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Rivers State Tribunal: As Nigeria prepares for a one-party system!

Dr Paul John

Image: The author, Dr Paul John

It is no longer news that the Rivers State electoral tribunal sitting in Abuja has nullified the election of the incumbent governor of the state, Chief Barrister Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike; my only happiness is that the court of appeal will no longer be relocated to Abuja for God-knows reason(s).

Also, the highest court now for electoral matters is no longer the court of appeal but the Supreme Court. I am not here to analyse the contents of that judgement since i am aware that the judicial system bequeathed to us by our colonial masters still remains alien to our culture.

However, when I studied the events that led to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, I discovered that there was a court injunction supporting the annulment but today everybody blames the then military president, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida without knowing that the then electoral body simply obeyed a subsisting court injunction.

A cursory look into some of the civilian members of the military tribunals set up by our past military governments, which passed judgements that abused human rights, some of the civilian members of the tribunals are still judicial officers in our different courts today.  Anyway, I still believe that our judiciary is independent. 

Many Nigerians voted for change and I expect a positive change in different aspects of our national life hence if while PDP controlled the power at the center, the then ACN (which later metamorphosed into APC) won many south western states both through the courts and through the ballot boxes, I expect that the ‘change’ many Nigerians voted for would allow opposition parties to thrive.

The anti-corruption stance of this present government cannot be overemphasized .I think this anti-corruption stance should start from our electoral system. Few Citizens like me do not have temporary or permanent voter’s card because we see it as a waste of time and energy because we believe that the winners of the elections know themselves before the elections hence our votes are infinitesimal .If this present government is serious with their anti-corruption stance they should ensure that the results of any election truly represent the wishes of the people.

This is only possible if every vote counts and when that is done, people like us can  go and apply for our voter’s cards to perform our civic duties .Then it will no longer be the exclusive right of the ruling party to win any state they so desire ,irrespective of the wishes of the masses. 

There is no gainsaying the fact that sizeable number of Nigerians that applied for voter’s cards did so as a form of identification because in banks and other sectors where identification is required, driver’s license, voter’s card and National Identity card are the only recognised forms of identification.

Meanwhile, section 52(1) of our electoral Act forbids electronic voting in its entirety but in the last general elections, card readers were liberally used. However, in 2003, a Federal High court sitting in Ebonyi state nullified an election that made use of Open Ballot system as against the secret Ballot system contained in electoral Act. 

Without mincing words, electronic objects are those that make use of electrons hence the card readers are electronic instruments. I have listened to different arguments by different lawyers in support of the use of the card readers in our elections; I refuse to be hoodwinked by their vague legalese. I am aware that ‘electronic’ is the adjectival form of the noun ‘electron ‘ and my elementary physics taught me that electron is a subatomic particle that is negatively charged.

 

Under his watch, garden city became garbage city while he played to the gallery nationally. Also, we want to equally see APC members being prosecuted along with the PDP members hence this anti-corruption fight  should be across board and not selective.

 

In view of this , INEC card readers are electronic hence their use  violates the aforementioned electoral Act, though the lawyers in their characteristics can go on to twist the facts ,all I know is that any device that makes use of electrons are electronic .

Let this present administration encourage the National Assembly to amend our electoral Act to fully implement electronic voting, if they are really sure that they want to fight corruption  .Why are our politicians  afraid of electronic voting in the first place? They are aware that with electronic voting the masses truly determine who their leaders will be.

The residents of Rivers state have enjoyed good roads these few months Barrister Wike assumed power in the state. We don’t need a governor that will become a national hero because of his ability to verbally fight the power at the centre while the Residents of the states are suffering .The immediate governor of the state was busy fighting the immediate past president while many state and local government owned roads in the state were death traps. 

Under his watch, garden city became garbage city while he played to the gallery nationally. Also, we want to equally see APC members being prosecuted along with the PDP members hence this anti-corruption fight  should be across board and not selective.

