Ebonyi Election Tribunal Judgements: Judiciary is legalising APC Criminality- Dr. Ezeh
Ezeh Emmanuel Ezeh, PhD, DBA popularly known by his business name, Immaculate is an alumni of UNN, Lagos Business School and Oxford University, United Kingdom; well known entrepreneur based in Enugu, President of Ebonyi Chambers of Commerce (EBCCIMA), Deputy President of SECCIMA and member of AfCFTA Presidential Action Committee of NACCIMA. A native of Ezzainyimegu, Izzi LGA, Ebonyi State, Dr. Ezeh was a governorship aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but later aligned forces with Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
He was the LP candidate for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State in the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections. Despite the strong showing of the LP in Ebonyi State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Mr. Emmanuel Uguru of the ruling the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the Winner of the election.
The declaration prompted Dr. Ezeh to petition the Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal which is sitting at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja where his petition was also dismissed.
He spoke with our correspondent about his ordeals and experiences, excerpts:
Your petition against the INEC Declaration of Hon. Emmanuel Uguru as the winner of the February 25, House of Representatives election for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency has been dismissed both at election Petition Tribunal and the Appeal Court, what happened?
Well, dismissed is actually not the right word. I prefer to call it technically ambushed or intentionally sabotaged by a corrupt judicial system. Elections come into major stages: the party politics, campaigns and election proper, results declaration and finally, the adjudication state. Each stage is a novel journey albeit a very painful and sad commentary of what has become Nigeria that we abandoned to bands of desperate men. This election is a sad reminder of the words of Joseph Stalin, the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do. One can go through all the stages, but the final decider will be INEC and some Judges. The world should know that in 2023, APC did not just rig elections results, INEC did the rigging on their behalf while in most cases, the Judiciary simply legalized the heist committed by INEC and APC.
I contested for the House of Representatives for Abakaliki-Izzi Federal Constitutency under Labour Party against Mr. Emmannuel Uguru of APC. Despite all the intimidation, monetary inducements, attempts at my life and those of my supporters, with a sitting government known for violence, intimidation, and outright murder and without any financial support from anywhere including our party, and with an APC gubernatorial candidate right from the same constituency. We won the election convincingly to the surprise and consternation of APC backed government apparatchiks. The People spoke out loudly, they were tired of all the lies, poverty of ideas, corruption and pervasive hunger that have become the signature reality of APC, especially in Ebonyi State and in Abakaliki-Izzi Federal Constituency in particular. In fact, we won in virtually every polling booth in Ebonyi State, but INEC happened to Nigeria and indeed Abakaliki-Izzi Federal Constituency. Ebonyi State is one states where all the National Elections and Presidential Elections results were not transmitted by the so called BIVAS save for only 7 wards within the Urban Constituency where the people insisted and refused to allow them do otherwise. Within these 7 wards we won by over 95%. Most of the rigging, arson, intimidation, vote mutilations and outright writing of results happened at the rural areas where APC simply handed over the results to APC agents and their supporters. Despite all the rigging, Labour Party still won. What INEC did was to simply disappear with all the results. I can authoritatively tell you that up till this movement, you will still not see any video or picture of any declaration of results for both Abakaliki-Izzi and Ebonyi Ohaukwu federal constituencies. It took a physical demonstration by Labour Party supporters for them to finally release a mutilated result sheets 3 clear days after the election.
We approached the Tribunal not satisfied with the entire charade, filed petition no EPT/EB/HR/09/2023 with the Tribunal challenging the INEC results on three grounds viz:
- Emmanuel Uguru having not presented any academic qualifications was not qualified to contest the elections. In fact, he has no academic qualifications and didn’t bother to submit any to INEC. So, one is left wondering how INEC allowed his candidacy. He does not possess the very minimum WAEC certificate nor the OND academic qualification he claimed under oaths.
- Dr Emmanuel Ezeh won the election convincingly. Our field results were different from the mutilated results INEC declared.
- INEC failed to adhere substantially with the provisions of the 2022 Electoral Acts and guidelines
Our Petition was filed on 18th Day of March 2023 and served on the respondents who filed their replies on 12th April 2023. Due to the relocation of the Tribunal to Abuja, the various replies were served on the petitioners on 8th day of May, 2023. The petitioners quickly filed and served the respondents their own replies on 11th May, 2023 – 3 days after service and clearly within the law. The petitioners applied for issuance of pre-hearing notice on 15th day of May, 2023 again, clearly within the time the law stipulates. APC after responding to our pre-hearing, served us then rushed to file a motion that we did not file pre-hearing notice, seeking for dismissal of the petition for failure of the petitioner to apply for issuance of pre-hearing notice within time. The Tribunal surprisingly agreed with them, dismissed the petition, worse even, raised other grounds that were never raised by the respondents. In fact, the Tribunal itself raised some grounds upon which they dismissed the petition by themselves, they became both the judge, jury and defendants. Surprisingly, one of the Justices, refused to play part in the ignoble role of judicial mercantilism, she didn’t sign the judgment. We appealed, hoping for a reprieve. We raised three grounds in our appeal.
