By Clifford Ndujihe, Henry Umoru, Anayo Okoli, Charles Kumolu, Ugochukwu Alaribe & Chioma Onuegbu
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, have described the Supreme Court’s Wednesday night rulings affirming their elections as victory for the people of their states and declared their readiness to accelerate the pace of development in the states. Meanwhile, there are wild jubilations in Uyo, Umuahia and Aba over the rulings. Udom Emmanuel assured Akwa Ibom people, during a thanksgiving service, yesterday, that he would now be 100 percent committed to delivering his campaign promises to them and appreciated all who stood by him throughout the trying times.
Gladdened by the ruling, Governor Emmanuel saluted the Nigerian judiciary for keeping watch over the evolution and deepening of democracy. Describing the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, Governor Emmanuel promised to live up to his promises to take Akwa Ibom to heights unknown in the history of administration in Nigeria.
He said: “Fellow Akwa Ibomites, yesterday (Wednesday), the Supreme Court affirmed the choice you had massively and wholeheartedly expressed in me last April 11, 2015 as your governor, thereby showing once again that the institution of the judiciary is alive and well and is keeping watch over the evolution and the deepening the culture and traditions of our nascent democracy. “We salute the Nigerian judiciary for living up to its billing as the last hope of the common man.” Emmanuel extended an olive branch to all his political adversaries to close ranks and join him to make the state record developmental strides.
“The battle has been won and lost and in any political contest, there must be a winner and a loser. In this case, the people of Akwa Ibom State won because in their considered opinion and reasoning, their fortunes would be better with a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, government continuing its solid dispensation of democratic dividends that had in the past eight and a half years, transformed our state to a destination of choice, which had informed the investment of their trust in me last April 11.
‘Lets close ranks’
“I hereby call on our brothers and sisters from the other side of the political divide to close ranks and join me in moving Akwa Ibom State forward and ensure development that is sustainable, impactful and expansive because we do not have any other state to call ours.”
I forgive Otti— Ikpeazu
Ikpeazu, who said he had forgiven his All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, opponent, Dr. Alex Otti, described his victory as “an impetus for more work and more service to the people of Abia State and Nigeria.” Addressing Abia people at the Michael Okpara Auditorium in Umuahia, shortly after a brief prayer session, Ikpeazu, who described his election as one held in rainy season and got final victory in dry season, commended the people for their steadfastness and support.
According to him, he needed to get out of the distractions of legal tussles so he will focus his attention and channel all his energies on service delivery. He thanked the Supreme Court for giving him the impetus to continue with his revolution of rebuilding the state. Ikpeazu said: “To those who battled us, because we are Christians, we have forgiven them. We want them to consider Abia first. This is God’s project that is why no matter how wealthy you are, you cannot battle God.”
APGA factions disagree
This came as the main opposition party in Abia State, APGA, described the judgement as a conspiracy against Abia people by the judiciary and PDP. Abia State APGA Chairman, Rev. Augustine Ehiemere, in a telephone interview, condemned the Supreme Court’s decision, saying no genuine Abian would accept the judgement because “it is a team work between the cabal that has held the country hostage for many years.”
Also National Chairman APGA, Chief Victor Oye, said they were surprised at the verdict. He said: “After working hard for the victory at the polls we had expected to win, but the court failed to consider what it should have considered during the hearing before giving their judgement.” However, factional Chairman of APGA, in Abia State, Prince Nnanna Ukaegbu, described the verdict of the Supreme Court, which affirmed the election of Ikpeazu, as an enthronement of equity, fairness and unity among the component units of the state.
Ukaegbu and his faction had, few weeks to the April 11, 2015 governorship election, thrown their support behind the PDP candidate. Ukaegbu, who stated this in an interview with Vanguard in Aba, said it would have been an injustice to the people of the state if the Supreme Court had declared the APGA candidate, Dr. Otti, as the governor of the state. He said: “Ikpeazu’s victory was never in doubt. The Supreme Court just concluded what Abia State people started.
“The court has affirmed the rejection by Abia people of the narrow-minded and divisive agenda of Alex Otti’s ticket and gave a nod to the enthrone-ment of equity, fairness and unity in our dear state. “Alex Otti’s ticket was a recipe for crisis and confusion in Abia State.” The verdicts also elicited mixed views from PDP, APGA and APC stakeholders, including Deputy Senate President, Dr Ike Ekweremadu, Senator Aniete Okon and National Chairman of the United Progressives Party, UPP, Chief Chekwas Okorie among others.
Governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, in Akwa Ibom State, Obong Okon Umana, said that the Supreme Court ruling, which invalidated the Appeal Court judgement that upheld the election of Udom Emmanuel, called for soul searching. Umana, in a statement, noted that while it was not in his place to question the integrity of the judiciary as an institution, his supporters were surprised at the ruling.
His words: “We fought a good fight, but since the Supreme Court has taken its decision on the 2015 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, we have no choice but to move on. “As law-abiding citizens, we went to court to seek justice after the disputed elections, as advised by many people and election monitors, including the United States Embassy and the European Union, which had reached independent conclusions that the elections were marred by widespread irregularities.”
PDP, Ekweremadu celebrate
The national leadership of PDP, in a statement by its Acting National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, said the rulings had further reinvigorated the hope and trust of the citizenry in the judiciary as the bastion of democracy.
Secondus said: “While congratulating our governors and indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians for this triumph of democracy, we restate our charge to all PDP elected and appointed office holders at all levels across the country to continue to patriotically exert themselves, while maintaining the lead in providing purposeful leadership in line with the ideology and visions of PDP founding fathers.”
On his part, Deputy Senate President Ekweremadu, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media, Uche Anichukwu, congratulated Ikpeazu and Emmanuel on their victories. He hailed the Supreme Court as “the bastion of the nation’s democracy,” saying the apex court’s verdicts on the election petitions “were not only resounding victories for the masses of Abia and Akwa Ibom states, but also for the nation’s democracy in general.”
Pioneer National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Senator Aniete Okon, while congratulating Emmanuel on his victory, said the apex court’s verdict was not only resounding victory for the masses of Akwa Ibom state but also for the nation’s democracy in general. Also reacting Chairman Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Akwa Ibom State chapter, Archbishop Cletus Bassey, described the Supreme Court verdict as divine, saying: “God will never start what He cannot finish. You cannot undermine what God himself can do.”