© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
FLASHBACK: Seven Nigerian governors brought back by court since 1999
BEFORE Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Court which invalidated the victory of Emeka Ihedioha as the elected governor of Imo State in the 2019 elections, and pronounced Hope Uzodinma as the governor of the state, five past governors in Nigeria have had to claim their mandates through the court.
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has struggled to conduct credible polls.
The electoral umpire has conducted six general elections in 20 years and has also had many of those elections upturned by courts as a result of electoral malpractices.
Within those years, a number of governors lost their seats after election petition tribunals and of course the Supreme Court nullified their elections. Consequently, the court has restored mandate of seven governors —two of them in the current dispensation.
The ICIR compiled the list of governors who were the beneficiaries of this kind of court action. These are Rauf Aregbesola, Peter Obi, Rotimi Amaechi, Adams Oshiomhole, Segun Mimiko, Bello Matawalle and Hope Uzodinma who was until the Supreme Court ruling a runner up in the 2019 elections and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Peter Obi: Twice lucky at Supreme Court
More than any politician in the current democratic experience, Peter Obi has enjoyed the grace of the court to restore his mandate twice as governor of Anambra State.
In 2003, Obi contested in the Anambra State governorship election as a candidate for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) party, but his opponent, Chris Ngige of the People’s Democratic Party, was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He would later endure almost three years of litigation to get his mandate back after Ngige’s victory was overturned by the Court of Appeal on 15 March 2006. Obi became governor of the state on 17 March 2006.
His reign was short-lived when on November 2, 2006 he was impeached by the State House of Assembly after seven months in office and was replaced the next day by Virginia Etiaba, his deputy, making her the first-ever female governor in Nigeria’s history.
Obi successfully challenged his impeachment and was reinstated as the governor on 9 February 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu. Etiaba handed power back to him after the court ruling.
After the 2007 elections, Obi left office when he lost to Andy Uba, candidate of PDP. He was, however, declared governor of the State, after the Supreme Court asked Andy Uba to leave office with immediate effect.
The Supreme Court argued that under the constitution, a state governor’s tenure should last four years, therefore Obi should stay in power until March 2010.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission was wrong to have conducted elections to fill a non-existent governorship (vacancy) in Anambra state,” said Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, delivering a unanimous ruling by seven Supreme Court judges.
The ruling came in June about two months after the general elections were conducted.
The then President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua immediately directed the Solicitor-General of the Federation and the Inspector-General of Police to ensure a smooth transition back to Peter Obi as soon as they were served with the court papers.
Rotimi Amaechi: Governor without contesting elections
About four months after Peter Obi’s feat at the Supreme Court, Rotimi Amaechi, a former Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly became the next beneficiary of the apex court ruling after a litigation that lasted eight months.
The seven-man Supreme Court removed Celestine Omehia as governor of Rivers State after it unanimously ruled that Amaechi should be sworn-in immediately as the governor of the state. The judgement was read by Justice Katsina-Alu.
Amaechi won the state governorship primaries of the PDP before the general election but was later substituted with Omehia by the ruling party. He challenged his substitution at Federal High Court and Court of Appeal but failed in both bids to restore his mandate.
He would not give up on his mandate, and headed for the Supreme Court to appeal the verdict of the appellant court. The court concluded that which ruled that Amaechi was the legitimate PDP candidate and therefore the winner of the gubernatorial election in Rivers state even without contesting the elections.
Aregbesola: Regained mandate after three years
In November 2010, the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan, Oyo State declared Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) winner of the 2007 governorship election in Oyo State, awarding him 198,799 votes, against the ousted incumbent 172,880.
Olagunsoye Oyinlola, incumbent governor of the state was asked to vacate the seat after his election was declared null and void by the court.
Delivering judgment, the head of the five-member appeal panel, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi declared Aregbesola the winner and ordered that he should be sworn in immediately. It was a unanimous judgement.
Aregbesola had in his petition prayed the court to cancel the elections in 10 local government areas of the state where violence and electoral malpractices marred the elections.
In the judgment, read for about five hours by Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, the court affirmed, INEC did not conduct election in accordance to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and in accordance with the Electoral Act. It thus annulled the election held in 10 local governments in dispute saying that the allegations against the election in the 10 disputed local government areas were valid and genuine.
Oshiomole replaces Osunbor in Edo
Oserheimen Osunbo, a professor and candidate of the PDP who won the governorship election in Edo State in April 2007 was relieved of his position in March 2008 by the State Election Petition Tribunal.
The court declared Adams Aliu Oshiomhole of the Action Congress (AC) as the duly elected governor of Edo State. It ordered INEC to “withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Osunbor.”
It also ordered that the Certificate of Return be issued Oshiomhole as governor the State having scored a quarter of total votes cast in 12 of the 18 local government areas of the state.
In a judgement that lasted over two hours and a half, Justice Umaru Farouk Abdullahi president of the Appeal Court held that Oshiomhole scored highest vote, in the April 14, 2007 governorship poll in Edo State.
The Appeal Court said it arrived at these decisions after careful scrutiny of the lawful votes and invalid votes cast in 12 contentious local government areas and concluded that Oshiomhole not only won the highest number of votes as required in law.
Mimiko in, Agagu out
Olusegun Mimiko’s ambition of ruling Ondo State materialized on February 23, 2009 after the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City; Edo State capital upheld the earlier ruling of the election tribunal, sacked the incumbent governor at the time, Segun Agagu now late, and declared Mimiko the duly elected governor of the state.
Mimiko was the candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the April 14, 2007 governorship election.
The court ruled that having satisfied the requirements of Section 179 (2)(a) and (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and by virtue of section 147 (2) of the Electoral Act No. 2 of 2006 Mimiko “be and is hereby declared as the Governor of Ondo State of Nigeria.”
The five-man tribunal led by Garba Nabaruma, in its one hour, 15 minutes judgement, also ordered that Mimiko should be sworn in immediately as the governor of the state because he won the valid votes in 12 out of the 18 local governments in the state.
According to the tribunal, the Labour Party candidate won 198,269 votes while the PDP candidate, Agagu won 128, 669 votes.
By this, the tribunal stated that Mimiko won 25 per cent of the valid votes in 13 out of the 18 local governments in the state, thereby fulfilling the constitutional provision, which states that a candidate must win at least two-thirds of the votes cast in 13 local governments.
The tribunal ordered INEC to issue Mimiko with the certificate of return as the winner of the 14 April, 2007 governorship election in the state, and thereafter be sworn in as the governor.
Bello Matawalle: Rode on APC crisis to power
After an unresolved internal crisis prevented the ruling APC in Zamfara State from conducting its primaries within the stipulated time by INEC, the party forfeited its opportunity to feature candidates in all the elections conducted in 2019.
Bello Mohammed Matawalle, candidate of the PDP was the direct beneficiary of the imbroglio. He became the governor of the state following ruling by the Supreme Court which voided all the votes of APC during the elections.
The electoral body, INEC, subsequently declared him winner of the polls.
“A Court of Appeal judgment and now a Supreme Court judgment have determined that the APC did not conduct valid primaries for the elections in question,”INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said reacting to the court ruling.
“In its judgment delivered on 24th May 2019, the Supreme Court, having determined that the APC did not conduct valid primaries, said that the votes cast for the party in all the elections in question were ‘wasted’ and ordered the Commission to recognize the runners-up as the winners.
“This judgment affects the positions of Governor and Deputy-Governor, three Senatorial, seven Federal and twenty-four State Assembly Constituencies.”