Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The Supreme Court, Friday, upheld the victory of Gov. Alex Otti in the March 18 governorship poll in Abia State.
Otti who contested on the platform of the Labour Party was declared winner of the poll, but Chief Okey Ahiwe, and Chief Ikechi Emenike of the Peoples Democratic Party, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, respectively, rejected the outcome of the election and headed for the tribunal.
The tribunal affirmed Otti’s victory, but his challengers took the legal battle to the Appeal Court which also upheld the judgment of the tribunal in Otti’s favour.
Delivering judgment on the appeals by the duo, the apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel of justices, dismissed the appeals by Ahiwe and Emenike seeking to nullify Otti’s victory.
Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, in a lead judgment, held that the appeal of the PDP candidate, and his APC counterpart, lacked merit.
According to him, there is no legal basis to tamper with the concurrent findings of the Abia State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which upheld Otti’s election.
He said the argument of the appellants that Otti was not a bona fide member of the LP at the time the governorship election was held was immaterial in the face of Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
The apex court held that since Otti did not stand for the election as an independent candidate, there was no doubt that he was nominated and sponsored by a political party.
It waved aside the contention that Otti’s name was not on the membership list. The law mandated the LP to submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at least 30 days before it held its governorship primary election.
The Supreme Court held that even if Otti’s name was not on the said membership list, the PDP and its candidate lacked the locus standi to challenge the matter in court, as doing so would amount to “crying more than the bereaved.”
According to the Supreme Court, issues bordering on the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate in an election were a domestic affair of a political party, which the law forbade courts from meddling in.
It held that the appeals contained issues that predated the governorship election and had become statute-barred.