Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Governor out, History in; A Courageous Ruling by Nigeria's Federal Court of Appeal Has Raised New Hopes for the Country's Democracy. Peter Ezeh Reports from Enugu

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Governor out, History in; A Courageous Ruling by Nigeria's Federal Court of Appeal Has Raised New Hopes for the Country's Democracy. Peter Ezeh Reports from Enugu

Article excerpt

In an unprecedented decision, the Federal Court of Appeal, the highest court on electoral disputes in Nigeria, has ordered the removal from office of the Anambra State governor, Chris Ngige. The action was taken on the grounds that the 2003 governorship election in the state was rigged in favour of President Olusegun Obasanjo's ruling People's Democracy Party (PDP) whose candidate, Chris Ngige, was subsequently declared state governor. According to the court, the true winner was the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by the former Biafran general, Emeka Ojukwu. The APGA's candidate, Peter Obi, has therefore been put in charge as state governor for, at worst, the remaining months before another general election is held next year. Ngige's emergence as governor despite clear evidence that he did not win illustrates a notorious fact about the manipulation of the electoral process in Nigeria. Typically, it is a case of might is right in terms of financial muscle. People from all walks of life, therefore, rejoiced at the court decision delivered in March.

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It was the first time in the history of Nigerian democracy that a court had had the courage to bring down an incumbent governor who had been shown to have cheated his way into office via an electoral fraud. Usually after a governor has been inaugurated, the rival merely fights a futile legal battle. Anambra State, nestled in the southeast of the country, had one of the most notorious examples of this chicanery 23 years ago when Jim Nwobodo won the governorship election only to be denied through a massive rigging abetted by the then ruling National Party of Nigeria.

In the current case, signs that Ngige, a physician, was heading for trouble were noticed on 12 August last year when an electoral tribunal sitting in the state capital, Awka, ruled that although he had been in office since 2003, he was not the winner of the election. It was Obi, his rival from the APGA, who had won with 241,459 votes against Ngige's 175,221. The spread of Obi's support in local constituencies was also wider than Ngige's. It was these findings that were confirmed in late March by the Federal Court of Appeal. …

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