RIGHT OF REPLY By Ogwuwike Nwachuku
Shaka Momodu, Editor of THISDAY on Sunday is someone I can call a friend. I have great respect for him, hence I read him from time to time depending on what he is writing on.
In fact, I have followed Shaka’s style of writing since he was Editor of THISDAY on Saturday and have continued to read him till date even when he often writes what satisfies his personal curiousity and not the desire of the audience he claims to be writing for.
As Editor of THISDAY on Sunday, Shaka writes on Fridays because the back page of THISDAY on Monday hosts other columnists like former Editor of THISDAY and now the Managing Director of Arise Television, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, former Managing Director of Diamond Bank and governorship candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the 2015 and 2019 elections respectively in Abia State, Dr. Alex Oti and the Managing Director of THISDAY, Eniola Bello (when ocassion demands that Eni-B writes due to his tight schedule ).
When, therefore, I saw Shaka’s piece sitting pretty on the back page of the medium’s flagship on Monday, February 17, I knew something beyond the comprehension of the usual audience that read THISDAY’s back page on that day had happened. I knew Shaka had worked hard to procure that page for a purpose, other than to serve public interest.
I share completely in the thinking of Narendra Modi, the Indian President, that the strength of democracy lies in criticism. I also know, like many others, that constructive criticisms help to shape and nurture the direction of those in power against deviating from the norm.
But I make bold to say that Shaka did not set out to critique constructively as one who either belongs to the opposition or sympathises with the opposition in the real sense of the word and he knows it.
Shaka’s write up, “That Supreme Court Magic Judgment” appeared to have been written to serve a particular purpose and not necessarily to pass a message of lack of bias and constructive criticism as he pretended. I shall explain shortly.
Shaka was comfortable abusing the Supreme Court as an instititution and its Justices as corrupt in veiled delivery. He did so in ways his collaborators, nay paymasters who have been lamenting their loss of power in Imo State following the Supreme Court judment of January 14 have carried on for more than two weeks now.
Why will anybody excuse Shaka from lack of bias when his piece wreaked of innuendoes and venomous characteristics that are in sync with what the organisers of the protests against the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo state have been doing?
The circumstances leading to the Supreme Court judgment of January 14 in favour of Senator Uzodinma are well known to everyone.
For the likes of Shaka who have deliberately kept a deaf ear over the issue at hand, believing what some people want them to believe, let me provide some guide.
Governor Uzodinma who was the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo state was robbed of most of the valid votes he scored during the election by opponents who must have colluded with the electoral umpire to undermine him.
As a man who believes in fairness and equity, the distinguished senator did not rely only on mere raising of the alarm. He chose to take his destiny in his hands by following the due processes of law.
First, Senator Uzodinma approached the Imo State Governorship Election Tribunal where his case was dismissed as lacking in merit. Undaunting, he proceeded to the Court of Appeal with the same complaint and at the appellate court the ruling did not also favour him because of the same gang-up against him.
Fortunately for Senator Uzodinma, out of the four-member Justices who adjudicated over his matter at the Court of Appeal, one of them gave a dissenting judgment. It was that dissenting opinion that rekindled Senator Uzodinma’s hope that the future would tell about what actually transpired during the governorship election in Imo.
It was that “lone voice from the wilderness” that differed from the other Justices which gave Senator Uzodinma the confidence to proceed to the Supreme Court despite all odds and pressure to drop the matter having lost at the tribunal and Appeal Court.
It is intriguing to note that at the tribunal and Court of Appeal outings, Senator Uzodinma was not even given the opportunity to state his case, an indication that there was a calculated plan to frustrate him and render his efforts at the governorship election useless.
Not even the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the so-called electoral umpire, could show a whimper of concern as the organiser of the governorship election over Senator Uzodinma’s intention to prove himself right or wrong.
But one thing that was sure is that his opponents and the INEC were so blinded to Senator Uzodinma’s zest and fighting spirit. They underrated his capacity to take his destiny in his hands, guided by his believe that God who sees in secret will at His own time bring to the open all hidden things.
I can tell Shaka for free that there was so much pressure on Senator Uzodinma by his detractors to drop his matter because he had already lost out at the two courts earlier.
Approaching the Apex Court, Senator Uzodinma laid his case before our seasoned, patient and highly committed Justices who painstakingly perused through the facts and evidence tendered before them in relation to the tribunal and Court of Appeal earlier rulings.
One after the other, the Supreme Court considered the facts before it, particularly the controversial 388 poling units that Senator Uzodinma has been pleading with the courts to take a second a look at but was ignored as if they did not matter.
