With Tuesday’s ruling by the apex court, and yesterday’s swearing-in; at Heroes’ Square, Owerri, of Senator Hope Uzodinma as the new governor of Imo State, former governor Emeka Ihedioha has joined the club of state chief executives that enjoyed brief stints in office. While reacting to the apex court’s ruling, Ihedioha stated: “I do not agree with the judgment of the Supreme Court. I think it is unfair, unjust and does not reflect the voting that took place during the elections. But as true democrats, Engr. Gerald Irona and I have no option but to respect the outcome of that judgment.” Whatever be the case, Ihedioha is not alone. He has a class of other governors that enjoyed brief stints in office, including Senator Andy Uba, Celestine Omehia and Mukhtar Idris, to console himself with.
Ihedioha in the footsteps of Sam Mbakwe
Election petitions have become the heartache of politicians after their electoral victories. Although the phenomenon is more pervasive in the 4th Republic, what is on record as the most devastating was the case of Mr. Ben Amalaha, who was returned as deputy governor-elect with Sam Mbakwe of the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), in 1979 in the 1st Republic.
The candidate of defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief Nwakamma Okoro, who was defeated by Mbakwe, had petitioned the tribunal to declare him and his party as the rightful winners of the governorship election. He argued that the fact that the NPP’s deputy governorship candidate, Amalaha, did not formally resign his appointment with Alvan Ikoku College of Education (AICE) as prescribed by the Constitution and Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO’s) regulations invalidates their participation in the election.
On the fateful day that the Court of Appeal upheld the ruling of the tribunal disqualifying Amalaha, tears flowed freely, with most of his kinsmen lamenting that the man went to the land of the dead to light up a candle only to extinguish in the land of the living. The breather for NPP was the observation by the court that the breach of the law on the part of the running mate should not negatively affect the standard-bearer, being a subordinate candidate.
On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, Imo State was back in the news for a similar electoral ordeal. Ihedioha had always dreamed of becoming the governor of his state. In 2015, he came close to realizing his ambition but was stopped through a combination of anti-PDP sentiment and power of incumbency.
During the electioneering, the singsong across the length and breadth of Imo State, except in his Mbaise axes, was okpu agaghi achianyi (Green Cap would not reign over us) on account of the cap insignia that symbolized his campaign organization.
However in 2019, the rhythm had changed. The rejected stone became the chief cornerstone. Ihedioha defeated three other powerful contenders to become the governor of Imo State. Eight months after mounting the saddle to seat as the distant successor of Sam Mbakwe, the same fate that befell Mbakwe’s running mate became his lot. Was he fated not to be governor? Did the swear words that trailed his campaign in 2015 haunt his grand victory of 2019?
Mukhtar Idris in Zamfara
The case of Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris is very pathetic. Idris emerged as Governor Abdullahi Yari’s preferred candidate in the Zamfara State chapter of APC for the post of governor. Despite some confusion over the participation of APC in the March 9, 2019 governorship poll, he was announced the winner by INEC and actually took part in an induction ceremony organized for new and returning governors-elect.
INEC refused to hand him a certificate of return based on the fact that the Court of Appeal ruling disallowed his participation in the poll, was being challenged at the Supreme Court. Like a thunderbolt, a few days to his planned inauguration, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower courts that APC had no candidates for the 2019 general elections.
Andy Uba in Anambra
Although he won the April 14, 2007 governorship election, Mr. Peter Obi of APGA, who was briefly impeached in the office prior to the election secured, a favorable judgment that quashed his impeachment. The incumbent further challenged the governorship that held midway to his term in office, arguing that he was entitled to full four years as stipulated by the constitution.
By June 14, 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutional interpretation suit filed by Governor Obi, Uba’s stint as governor was declared unconstitutional even as the court maintained that INEC ought not to organize a fresh governorship poll since, according to the court, no vacancy existed.
Obi went on to enjoy more three years in office. Uba did not challenge his eviction, even if to delay his exit, despite the fact that he was not joined in the suit.
Celestine Omehia in Rivers
For Sir Celestine Ngozichim Omehia, the shout of joy over his victory in the hotly contested 2007 Rivers State Governorship poll was short-lived. As was the cases of others in the class of brief governors, the apex court’s ruling uprooted Omehia’s stint as the fourth governor of Rivers State.
Ruling on the case of alleged wrongful substitution by Rotimi Amaechi against the PDP, the Supreme Court on October 25, 2007, declared Amaechi as the rightful candidate of PDP.
The court held that having won the governorship primary, PDP ought not to have replaced Amaechi with Omehia and therefore upturned his election. Omehia’s request to have the judgment reviewed failed and his sack paved the way for Amaechi’s eventual swearing as the fifth governor of the state.