The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came under fire on Monday for staging street protests against last week’s Supreme Court judgment which sacked Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor.
President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ohanaeze Ndigbo and senior lawyers faulted the PDP for the protests staged in Abuja and some state capitals.
Following the judgment, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the APC candidate in the March 9, 2019 election, has been inaugurated as governor.
President Buhari said it was wrong for the opposition party to constantly attack both the electoral and judicial systems whenever things do not go their way.
The President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said: “Election is good when they win. The opposite is the case if someone else emerges. But, that is not the way it works.
“Democracy is not only about who wins or who loses, but also about the process. In disparaging every unfavourable result or judgment, they disparage the entire system.
“It has now become standard procedure for the opposition to challenge any poll or judgment that does not return its candidates.”
The PDP’s street protest also drew condemnation from Uzodinma, who said it was an attempt to overthrow the government.
“Why are they organising a nationwide protest on an event concerning Imo?
“If they didn’t have ulterior motive to bring down the government, they could have held the rally in Imo State,” the governor said.
Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Mr Femi Falana, and Babatunde Fashanu, as well as renowned professor of International law Akin Oyebode, also slammed PDP for the protests.
Fashanu said it was wrong for a party that lost in court to encourage its members to protest in the streets.
He faulted the PDP for making allegations against the Supreme Court without proof.
According to the SAN, “that is a dangerous trend that can lead to a breakdown of law and order”.
He said litigants must realise that there must always be a winner and loser, even as judges can make mistakes.
“So, PDP should tell its members that the final court has ruled in the case and should sheath their swords till the next governorship election in Imo State in four years.
“But if it feels such a grievous mistake has been done in the Ihedioha’s case that can be redressed by the same Supreme Court, then they should file proper papers before the Supreme Court and not complain in the streets,” Fashanu said.
For Prof Oyebode, PDP has the right to protest, but not to castigate the Supreme Court.
He said: “By calling on justices of the Supreme Court to swallow their vomit, the protesters wittingly or unwittingly are itching to pull down the roof on everyone.”
According to Oyebode, an essential ingredient of liberal democracy is the right of dissent although “within measure”.
“The subtext or underlying assumption of separation of powers is that the judicial prerogative is sacrosanct if the glue that holds society together is not to lose its grip,” Oyebode said.
Falana, who said the protesters were exercising their fundamental right of freedom of expression, said the protests will not lead to a reversal of the judgment without a proper application before the Supreme Court.
He said: “That is the beauty of democracy. Politicians and lawyers are entitled to criticise the decisions of all courts, including the Supreme Court, but they are advised not to demonise the institution.
“The PDP has called for a review of the judgment of the Supreme Court. But there is no precedent whereby street protests have ever changed the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“If the PDP is desirous to have the judgment reviewed, it has to follow the proper procedure by asking its lawyers to approach the same court.”
According to him, it is not unusual to ask the apex court to overrule itself or review its judgment on solid grounds.
Also on Monday, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo condemned the protests, saying it has a destabilising effect.
The apex socio-cultural organisation, in a statement by its Secretary-General, Uche Okwukwu, said: “We sincerely appeal to all parties to accept the apex court’s judgment in good faith, as it is the wish of God Almighty.
“Either Uzodinma or Ihedioha is qualified to govern Imo State. God in his own wisdom prefers Uzodinma to Ihedioma. Ndigbo are happy and thankful to God that Uzodinma emerged victoriously.
“We are calling on all Igbo to be vigilant and wise while refusing to be used as agents of destabilisation.
“We are mindful of our position in Nigeria. Ohanaeze Ndigbo is of the strong opinion that it is in the interest of Ndigbo to embrace the programmes and policies of the APC-led government in Imo State.
“It is in our interest to join the mainstream party, as it is manifestly clear and scientifically predictable that the APC will win the 2023 elections and a failure on our part to so do, will lead to regrets.”
The organisation also admonished all security agencies to be on alert and take proactive steps to protect lives and property in Igboland and other parts of Nigeria.
The APC which last week hailed the Supreme Court judgment , said in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, that the protests were “senseless and a threat to the nation’s democracy.”
It said: “The APC finds the indecorous and contemptuous actions and remarks by the leadership of the PDP worrisome.
“The disgraceful and senseless protests embarked upon by the opposition party is being done with the sole purpose of dragging the apex court of our land, and indeed our great country into odium and scorn before the international community.
“We also view the irascible actions and irresponsible remarks by the PDP as a calculated attempt to overheat the polity.
“The PDP has become a present threat to our peaceful coexistence. We know that the PDP will find justice served by our courts very hard to swallow because it had become accustomed to crooked manipulation of due process to its benefit and at the expense of the entire system.
“Weaning it from this bad modus operandi has proven difficult if not impossible. Every time the PDP loses in court, it declares the decision suspect and our democracy on life support.
“We have just lost Sokoto State governorship to PDP on account of the judgment delivered today(yesterday) by the Supreme Court. We should state that the judgment is completely strange to our expectation based on the facts before us.
“Unlike the PDP, we are not going to behave like spoilt brats and threaten the peace of the country over the surprising judgment of the Supreme Court on the Sokoto State case.
”The PDP, without any scintilla or iota of fact, has alleged bribery, inducement, coercion and collusion between the Executive arm of government and the judiciary.
“These are very weighty allegations that can completely undermine any democracy and damage our judiciary beyond repairs.
“It is therefore incumbent on the PDP to provide the evidence to back these senseless allegations.
“We urge the relevant agencies to immediately take the necessary steps to bring to account anyone attempting at causing chaos and inciting violence in our cities while hiding under dubious political protests.” The Nation.