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Election Tribunal: Verdicts and Reactions

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A common mistake many commentators make could be found in the saying that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man. This is an inestimation of fact. The Judiciary is that arm of government that interprets the laws of the land and dispenses justice. Justice is for both the rich and the poor. There is no doubt that in an unjust society, it is the poor, otherwise known as the common man, that is constantly suppressed hence he is the one that could be assumed to have more need to rely on the Judiciary than other classes of people in the society.

Yet the Noble, the noveau rich and other well-placed individuals do have cause to run to the Judiciary when injustice and deprivation glare before them. Nigerians may not have forgotten the travails of Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in 1986 when the Government of Lagos state, under Navy Captain Mike Akigbe as military Governor, forcibly ejected him out of his no 29 Queen’s Drive, Ikoyi in Lagos. 

Chief Ojukwu, by any known human standard, was of the ruling class. When this clear case of injustice was meted to him by the then Lagos State Government, he had no other place to run to than the judiciary. The judiciary is, therefore, the last hope of man, rich or poor. 

Though accusations have often been made against the Nigerian Judiciary, the truth remains that it is that arm of government that is constitutionally empowered to dispense justice. No mater its numerosity of flaws, it would be absurd to classify every Nigerian judicial officer as putridly corrupt. No matter the depth of corruption in the system, there must be some respected transparent Judges. The only problem is that a soiled finger is feared to be capable of contaminating the rest. 

Even at that, the hope of citizens in the judiciary is sustained by the various windows of justice that are made available to guarantee dispensation of justice, even though they may be considered to be out of the reach of the poor.

By Nigeria’s Electoral Act, elections are required to be conducted in strict compliance with stipulations of the Act. Being a system that is human-driven, there is no doubt that in some cases, elections could be conducted non-complaint to the rules. Hence, the same Act provides for the setting up of Election Tribunals to receive and investigate petitions by aggrieved stake-holders within the polity. In accordance with the time schedule of the Tribunals, they have started giving verdicts.

As would be appreciated, verdicts, given by human-beings, may not be characterised by infallibility. There could be some flaws in them. Some of the short-comings of the Election Tribunals could be by way of contradictory verdicts. An example of a contradictory verdict so far given in this dispensation is what could be contextually described as ‘dissimilarity of similarity’ in Jimmy Agbaje versus Ambode Akinwumi of Lagos State and Dakuku Peterside versus Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

While the Election Tribunal on the 2015 governorship election headed by Hon Justice Muhammed Sirajo upheld Akinwumi’s electoral victory, dismissing Agbaje’s petition that card readers were not used in the said election; a verdict that has been ratified by the Appeal Tribunal, the Election Tribunal that handled the petition filed by Dakuku Peterside against the election of Nyesom Wike as the governor of Rivers State, nullified Wike’s election on the ground that the conduct of the election was not in strict compliance with the use of the Card-reader. This verdict by the Tribunal headed by Hon Justice Suleiman Ambrosa did not take judicial cognizance of the Appeal Court Verdict that inferred that non-compliance with the use of the Card-reader in Lagos governorship election was inconsequential and of no effect whatsoever.

Many Nigerians have been expressing fear that President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress are allegedly using the Judiciary to get what they could not get through the ballot box. Governor Wike, who has indicated his readiness to challenge the ruling of the Tribunal at the Appeal Court, has called on his teeming supporters across the state to remain calm and law-abiding.

In Akwa-Ibom State the Governorship Election Tribunal, headed by Hon Justice Sadiq Umar, nullified election results of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel of the People’s Democratic Party and ordered re-election in eighteen out of the thirty-one local government areas of the state. This was sequel to a petition filed by the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress, Umana Okon Umana.

Like the way and manner Barr Wike took the verdict in Rivers State, Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel has urged his supporters in the state to go about their legitimate businesses while the matter would be sorted out through the appropriate legal channel.

The People’s Democratic Party, not minding being aware of the alleged clandestine ploy by both the Presidency and the All Progressive Congress to forcibly take over majority of the oil-rich States in the South-South geo-political zone of the country, has continued to express confidence in the country’s judiciary. It remains heart-warming and assuring that Nigeria, at least, could be said to be a democracy, no matter how awkward its pattern. 

The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Mahmud Mohammed, is a highly respectable and respected Jurist, who will not allow the sanctity and, of course, independence of the Judiciary to be disrespected and thrown to the wind under his watch. Even though he is a northerner and a Moslem, the Taraba State-born Chief Justice knows that the Judiciary has a very important role to play in order to sustain democracy in the country. 

The head of the Nigerian Judiciary appreciates more than any other Nigerian that it is the transparency of the Judiciary that can allay the doubts and fears of Nigerian citizens in their determined quest for justice. Hon Justice Mahmud Mohammed is certainly conscious of the truth that when justice cannot be guaranteed in the polity, the surest thing that follows is chaos, in fact anarchy. He is aware of this fact and, so, would not wish the country to witness cataclysm arising from the inability of the Bench in Nigeria to transparently administer justice in the country.

It is in line with this thought that the leadership and membership of the All Progressive Grand Alliance; APGA in Abia State are advised to take to the part of civility and good reasoning in reacting to verdicts of Election Tribunals in the State. Majority of the members of APGA in Abia State before the 2015 general election, including Dr. Alex Otti who ran as the Party’s governorship flag-bearer, were staunch members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, P.D.P. 

They also know that when there is a crack in a Party; no matter the extent of provocation and dissatisfaction, hardly does majority quit the Party. APGA leaders and followers in Abia State should realize and accept that violent reactions to Election Tribunal judgements that they consider unfavourable do not, in any way, add value to their pursuit of justice. Rather, it creates the impression of incivility and outright hooliganism against them. They should, for goodness sake, be civilized and law abiding.

Scripted By Chief (Sir) Don Ubani


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