By Anselem Anokwute
Aftermath of the Imo West Senatorial election Tribunal judgment in favour of the former governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha has been described as a rape of democracy and a serious challenge to the lives of the adhoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Election Observers and the electorate.
The National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal for the Orlu Senatorial seat was accused of bias in their judgment last Monday, 9th September, 2019, in the case involving Hon. Jones Onyeriri, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the former governor, who was alleged to have forced the Returning Officer, Prof. Ibeawuchi, to announce him winner under duress.
Protesting within the major roads in Owerri, the youths numbering over 5000 persons with placards of various inscriptions such as “tribunal judgment in chains, youths of Orlu need fairness, Okorocha is not our Senator, INEC help Orlu people, it is injustice to impose Okorocha on Orlu people”, and many more as their position papers over the Orlu peoples outright rejection of the total outcome of the tribunal judgment.
Addressing the members and Staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Owerri, the leader of the protesters and National Co-ordinator of Orlu Youths Political Platform, Comrade Orient Nwadike, said that after the unjustified verdict by the Election Tribunal Judges, against the peoples wish and aspirations, the zone has automatically been denied of true democracy and effective representation in the senate.
In his words, “we the youths and students from Orlu Zone, are here today to inform INEC that the people of Imo West Senatorial District are not happy and have rejected in its entirety the outcome of the recent tribunal judgment. What happened is a rape of democracy and travesty of justice”.
This judgment will also brew electoral apathy where peoples votes will no longer count, and it will be forced to accept an election result announced under duress. We are not here for violence but to communicate our feelings to INEC to help redress the issues”.
Comr. Nwadike said that the tribunal judgment was not only sentimental but was targeted at disrupting the democratic progress or system. He however called on INEC to remain resolute in ensuring that the peoples mandate is restored, by supporting the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon Jones Onyeriri as he has proceeded to challenge the judgment of the Tribunal at the Apeal Court.
In their separate contributions, Comr. Ben Marcus, a member of National Youth Council of Nigeria said, that the victory of Hon Onyeriri in the last election is not in contention, but wished that their request only for the INEC to help the people to return the stolen mandate, through coming to testify before the court, be answered.
Responding on behalf of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu, the Public Relations Officer, Mrs Emmanuella Ben Opara, while commending the youths for the peaceful demonstration which she said is the presentation of their position, stated that INEC as a body is determined to do the needful. “Once elections are over, the other challenges is within the court”, she stated.
So the declaration of judgment by the tribunal is the work of the judiciary as the final arbiter while it is the right of the candidate to challenge the outcome according to the electoral act in the appeal court and if the Commission (INEC). According to her, in a legal terminology “if INEC is subpoena definitely we will answer the court in order not be charged for the contempt of the court”. But in this case the judiciary has the final say but there is always opportunity for an appeal”. She reaffirmed.