- Whether the learned trial judges were right when they held that the application for pre-hearing which was filed within days of filing petitioner’s reply was filed out of time
- Whether the learned judges of the national and state houses of assembly election petition tribunal Ebonyi State were right when they dismissed the petition based on a ground which was never made, raise nor canvassed before the tribunal by the respondents.
- Whether the Tribunal were right when they delivered its ruling/decision in violation of section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and paragraph 12(5) of the rules of procedure of election petition as contained in the first schedule of the electoral act 2022.
To our collective shame as Nigerians, worse things happened at the Appellate level, they sat on the judgement waiting for time to elapse. It took a strong-worded petition from my lawyers to the President of Court of Appeal for them to rush back, just few days before the appeal elapsed and dismissed the appeal. They called it technicalities, But I call it judicial impunity. Various media reports suggest that my election petition was sabotaged by the APC government because, all the grounds of the petition were so clearly laid out that the only way out was to mobilise resources and kill the petition.
With your experience so far, what can you say about the Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal?
I must thank all those who made the movement of the Tribunal to Abuja possible, otherwise, blood would have flowed due to the desperation of APC government led by Engr Umahi. Having said that, and from media reports, it will be safe to concluded that the entire Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal may have been compromised if my petition is used as a yard stick.
So much has been written and said about the Tribunal especially the panel headed by Justice Odokwu. I will want to be proven wrong, but their body language suggests eternal vigilance. I must say that technicalities can always be invented and stretch to any imagination. My experience suggests that progress will start when men and women of integrity at the Temple of Justice understand that theirs is a special Calling and should approach their work with the seriousness of character and integrity it deserves. But then, with the way things are, when the bench is populated by children, wives, concubines and rent seeking justices as allay of politicians, as exposed by Sen Bulkachuwa, it may yet not be far-fetched that technicalities will always be invented and used to sabotage any and most judicial pronouncements. See the cases of Dave Umahi, Lawan, etc and shed tears for our judiciary, and most importantly, the very few of them who are men of character. Those few certainly need our prayers and total support until the system is cleansed of vermin who now populate the entire space as in most of our socio-politico-economic systems in Nigeria.
Do you think the electoral Act 2022 improved our electoral system?
Certainly, the 2023 electoral act would have been a game changer. The indices and statistics pointed to a major disruption of the political system. The introduction of technology was a novelty. The 2023 ought to be the beginning of our gradual progression to real democracy but Yakubu happened. INEC happened to our electoral system. INEC themselves sabotaged the entire hopes and aspirations of millions of Nigerians, young and old. INEC as an institution failed human civilization at its lowest aspirations. They failed the black race. Those of us who thought that being educated means the development of our total being have been put to shame by the disastrous outing of Yakubu. He certainly deserves all the dirt being thrown at him, but we must also remember the entire INEC top management supported him in the dastard dance of shame. They supervised the worst election heist in human civilization. We the people shall never forget, the internet too never forgets. The greatest loser in this election is INEC themselves. Who believes them anymore? None. History will never be kind to them, especially the loquacious ones parroting as spokesmen and leaders of that corrupt institution. INEC rigged and sabotaged the 2023 general elections by failing to adhere to its own rules and regulations. This is a blazing fact collaborated by EU and most of the 2023 election observers.
Aside technological innovation, we should continue cleaning up our electoral system, the total gamut without exception. For starters, INEC should be thoroughly cleansed of questionable individuals; the RECs should be elected by the people including the National chairman; they must be individual who have shown consistency in character and otherwise. The greatest changes must be the anomaly of swearing in people into power whose elections are under legal challenges. It is like calling a winner in the middle of a match. We should allow the entire processes to be exhausted before a winner is declared.
I am still hopeful that Mr Peter Obi backed by millions of Nigerians will still reclaim the mandate freely given by the Nigerian people irrespective of age, sex, religion and tribe. Nigerians spoke loudly and in support of Mr Obi’s brand of politics. This is a fact. When that time comes, we shall prosecute these unpatriotic people according to the laws of the land. Many of them should be in prison already.
