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RUGA: The Fulani Must Not Fight Buhari’s War

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Buhari

By SKC Ogbonnia

President Muhammadu Buhari is not only giving Nigeria a bad name with his handling of the herdsmen crisis, the good people of Fulani should also understand that the president might have equally damaged their brand around the world.

As I noted in a recent piece, “Second Term: A Leadership Lesson Buhari Must Learn”; the style of a leader is vitally essential in governance. I asserted that “Buhari’s style is a leadership miasma, offensive enough to turn his friends into foes.” This explains why a president who was re-elected barely four months ago has already lost his voice with the generality of the Nigerian people. Therefore, even if his Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) policy is the sole panacea to all the Nigerian problems, the people are bound to view it with stifling suspicion. This goes without saying that, while RUGA definitely does not represent the best model to address the growing herdsmen crisis, the main problem is more about the messenger than the message itself.

In fact, I have wondered lately, if Muhammadu Buhari is truly Fulani. Having grown up in Kano, I have come across millions of Fulani and worked with thousands of them in key Northern states. I have also maintained close friendships with many of the people and interacted with many more in the course of my presidential campaign. When I think of the Fulani, I think of good people, overall. Remember the calibers of Emir Ado Bayero, Emir Shehu Idris, Shehu Shagari, Abubakar Rimi, Sultan Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Aliko Dangote, Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Yar’Aduas, the Dantatas, Shehu Sani; and one of my childhood idols, Yusuf Bala Usman, to name just a few. They are known to be amiable, meek, bridge-builders, intelligent, trustworthy, sagacious, and shrewd.

Buhari, as civilian president, has been more or less a stone-cold zombie. Not to be quoted out of context; zombie, according to Cambridge Dictionary, refers to “someone who moves around as if unconscious and being controlled by someone else.” Yes, unlike a true Fulani, Muhammadu Buhari does not even have control of his presidency let alone a complicated policy like RUGA. Those currently steering him around are textbook sycophants, who are merely exploiting the situation for their selfish interests. Different efforts to wake up the president have been met with silent treatment. But, as an Igbo adage goes, a stubborn tsetse fly usually follows the corpse to the grave. That is gradually becoming Buhari’s fate. And the Fulani must not follow him along.

The people should rather ponder begging questions like these: Given that Nigeria has coexisted with the herdsmen for ages, why—all of a sudden—the issue of Fulani herdsmen is threatening the fabric of national existence? How and why did the herdsmen terrorism escalate under Buhari to the extent that the Fulani brand is becoming a taboo around the world? How come Northern Nigeria is more divided under Buhari than at any other time in the Nigerian history? Why and how did the threat of secessions exacerbate under Buhari’s civilian regime?

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Not done, how would the Fulani feel, if either President Olusegun Obasanjo or President Goodluck Jonathan folded their hands while bandits identified as Yoruba or Ijaw were massacring the Fulani with AK 47? How would the Fulani feel, if their people were met with political persecution after the 2011 elections, when the North-West zone expressed their democratic rights to vote overwhelmingly for their native son, Buhari, instead President Goodluck Jonathan?

The answer is simple: No section of Nigeria deserves to be subjected to hostility or oppression because of their tribal, religious, or political orientations. The current herdsmen crisis has roots in Buhari’s dictatorial, divisive, arrogant, and unrepentant style of leadership.

Let’s go back to the RUGA palaver. One did not have to assume a clairvoyant authority to discern that the policy was bound to be dead-on-arrival. Good leaders gauge the mood in the country before rolling out controversial policies. First of all, the program was poorly communicated and widely sensationalized and believed to solely benefit Buhari’s people at the expense of other regions. Moreover, the president ought to have recognized that his name only pales in comparison to that of a Satan in notable parts of the country to even contemplate a national policy like RUGA without wide consultations.

