Any person familiar with Amaechi Nwoha, a two-time member of the Imo State House of Assembly and Chairman of the Imo State Independent Electoral Commission, ISIEC, may not reach the complete assessment of the character trait until Jan 31, when he would have hopefully conducted the Local Government elections in Imo State.
Nwoha represented Nwangele State Constituency 1993 1997 and repeated 1997 2011. He was among the few lawmakers of the last era who managed to grab a political appointment in the Owelle Rochas Okorocha administration after their last minute strike to illegally torpedo the leadership of the House.
From the position of the Special Adviser on Legislative matters to the governor, the next readjustment in the Rescue Mission government saw the former lawmaker of PDP extraction become the chairman of the state electoral body.
For those who closely monitored the character traits of this ebullient politician with unassuming personality, the fast approaching council polls will be another watershed in his career.
After several postponements, the awaited LGA elections, according to recent guidelines released by ISIEC will hold on the last Saturday of the first month of next year. Ironically, the election is coming few weeks to the general polls to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
On getting the official clearance from the Chief Judge of the State, now retired, Chief Justice Ben Njemanze to take charge of Imo State, one of the remarkable first strike Governor Rochas Okorocha displayed was the dissolution of the elected councilors and council chairmen in the 27 LGAs and their replacement with Transition Committee members.
Irrespective of the reasons Okorocha offered to Imolites in the action which was part of the riot act marshaled in his maiden address to the people of the state, the law courts declared it null and void. In what can be described as a landmark judgment to preserve the sanctity of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with respect to tenure of elected LGA officials, the Appeal Court sitting in Owerri on July 3, 2012 upturned the governor’s decision and ordered the chairmen and councilors back to office.
However, it can be said that the embattled elected LGA officials mainly of the opposing Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, extraction, obtained Pyrrhic victory as they never gained from their return owing to pernicious tackles from the governor and agents of his administration.
Available information at my disposal indicates that the state governor and the unrelenting LGA officials under the banner of ALGON are still engrossed in legal tango at the law courts. The subject matter is determination of the tenure.
Interestingly, the body responsible for the conduct of the LG polls, ISIEC, was not left out in Okorocha’s initial sacking spree. Alongside other tenure-based commissions like the Judiciary, civil service, Assembly service etc, he had no hand in constituting the members, the governor in one full swoop swept off the commission warranting the sack of ISIEC commissioners who resorted to the court in an attempt to redress the situation.
As at the time of this commentary, absent the matter challenging the legality or otherwise of the presently constituted ISIEC seeking to conduct the Jan 31st LGA elections is still pending in court.
There are strong indications that either the state government is trifling about the proposed council polls or it is another way to surreptitiously fleece money again from unsuspecting seekers of councillorship and chairmanship positions.
Another school of thought opines that in view of the need for Okorocha solidifying APC base at the local levels ahead of the 2015 election, the need to have councilors and chairmen arises. These probabilities were drawn from a hiatus capable of causing an interruption in the conduct of the exercise.
Interestingly, four different cases are currently going on in the court which the Okorocha government is aware of but has concealed likely going to act as encumbrances. The first case is that of the sacked elected chairmen and councilors at the Appeal Court level where the LG officials of PDP extraction are challenging the refusal of Justice Ngozi Opara to hear their case challenging their election.
Also the ALGON is in court seeking to recover the 13 months lost due to the illegal sack by Okorocha which the Appeal Court restored.
In the same vein, the third case was a motion before the court asking that ISIEC or the state government should not conduct any LGA election pending the determination of the suit.
Remarkably, government counsel one C.O.C. Ihima from the chambers of Akintola made an undertaking before the court that the state government or ISIEC will not go ahead with the case because the motion is still pending in court.
Suffice it to note that when the chairmen and councilors secured the Appeal Court case of July 2012 reinstating them back to office, the state government rushed to the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment of the Appeal Court. However, the inability of the state government, and co-defendants in the various matters like ISIEC, Imo State House of Assembly to file respondents’ cases gave rise to series of adjournments obtained in some of the cases.