedly shared N3 billion provided by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa between the judges. Noting that it was unclear if the chairman of the tribunal accepted any share of the bribe.”
The report further stated that, “the compromised tribunal panel members agreed to deliver favorable judgments validating all elections in which candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were declared winners. In addition, the tribunal consented to uphold electoral victories of some PDP-leaning candidates who ran on other parties the tickets.
The report added that, “the deal would also favor those politicians who defected from the PDP to contest elections on the ticket of other parties and other opposition candidates. However, it is on record that these defectors are still known to be members of the PDP and by upholding their elections, the tribunal hopes not to raise eyebrows.”
It was further alleged in the report that N3 billion from the N5 billion approved and released by the Governor to the chairman of ULO, the construction company handling the upgrade of the Asaba International Airport, upgrade was allegedly used to buy the wholesale judgement.
Meanwhile, two weeks to the delivering of its judgement, a political pressure group in the state, Hope Delta Democratic Movement (HDDM), also raise an alarm alleging that the PDP and Governor Okowa were attempting to compromise the tribunal panel members.
The unresolved puzzle is how come their Lordships found the courage to agree with the petitioners that Card Readers formed an integral part of the Accreditation Process of the election and that the non-adherence or improper use of the Card Readers is an unlawful violation sufficient to vitiate the outcome of the election.
Nevertheless, would rather look at the failure of INEC to produce Card Reader reports for about 200 Polling Units as sufficient ground to sustain the election where there were available Card Reports for 3,400 Polling Units confirm over-voting. To an independent observer, the absence of Card Reader reports for 6% of the units is insufficient to validate negative reports confirming beyond doubt that there was over-voting in 94% of the polling units where the election is disputed.
> But rather, dwell on mere excuse that INEC subpoena witness could not confirm under cross-examination that all accreditation reports were transferred to the central sever, even when she told the tribunal under oath that INEC headquarters had directed field officers to upload to the central server all accreditation record at least six weeks after the election, the panel chose to reward those who subverted the process by bypassing the use of Card Reader for accreditation as earlier directed by INEC, and therefore had no data to upload.
> A night before the tribunal judgement it was also reported that the PDP and the governor’s aides in the state converged at the Government House, Asaba were they where pumping champagne and celebrating their victory ahead of the verdict the next day.
While the ruling was being read out, a former state PDP youth leader and aide to Governor Okowa was alleged to have boasted that LP and APC would get some of other relief sought for, but they (PDP) would carry the day at the end.
Could this be as a result of them been privy to the outcome of the verdict, as was alleged that the judgement was allegedly written by the Delta state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, and handed over to the three man panel led and by the chairman of the panel, Justice Nasir Gunmi, to just read out as was reported by SaharaReporters after the judgement was delivered?
Considering the weight of these allegations which have not been debunked or refuted, by the PDP, Okowa and other actors fingered in the alleged mortgage of justice in the State, political watchers are of the view that security and anti-graft agencies should be on hand to beam their search light on all tribunal panel members that served in Delta state.
They also believe that all progressive Deltans should close rank and unite to free the state from the iron-grip of the Ibori’s political dynasty that have in the past 16years spent more in buying justice than for developmental project, which has not allowed anyone to get justice in electoral cases in Delta state.
By Onitsha Shedrack,