To the tribunal and Court of Appeal, the 388 polling units did not matter because that was where the joker of the manipulators of the governorship election in Imo state that undermined Senator Uzodinma’s chances lay.
Because the tribunal and Court of Appeal had ruled in favour of the election of ousted Emeka Ihedioha, going to the apex court to them was a fait accompli, a done deal. With that hindsight, as well, they did not bother to consider Senator Uzodinma’s appeal at the apex court with the seriousness it desired because of the delusion that they had already won. There was just no need for them to prepare for any defence.
Instead, on the day of the Supreme Court judgment pockets of parties went on in some offices at the Government House Owerri because they had erroneously thought nothing was going to stop them from retaining power. But how wrong they were!
When the seven Justices of the Supreme Court perused through all the facts before them, it was not difficult to pass a unanimous verdict of Senator Uzodinma being the duly elected governor of Imo state during the March 9, 2019 governorship election.
The verdict was not only a turning point in dealing with the lackadaisical disposition of the INEC in the manner the institution has been conducting electoral matters in the country of late and giving vent to all sorts of underhand games, but a sign that our judicial institution is still alive to its responsibilities despite plans by powerful men and women to render it impotent.
Those who ignorantly lampoon the Justices of the Supreme Court, like Shaka, to have erred in the way they arrived at the marks they rightfully awarded Senator Uzodinma that made him have comfortable votes that catapulted him from the fourth position to the first position and eventually winner of the governorship election must understand why lawyers assume the toga of learned people. It is not for fun and the Justices could not have set out to award votes to Senator Uzodinma because the law does not permit that and they know the implications.
And mind you, it amounts to criminal accusation by highly uninformed persons who allege that the Justices of the Apex Court awarded unmerited votes to Senator Uzodinma to have him emerge governor. I hope the accusers will be willing to come and defend themselves if called upon to do so because he who alleges must be ready to prove himself or herself.
There is no other way to get at the minds of uninformed and easily deceived persons about the abracadabra that was the Imo state governorship election on March 9, 2019 than the orchestrated protests to change the narrative.
Of course the organisers of the protests against the Supreme Court ruling in favour of Senator Uzodinma were guided by the fact that our society is peopled by very gullible persons who believe anything without first thinking.
However, those who know the truth know that it would be difficult to stand it on the head. The informed legal minds are not bothered that the Ihedioha administration had approached the apex court to review its judgment. If anything, the development makes many of them laugh out.
They are well aware that the noise being made about the review is nothing but distractions and an attempt to remain relevant in the eyes of the populace. They know that what they are asking for is not sustainable under the law, more so, the final court in the country that had once advised those who approached it with similar prayers to appeal to God in the circumstance.
Shaka happens to be one of those who do not believe that our institutions should be respected because they want them to do their bidding and not the bidding of the majority. He belongs to the group that never sees anything good in the decision taken by our institutions charged with the responsibility of advancing the course of our democracy. He has started thinking, reasoning and acting exactly like the hired protesters who do not have any qualms doing damage to the society and system so long as they get their pay.
Until I read the aspect of Shaka’s piece where he accused Senator Uzodinma of not winning the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Imo state and of having “fake results” after the Supreme Court Justices had diligently and painstakingly done their job and unanimously returned a verdict of the Senator being validly elected, I never knew Shaka could be this naïve.
His naivety also appears legendary when you remember that he was accusing the Governor of “mindless forgery and falsehood” when in actual sense Shaka may not have a shred of evidence to substantiate his allegation if called upon to do so. I wonder what makes Shaka jump into the same allegation wagon. I am worried because I know that Shaka has the capacity to do the right thing if he applies his mind to it.
Today, a new lexicon has been added to the political dictionary of our country in the name of “judgment review”. Is it not said that if oil touches one finger chances are the others would be affected? Because some people mindlessly started chorusing judgment review by the apex court thinking they will get at Senator Uzodinma, the sing song across the length and breadth of the country today as far as electoral matters are concerned is judgment review.
Nobody has spared a thought about the embarrassment such moves are causing our country. And like former National Chairman of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and former senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District, Sir Victor Umeh said while fielding questions on an AIT Programme on Wednesday, February 19, the embarrassment is both monumental and irreparable because those canvassing that Supreme Court reviews itself know they are chasing shadows.
I thought people like Shaka ought to know better but they are pretending thinking that God will come down from heaven to do it for us. It is therefore laughable for Shaka to think that his acknowledgement or not of Governor Uzodinma as the duly elected governor of Imo state going by the decision of the Supreme Court will have any untoward impact when the more than four million good people of the state have already lined up behind him. Quite a pity!
––Oguwike Nwachuku is Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State