REMEMBERING IMO’S DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT

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March 3, 2021 marked exactly one year that the Supreme Court declined to re-examine and correct herself in the case of Uzodimma vs Ihedioha/SC.1462/2019. While Hope Uzodimma flexes in the euphoria of a controversial mandate; the Supreme Court jurists are held captive by the conscience of their hearts, Imo is left to derail from its socioeconomic path. It is disheartening that in a 21st century, where advancing the frontiers of justice should be in the front burner, in Nigeria, we are neck deep in miscarriage of justice.

This contraption of miscarriage spearheaded by the Supreme Court ruling, just as Justice Cletus Nweze observed, will continue to haunt, not only the court, but Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence. The precedence 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 her people are now facing the consequences of that miscarriage of justice, the greatest damage has been the clear erosion of faith in the Supreme Court as 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 outcomes indicated that Imo voters have no constitutional rights to elect who becomes their governor.

By taking away those 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 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 asking the court to give effect to its ruling the case of Uche Nwosu vs APP & Others/SC.1384/2019. That seven months after filing the application, and the court is yet to deem 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 have openly refused to morally extend their mandate to Uzodimma as he is christened the Supreme Court Governor.

More worrisome is the fact that it’s not only in Imo that the Supreme Court is setting a bad precedence. In Cross River State, 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 clear miscarriage of justice, the court should rather be concerned about its reputation to the outside world. It is not in good stead. It’s that of controversy and growling by the masses whom the court should serve. As Nigeria battles to foster peace and stability in perilous and dubious times, the judiciary should work hard to restore confidence in Nigeria’s judicial system and the courts. The best pathway to that ambition is for the courts to purge herself from overstepping its reach and inhibiting Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence. The time to act is now.

Sopuruchi Ekeh, Owerri, Imo State

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