What lessons did you learn from the experience of the last election cycle?
Many life lessons have been learnt; we are still learning. The first lesson is the urgency of now. The best of us must get into politics. We should have started this engagement in 1998, we simply allowed the worst of us to take power thanks to that unending transition rigmarole Babangida took us through. The best of us lost faith in the transition then, power then landed on the laps of opportunists. Scale back time and see what and where these current wielders of power were in 1997,1998, 1999. They were the dregs of society. Plato warned that if we do not take interest in the affairs of our government, that we shall be doomed to live under the rule of fools.
The second lesson is the power of Character and Integrity as personified by Mr Obi’s Obi-dient Movement. For the first time, a Nigerian politician has risen to stardom on the strength of Character, Competence, Capacity and Commitment to Public Good and progressive governance. All the years of trying to build a third force happened on the strength of these traits. We have a started a journey that will re-position Nigeria. The political class and citizens alike now understand that elections truly have consequences for both the governed and the leaders alike.
The third lesson is the place of preparation and experience. Experience is important, many of the unfortunate bitter turns some of us experienced were due to inexperience. Being successful in academia or enterprise is one thing and truly understanding the socio-political nuances that come with politics is another. For me this is truly a life-long lesson. I have a positive disposition to learn and appreciate the opportunities life presented and lessons learnt.
The other lessons are numerous, but one of which is the need for eternal vigilance by the citizenry. A society can only progress based on collective desire of a critical mass of elite otherwise called elite consensus. We are just beginning to build that necessary progressive consensus that drives and sustains change. We have longed and waited for a strong man as opposed to strong institutions, we have desired a miraculous flip to Eldorado instead of a gradual up-building. President Obama once admonished that we should focus on building strong institutions rather than strong personalities
Despite the over 2-decades of unbroken democratic rule in Ebonyi, the state seem to still be struggling in terms of human capital development what do you think is the reason?
Very good question that should worry every one of us as ndi Ebonyi. If you remember, when I ran for governorship position under PDP, I was very clear about my focus on human capital development. If you look at my 3Rs (Recover, Rebuild and Restore) were based on Ebonyi People First Agenda.
The first thing I did was to carry out a SWOT of the socio-economic and political context of the state. What we saw is a people sacrificed under the unquenchable greed of their political class. A people with so much youthful energy, natural wealth deposited across the state, arable lands, and a state positioned as the agro-processing zone and the real food-basket of South-East Nigeria; but a state bedeviled by high poverty rate worsened by an overt concentration of governance on bricks and mortar with the sole purpose of looting the entire space dry. This is a sad conundrum – extreme poverty in the midst of vast opportunities.
I am happy however, that our ideas have germinated, and everyone is now talking of human development issues in Ebonyi State. I believe that our first motive of going into politics is the ability to spread ideas which can then be picked up by others and implement. That way, the people will rise.
I believe truly that what has been missing in Ebonyi politics is Purposeful leadership – political and otherwise. We need a leader that feels the pulse of the people.
What is your next step, and the way forward?
I have always been an active vanguard for good governance. In 2018 few of us registered a National Political Party – Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP). I became the pioneer BOT chairman of that new party. In fact, what we see today as the people’s movement started in ANRP. We formed a political party that was populated by the best of Nigerians mainly from the private sector, tech-driven and spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria. We agreed we were not going into an election until we have built a formidable structures across Nigeria. The federal government took notice and used the same INEC and Yakubu to destroy our gradual progression. They claimed we didn’t win any political position and de-registered the party. The fact speaks to their fears.
So, you can see that we have really paid our dues in this struggle. The journey is just beginning, our ultimate aim is to leave this place better for our children. We want Nigerians all over the world to be proud of their country. We also believe that Africa and indeed the black race is waiting for us. We can’t afford to drop the ball now. Like Gandhi said, Winning or losing of the election is less important than strengthening the country.
Advice to young upcoming politicians in Ebonyi State and Igboland
My advice to young upcoming politicians in Ebonyi State is simple – let the People be the centre-point of our political endeavours. Again, Igbos require a big space to operate, and we must not be tempted to shrink from this progressive world view we have always championed right from the time of Nnamdi Azikwe and M. I. Okpara. The best of us should get into politics not as a profession but as a vocation.
Let me conclude by reminding us of the famous quote by Edmund Burke, that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Martin Luther King Jr. re-echoed something similar that the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Let these words become a blazing fire in your hearts as we keep our eyes focused on the Judiciary to give us justice.