The same day Chief Barrister Wike was sworn in, he moved to Iloabuchi road in Mile 3 Port Harcourt to commission the road which his predecessor ignored for years while fighting the then president and sinking money in the white elephant monorail project. That is what bible called leaving the dust in one’s eye to remove the plank in a neighbour’s eye. 

Before Wike commissioned the said road, many traders along the road were planning relocating out of the state because of low patronage resulting from inaccessibility of the road. What of the Rumuagholu, Eneka, Nkpoolu, Elelenwo, etc., roads that the past administration abandoned and was busy challenging the then federal government, playing to the gallery while Rivers state was in a deplorable state? 

These roads have either been fixed or currently under construction by Wike- led government. I parked my car for months while the previous administration in the state lasted because there were no good roads to ply but now I have said bye-bye to public transport because of Barrister Wike’s massive road constructions in the state which are occurring simultaneously .

The ‘Almighty’ opposition politicians in the state repeatedly  boasted to us before the tribunal started their sittings, that the judgement would favour them ,now we have seen the judgement ,but for them to continue bragging  that they must take over the state at all costs even when realities in the state say otherwise  , I think I will suggest that full electronic voting  be used in Rivers state in subsequent elections let me see if the residents of Rivers state will choose a party that wins elections by propaganda ,becoming national heroes by their abilities to draw media attention while the residents in their states are suffering or a party that understands that road rehabilitation and construction is crucial to the development of the state. 

Meanwhile, prior to the judgement, Labour Party (LP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) did not give 21 days’ notice to INEC, based on that the tribunal disqualified them but APC based on the same fault was different.

Let this anti-corruption fight start from our electoral system so that our leaders will know that power belongs to the people .Then our leaders will learn to talk humbly and not insolently. Those that worship on Saturdays should also be captured in the amendment of our electoral Act because section 42 of  our 1999 constitution, as amended, gives every Nigerian the inalienable rights to freedom from discrimination hence no Nigerian citizen of a particular religion shall be subjected to restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other religions are not made subject. 

In view of this, members of Seventh Day Adventist church, Sabbath Mission etc who worship on Saturdays should be allowed to worship their God unrestricted .This will only be possible if our election days are changed from Saturdays to other weekdays because in the same way Moslems and other christian worshippers are not restricted on Fridays and Sundays respectively to worship their God during our election periods the wishes of these minority Saturday worshippers must also be respected.

In Lagos State, PDP went to court with card reader as one of their points against APC but the tribunal held that card reader is not part of the electoral Act and now in Rivers state the non-use of the card readers in some polling units was used to nullify the election of the incumbent governor. I hope our former first lady would shout, ‘there is God ooo.’

 My main confusion in that judgement is that as at last Friday, the Rivers state tribunal had about seven days to deliver the judgement but they decided to do so barely 24 hours after lawyers on both sides submitted nine written addresses and documents. 

Although I stand to be corrected, I think this Rivers state tribunal judgement is the only one that has been delivered on a weekend in this dispensation. More surprising to me is the fact that it was delivered just a day before the 8th anniversary of Amaechi’s Supreme Court judgement (which was on October 25, 2007).

Was it a coincidence or was it arranged such that while the Rivers state APC governorship candidate is celebrating, the ‘godfather’ will also be celebrating? Anyway, justice comes in three ways, the law, the people, and by God.

Meanwhile, we are still analysing the judgements of all the PDP states’ electoral tribunals that were relocated to Abuja and many of us may not be surprised if Nigeria becomes a one party state tomorrow judging from the way things are going. 

Anyway, if the then PDP central government allowed the emergence of a stronger political party and maturely conducted a presidential election that saw the incumbent president losing an election in the annals of our country, I thought the APC ‘change’ agents could show us more political maturity.

Dr Paul John, Port Harcourt, Rivers state; mazipauljohn@gmail.com, 08083658038

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