Friday, October 26, 2007

A Governor by Supreme Court not by the People

I blog about the sacking of Governor Omeiha in my blog yesterday in a hurry and quickly wondered aloud how it is possible to install Amaechi as the Governor without contesting an election.
This makes him the first Governor in Nigeria who did not stand before the electorates before becoming a Governor. I still find it very hard to believe that someone who did not stand for an election, did not campaign for an election, present a manifesto for an election, did not even tell the people his programme of action if elected is now a Governor - What a judgment!
Perhaps, it is only in Nigeria that we now have a Governor who was not duly elected by the electorates. By the way, I hail from Kwara State, Nigeria and I have no support for either Celestine Omeiha or Rotimi Amaechi.

What is more, the man that was now installed as Governor has been expelled from PDP along with Ararume in the wake of 2007 Governorship election. The Supreme Court is even silent on whether he should be re-instated into PDP or not. Now that he is not a member of PDP, on which manifesto platform would he based his government administration?

The matter of his deputy is also there. Who is going to be his deputy? the incumbent deputy or he will be choosing his own deputy. How about the control of the state assembly? For how long will he be in the stewardship as Governor before the PDP controlled State Assembly impeach him.

Whatever the travails of Amaechi regime as the Supreme Court installed Governor, I suggest he should not be pity, such is what is applicable to those that use the back door to be Governor without being elected by the electorates who in the first instance has the right to elect a Governor to rule over them.

With this judgment, a precedent is set again in Nigeria. Once there is a problem during the party primaries, an aggrieved contestant can win an election without facing the electorates if he/she goes to court. This will greatly be capitalized upon by the ruling party, once it is sure that the candidates it was trying to field would not win an election if he/she is made to face the electorates, they can simply cook up some hankypanky similar to that of Rotimi Amaechi and thereafter seek legal redress citing the Sujpreme court judgment that single handedly handed the Governorship to Amaechi. I hasten to state it once again that from my own layman point of view, this judgment is flaw with error.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why I disagree with the Supreme Court
By Gani Fawehiunmi


THE Supreme Court ordered on Thursday, October 25, 2007 that Rotimi Amaechi should be sworn in as governor of Rivers State after the Court had voided the Governorship election of Celestine Omehia which took place on April 14, 2007 on the ground that Rotimi Amaechi was wrongly excluded as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party after he had won the primary of that party, and that Celestine Omehia was wrongly substituted by the Peoples Democratic Party as the candidate of that party in the Governorship Election of Rivers State.

I have no quarrel with the decision of the Supreme Court in so far as it nullified the election of Celestine Omehia on the ground that he was not the appropriate candidate of that party. My disagreement with the Supreme Court judgment is the order made by the court that Rotimi Amaechi who never contested the Governorship Election should be sworn in as Governor of Rivers State.

I consider the assumption of office by Rotimi Amaechi as a judicial imposition on the electorate of Rivers State who when they were voting on April 14, 2007 did not have in view or consideration Rotimi Amaechi who was not a candidate in the eyes, in the minds and in the hearts of the electorate of Rivers State. The essence of democratic elections is that the electorate should decide who should be their leaders.

On April 14, 2007, the electorate of Rivers State decided through their votes that Celestine Omehia should be their Governor. He campaigned as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for that election. Now that his candidacy has been adjudged by the Supreme Court as illegal he could not be the Governor of that State. Simply put, the Rivers State electorate cast their votes for an illegal candidate. Consequently, their votes for Celestine Omehia counted for nothing. I have no quarrel with that.

The electorate of Rivers State did not have the opportunity to vote for Rotimi Amaechi as he was not a candidate for the April 14, 2007 election of Rivers State. Simply put, no vote could in law be attributed to Rotimi Amaechi when the election was held. In their eyes, minds, hearts and brains, the electorate of Rivers State did not cast any vote for Rotimi Amaechi because he was not a candidate in the election. Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, it is not the party that is the candidate in any election for elective office. In Rivers State on April 14, 2007, Peoples Democratic Party was not a candidate.

Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, political parties can sponsor or nominate candidates but the parties are not candidates. I refer to Section 177 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides as follows:-

"A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if -


he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth;

he has attained the age of thirty-five years;

he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; and

he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent."
Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, no governorship candidate could be validly returned as an elected Governor where there are more than two contestants unless he has the highest votes cast in that election and he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the local governments in that State. I will rely on Section 179(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which provides as follows:-

"A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being two or more candidates

he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and

he has not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State."
Rotimi Amaechi could not have satisfied the constitutional requirements in Section 179(2) as he did not contest the Governorship Election of Rivers State on April 14, 2007. Furthermore, Rotimi Amaechi was not in the contemplation of the voters while they were casting their votes in Rivers State on April 14, 2007. The obvious implications of the Order of the Supreme Court that Rotimi Amaechi be sworn in as Governor of Rivers State are that:


The electorate of Rivers State were denied the opportunity of electing their Governor.

That Rotimi Amaechi was imposed on them by judicial fiat and not through the ballot.
Nobody can dispute the authority of the Supreme Court to set aside a nomination or sponsorship of a candidate by a party if the process of nominating that candidate by that party is illegal or constitutionally flawed.

The Supreme Court did just that in the case of Ugwu v. Ararume in Imo State. The Supreme Court held, inter alia, that Ifeanyi Ararume was the legal candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Imo State gubernatorial election in the April 14, 2007 Governorship Election. The Order of the Supreme Court was made on Thursday, April 5, 2007 before the governorship election was held on Saturday, April 14, 2007. However, despite the popularity of the Peoples Democratic Party in that State (Imo) which was considered to be the stronghold of that party, the electorate of Imo State rejected Ifeanyi Ararume at the poll. Ifeanyi Ararume lost the Governorship election in Imo State. The electorate of Imo State voted the candidate of Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Mr. Ikedi Ohakim.

The rejection of Ifeanyi Ararume by the electorate of Imo State is very revealing and very instructive. In Rivers State, if the election was held with Rotimi Amaechi as the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, no one can say with certainty that he would win. He could lose. The electorate might reject him the way they rejected Ifeanyi Ararume in Imo State.

Consequently, I do not believe that the Supreme Court was right in making Mr. Rotimi Amaechi the Governor of Rivers State by judicial fiat. The appropriate order to my mind was for the Supreme Court to have ordered a fresh governorship election in Rivers State with Rotimi Amaechi as the Peoples Democratic Party candidate. It is only by this that the electorate of Rivers State would not have been denied their constitutional right to choose their Governor.

It is for the above reasons that I vehemently disagree with the order of the highest court of the land, making Rotimi Amaechi the Governor of Rivers State. With the greatest respect to the learned Justices of the Supreme Court, I consider that order a negation of electoral democracy, which is the hallmark of our Constitution.


Fawehinmi is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria


Guardian of 29th October, 2007

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