By Amanze Ajoku

It has been days since Hon Emeka Ihedioha was felled by the final judgment of the Supreme Court, which also saw to the ascendency of Hope Uzodinma as Governor of Imo State.

No doubt, the judgment generated a lot of controversies, largely because a lot of people could not understand the reasoning behind the judgment. Yet, the truth is that people could not understand simply because the reasons were not yet known at the time of delivery of the judgment.

But now that the Supreme Court has released its 45-page reasons for the judgment, it appears that the judgment was not supposed to be as controversial as it was, and a lot of minds will as soon be changed in favor of the judgment.

After reading through the reasons for the judgment, almost everybody (lawyers and laymen) will agree that if anything went wrong, it went wrong with INEC’s failure to proactively disprove the 388 polling unit results rendered by Governor Hope Uzodinma. In point of fact, INEC tendered nothing to contradict the results tendered by Uzodimma.

The second thing that went wrong was that Ihedioha’s lawyers simply alleged that the results were forged but they never tendered any evidence to prove their bare assertions. Pray, how can you accuse someone of a criminal offense (forgery) without proving it beyond reasonable doubt. They didn’t even present anything at all. Nothing!

Further, while Governor Uzodinma made credible assertions that elections were held in those 388 polling units just as they were also held in the rest of the remaining polling units across Imo State, neither INEC nor Ihedioha’s lawyers could contradict that or explain what happened to the votes scored in those 388 polling units.

In any system of elections, there is a presumption that elections held in all polling units. Therefore, anybody who asserts that they did not must the one proving such, not the other around. It is thus proper that this presumption, being unchallenged, had to be resolved in favor of Uzodinma.

So, in this circumstance of absence of contrary evidence from INEC and Ihedioha, any impartial fact finder, including the Supreme Court would have no other choice than to rely on the results tendered by Uzodinma and his witnesses.

It is also pertinent to note that these witnesses are legally qualified to testify to the results sheets because as Ward agents/officials and police officers who were accredited to the election, they saw what happened with their own eyes. They are eyewitnesses. So, the thesis that it is only polling unit agents/officials that should have testified is not known to the Electoral Act, the Evidence Act or any other Nigerian law.

Further, the result sheets they testified to and which contained the votes from the 388 polling units were entered on a Form recognized by law as an election material, and it is issued in counterparts, of which Uzodinma tendered one but INEC/Ihedioha tendered nothing. It therefore follows that if anybody alleges that the figures on the Form were forged, the burden lies with such person to prove his allegation with another version of the document or another result sheet. This, INEC and Ihedioha woefully failed to do.

Finally, the Supreme Court reached its conclusions by referring to many decided cases where the documentary testimony of police officers who participated in the election were held to even higher probative value than that of INEC officials, who might have even intentionally excluded votes in order to favor their preferred candidate. There have been previous instances of such being the case, and the Supreme Court is aware.

Going forward from here, the lessons learned from the outcome of this very case are legion: First, INEC must do more to prove the results of any election it declared. Mere declaration is no longer enough. Second, lawyers defending election petitions must not assume that it is only INEC that has the monopoly of truthfulness when election results are in dispute. Third and finally, before anybody takes issues with Court judgments, such person should hold his peace until he sees reasons for the judgment.

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