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HON. ONAH vs HON. IJERE: Upholding the Principles of Justice


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In a democratic society, the rule of law takes precedence over personal preferences. Yesterday, the Enugu State Election Petition Tribunal rendered a crucial verdict on the eligibility of Hon. Obinna Ijere to participate in the 2023 House of Assembly seat elections. Amidst the emotional arguments asserting that he was the people’s choice, it is crucial to emphasize that the judgment was solely based on the candidate’s ineligibility, rather than the number of votes cast. The impartiality and unwavering commitment to justice exhibited by the Judges deserve commendation in ensuring a fair decision.

The crux of the matter in the petition filed by Hon. Solomon Onah challenged Hon. Obinna Ijere’s eligibility to contest for the House of Assembly seat. It is essential to recognize that the decision was not an arbitrary attack on personal preference, but rather an impartial evaluation of the defendant’s adherence to electoral guidelines and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). The court’s primary duty is to rule in accordance with the law, regardless of popular sentiment or the preferences of the electorate.

The judgment rendered by the Enugu State Election Petition Tribunal concluded that Hon. Ijere had disregarded the electoral guidelines by failing to resign from his employment at the University of Nigeria within the stipulated time. The constitutional provisions and electoral regulations exist to maintain fairness, prevent conflicts of interest, and ensure a level playing field for all candidates. By flouting these criteria, Hon. Ijere inadvertently undermined the democratic principles that anchor our electoral system.

It is crucial to differentiate between the personal choice of the people and the legal requirements for eligibility. While supporters of Hon. Ijere may argue that he was the preferred candidate, it must be acknowledged that in a democracy, adherence to the constitution is vital. The judges’ decision was motivated solely by the need to uphold the principles of fairness and legality, rather than diminishing the significance of the public’s choice. It is a grave offense in law to see someone aiming to serve (or serving in) elective office to receive double salaries as political office holder and a civil servant at the same time.

The ruling delivered yesterday, by the Judges at the Tribunal exemplified unwavering commitment to justice. Their impartiality in assessing the evidence presented by both parties, and their focus on interpreting the constitution and electoral guidelines led to a fair ruling. By refusing to be swayed by extraneous factors, the Judges demonstrated their steadfastness in delivering an unbiased verdict that upheld the integrity of the electoral process.

They deserve commendation for their unwavering commitment to justice throughout the trial. In a society where personal biases and emotional appeals can easily cloud judgment, their resoluteness in adhering strictly to the parameters of eligibility criteria and the rule of law is commendable. This dedication sets a significant precedent, emphasizing the importance of an impartial judiciary playing a vital role in safeguarding democratic values.

This should not be misconstrued as an attack on personal choice or an erosion of the people’s will.

What the Defendant — Hon. Obinna’s fans failed to realize is that there was a case of over voting in some polling units as established by the panel, which if culled off will twist the highest number of valid votes cast in favour of the Petitioner — Hon. Onah, but the Judges in their wisdom argued that since the ineligibility of the Defendant was already established, then no need to delve into that.

The tribunal didn’t just base its decision solely on the defendant’s failure to comply with extant laws and resign from his employment within the stipulated time, thereby violating the electoral guidelines and constitutional provisions but also over voting that brought the Defendant into office. We must appreciate the unbiased judgment of the Judges and praise their steadfastness in delivering justice, as it strengthens the foundation of our democracy and ensures the fair application of the law.

— Nduka Nnadi

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