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Enugu state in a state of suspense: As tribunal decides who becomes the authentic governor of Enugu state

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Peter Mbah and Ifeanyi Edeoga

Any moment from now, the Electoral Tribunal sitting in Enugu shall be delivering its judgment in the case of who was duly elected as the Governor of Enugu State in the last election. As I have stated many times in the past, I believe, based on the facts, the evidence and the law, that Chijioke Edeoga is the winner of that election and that will be eventually confirmed in the cause of this case. I carefully followed the trial of the case. Every assessment and my predictive capacity push toward only that conclusion, and nothing else.

The belief that the outcome of the governorship petition will go in favor of Edeoga was not dented by two recent judicial events. These were: (1) the judgment in the petition Peter Obi file against Bola Tinubu, and (2) the decision two days ago by this same tribunal giving judgment in favor of PDP House of Rep candidates against their Labor Party counterparts. There are clear distinctions between these two cases and the case of Edeoga against Mbah.

If you recall well, you would remember that I had always predicted that Obi would lose at the tribunal. I made that prediction after looking at the grounds Obi raised and the evidence he adduced during trial. The argument over the 25% of Abuja votes was clearly not going to lead to the disqualification of Tinubu. I actually warned against anyone placing so much reliance on that argument. That point was actually the only point that would have led to Obi being declared the winner of the presidential election, if that point was decided in his favor. Since I knew all along that that point was not a winning point, I knew that Obi would lose at the tribunal. It was as simple as ABC. The issue of Tinubu’s educational record was not fully developed to have played a part in the decision of the tribunal. So, based on the case presented by Obi to the tribunal, I had no hesitation in predicting that Tinubu would win. And he won.

However, the case of Edeoga against Mbah is remarkably much stronger than the case of Obi against Tinubu. While Obi’s petition occurred in a context that involved a third party – PDP – what we have in Enugu is a two-way fight between Edeoga and Mbah. While Atiku stood to benefit from some of the arguments of Obi, if they had succeed, only Edeoga will benefit from the points he raised, if accepted by the court. For instance, if Obi had succeed in disqualifying Tinubu, that would not be enough to make Obi the president because Atiku was declared the second-in-line. So, if Tinubu had been disqualified without a rerun, Atiku would have become the president, not Obi. We don’t have such a situation in Enugu. So, if the tribunal disqualifies Mbah on the ground of his certificate forgery, Edeoga will be declared the winner. Also, if the tribunal cancels the manipulated votes in Nkanu East that led to Mbah being declared the winner, Edeoga will emerge the Governor.

Also, the quality of Edeoga’s performance during the trial was far superior to the performance of Obi during trial. Edeoga’s ability to bring in the NYSC to discredit the certificate of Mbah was a nuclear bomb in that case. It is hard for the court to discountenance the evidence/testimony of the NYSC official. That will lead to a judicial crisis that will never be explained logically. The position of the NYSC on the validity of NYSC discharge certificates is unassailable and incontrovertible. To hold otherwise will mean that the court is now issuing its own NYSC certificates. Also, INEC did not call any witness in the trial. Also, Mbah did not testify. Usually, his failure to testify would not have been held against him. But given the nature of the evidence on the NYSC certificate, only Mbah could explain how he got the certificate he had. So, his personal testimony was necessary if he wanted the court to believe him. Everything in that trial went against Mbah. So, I had no hesitation in calling the trial a victory for Edeoga.

Another event that has raised concerns about this tribunal was the fact that only two days ago, it ruled against three Labor Party candidates at the House of Representatives. This led to all kinds of speculations and fears. Many became afraid that the tribunal appeared biased against Labor Party, which, by a logical extension, implied that the tribunal would likely decide also in favor of Mbah as PDP candidate. In fact, the rumor was that the tribunal reached its decisions in the cases of the House of Representatives members “because of the amount of money Peter Mbah had pumped out to ensure that PDP would win”. I don’t believe so. Yes, Peter Mbah is more than desperate. He is more than willing to bribe the judges. But I don’t think any of these judges is ready to jeopardize his place in history by basing his judgment on money. At the worst, they could take the money and still do what is right. Mbah will not go after anyone to recover the money he has spent in bribing such a person, assuming he actually bribed anyone.

In my assessment, the problem of the Labor Party candidates had to do with the Labor Party structure or lack thereof. The suddenness with which Labor Party emerged and rose to the frontline was shocking. It is only natural that without a strong and adequate structures in place to vet their candidates and make sure they have done everything right, it would be easy to find many technical violations in their journey to the offices they occupied. I believe that was what made it easy for the tribunal to decide against them. Even if you think the judges were induced, you must acknowledge that it is easier for your opponent to induce the judges if your case is weak or if there are legal technicalities that could be exploited against you.

Chijioke Edeoga does not have such problem. You must recall that for him to become the flagbearer for Labor Party in Enugu, he won that in court. He had already had the baptism of fire even before he could contest election. If there were technicalities that could be exploited against him, that would have been done then. Tested and toughened by the pre-election litigation he went through, Edeoga was free of technical blunders that could have been used against him. Also, looking at Mbah’s defense to Edeoga’s petition, there was really no counter-claim. There was no double edged sword for Edeoga to fear. So, the cases that were decided two days ago by the tribunal is not a negative indicator of what Edeoga should expect. On the contrary, I think the judges are very wise. They have taken a good look at the entire litigation season and will strike a balance somewhere. Some to PDP and now some to Labor.

Finally, you will recall, that much of my prediction is based on what the Supreme Court will do eventually. I am 90% confident that the Supreme Court will decide in favor of Edeoga, while I am 65% confident that this tribunal will decide in favor or Edeoga. Why do I have greater confidence in the Supreme Court than in the tribunal? The reason is that the tribunal judges are more likely to be induced by Mbah, while the Supreme Court Justices are more independent of Mbah’s influence.

We shall now wait and hear the judgement today, tomorrow or early next week.

Emeka Ugwuonye is writing from his home base in Rockville, Maryland, US.



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