The PDP Imo State gubernatorial primaries which took place on the 8th day of December, 2014, may have gone, but the agitation of those who are aggrieved by the outcome is still dominating news headlines across the nation.
It is no longer news that after an explosive night of contest involving 28 guber aspirants on the 8th day of December, 2014, the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha emerged winner with 346 votes to beat Senator Ifeanyi Araraume who came 2nd with 336 votes. The primaries went without hitches and at the end everyone was satisfied with the result. There was no form of objection or dissent at the Grasshoppers Handball Stadium venue of the primaries. The polling was peaceful and the sorting went without any objection. The results were announced and all aspirants embraced themselves. Trouble however started when Senator Araraume, who came second raised alarm to the effect that the total distribution of votes spread across the 28 aspirants over-shot the total valid votes cast which was 1006.
Put clearly, the grouse of Senator Ifeanyi Araraume is that 1064 delegates were accredited to vote at the primaries, out of which 1017 voted. 11 votes were declared void and 1006 votes were declared valid. According to him, a summation of the entire distribution of results to the aspirants showed that 1024 votes were finally returned and distributed as against the expected 1006 votes. To him, it meant that the 11 votes that were initially declared void were appropriated as valid and an extra 10 votes over inflated, hence the 1027 votes returned.
Looking at the Araraume case from the surface, it seems glaring that there was an over-voting by 21 votes. However, we must warn ourselves about running with just the case of one side. The applicable principle of law here is “Audi alteram partem”. Which means you must hear from the other side. Matters are not decided by hearing just one party. What Araraume and his supporters have gone ahead all over the media to spread is the case they intend to canvass at the appeals panel. His opponents have kept mute, probably not because they do not have a defence or better case but because they are waiting for the appropriate time to unleash their own evidence. Araraume must realize that what they have put across is an allegation, which the Appeals Panel would look into and eventually come up with a decision. Araraume should know that preempting the decision of the panel can be seen as neglecting the panel, which may come with obvious consequences. Senator Araraume should learn to put his case in his bosom, to unleash it only at the appropriate time. Until we see the official results as published by the election committee, we must see Araraume’s simulated results as a mere case of one party. The case would be clearer when the other parties state their case and the committee make a decision.
However the alarming part of the Senator Araraume voodoo mathematics is their unilateral claim that the votes cast for all other 27 candidates be counted distinctly to exclude the 346 scored by Hon Emeka Ihedioha. According to him, Ihedioha’s vote should be isolated, ostracized and marked as a virus. He is of the opinion that once that is done the 27th aspirants would have 681 votes and that what it meant was that Hon Ihedioha would have scored 325 votes against the 346 votes he garnered. Once that is done, Senator Araraume is of the opinion that any over-counting or padding should therefore be deducted from the 346 votes of Hon Ihedioha and to get the 1,006 votes, only 325 of his votes should be allowed for peace to reign.
The reason for this voodoo mathematics by Senator Araraume and his supporters is because Hon Ihedioha is the only man standing on his way to clinching the party’s ticket. According to Araraume and his supporters, any deduction must be from Ihedioha’s votes and in consequence he Araraume, should be declared the winner of his purportedly fraudulent process. Call it desperation or hopelessness, but Araraume and his advisers must be magicians. Their logic is that any perceived irregularity if ever must and should be blamed on the winner, Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha. What Senator Araraume failed to understand is that analyzing in reverse order, the total votes scored by 27 aspirants excluding his votes amounted to 691 and if you deduct 21 votes from his 336 votes you get 315 which ultimately lead to the 1006 valid votes tally.
But beyond the America-wonder mathematics and logic of Senator Araraume and his group is his attempt to be a petitioner, respondent and judge at the same time. To Senator Araraume and his group, the winner has no defense. To him the Election Appeals Committee has no explanation, clarification or investigation to make. To him no need for the Election Appeals Panel. The People’s Democratic Party set up for each State an Election Appeals Panel. The panel is set up to grant any party who feels dissatisfied with the process or outcome of the election to ventilate his grievance. Senator Ifeanyi Araraume being an aspirant is qualified to approach or petition the panel to seek redress. Once that is done, he must be patient to follow the procedures available for seeking redress within the party. But rather than patiently wait, Senator Araraume has on his whims earmarked the vote of whom he feels or wishes the alleged 21 our votes should be deducted from. Beyond that, Senator Araraume had concluded the possible finding of the Appeal’s Panel, by asking that the panel declare him the winner. To him the panel has no option than to declare him winner.
It is good to learn history. In 2007 Senator Araraume lost the governorship election to Ikedi Ohakim then of the PPA. He petitioned the Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Owerri. In that petition, Senator Araraume protested that the election was marred by widespread irregularities from various booths and wards of the state. He presented loads of INEC result sheets which he tendered as original results and the Court would later dismiss them as a worthless piece of paper. But the irony was that after alleging that an election was marred by widespread irregularities, Senator Araraume asked the Court to declare him winner of the same alleged flawed election. Today again, Senator Araraume alleges that 21 votes were stuffed into the ballot boxes during the last Monday’s guber primaries. To him all the panel must do is to simply deduct 21 votes from the winner and declare him the winner. Quite funny indeed. Assuming without conceding we agree that 21 votes were added illegally, the election appeals panel still reserved the right to decide if it was added in favour of Araraume, Ihedioha, Bright Nwanne or Ohakim. The matter would not be decided on Araraume’s whims and caprices. The panel reserves the discretion to recommend that the result be cancelled, order a rerun, or even allow the result.
On the claim that the head of the Election Committe was a member of the National Assembly, there was no report of argument or objection to the process throughout the primaries. The law requires that an adult who is under no legal disability, should object to any wrong process and to do so timeously. In this case, Senator Araraume was there throughout the process and he never complained until he got home the next morning.
Senator Araraume should simply present his petition to the appeals panel and pursue the outcome. He should understand that the panel would investigate his petition and the other side must be heard. The panel will also interview the electoral panel. They would also watch the video to see if there were dark moments when it would be assumed or ascertained that events were not carefully followed, hence the alleged manipulation. The Appeals panel would also hear and investigate why Senator Araraume believed that the alleged 21 over-votes were meant and written for Hon Ihedioha. Sen Araraume and his supporters must also realize that the decision whether to allow the result, order a re-run either for the first and second come, or allow the results, rests on the Appeals Committee. It is wrong for Senator Araraume to assume the position of a judge in his own case. Senator Araraume should know that not even all forms of irregularity would lead to an outright cancellation of results. It must be clear to the Appeals panel that 21 votes allegedly added were appropriated to Ihedioha hence leading to the total or substantial swaying the votes in his favour. He must show that the votes allegedly added substantially affected the outcome of the polls, meaning that they went to Ihedioha and not anyone else.
It is wrong for Senator Araraume to seek to win at the media, rather than complying with his party’s mechanism for redress. Senator Araraume and his supporters should know that their case would be canvassed at the appeals panel and not in the media. If I was an adviser to Senator Araraume, I would advise him to pull his strength on making his case at the party’s appeal panel than the desperate bid to unilaterally declare himself winner of the primaries.
Kissinger Ikeokwu writes from Owerri, Imo State