GOVERNOR OBI, A BELOVED BRIDE OF THE JUDICIARY?

Gov.Obi, a Judicial veteran.

Whenever Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi, is mentioned, what readily strikes analysts is the record he has set in relying on the judicial arm of government to claim his electoral rights. He has in fact fought numerous battles to validate his election as governor at different times.

Obi, a seasoned industrialist with interest cutting across the banking, telecommunications and technology sectors, also broke the jinx to become the first to earn a second term in office as governor in the history of Anambra State.

The governor who was re-elected for a second term on February 6, 2010 on the platform of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is in the news again.

The Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Awka, Anambra State on Tuesday declared that Obi was validly elected as governor of the state in the last governorship poll. In a seven-hour unanimous judgment read by Justice Peter Ige, the tribunal dismissed the petition by the deputy governorship candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Mike Okoye.

Against the position of some of his opponents, the tribunal held that Obi scored the highest number of valid votes cast in the election and one-quarter of the total valid votes cast in two-thirds of the local government areas in the state. The tribunal disclosed that it interpreted the constitutional provision of “all votes cast” to mean all valid votes cast. The tribunal also ruled that Obi was validly nominated by APGA to contest the February 6 election.

Ige said: “We hereby hold that the following has been established before us, that Mr. Peter Obi won the highest number of votes cast during the February 6, 2010 governorship election in Anambra State; that Obi has the highest number of votes cast and also has not less than 1/4 of the total votes cast in 2/3 of the 21 local government areas of the state. The return of Mr. Peter Obi of APGA is hereby upheld. Obi is declared to have been elected governor, having satisfied Section 179 sub 2(b) of the Constitution. This is the judgment of the tribunal.”

Okoye had complained to the tribunal that Obi did not meet the requirements of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, which prescribed that a candidate must score the highest number of votes cast and one-quarter of the votes cast in one third of the local government areas before he could be declared winner of the governorship election. He had also asked the tribunal to declare that Obi was not the authentic candidate of the APGA, arguing that he was expelled from the party before the election. Okoye has however vowed to appeal the judgement.

Observers sympathetic to the governor, have hailed the judgement, describing it as sound and detailed. They equally note that it would certainly stand the test of time.

Some have also argued that the widespread commendation that greeted the outcome of the poll from within and outside the country had signified its transparency. To them, they do not see any reason why the victory of Obi should be challenged in the first place.

Mike Kwentoh, APGA Chairman in the state, sees the judgement as a welcome development. He described the ruling as thorough, maintaining that APGA will continue to put all necessary machinery in place for the purpose of adding value to the lives of Anambrarians.

But for some, this may not really be the time for Obi’s supporters to celebrate since there are other petitions before the tribunal.

National Publicity Secretary of Action Congress (AC), Lai Mohammed says he can only comment when the petition of his party’s candidate, Chris Ngige has been treated. “I can’t give any reaction the judgement based on Okoye’s petition. For me, it is only when our own petition has been taken care of and ruling given that I can make any serious comment. The grounds of Okoye’s petition are different from that of our candidate. The facts he may have presented are equally different from the facts that we have. So, I don’t think there is need for any comment from us now”.

Anambra State Chapter of AC, has however rejected verdict of the tribunal. Its Publicity Secretary, Chetanne Udoka, in a statement said the judgment was a “massive travesty of justice in a macabre dance.”

Obi came to limelight as governorship candidate of APGA in 2003, in an election Ngige, then of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was erroneously declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). After nearly three years of legal tussle, Obi was declared the rightful winner of the poll by the state’s election tribunal. The verdict of the tribunal was upheld by the Court of Appeal on March 15, 2006, which paced way for Obi to assume office on March 17, 2006.

However, seven months after, precisely on November 2, 2006, the governor was impeached in questionable circumstances by 16 members of the state Assembly. His deputy, Virginia Etiaba, took over the next day, making her the first ever female governor of a Nigeria state. He successfully challenged his removal and was re-instated as governor on February 9, 2007, by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu.

Obi again stepped out of office on May 29, 2007, following general election organised by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in which Andy Uba was declared winner. Uba had hardly settled down for governance when Obi, returned to the courts, claiming that the four year tenure he had won in the 2003 elections only started to run when he took office on March 17, 2006. On June 14, 2007, the Supreme Court upheld Obi’s argument and returned him to office till March 17, 2010.

Born on July 19, 1961 at Agulu in Anaocha Local Government Area, Obi had his tertiary education at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), where he earned his BA philosophy in 1984.

The governor, who attended various advanced management courses in prestigious academic institutions including Harvard Business School USA, served in the capacity of director in several reputable companies such as Guardian Express Bank Plc, Futureview Securities Limited, Mobitel Limited, Chams Nigeria Limited and Fidelity Bank Plc, where he was also chairman.

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