Start with the Middle Belt, the epicenter of herdsmen terrorism. Despite the fact the people were being slaughtered for months by herdsmen with sophisticated weapons, Buhari maintained stoic silence. Only a nefarious enemy of Nigeria would have remained indifferent to such wanton loss of human lives. Only an obvious bozo would ween that such neglected people would welcome a policy like RUGA with open arms.

Combine the irony with the reality that Buhari further divided the country upon assumption of office in 2015 when he declared political vendetta against zones or regions that voted overwhelmingly for the opposition. He followed by introducing the most unpatriotic patronage model ever seen in the country, whereby political appointments are based purely on voting patterns. The target, of course, were the people of the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria.

The ground zero of Buhari’s offensive were the South-East and South-South zones. The sole reason for the utter disdain is that the people voted en masse for their native son, Goodluck Jonathan—just as the people of Northwest voted for their own native son, the same Buhari, in 2011. Today, the entire nine states of the Eastern Region—a full leg of the tripod by which the country is supposed to stand—is totally excluded from the upper echelon of Buhari’s sphere of influence, including the executive branch, the legislature, the judiciary, and the ruling party itself. Today, the region has been reduced to merely good for natural resources and national taxation, but unworthy to sit at the national table of power. Their crime this time around is the freewill of majority of their people to vote for another Fulani man in Atiku Abubakar in 2019 presidential election, instead of Buhari himself. Never in the history of the post-war democratic Nigeria has an entire region been treated with such degree of disdain and political persecution.

Once re-elected, Buhari quickly explored a strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ through the Western Region. But the Yoruba intelligentsia refused to buy the strident gambit. Instead, they have remained aligned with the entire South along with the Middle Belt to form the confluence of the current opposition turbulence thickening around Buhari’s regime.

With the apparent rejection of the RUGA policy, there are already some dog whistles by some Northern elements to widen the anger of defeat to a war between the North and South or a war between the Core North against the Middle Belt together with the entire South. More commonly, given the nature of politics in Buhari’s second term, especially with respect to 2023 presidency, one would not be surprised, if somehow, some schemers, including some southern wannabes within the ruling party, employ a satanic strategy to narrow any hostility as a typical conflict between the Fulani versus the East, particularly the Igbo.

But the Fulani masses must not fight the Buhari’s war. Neither the South nor the Middle Belt has a case against the Fulani as people. After all, Nigeria had coexisted peacefully under past Fulani leaders. Similarly, the people of Southern Nigeria and the Middle Belt must equally sheathe their swords. The main problem is neither the Fulani people nor the poor and unwary herdsmen, most of who do not even own the cows nor can afford AK 47s. The common enemy is the president of the country, who emboldened the herdsmen by appearing to condone their terrorist activities. Simply put, the growing opposition to Buhari’s regime lies squarely on gross failure in leadership—his failure to secure the lives and property of the Nigerian people, his failure to be president for all Nigerians.

Be that as it may, there is an urgent need to develop a national policy for the management of the Nigerian livestock assets for the greater good, and the model is not rocket science. But it may not be tenable under the current situation where the president not only acts like sectional leader but also acts like he does not care. The way forward, therefore, is for Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate true leadership. Instead of viewing every critic as an enemy, instead of fanning embers of discord in every front, the president should listen—atone, make amends, communicate, and begin to lead a just, accountable, equitable, and human government. Though his response to the recent murder of Funke Olakunrin—the daughter of a prominent Yoruba leader by suspected terrorists—is timely and noteworthy, President Buhari might as well understand that every Nigerian life matters.

SKC Ogbonnia, 2019 APC presidential aspirant, is the author of the Effective Leadership Formula.

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Opinion

Nigeria’s Response To Emergency Health Issues

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Alex Enemanna

By Alex Enemanna

The year 2020 has again tested our preparedness and ability as a nation to take adequate steps to protect our citizens in cases of emergency disease outbreak in line with the core responsibility of any serious government.

For many years, we have been confronted with the deadly Lassa Fever, a serious health concern holding us by the jugular as a people while we desperately grasp for breathe.

Till date, there has been no lasting solution to the virus said to have been first recorded in 1969 in a Borno community.

