Chief Goddy Uwazurike, a lawyer, is a former President of Aka Ikenga, an Igbo think tank. In this interview, he speaks on the nullification of the Bayelsa State governorship election by the tribunal and what the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should do to avoid a similar experience in the forthcoming Edo and Ondo gubernatorial polls, among other issues. FELIX NWANERI reports
What is your take on the judgement of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Tribunal, which nullified the election of Senator Douye Diri and ordered for a fresh election?
It is elementary law that an election that excludes a party or omits the logo of a party cannot stand. A free and fair election means one in which the candidates are presented to the electorate for the voters to choose from. Any omission means that the correct results are not the one presented by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It means that some parties have been unlawfully excluded. What is not right is not right. The only challenge is whether it is a preelection matter or post-election, but that is irrelevant because the correct answer is that a party has been unlawfully excluded.
Diri has directed his lawyers to appeal against the judgement; what do you see playing out at the appellate court?
The Court of Appeal may have a contrary view on technical grounds. But, sad as it is, it is a correct judgement. The properly qualified candidates excluding the All Progressives Congress (APC) will slug it out. Remember that APC has been declared as having no candidates. Edo and Ondo will go the same way if any party is excluded as the Court of Appeal has nullified the deregistration of parties by INEC. So, the proper thing for the electoral commission to do today is to list all registered parties for elections.
There seems to be no end in sight to the crisis rocking the Edo State House of Assembly given. How would you react to recent developments on the impasse?
Edo State is about to experience what Ekiti State suffered during the last governorship election. The recent is the first tentative step. Men who were not legislators, not sworn-in in accordance with the constitution, met in a private home, swore themselves in, elected new officers after impeaching the existing ones and adjourned. In the meantime, police that cannot give protection from the kidnappers in Edo State barricaded the House of Assembly. The federal controlled press quickly accorded the actions legitimacy. More developments are unfolding. News is Governor Godwin Obaseki vs Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. Where is the candidate of the APC, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu? Now my take: To be a legislator, one has to contest and win as a party sponsored person. On a date fixed by the Clerk of the House, the legislator-elect presents his Certificate of Return to the Clerk for admission into the House. The governor proclaims the commencement of the legislature for four years. The Clerk conducts election of the speaker and the deputy. They are sworn in ditto the legislators-elect. This constitution we are operating directs us every step of the way. So, what took place in Edo was a tragic comedy of Shakespearean proportion. A former governor of Oyo State, Rashidi Ladoja had a running battle with his godfather, Lamidi Adedibu in Oyo State just like Obaseki is having with Oshiomhole. Adedibu got the some legislators to sit outside the house to impeach Governor Ladoja. They successfully removed him, but the Supreme Court declared the whole exercise a charade, null and void as the legislature can only sit in the House. So, the sitting of the Edo legislators has already been decided by the Supreme Court. Lalong’s case is different because those who declared their seats vacant were existing members of the House. Those who took part in the proceedings were elected but not sworn-in. Besides, their seats were already declared vacant by the Edo legislature. One cannot perform the functions of a legislator if the person is not one.
You talked about the police role in the saga; are you inferring that they are partisan?
The comic presence of the police is akin to what happened in Ekiti State under Ayodele Fayose; radio and television stations locked down; government house under siege, while Osun Radio and TV broadcasting full blast into Ekiti in favour of APC. INEC on cue, threatens to cancel the elections just like the Rivers State experiment. Oshiomhole and Rotimi Amaechi have three things in common; governors for eight years, Abuja posts and refusing to move on in life. To them, it is either the state obeys them or there will be war. Who will bear the brunt? The people! Now, I am aware of the situation in Edo on the number of people who are seeking to justify what the legislators-elect did but my advice is: Follow the constitution. Finally, Edo may be like Rivers State, tit for tat. Edo may not be Ekiti or Lagos!