By Joe Iniodu
When Mr. Udom Emmanuel cast his anchor in the political arena in the later part of 2014 to bid for the governorship of Akwa Ibom State, he may have sought to align intimately with his faith as he decided to call his political vehicle “Divine Mandate”. Imbued with spiritual sanctity, “Divine Mandate” set sail as it contested the April 11 Governorship Election. In line with a scriptural caveat which posits that one with God is a majority, “Divine Mandate” was with God and also with the people of Akwa Ibom State. It was formidable, indefatigable, insurmountable and unconquerable. It went to the election and vanquished its opponents but the enemies driven by hate and other imponderables decided to put “Divine Mandate” on trial. It was a test of the spiritual efficacy of “Divine Mandate” which was duly discharged by the Supreme Court after it saw the need to reverse the judgments of the Tribunal and Appeal Courts.
The Divine Mandate which had an odor of sanctity had prosecuted the Pre-election Campaigns diligently, decently and decorously taking its message of sustenance of superior performance to all nooks and crannies of the State. The people latched on the Divine Mandate vehicle having been persuaded by the electrifying personality of the urbane and debonair banker whose passion for service is said to have been deducible for his successful banking career. Among his many selling points was his promise to surpass superior performance. Those who therefore witnessed the breathtaking and superlative performance of the Akpabio administration concluded that Akwa Ibom State would be having its golden era. Its people were willing and excited to be part of the epochal history that was coursing through the State in the hands of this harbinger of “Divine Mandate”. It was therefore not strange when people filed out in their numbers on that April 11, 2015 to cast their votes for the one God had sent to continue the bold strides of developing the state.
Just as the Holy Book posits that, “some have eyes but do not see”, many failed to see this providential gift that God once again had graciously sent to our dear State. They continued to grope leaving the party of hope to that of doom. Led by desperation, they employed all manners of political shenanigans including fabrications of colossal scale and ethnic chauvinism of despicable hue. They whipped emotions, incited the people and erected lines of hate and mistrust. They built tension and foisted fear on the land. The people repudiated their evil machinations and looked up to the hills with hope. “Divine Mandate” surged forth from the bowels of providence to do God’s will on a land named after God Almighty.
That fateful day of April 11, the people of Akwa Ibom thronged in droves to demonstrate allegiance to “Divine Mandate” which had during campaigns endeared itself to majority of Akwa Ibom people. The results of the election which started trickling in from the wee hours of the morning of April 12 showed that PDP, the political platform used to launch the “Divine Mandate” was in the lead. When the result was finally announced in the later part of that evening by the returning officer, James Ekpoke, the harbinger of the “Divine Mandate”, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of the People’s Democratic Party was in comfortable lead with 996,071 votes. He was followed by the candidate of APC, Obong Umanah Okon Umanah, who scored a paltry 96,865 votes out of the 1,110,580 valid votes that were cast in that well decided election that was merely given the caveat of anxiety by APC propagandists.
Even though the election result showed itself to be the true reflection of the wishes of the people, rumours that the APC would challenge the result of the election were rife. The rumours translated to reality on the 30th of April when Obong Umanah Okon Umana and All Progressive Congress filed processes at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, challenging the outcome of that election and the return of Mr. Udom Emmanuel as the validly elected governor of Akwa Ibom State. The grounds which the petition was based included that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended). They also alleged that there were various and substantial acts of violence. Their trump allegation was the non-compliance in the use of card reader which they argued was sacrosanct based on the statement signed and issued by the Secretary of the Commission, Mrs. Augusta C. Ogaku informing all Nigerians that card reader would be used on the April 11 election. The trial of “Divine Mandate” had thus begun with God watching silently from His throne of grace.
But even those who instituted the matter refused to allow the case to follow the known norms. Deluded by the extant advantage they considered accruable from proximal value of a central government that was already in APC’s kitty, they came forth with a trump up allegation of insecurity in the State and requested for the relocation of the Tribunal to Abuja. They had their way as the Tribunal was willfully moved to Abuja at odd with all extant provisions which should guide such decisions. For them, Abuja will provide advantage but “who is he that sayeth and it comes to pass when the Lord has not commanded”, says the scripture.
The Tribunal led by His Lordship, Honourable Justice A. S. Umar, delivered judgment on the petition on Tuesday, October 21, 2015. It was an ambivalent and melodramatic judgment that left the two parties celebrating. Both the petitioners and respondents claimed victory in the judgment thus stoking anxiety in the polity. The Tribunal had ordered a re-run in 18 out of 31 Local Government Areas in the State, submitting that in the elections in the 18 Local Government Areas, eligible voters were disenfranchised. The People’s Democratic Party and consequently, Mr. Udom Emmanuel was agreed to have won election validly in only 13 Local Government Areas.
The matter, however, did not end there as both parties filed appeal and cross appeal respectively. While Obong Umanah Okon Umanah and the APC’s appeal sought that the election of April 11, be set aside and a fresh election ordered throughout Akwa Ibom State in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended), Udom Emmanuel and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in its cross appeal prayed the Appeal Court to uphold the result of the election of April 11, which declared him winner and that way confer legitimacy on the “Divine Mandate” freely given to him by Akwa Ibom people through God’s special favour.
But the Appeal Court did what many agreed to be untoward. In a judgment delivered by Hon. Justice Musa Abba Aji, JCA, Their Lordships numbering five (5) ruled that elections in all the 31 Local Government Areas be cancelled and a rerun election conducted in the entire State. The judgment which was delivered on the 18th day of December rankled PDP faithful and galvanized APC members into ecstatic celebrations. For them, the election had been won and lost with that judgment. They went into elaborate celebration with tough talks added to the matrix. They assumed themselves as the government in power with their spokesperson warning banks that were still transacting businesses with a government they dubiously christened as “interim” or “caretaker” to cease or be ready to face their wrath when APC takes over. It was a trying moment for the Udom administration made worst by the incendiary boast of the opposition party in the State.
In the face of this daunting challenge, Governor Udom Emmanuel demonstrated uncommon faith in God. The Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice who coordinated the activities of that titanic legal tussle recalled how he went to see the governor after that judgment to find ways to revamp his hope only for him to find a man in a happy mood who rather told him that there was no cause for alarm. Barrister Nwoko said he was overwhelmed by his show of faith and stoic equanimity. Nwoko concluded that his confidence and calmness during those trying moments issued from his iron cast faith in God. Governor Udom gave vent to this assertion when he addressed the mammoth gathering at the carol night of December 19, 2015 which came on the heels of that judgment. He said: “We have come to the Supreme God who will take us to the Supreme Court”, assuring the people that victory was certain since they have God.
The day of the Supreme Court judgment was not an ordinary day. Before that fateful day, anxiety ruled the State. The mood of the day was generally somber and the weather a shade hostile perhaps to add to the already palpable anxiety. As early as 8am, those who made it to Supreme Court started sending posts on social media platforms as updates. The plaza in Uyo was taken over by a boisterous APC crowd engrossed in a celebration of a judgment they misguidedly construed would come their way. Their Lordships, who were seven (7) in number, had the Chief Judge of the Federation, Justice Mahmud Mohammed as the head. The body had in their hands the fate of the State and the destiny of its people. The Justices after fourteen (14) grueling hours delivered the landmark judgment to the consternation of those who had already appropriated for themselves a voodoo ruling that stood justice on the lead. The Supreme Court by the judgment did not only renew public faith in the judiciary, it once again proved that it is indeed the last hope of the common man and that as an institution, it has the capacity to protect our democracy if led by the right people.
*Joe Iniodu is a public affairs analyst