Chima Boms is a political analyst, a People Democratic Party, PDP, stalwart and a practicing lawyer in Port Harcourt. He tells WILLIE ETIM that the Appeal Court over ruled the Supreme Court in the judgment it deliver in the River State Governorship Election, explaining that the attempt to foist All Progressives Congress, APC, leader on the people of the state through the back door is like a death sentence. Excepts:
What is your assessment of the Nyesom Wike administration since assumption of office?
It is rather unfortunate that even after the last elections, politics has continued to be the order of the day in Rivers State, giving little room for governance. Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State has done excellently well within seven months and within the resources available. The downturn in the fortunes of the country is affecting everybody, especially a state like Rivers. And by the time we will witness Wike’s leadership for the next one or four years, he will show to the world that he actually meant well for Rivers State. There are few governors you can compare him with when you place their achievements side by side.
With the annulment of his election, do you think Wike was actually properly elected into office?
It is unfortunate that certain persons believe that unless they have their way, then the system is not working. There was election in Rivers State. There was an attempt by these same people to frustrate the election on that day but Rivers people stood their ground and the election was conducted. Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, sent three commissioners to monitor the election here, they supervised the election; even the international community sent monitors. There was an election but unfortunately they were sour losers.
Wike won that election fair and square. I don’t understand what they meant by saying that Wike used federal might to win his election. But now that they are in power and the way they are painting a picture of how they will take over the state, I now understand what they meant by manipulation of the system to favour them. But they better be careful, let them not underestimate Rivers people. Rivers people know what is good for them. Rivers people gave Wike their mandate freely. I am almost certain, Rivers people will not abandon Wike; they are happy with Wike so far. Check his scorecard on security, development and on people-based projects.
In the event the Supreme Court upholds the Court of Appeal ruling, do you think Wike can still win the election again?
We have reasons to question the basis of the judgment of the Appeal Court on the elections petitions. That the judgment was on the basis of fact and law cannot stand the test of time. You recall that midway to the hearing, they changed the chairman of the tribunal, having reserved ruling on some aspects of some motions challenging some aspects of the petitions, which has to do with allegation of violence and the reliance on military men and police officers. As prove of that fact, the chairman of tribunal in his wisdom and application of extant law expunged substantial part of their petition. As at the time the tribunal came to the judgement, there was technically no petition as envisaged by the law before the tribunal, yet he went ahead and gave the ruling. Over and above that, by the time the tribunal gave its judgement, the same court of Appeal had ruled in the Lagos governorship petition between Akinwunmi Ambode and Jimi Agbaje that the card reader is a stranger to the Nigeria electoral system. It is not part of our law, that was the law the tribunal was bound to abide by. That is judicial rascality and indiscipline.
The Court of Appeal forgot that they have given rulings and judgments on the same issue of card reader but in Rivers State, it was a different judgment but the same facts and evidence as that of Ondo, Lagos and other All Progressives Congress, APC, states. It was wrong of the Court of Appeal. This society can only thrive if we have consistency. The Court of Appeal has no power to overrule itself. It cannot sit on appeal over a judgment it had ruled and that was what it has done. In coming to the Rivers State governorship appeal, the Appeal Court also overrule the Supreme Court, because the Supreme Court has upheld the election of Agbaje and has also affirmed in its judgement that the card reader is not part of the electoral system of Nigeria. The Supreme Court also restated that even in Okorocha’s case. It is a good thing that Wike took it to the Supreme Court.
Wike threatened INEC officials who will be sent to a possible re-run election in the state to write their will before coming for the election…
That was not what he said. He said he was not scared of a re-run for the National Assembly but that any INEC officials that is coming to conduct the election with intent to rig the election should first write his will, because the person will be confronted by the anger of the Rivers people.
But don’t you think writing of one’s will means death sentence?
Rigging the elections and bringing to the seat of authority somebody that Rivers people didn’t vote for is like a death sentence on the people too. To enthrone a leader against the will of the people is death sentence on the people, because such a leader that come to power without the mandate of the people will not be a righteous leader and the people will suffer and that is tantamount to passing death sentence on the people also. The question people should be asking is: are INEC officials coming to conduct election in a manner that it will be free and fair?
If you are coming to Rivers State to conduct a free and fair election, you do not have any reason to be afraid. The last election against all odds and predictions of doom was generally acknowledged to be devoid of violence and intimidation. Rotimi Amaechi and Dakuku Peterside, who never wanted the election to hold in April 2015, were the ones setting the violence, but the people of Rivers State did not give them room to unleash violence. Conduct the election again, Wike will win but we won’t get there because the Supreme Court will uphold the election.
What is your message to Rivers people as they await the Supreme Court judgment?
Rivers people should shame their detractors. Say not to violence as they did in the last election. Refuse to be provoked, stand their ground, vote their choice, protect their votes as people of Bayelsa did. This circle of violence must stop. It did not work in the last general election, it will not work now, if Rivers people stand their ground and do the right thing.