According to INEC, Ihedioha polled 273,404 while Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) polled 190,364 votes. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)'s candidate, Ifeanyi Ararume, polled 114,676 while APC's Uzodimma came fourth with 96,458 votes.
However, on Tuesday, January 14, 2020, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court ordered the electoral body to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Ihedioha, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The apex court also ordered INEC to issue a fresh one to Hope Uzodimma, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) who the court declared as the winner of the March 9, 2019 governorship election.
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How did it happen?
Uzodimma had challenged the election of Ihedioha from the tribunal to the apex court level, seeking to be declared as the winner of the election.
He had argued that INEC wrongfully excluded the results of 388 polling units where he reportedly garnered high votes.
While Uzodimma had lost at the tribunal and the appeal court, the tenacious APC candidate eventually got a favourable judgment where it matters most; the apex court.
The apex court agreed with Uzodimma that about 230,695 votes were illegally excluded from 388 polling units.
The court, therefore ruled that the excluded votes be added, leading to Uzodinma having the majority of the lawful votes ahead of Ihedioha and others.
Ihedioha kicks, asks Supreme Court to review its decision
Being the apex court in the country, there was no other court Ihedioha could go to challenge the ruling.
However, he opted to take the only option available; he filed an application asking the same court to review its decision and set it aside.
In the judgment delivered on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, six out of the seven-member panel of the apex court led by Ibrahim Muhammad, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), dismissed Ihedioha’s review application.
Reading the majority judgement, Olukayode Ariola said:
“The finality of the supreme court is entrenched in the constitution. Inherent powers can only be evoked if there is a missing link and that is why sometimes the court could be called upon to dot the i and cross the t.
“The finality of the supreme court in civil cases is final.”
The dissenting judgement and the prediction
However, Chima Nweze, one of the seven judges, disagreed with the ruling, The Cable reported.
In his dissenting judgment, Nweze asked the court to set aside the January 14 judgment that removed Ihedioha from office, describing it as a nullity and in bad faith.
He held that Uzodimma misled the court into an unjust conclusion with the unverified votes in 388 polling units.
The judge subsequently predicted that apex court's verdict sacking Ihedioha will haunt Nigeria.
“This decision of the supreme court will continue to haunt our electoral jurisprudence for a long time to come.
“In my intimate reading of the January 14 judgment, the substance of Ihedioha’s matter was lost to time frame. This court once set aside its own earlier judgment and therefore cannot use time frame to extinguish the right of any person.
“This court has powers to overrule itself and can revisit any decision not in accordance with justice. This court has a duty of redeeming its image. I am of the view that this application should succeed.
“I hereby make an order setting aside the decision of this court made on January 14 and that the certificate of return issued to the appellant be returned to INEC. I also make an order restoring the respondents as winner of the March 9 governorship election.”
The Supreme Court governor
Due to how he emerged as Imo governor, many, especially his critics, started describing Uzodimma as "Supreme Court governor".
However, the Imo state governor described people calling him a Supreme Court governor as ignorant.
The governor who made the statement during an interview on Channels TV on Friday, September 25, 2020, argued that he emerged as governor of the state through legitimate means.
He pointed out that he was not the first person to have been favoured by a Supreme Court ruling, describing it as the height of ignorance to refer to him like that.