It has remained a yearly daunting health issue in Nigeria in which thousands of our people are being dispatched to the early grave.

All pronouncements by relevant authorities on how the virus has been defeated were all short lived. Little wonder we were ushered into the New Year with yet a fresh case of Lassa fever outbreak.

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At the last count, no fewer than 10 states which include Ondo, Edo, Delta, Taraba, Plateau, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Imo and others have been affected with over 80 deaths recorded.

Interestingly, one would assume that proactive measures would be taken to minimize casualty from the virus especially with the full knowledge that Lassa Fever records a sporadic upsurge annually during dry season.

Like the typical Nigerian culture, we allow ourselves boxed into a corner where we only adopt a fire brigade approach after colossal losses must have been recorded.

Expectedly, the National Centre For Disease Control (NCDC) has said it has deployed Rapid Response Teams to support the affected states, a step not different from what was done last year and the year before.

A more potent measure would have been to develop epidemiological studies that will provide data to aid research and response operations especially for virus that has been discovered for several decades. This again speaks to our obsession for easy way out while our problems keep getting protracted and more complex. As a nation, we are deeply engrossed with the movement in a vicious cycle all year round without making progress. This is not only limited to our laxity and lackluster attitude to serious emergency health issues like Lassa Fever. It cuts across other areas of our national life including security, infrastructure, human right, education et al.

In China where a relatively new disease outbreak, Coronavirus has been recorded in Wuhan from a suspected wildlife, the authorities have shown how important and sacrosanct human life is by swinging into action to ensure that the virus is frontally sent into permanent extinction. With about 3 per cent death rate, this virus is said not to be as deadly as our local Lassa Fever. Out of about 1,300 people infected so far in this respiration-related disease, about 41 deaths have been recorded. This implies that in every 100 people infected, 97 people will likely survive. This is relatively lower than the Lassa Fever that has killed 80 people this year alone out of about 800 people infected.

Even as it stands, the Asian country is not resting on its oars, watching her citizens die carelessly before action could be taken. So far, without fear of plundering, mindless looting or artificial inflation, China is mobilizing 3 billion Yuan ($430 million) to build a special hospital just for Coronavirus. More than 100 machines are working at the construction site expected to hold the 1,000 bed capacity special hospital. A timeline of February 3, 2020 has been fixed for the completion and commissioning of this health facility. The country’s Health Commission has also indicated interest to dispatch no fewer than 1,230 doctors and other medical personnel to Wuhan, the source of the outbreak. Can the same be said of Lassa Fever in Nigeria? Even with these measures, countries like Russia, France and US are making plans to evacuate their citizens from the troubled zone.

While less economically endowed countries, including Morocco and Mauritius are joining the league of malaria-free countries, our dear country has consistently recorded malaria-related deaths in a mind-boggling proportion. According to a Malaria Fact Sheet released by US Embassy in Nigeria, there are estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per year in the country. This is despite the billions of Naira deployed to this effect on yearly basis, aside foreign interventions geared towards making the country malaria-free.

Our public health centres are battling the complex challenge of upsurge of patients, dilapidated equipment, under-funding, under-staffing, unethical conduct of practitioners and deep rooted corruption. With a very minimal performance capacity, they are there as the last hope for those who cannot afford the cost of oversea medical trip or decent treatment in topnotch local private health institutions. The harvests of death emanating from these centres are better imagined. Not long ago, our own First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari raised the alarm over the poor state of Villa clinic, situated right under the President’s nose where she could not find common tablet like paracetamol even with several billions of Naira sunk in it. That is a pure reflection of the state of public health centres across the country except that the rest don’t get as much billions as the Villa Clinic. Little wonder why our doctors keep leaving the shore of our dear country in droves to where a meaningful premium could be placed on their services.

No thanks to our politicians, including President Buhari who paradoxically pontificates as the nation’s moral compass and still travels overseas in search of medi care while our public health institutions are in total mess. It is the height of unpatriotism for a nation or state Chief Executive to complete his tenure without erecting a befitting health centre potent enough to handle whatever ailment they rush overseas to treat.

