The Supreme Court, on Friday, affirmed Mr Alex Otti of the Labour Party, LP, as the valid winner of the governorship election held in Abia State on March 18.
The apex court, in a unanimous decision by a five-member panel of justices, dismissed two separate appeals that sought to nullify Otti’s election victory.
In its lead judgement that was read by Justice Uwani Abba-Aji, the apex court held that the appeal of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Okey Ahiwe, and his counterpart in the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Ikechi Emenike, brought before it lacked merit.
It held that there was no legal basis to tamper with the concurrent findings of the Abia State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which upheld Otti’s election.
According to the apex court, the argument of the appellants that Otti was not a bona fide member of the LP at the time the governorship election was held was immaterial in the face of Section 177(c) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
It held that since Otti did not stand for the election as an independent candidate, there was no doubt that he was nominated and sponsored by a political party.
The court waved aside the contention that Otti’s name was not on the membership list. The law mandated the LP to submit to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, at least 30 days before it held its governorship primary election.
The Supreme Court held that even if Otti’s name was not on the said membership list, the PDP and its candidate lacked the locus standi to challenge the matter in court, as doing so would amount to “crying more than the bereaved.”
It held that issues bordering on the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate in an election were a domestic affair of a political party, which the law forbade courts from meddling in.
The court held that the appeals contained issues that predated the governorship election and had become statute-barred.
Consequently, it dismissed the appeals and affirmed Otti’s victory at the polls.
It will be recalled that it was declared that Otti polled 175,466 votes to defeat his closest rival, Ahiwe of the PDP, who scored 88,529 votes.
Dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, both Ahiwe and Emenike of the APC, who came in third, approached the tribunal, insisting that the LP candidate was not validly elected by a majority of valid votes cast at the election.
They further challenged his eligibility to contest the election.
The petitions lost the case they took both to the tribunal and the appellate court.