Despite the Court of Appeal ruling, which upheld the election of Labour Party’s Dr. Alex Chioma Otti as the winner of the March 18 Abia State gubernatorial election, the fear of Ben Johnson ruling at the Supreme Court persists in the state.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has leaned on favourable judicial pronouncements to produce 12 lawmakers in the state House of Assembly, is still urging its supporters to keep hope alive.
After the latest appellate court decision that affirmed the election of barrister Solomon Akpulonu as the winner of Obingwa East State Constituency election, PDP is securely leading in the membership of Abia State House of Assembly followed by LP, which trails it with nine members just as the Young Progressive Party (YPP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) have two and one lawmakers respectively.
There are indicators that the three opposition lawmakers in YPP and APC are waiting for the final resolution of the governorship election petition to switch allegiance to LP or PDP, depending on which party wins at the Supreme Court.
Reacting to the Court Appeal ruling Lagos, the Abia State PDP Vice Chairman and Acting State Publicity Secretary, Hon. Elder Abraham Amah, urged PDP faithful and Abia people to remain calm and trust in God as the party explores the last option available to it to reclaim the mandate.
In apparent allusion to the January 14, 2020 Supreme Court ruling on the Imo State governorship poll that threw up Senator Hope Uzodimma as the rightful winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election, both the Abia State chapter of PDP and its gubernatorial candidate, Chief Okey Ahiwe, maintained that the last has not been heard regarding the real winner of the gubernatorial poll in God’s Own State.
In a statement by his Media Adviser, Victor Nwokocha, the PDP governorship flagbearer, Ahiwe, told his supporters: “No one should panic. When we embarked on the journey to reclaim our mandate through judicial processes, it was a calculated resolution and we were conscious that the journey would not be a sprint, but a peculiar marathon with inevitable twists and turns.
“Our destination was clearly defined from the onset, and our focus is unchanged. So, at this juncture, our faith in God is renewed, as well as our solid confidence in the judiciary. I therefore encourage all my supporters to stay calm, keep praying to God, and look beyond the eclipse of transitional sunset.”
While commending his legal team, Ahiwe expressed confidence that after diligently studying the appellate court judgment, the team would advise on critical options to guide him and the leadership of the PDP in taking a decision on the final line of action.
Similarly, the Abia State PDP said the declaration of Dr. Alex Otti as winner by the Court of Appeal is not the final verdict on the matter, noting that the party would not abandon its mandate or “the good people of Abia who have been suffering under the bad policies of Alex Otti.”
The party stated: “The attention of the Abia PDP has been drawn to the judgement of the three-man panel of Appeal Court judges, which sat in Lagos and upheld the decision of the Abia Election Petition Tribunal, which had affirmed Alex Otti as the winner of the March 18, 2023 Abia governorship election following his declaration by INEC.
“Following the judgement of the Appeal Court, the Abia PDP assures its members, numerous supporters across party lines and the good people of Abia State to remain calm as the party’s leadership is meeting with the governorship candidate and his running mate and the legal team to review the judgement of the Appeal Court and come up with the next line of action.
“Abia PDP uses this opportunity to reiterate its confidence in the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man and one of the strongest pillars of our democracy. We call on members of the PDP, our numerous supporters and sympathisers and the good people of Abia State to remain steadfast, calm, peaceful, law abiding and put our hope and trust in God and in the Judiciary as we explore the options available to us.”
The Appeal Court judgment must have brought some relief to Governor Otti and Labour Party (LP), but until the final decision is taken at the court of last instance, it is definitely not over. The Supreme Court ruling that propelled the fourth-placed candidate into the winning spot in the Imo State 2019 governorship contest stands out as a landmark, more so when the ruling APC is still occupying the Presidency.