Like never before, the political atmosphere of Nigeria is gearing up for the most critical epoch of its sixty-two years of independent existence. It remains to be seen if the outcome will be the best or regrettably worsen the dire situation. As the polls draw near, our attention is called to the numerous roles we can play as a patriotic electorate to keep up with the process without creating more chaos. On February 25, the presidential election will take place, while the gubernatorial election will follow on March 11 in 31 out of the total 36 states in the federation.
As important as it is to witness a free, fair, and credible election, the onus is also on the public to sensitize friends, relatives, and acquaintances on the dos and don’ts that guide any election phase. In fact, it goes without saying that this election’s fluidity lies in the masses’ hands. Hence, all hands must be on deck to give premium focus to happenings around us as we remain vigilant to follow through with the process.
Already a lifeline for aspirants when things go wrong, the judiciary needs to be more active and free from the money-chasing reach of aggrieved losers who feel they have an outside chance of using the government’s legal arm to get into office. Not to demean the application of judicial intervention, we know the antecedents of such tussles and the inherent stall of government functions when cases in appellate courts in the country spend months waiting for a verdict. Consequently, the time needed to focus on governance is spent on court sittings and providing witnesses and evidence to give credence to warring factions’ stories.
In a sentient period like this, we have been gifted with another talking point that screams relatability. On January 27, 2023, the judiciary swung into action. The Osun State Tribunal sitting in Osogbo sacked Governor Ademola Adeleke of the PDP as the duly elected state governor. In a split document made available, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was instructed to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Adeleke and reissue it to the former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of APC. In the judgment, the tribunal held that the governorship election was marred by overvoting. After deducting the excess votes, Oyetola’s figures rose to 314,921. At the same time, Adeleke’s came down to 290,266. As expressly stated in the Electoral Act, the incumbent has 21 days to file an appeal at a higher appellate court, which will definitely increase his days in office pending the verdict to determine the actual winner of the July 2022 governorship election.
In the same vein, this same Supreme Court got netizens talking about reinstating the current Senate President representing Yobe North Senatorial District, Ahmed Lawan’s reelection bid into the Senate. Owing to this higher ambition, Bashir Sheriff Machina won the primary election held on May 28, 2022, to clinch the ticket to represent APC at the senatorial polls as an unopposed candidate. Out of the blue, the Supreme Court declared a candidate who never contested the penultimate election as the authentic party senatorial candidate. Later, it was determined that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressive Party was not entirely in support of the first primary election that brought forth Machina as the candidate on May 28, 2022, unopposed. It is the same Senate President that did not participate in the first primary due to his presidential ambition that gets the nod. It is also clear that the party allowed their choice to supersede the fact of substantial justice. That said, it is crucial to hold a brief for the Supreme Court, as the simple fact of filing a case of alleged fraud should be instituted by way of a Writ of Summons and not by “originating summons” like Bashir Machina’s legal team erroneously did.
And as much as we live in a democracy, the sustainability and relevance of the preferred system of government are hinged on a working justice system. Hence, judicial officials should refrain from being found wanting in their primary duty of preserving the sanctity of the law. It is also important to note that post-election litigation is not peculiar to Nigerian politics. We know the toughness of scaling the hurdles contesting election outcomes Nigerian courts rid of absolute sentiment. To renew the credibility and sacredness of the judgment, it owes the electorate genuine involvement at the polls as citizens and not use the judicial system as an institution to further escalate the chasm between political actors and cause unnecessary distress among citizens.
Against the backdrop of past mistakes, we have been presented with a clean slate to rewrite history. More so, the current breed of the revolutionary electorate confirms that this election has what it takes to rejig the country and take it back from the strangling hands of its oppressors.
In light of this, the judiciary is expected to give the electoral umpire the much-needed space to carry out their primary duty. Hence, the judges and other judicial officials must be bipartisan as they observe and participate in the election and the almost inevitable post-election litigation, which, on a larger scale, has shown to be as important as the election itself.
Written by Stephen Oladele. A Freelance Writer/ParaLegal at Citizens’ Gavel from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited by Tunmise Olubusi. A Communications Associate, Citizens’ Gavel. He can be reached at email@example.com