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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Supreme Court’s validation of Okorocha’s election

Success is not accidental.Very often, it’s the outcome of a constructed, created and well-fashioned preparation. In politics, it’s even more profound. Success doesn’t happen by chance. Which is why failure often awaits the politician who fails to prepare well and put his strategy in place. It is not measured in money, even though money is well known and accepted as the “life blood of politics.”.
The last one week has witnessed a deluge of judgments from election petitions Tribunals across the country, and in some instances, from the Supreme Court. One of the verdicts emanating from the Supreme Court last week was the final determination of the Imo State governorship tussle between incumbent governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Supreme Court upheld Okorocha’s election and threw out Ihedioha’s petition for lacking in merit. Ihedioha had appealed to the Supreme Court to quash the ruling of the Appeal Court as well as that of the Imo election petition Tribunal, both of which dismissed his petition for lack of merit and non-compliance with election petitions rules and procedures. This is how Ihedioha reached the fork in the road. His governorship ambition has been extinquished. He may have to wait till 2019. But, for now, he has to endure defeat which began on April 11, and consumated after the Supplementary elections of April 25, 2015. Nonetheless, the verdict of the Supreme will be too painful to bear because,Ihedioha or his lawyer, it seems, is the cause of his own downfall. In upholding Okorocha’s election, the Supreme Court says it agrees with the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Owerri, delivered by Justice Ejembi Eko. The Appellate court had ruled that Ihedioha’s failure to properly serve the governor and his party (APC), robbed Appeal Court the jurisdiction to hear the case. Accordingly, the full panel of the Supreme Court justices,led by John Fabiyi, held that failure on the part of the petitioner (Ihedioha) to indicate the addresses of the respondents (Okorocha, APC, INEC) on the processes of the appeal was grossly fatal to his case. It will be recalled that Ihedioha had first appealed against the ruling of the Imo State elections petitions Tribunal led by Justice David Wyon on July 22. His petition was dismissed outright on grounds that it was incompetent. Looking back now, six days after the Supreme Court delivered the final death kneel on Ihedioha’s ambition, a few questions pop up: how did the petitioner’s lawyers, led by, of all people, Chief Mike Ahamba, mismanage this legal tussle? Was it ill-luck, wrong timing, undue haste, lack of strategy or all of these factors? The troubled and tormented looks of Ihedioha’s supporters last week mirrored the agony of the petitioner. This is more so because, his lead counsel, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), is no stranger to election petitions. More than once he handled Muhammadu Buhari’s failed presidential election petitions up to the Supreme Court.Why did he not get it right this time? Only the learned Senior Advocate will tell.
But for now, this much is plain: The outcome of any election leaves many lessons to learn from and some questions to ask. According to a common saying,’never count your chickens before they are hatched’. That was what Ihedioha did, which is why politics favours no subtlety. Perfect timing to launch an ambition is key. To borrow the words of Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post, ‘good politician should take advantage of good timing’, just as great politicians are also advised to often find ways to make timing great for themselves. Owelle Rochas Okorocha is a good student of perfect timing. Ihedioha is not.Luck is also not the former Deputy Speaker’s virtue. Let me illustrate: In 2011, when Rochas challenged the then incumbent governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, Imo electorates were desperate for a regime change. They saw Rochas as the symbol and substance of that change. It was his luck that he came at the “right time”.That’s what is called good timing. Same cannot be said of Ihedioha’s challenge in 2015, even if the incumbent governor may have lost part of that public trust that brought him to office four years earlier. Moreover, while Okorocha still inspires the most impassioned followers,Ihedioha is seen by many as impersonal,sometimes uninterested in one-on-one exchanges with Imo voters at a time a candidate was expected,among other things,to show a great deal of warmth and humility. His alleged high-minded style in contrast to Okorocha’s populist,”I care-for-you” disposition,did a lot of damage to Ihedioha’s ambition.
It didn’t resonate with voters.In comparison,no matter what his failings might be,Gov Okorocha remains hugely loved by Imo people,perhaps not by the elites,but by the vast majority that came out to cast their votes on that election day. That’s why the governor is a brilliant recipient of good timing and luck.I said that much before the April election and the subsequent rerun.The governor was leading Ihedioha by over 79,000 votes counted.He also led in 20 local governments out of the 27 LGAs in the state.It was a stunning defeat.Little margin for error.
But looking beyond the April 11 result,I predicted in this column that the governor would be re-elected in the supplementary election of April 2d ,barring any unhinged event.This was the unhinged event:If Goodluck Jonathan had won the March 28 Presidential polls,the odds would have favoured Ihedioha largely because of “bandwagon effect”,not necessarily because of his popularity or acceptance by Imo voters.
This is also in spite of the fact that on the balance of achievements and acceptability,the incumbent governor is many notches higher leadership scale than Ihedioha.As I said then,for an average Imo voter,that was “Rochas they know(a reference to his campaign posters).That’s what luck could do to a candidate’s electoral fortune .Sadly for Ihedioha, his strategy for challenging Okorocha’s election was,awfully flawed and terribly mismanaged by his lawyers.Or maybe,his time has not yet come. Fortune has shifted away from Ihedioha.It’s now in the direction of the governor.
But, Rochas “they know” is more than the recipient of the “wind of change” that has brought Buhari to power after four attempts. I see Gov.Rochas as a politician who thinks ahead of time, strategically speaking. He has this nose for taking advantage of good timing. Better still, prescient luck is solidly on his side.If you don’t get my drift,let me put it in proper perspective:four years ago when he burst into Imo politics with the force of an elephant,few gave him a chance to wrestle power from Ohakim.He was seen by some people as an upstart politician who might not make it in the greasy pole of Imo politics. But he saw a window of opportunity that many didn’t see. Ohakim as governor had run out of luck.Every passing day,Ohakim was galloping from one controversy to another.He polarised Imo state along religious faiths.He made himself vulnerable.
Rochas saw the disillusionment.He cashed in on it. He ran a campaign with a unique rhythm, cadence and effervescence that captured the mood of the moment.Again,few years ago when he dumped APGA,the platform on which he won the 2011 election for APC,many of us thought he has embarked on a “suicide mission”.But,he has proved many,including me, wrong.
For me, he remains a perpetual optimist and a force multiplier with a genuine and passionate devotion to the cause/agenda that he calls the “Imo rescue mission”.But Rochas must see the validation of his election as another chance to make better things happen.He should begin to look at what legacy he wants to leave behind. He should put his ears to the ground and look at the centre,not to the right or left divide.The centre is where the real people who voted for him are,the civil servants,pensioners and downtrodden of the society. This is the passion that he carried into politics.He shouldn’t squander the trust.Trust is earned. The essence of leadership is using great power for great purposes.Many politicians forget that and pay the ultimate price of been a mere footnote in history.

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