By Ibrahim Gidado
The unanimous judgement delivered by the five-member panel of Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) led by Justice Haruna Tsammani on Wednesday closes an epic story of the triumph of justice over injustice, lies, deceits and a shrill attempt to stand the law on its head.
In their petitions, the presidential candidates of the Labour Party (LP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tried frantically to rubbish the mandate Nigerians freely reposed in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They cooked up technicalities aimed at judicial maneuvering. But in the end they failed because the learned judges refused to be cajoled, hoodwinked and deceived by the antics of lawyers.
In reaction to the PEPC judgement delivered on the September 6, the presidential candidates of LP, PDP and their band of recalcitrant henchmen, by their body language and utterances, sought to cast aspersions on our respected Judges. It is regrettable to note that their angst is seldom anchored on any known law. Rather, it is based on flimsy emotions, distorted sentiments and tantrums.
As it is, both opposition candidates have instructed their legal teams to proceed to the Supreme Court. One thing however stands sure; with the level of judicial thoroughness exhibited by the Justice Tsammani led five-member panel, any appeal against the decision will still fall like pack of cards at the highest court in the land.
More worrisome is the post-judegement interview granted the press by the lead counsel to Peter Obi, Livy Uzoukwu. In the said press briefing, he said, “We have to be very careful in this country, otherwise, electoral jurisprudence will disappear. When those who contest elections find it difficult to establish their case, they may resort to other means which might not be quite good.”
The foregoing is just an attempt to blackmail the judiciary and nothing more. If not, on who lies the burden of prove? It is certainly the litigants and the legal teams that failed to substantially prove their allegations. Like the Supreme Court has often said, “a court of law is not Father Christmas”. The judges have adhered strictly by the rule of law. Instead of villifying their lordships, they should be celebrating and commending their astituteness.
The truth is that the pillars on which their petitions were premised was faulty ab initio. They contain no substance. That was the main reason why they couldn’t prove the spurious allegations in the petitions. The issue of drugs deal in the United States was dealt in a fair manner. They couldn’t show cause or evidence of President Bola Tinubu’s conviction in the said case, and on that ground he is qualified to contest the presidency.
They tried frantically to justify the request for Tinubu’s disqualification on grounds of certificate forgery, even when the said institution, Chicago State University, has responded in affirmation to serial requests for confirmation of his academic status.
Let me reiterate that no matter who we are or where we live, the rule of law affects us all. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity and peace underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.
The advanced societies/countries are not so-called because water gushes at the turn of the tap, steady power supply and quality infrastructures, but high premium on the Rule of Law. Conversely, the only kernel of a civilised society is that all men are equal before the Law, and only the Law, which is the grand norm, regulates the affairs of the state.
It is safe to say that Law is the foundation of every society/country. Hence, the extent to which a society enforces the Law is sine qua non for a stable and democratic society. An attempt to discharge this inalienable and fundamental norms by our learned Justices incurred the wrath of politicians, who are not ready to be true statesmen.
It is a known fact that without the existence of a law, there would be the situation of chaos and conflicts among communities and social groups. Law is man-made and is very important as it introduces justice to the society. There must be ground rules and principles set for modulation of society and its proper conduction.
Despite being the greatest beneficiary of judicial arbitration, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi have refused to be statesmen. Having served as governor, vice president, Obi and Atiku qualifies for the title of statesman. However, their behavioura have proven otherwise.
For instance, in reacting to the PEPT judgement, Atiku probated and reprobated by saying: “I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.”
Curiously, it was the same Atiku who described former President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Peoples Party as bad losers at the presidential election tribunal when he was vice president under former President Okusegun Obasnjo.
Seeking judicial redress is within the constitutional right of every Nigerian, and Atiku and Obi have generously enjoyed this in the past. We must learn to take it in good fate when it goes contrary to our expectations. Judges are not Father Christmas, they decide cases based on the strength and merits of arguments. Hence, our learned and respected men of the bench should not be taken to the galore for the inability of litigrants to prove their cases. The burden of proof lie in the accuser.
Suffice it to point out that the judiciary shielded Peter Obi against an unlawful impeachment in 2007. It would be recalled that the Anambra State House of Assembly had impeached Obi as the governor of Anambra State, but after a protracted legal battle which went all the way to the Supreme Court, justice was done Obi and he was reinstated.
In the hey days of the fourth republic when Atiku Abubakar served as vice president to Obasanjo at a time the relationship between the duo deteriorated and OBJ, as Obasanjo is fondly called, wanted to declare Atiku’s seat vacant because he had decamped to the then Acton Congress of Nigeria (ACN), it was the judiciary that came to his rescue based on the principles of justice.
It is regrettable that now that the tides have turned, Atiku is among those seeking to rubbish the judiciary he once hailed as the guardian and protector of Nigerian democracy. That is the height of hypocrisy.
You can’t have your way all the times. The beauty of democracy is that it provides opportunity for citizens to freely exercise their power of choices periodically, in the case of Nigeria, every four years, all things been equal. In which case, if you fail to make it this time, another fours provides the opportunity to try again instead of bringing down the roof.
Let me reitrate what I stated earlier, “Law is the foundation of every society.” The law has spoken. Let’s learn to respect the laws we have set for ourselves.
This is where the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Chief Latif fagbemi (SAN), must step in. As the country’s number one law officer, the burden lies on his shoulder to quickly work assiduously in tandem with President Tinubu to initiate meaningful reforms in the nation’s judiciary. He should work towards purging Nigeria’s justice system of frivolous litigations and mischievous lawyers who are fond of manipulating political cases in favour of their clients.
This is addition to the task of getting rid of certain impediments in the prosecution of corruption cases to serve as lesson to these politicians who use looted funds to pursue power so that they can return and continue with their inglorious act of milking the nation’s treasury.
– Ibrahim is director, Communication and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC).