Outrage and shock have greeted the judgment of the Imo State National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, which removed Hon. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere from office and declared a supplementary election in 55 polling units in the Federal Constituency among the remaining candidates.
In the judgment which clearly amounted to the Tribunal upturning and setting aside the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Tribunal upheld the Petition of Chika Abazu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on the ground that the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which produced Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere as candidate was invalid.
In its judgment in SC/CV/501/2023 which was sighted from the Tribunal, the Supreme Court held that “a political party that files a suit to challenge the nomination of the candidate of another party will be a nosy busybody, a meddlesome interloper, peeping into the affairs of his neighbour without any backing in law. No court of law can entertain such a Suit,” yet the tribunal went ahead and disqualified Ikenga on the challenge by the APC candidate.
When approached by journalists after the judgment, counsel to Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere Emeka Ozoani SAN, shook his and said, “I am in shock, this is unbelievable, I do not have any comments.”
However, when news of the judgment hit Ideato, youths erupted in instant protests, making bonfires and blocking roads with tree logs and leaves insisting that Ikenga was their choice and that must be respected by the Courts.
One of the protesters, Collins Obioha said, “The Court of Appeal just last week in the Presidential election judgment in the Peter Obi case declared that the issue of nomination of a candidate is a pre-election matter and no election petition court has jurisdiction over such issues. Did the Tribunal not hear that judgment? How come this Tribunal has not only refused to follow the judgment, it sat on appeal over it and overruled it.”
Some of the youths, who were interviewed, blamed the Governor of Imo State, Sen. Hope Uzodimma for having a hand in the unfortunate outcome but expressed confidence that Ikenga will triumph ultimately.
It will be recalled that INEC declared Ikenga the winner of the election with over 13, 000 votes, while Paschal Obi of the Labour Party and Chika Abazu of the APC came second and third with about 5000 and 2000 votes respectively.