Strengthening our democracy requires the prevalence of democratic ethos as well ensuring that justice is done to all, irrespective of status. We cannot have a democracy or a virile nation if the dubious and perplexing workings of injustice keep seeping into our walls under any pretext whatsoever. Injustice, like a butterfly inside a chrysalis largely begets it’s kind and before we know it our society begins to travel the Hobbesian highway. Might becomes right and power becomes the exclusive preserve of a select group in society. Societal progress is hindered, paroxysms of strife set in and chaos is unleashed with the attendant scars reminding all that injustice bears with it, dire consequences.
As I write this piece, I have in mind the grave injustice meted out to Mr. Ikechukwu Ugwuegede, who aspired to represent the people of Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency seat. Ugwuegede is rightly believed to have been the authentic candidate of his party, People’s Democratic Party for that seat having defeated the present occupant of the seat, Hon. Patrick Asadu at the primary election conducted and supervised by officials of the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Ugwuegede who had polled 83 votes and had been declared as winner, also participated fully in the electioneering process as the authentic candidate of the PDP. During this period, it is important to note that his candidature was never questioned on any known faultline, perhaps to say that he was disqualified or not fit to contest the said election and promptly substituted. None of these did occur and coasting to victory, Ugwuegede was declared as winner of the March 28, 2015 National Assembly election.
What later transpired can be akin to the parlance” The more you look, the less you see”, as another candidate, Dr. Patrick Asadu who was the incumbent representative for that constituency went to court( Federal High Court, Abuja) challenging Ugwuegede’s emergence, stating that he and not Ugwuegede won the primaries and asked the court to declare him the rightful candidate of the party.
This was opposed vehemently by Ugwuegede and the PDP as both parties contended that the High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter because the first respondent did not participate in that primary election. Ugwuegede and the PDP told the court that Dr. Asadu having purchased the nomination form, stayed briefly at the venue before leaving to organize his own primaries.
Dr. Asadu, had also sought to reverse the nomination of Ugwuegede when he appealed to the Appeal Panel of the PDP. The Appeal Panel did rule in his favour despite the fact that Mr Ugwuegede insists that he was never invited to appear before the panel.
Curiously again, the Federal High Court and the Appeal Court at each stage of hearing and delivery of judgment surprisingly ignored the arguments that there were two primaries held on that day and that the National leadership of their party had endorsed the one that produced Mr. Ugwuegede. It is alleged that at the trial court and court of appeal, there were two result sheets exhibited with the same serial and code numbers, each with a different winner. However, at close scrutiny, the affidavit presented by the PDP revealed that the result sheet that produced Ugwuegede was the one issued by it, dismissing that presented by Asadu.
With the Supreme Court standing as the final arbiter in this long battle for justice, Ugwuedege stands like the proverbial David and underdog to nudge out the Goliath personified in Dr Asadu, The apex court must therefore look at the merits of this case and accord justice appropriately. Relying on antecedents in previous settled cases, the Supreme Court must be guided by maxim of where” justice is not only done but must be seen to be done”. Separating the chaff from the wheat, the apex court should determine whether there was an abhorrent contravention of the electoral act and other laws of the land as it applies to this case.
Whatever may be its decision, the Ugwuedege/Asadu legal imbroglio may offer the Nigerian nation and our democracy which is no longer nascent (as a near seventeen year old cannot be described as a toddler) the opportunity to scale hurdles that may assail its development later. It is no doubt that democracy is predicated on the rule of law, this case lies amongst such rare opportunities, it is my hope that justice will indeed be done.
Congratulating Tolu Ogunlesi and Bashir Ahmed
I was rather elated when the double barrel news of the appointments of Tolu Ogunlesi and Bashir Ahmed as SA and PA respectively to President Buhari on New Media hit me. I have known both gentlemen for some time now and believe that they are both worthy of such appointments. So here’s to their success as we all strive to build a new Nigeria, one we can all be proud of.
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