Lassa Fever has for decades been a perennial national disgrace that must not be allowed to fester. Nothing stops the Federal Ministry of Health from engaging various stakeholders in a comprehensive research that will see an end to this. Who says a thorough fumigation against the natural carrier of the virus, multimammate rat cannot be effected across the nation to mitigate its virility? The grit and energy invested in the fight against Ebola Virus in 2014 must be brought to bear at this critical time to save our nation from further unnecessary loss of life. Prevention they say is better than cure.

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Opinion

Who Owns Lagos, A Useless Question Without Answers

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By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

Pots of ink have been wasted posing and trying to find out who owns Lagos. Some of the answers have been: Nobody owns Lagos; Lagos is owned by the Yoruba; The Igbo own Lagos, The Benin Kingdom and therefore the Beni own Lagos; all Nigerians own Lagos; etc. And recently two “Lagosians” held court on the ownership of Lagos. They are Alhaji Olufemi Okunnu and Chief Layi Ajayi Bembe at Punch Newspapers. Each had his own views.

The question is useless because there are no possible answers. The ownership of Lagos would require additional sentences/clauses before it can be determined. Such additional sentences could be “who are the original owners of Lagos; who owned Lagos from 1960-1999; who owns Lagos now etc.” The answers will vary with each additional sentence.

To make clear what this author is saying. Let’s assume that Obi was the original owner of an estate. Obi sold the land to Benji. There are two possible answers Obi and Benji, depending on how the question is posed. If currently the answer is Benji and if it is the original owner, the answer is Obi. When Obi sold the property to Benji he ceased to own the property.

Now let’s come back to Lagos. We begin by pointing out that landownership initially belonged to individuals and then moved on to kings who appropriated individual lands by treachery, purchases and or by force. And letter lands belonged to government which acquired the land by decrees, by laws or by use of the law of eminent domain.

Secondly, let’s point out that the subject is not clear to all. What is Lagos? When I lived in Surulere in the 60’s we used to say “I am going to Lagos if we were going to Lagos Island.” We acknowledged that the mainland was not Lagos. The Oba lived/lives on the island and that was Lagos. Even though in the 60’s there was a municipal government which recognized Lagos as both the island and the mainland. Today there is no more municipal government for the city but local governments that have carved the old Lagos into smaller municipalities. Meanwhile “Lagos” which was limited to Ikeja/Palm Grove now extends to Ikorodu.

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So which Lagos are we talking about?

If I own Ajegunle and you own all the rest of “Lagos” who owns Lagos? This is another reason why the question is useless and have no definite answers. What if Ola owns Yaba, Obi owns Ajegunle and Ishaka ownes Ikeja, and Bola owns the Island, assuming each bought their pieces in a fair trade? Who owns Lagos?

Most often when people talk of the ownership of Lagos what they actually mean is what the history of Lagos is. Even here there seems to be two different stories. One says that the first settlers on Lagos were the Yoruba from the hinterland. And another posits that the first settlers were the Bini Kingdom as it expanded westwards. I am not sure which story has dominance now.

While this is important from getting the history right perspective, we can do this while doing the next important thing which is how do we make Lagos better. Making Lagos better will benefit all the residents of the city no matter who ownership belongs to.
All people born in Lagos, all people who live in Lagos, all people who do business in Lagos, etc. have stake in the city and should contribute their resources to make Lagos better for all.

It is not just the Yoruba.

~Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

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Opinion

Ihedioha: Why Supreme Court May Not Reverse Judgment

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Emeka Ihedioha

By Onyedika Agbedo

The January 14, 2020 judgment of the Supreme Court that nullified the election of Chief Emeka Ihedioha as Imo State governor and declared senator Hope Uzodinma as the winner of March 19, 2019, governorship election has continued to generate agitation for review and possibly, a reversal of the judgment.

