Ezeh Emmanuel Ezeh, PhD, was Labour Party House of Reps candidate for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency of Ebonyi State in the February 25, 2023 General Elections. The Doctor of Business Administration, alumnus of UNN, Lagos Business School, Oxford University, United Kingdom and a renowned entrepreneur, in this chat with Saturday Telegraph, spoke on his loss at the tribunal, vowing that the experience will not deter him from seeking the best for his people. Excerpts:
How do you react to the fact that your petition against the INEC declaration of Hon. Emmanuel Uguru as winner of the February 25, House of Representatives election for Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituency has been dismissed both at Election Petition Tribunal and the Appeal Court?
Well, dismissed is actually not the right word. I prefer to call it technically ambushed or intentionally sabotaged by a corrupt judicial system. Elections fall into major stages: the party politics, campaigns and election proper, results declaration and finally, the adjudication stage. Each stage is a novel journey albeit a very painful and sad commentary of what has become of Nigeria that we abandoned to bands of desperate men.
This past general election in summary is a sad reminder of the words of Joseph Stalin who noted that the people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do. One could go through all the rigours and stages of electioneering, but the final decider will be INEC and some Judges. The world should know that in 2023 Nigerian general election, APC did not just rig elections, INEC did the rigging on their behalf while in most cases, the Judiciary simply legalised the heist committed by INEC and APC.
As a non-career politician from the world of business and the Ivory Tower who joined the fray of Nigerian politics, could you shed more light on your experiences in the field?
Despite all the intimidation, monetary inducements, attempts at my life and those of my supporters, with a sitting government known for violence, intimidation and without any financial support from anywhere including our party, we won the election convincingly to the surprise and consternation of the APC backed government apparatus.
The People spoke out loudly; they were tired of all the lies, poverty of ideas, corruption and pervasive hunger that have become the signature reality of APC, especially in Ebonyi State and in Abakaliki-Izzi Federal Constituency in particular. In fact, we won in virtually every polling booth in Ebonyi State, but INEC happened to Nigeria and indeed Abakaliki-Izzi Federal Constituency.
Ebonyi is one state where all the National Elections and Presidential Elections results were not transmitted by the so called BVAS save for only seven wards within the Urban Constituency where the people insisted and refused to allow them do otherwise. Within these seven wards, LP won by over 95% notwithstanding the rigging, arson, intimidation, vote mutilations and outright writing of results.
Then you went to the tribunals…
Yes, we approached the Tribunal not satisfied with the entire charade, filed petition no. EPT/EB/HR/09/2023 challenging the INEC results on three grounds viz: Emmanuel Uguru having not presented any academic qualifications was not qualified to contest the elections. In fact, he had no academic qualifications and didn’t bother to submit any to INEC.
He does not possess neither the very minimum WAEC certificate nor the OND academic qualification he claimed under oaths. Again, we postulated that I, Dr Emmanuel Ezeh, won the election convincingly with evidence. After all the filings, and on time, APC filed a motion seeking a dismissal of our petition and surprisingly the tribunal agreed with them and dismissed our petition.
Worse still the same tribunal raised grounds never raised by the respondents thus becoming the judge, jury and defendants. Interestingly, one of the Justices refused to play a part in the ignoble role of judicial mercantilism and didn’t sign the judgement. We appealed, hoping for a reprieve.
We raised three grounds in our appeal namely: First we wanted to query whether the learned trial judges were right when they held that the application for pre-hearing which was filed within days of filing petitioner’s reply was filed out of time Secondly, whether the learned judges of the national and state house of assembly election petition tribunal Ebonyi State were right when they dismissed the petition based on a ground which was never made, raised nor canvassed before the tribunal by the respondents.
Thirdly, whether the Tribunal was right when it delivered its ruling in violation of section 285(8) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and paragraph 12(5) of the rules of procedure of election petition as contained in the first schedule of the Electoral Act 2022. To our collective shame as Nigerians, worse things happened at the Appellate level.
The judges sat on the judgement. It took a strongly-worded petition from my lawyers to the President of Court of Appeal for them to rush back, just few days before the appeal elapsed and dismissed the appeal. They called it technicalities, but I call it judicial impunity.
With your experience so far, what can you say about the Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal and indeed all other election tribunals in Nigeria?
I must thank all those who made the movement of the Tribunal to Abuja possible, other- wise blood would have flowed due to the desperation of then APC government. Having said that, and from media reports, it will be safe to concluded that the entire Ebonyi State National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal may have been compromised if my petition is used as a yardstick.
My experience suggests that progress will start when men and women of integrity at the Temple of Justice in Nigeria understand that theirs is a special calling and should approach their work with the seriousness of character and integrity it deserves.
Don’t you agree like many that the Electoral Act 2022 improved our electoral system?
Certainly, the 2023 electoral act would have been a game changer. The indices and statistics pointed to a major disruption of the political system for the better. The introduction of technology was a novelty. The 2023 ought to be the beginning of our gradual progression to real democracy but (Mahmood) Yakubu happened to us all. INEC happened to our electoral system.
INEC themselves sabotaged the entire hopes and aspirations of millions of Nigerians, young and old. INEC as an institution failed human civilisation. They failed the black race. Those of us who thought that being educated means the development of our total being have been put to shame by the disastrous outing of Yakubu. He certainly deserves all the dirt being thrown at him, but we must also remember the entire INEC top management supported him in the dastard dance of shame.
They supervised the worst election heist in human civilisation. We the people shall never forget, the internet too never forgets. INEC rigged and sabotaged the 2023 general elections by failing to adhere to its own rules and regulations. This is a brazen fact corroborated by EU and most of the 2023 election observers. Aside technological innovation, we should continue cleaning up our electoral system, the total gamut without exception.
For starters, INEC should be thoroughly cleansed of question- able individuals; the RECs should be elected by the people including the national chairman; they must be individuals who have shown consistency in character and otherwise. The greatest changes must be the anomaly of swearing in people into power whose elections are under legal challenges. It is like calling a winner in the middle of a match. We should allow the entire processes to be exhausted before a winner is declared.
What lessons have you learnt if any from all these?
Many life lessons have been learnt; we are still learning. The first lesson is the urgency of now. The best of us must get into politics. We should have started this engagement in 1998; we simply allowed the worst of us to take power. The second lesson is the power of Character and Integrity as personified by Mr Peter Obi’s Obi-dient Movement.
For the first time, a Nigerian politician has risen to stardom on the strength of Character, Competence, Capacity and Commitment to Public Good and Progressive Governance. The political class and citizens alike now understand that elections truly have consequences for both the governed and the leaders alike. The third lesson is the place of preparation and experience.
Experience is important; many of the unfortunately bitter turns some of us experienced were due to inexperience. Being successful in academia or enterprise is one thing and truly understanding the socio-political nuances that come with politics is another. For me this is truly a life-long lesson.
I also learnt not to be deterred by all these negatives and march forward in the battle of making life more meaningful for my people in any possible ways. The other lessons are numerous, but one of which is the need for eternal vigilance by the citizenry. A society can only progress based on collective desire of a critical mass of elite otherwise called elite consensus.
We are just beginning to build that necessary progressive consensus that drives and sustains change. We have longed and waited for a strong man as opposed to strong institutions, we have desired a miraculous flip to Eldorado instead of a gradual building. President (Barack) Obama once admonished that we should focus on building strong institutions rather than strong personalities.