By Sopuruchi Ekeh
Wednesday, 3rd March, 2021, makes it one year since the Nigerian Supreme Court declined to re-examine and correct itself in the case of Uzodinma vs Ihedioha/SC.1462/2019. While Governor Hope Uzodinma flexes in the euphoria of a controversial mandate; the Supreme Court justices are held captive by their conscience and Imo is left to derail from its path to socio-economic progress.
It is disheartening that in 21st century, where advancing the frontiers of justice are being advanced, and on the front burner, in Nigeria, we are still neck deep in miscarriage of justice.
This miscarriage of justice, spearheaded by the Supreme Court ruling in Ihedioha case, just as Justice Nweze observed, will continue to haunt, not only the court, but Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence. The precedent the judgement has set is that which erodes the basic tenets of democracy. Of having the voters and citizens elect their leaders without any obstruction or sidestepping prompted by any institution of state.
Although, Imo State and its people are now facing the consequences of that miscarriage of justice, the greatest damage has been the clear erosion of faith in the belief that the Supreme Court is a great institution of justice, truth, fairness and equity. Rather, that institution is now seen as part of the Nigerian deep state. Where the voices and rights of the masses are inconsequential, immaterial and of no effect. This is obvious, because, the position of the court and its decision indicated that Imo voters have no constitutional rights to elect who becomes their governor.
By taking away these powers from the masses by way of judicial expedition, the Nigerian electoral jurisprudence has been battered and damaged with dire consequences. The decision of the apex court to a larger extent underscored the deterioration of principles of democracy – where political power resides with the people. And not a gathering of judges. What has now ensued now in Imo is a complete democratic deficit – the people lacking faith in the system and Courts pronouncement.
To further compound the problem in Imo State, the Supreme Court, without any explanation, has refused to hear the application that the court itself effect its ruling in the case of Uche Nwosu vs APP & Others/SC.1384/2019. That seven months after filing the application, and the court is yet to deemed it right to hear the matter or communicate to the litigants, tells of the underbelly in the business of seeking for justice in Nigeria. The court has so far refused to adhere or abide to its judicial axiom that “justice delayed, is justice denied.”
That notwithstanding, the court should be aware that the miscarriage of justice done to Imo will never filter away. Rather, before the eyes and hearts of men, it will be difficult for Imo citizens to have faith and confidence in the apex court. After all, the people in their hearts of heart have openly refused to morally extend their mandate to Uzodinma, as he is christened ‘Abuja and Supreme Court Governor.
More worrisome is the fact that it’s not only in Imo that the Supreme Court is setting a bad precedent. In Cross River State today, after two Supreme Court rulings, no one is certain about who is the Senator representing Cross River North Senatorial District. Two candidates from the same Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) are laying claims to the mandate.
While Imo people have been left to embrace the decision of the court, even in the midst of a clear miscarriage of justice, the court should be concerned about its reputation beyond the shores of Nigeria. The fact remains that, at the moment, the highest court in the country is not in good stead. It has been beclouded by controversy and growling by the masses, whose rights the court, as the last bastion of justice, should defend.
As Nigeria battles to foster peace and stability in perilous and dubious times, the role of an independent judiciary becomes more crucial. It should work, and be seeing to be working hard to restore confidence in Nigeria’s judicial system and the courts.
The best pathway to achieving that is for the courts, and the apex court in particular, to restrain itself from overstepping its competence and inhibiting Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence. The time to act is now.
Ekeh, is a public affairs commentator, he writes from Owerri, Imo State