Ihedioha’s party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been at the forefront of the advocacy. The National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, while addressing a press conference on the judgment two days after it was delivered, said it must be reversed in the interest of justice.

“In the light of extraordinary circumstances that vitiate that judgment as a product manipulation and a clear coup d’etat against the will of the people of Imo State, we demand that the decision of the Supreme Court on the Imo governorship election be reviewed and reversed in the interest of justice,” Secondus has said.

Other eminent Nigerians have spoken in a similar vein. Three days ago, Bishops and other Christian leaders in Imo State under the umbrella of the Concerned Church Leaders Forum (CCLF) raised their voices against the judgment. The clerics, who spoke through the Anglican Bishop of Ohaji/Egbema, Chidi Oparajiaku, said the judgment ran counter to the facts on the ground. They urged the apex court “to review the judgment and serve justice in the overall interest of peace, unity, development and continued survival of democracy in the state and Nigeria in general.”

Also on the same date, the Archbishop of Enugu Ecclesiastical Province (Anglican Communion), Bishop Emmanuel Olisa Chukwuma, addressed a press conference in Enugu, where he wondered how the Supreme Court Justices arrived at the decision. The cleric even accused the Justices of incompetence.

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“I am speaking the minds of some Bishops in the Anglican Church that we are very discontented and disagree with the Supreme Court’s kangaroo judgment in Imo State. We feel disappointed with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who has not got his facts correct and we feel that that judgment is wicked and corrupt. We call on the Supreme Court to reverse the judgment to avert the wrath of God,” he stated.

Uzodinma had challenged Ihedioha’s victory from the Imo Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal up to the Supreme Court on the ground that he scored the highest number of votes in the election but the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) returned Ihedioha as the governor of the state.

Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who delivered the judgment of the seven-man panel led by Chief Justice Tanko Muhammad, declared that the votes due to Uzodinma were unlawfully excluded from 388 polling units and should be added to his votes.

The apex court considered the submissions of a principal witness who was on a subpoena to present results and held that the lower court was wrong in its ruling.

Justice Kekere-Ekun, while reading the lead judgment, declared Uzodinma as the validly elected Governor and ordered that the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha be withdrawn immediately and issued to Uzodinma.

INEC had since obeyed the court order and Uzodinma subsequently sworn-in. He has since continued to steer the affairs of the state.

But with increasing calls for the reversal of the judgment, the question on many lips is: Will the Supreme Court bow to pressure and reverse itself?

Under the doctrine of stare decisis, the Supreme Court is bound by its previous decisions. As such there had been cases where the judgment of the Supreme Court stunned a section of the public but the court didn’t reverse its judgment when approached.

In the case of Ihedioha, a constitutional lawyer in Abuja, Mr. Realwan Okpanachi, has argued that the apex court no longer had the jurisdiction to entertain any application relating to the Imo governorship election, because it had clearly passed the 60 days provided for in the constitution. The lawyer cited Section 285 (7) of the constitution to support his assertion.

Okpanachi, who recently spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said: “Section 285 (7) states that an appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or Court of Appeal in an election matter shall be heard and disposed of within 60 days,” he said.

He added: “The judgment in particular was delivered by the Court of Appeal before November 20, 2019. The appeal by Uzodinma was filed around November 20, 2019, and that is to say that the judgment was passed before November 20, 2019.

“When you calculate from November 20, 2019 till date, it clearly shows that it is above 60 days,” Okpanachi said.

According to the lawyer, the Supreme Court cannot entertain, hear, determine any appeal or application connected with that election appeal.

“The judgment, as it is, is binding, conclusive and cannot be set aside, reversed or touched by any person, including the Supreme Court itself. The Supreme Court is the apex court; the highest court in Nigeria and its decision, by virtue of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is final. Therefore, its decision is not subject to any other authority or persons,” Okpanachi said

Okpanachi was right as existing precedents show. On November 2, 2009, Supreme Court dismissed Celestine Omehia’s application seeking for review of its judgment of October 25, 2007, which removed him and declared Rotimi Amaechi as the governor of River State. Amaechi won Rivers State PDP governorship primary in December 2006 but was substituted with Omehia. Early in 2007, Amaechi filed a suit challenging his substitution against the April 14, 2007 elections. The Court held that Amaechi was wrongly substituted with Omehia by PDP and that in the eyes of the law, Amaechi who didn’t contest the election was at all times the legal candidate of PDP at the elections, and proceeded to declare him as Governor of Rivers State.

But Omehia re-appealed saying the apex court made a mistake, arguing that the judgment contradicted some provisions of the 1999 Constitution. But the seven-man panel led by Justice Alloysius Kastina-Alu described the suit as frivolous and an act of judicial rascality. They accordingly dismissed the case with N100,000 cost, saying even if it was a mistake, the apex court has a right to make a mistake.

They insisted that Amaechi remained the legitimate governor and that the decision was final regardless of whether it was rightly or wrongly entered.

The Supreme Court Justices Katsina-Alu had urged anybody aggrieved by the court’s decision to appeal to heaven where God Almighty reigns supreme and not in Nigeria where they held sway, adding that “only God can reverse the October 25, 2007 verdict.”

Also, on May 24, 2019, the Supreme Court nullified the elections of all the candidates of the APC in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections. Delivering a unanimous judgment of the five-man panel led by then Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad, the apex court declared the first runners-up in the 2019 general elections in the state as the winners of all the posts earlier declared to have been won by the APC and its candidates.

Justice Paul Galinje, who read the lead judgment, upheld the decision of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct any valid primary election and as such had no candidate for any of the elections in the state. He described the votes polled by the APC candidates in the elections as wasted. He then ordered that the party and the candidates with the second highest votes and the spread in the various elections were the valid winners. With that, the APC lost the 36 elective positions comprising the governorship, deputy governorship, three senatorial, seven House of Representatives and 24 state House of Assembly seats to the PDP.

After reviewing the judgment, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, described it as a national tragedy. In a statement, the distinguished legal scholar and human rights activist had raised many posers for the Supreme Court while also urging the APC to approach the court for a review of the judgment.

He said: “By this judgment, the landslide APC victories in the governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and House of Assembly elections are transferred to the PDP.

“If the APC primaries were defective, should the electorate be deprived of their democratic and constitutional rights to vote? Is the electorate to be punished for the transgressions of party officials? Should the judiciary replace the electorate’s decision and install losers in office? Could the judiciary not have drawn on the deep recesses of its intellectual capacity, authority and its inexorable commitment to justice, to prevent this undemocratic calamity? Can the APC officials not be punished, for their lapses without denying the electorate their democratic rights? Should the judiciary take over the electoral rights of the electorate? Is this not a clear case of technical law completely overthrowing justice?

“Have the members of the Supreme Court not achieved a level of creativity and authority to provide a solution without burying democracy and taking over from the registered voters as the judicial electorate? If this judgment had been an international one, it could have been described as ‘shocking the conscience of humanity.’ In this case, it shocks the conscience of Nigerian humanity… I advise the APC legal team to apply for a review of the two judgments. Their Lordships ought to be given an opportunity to reverse this unprecedented tragedy.

The ruling party heeded his advise and filed an application asking the Supreme Court to review the judgment. But the Court threw away the appeal. Justice Rhodes-Vivour in his lead judgment held that the application was incompetent and time-barred, adding that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter.

“The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the matter because anything that has to do with pre-election matter must be brought within 60 days after a decision had been delivered,” he said.

Justice Rhodes-Vivour further held that the consequential orders made were part and parcel of the pre-election matter and it was an abuse asking the apex court to review its judgment or orders.

“We don’t seat on appeal over our own decision. We have no jurisdiction over this matter,” he said.

Looking at the law and the above precedents, calls for the reversal of the Supreme Court judgment on the Imo State governorship election may not serve any purpose other than warming the political space. But it remains to be seen the path the Justices of the apex court would toe this time around.

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