The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) – some people call it Court, on Wednesday, September 6, delivered a 798-page judgement on petitions filed before it substantially by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its Presidential candidate in the February 25 election in Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party (LP) with its Presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
The five-member Tribunal took their time reading out the judgement which ran through over 12 hours, during which the famous, but humourous sleeping bug caught nearly all the lawyers, some journalists and even the “big men” who turned up in the court to witness the judgement.
Expectedly, shortly after the judgement, the petitioners: candidates of the PDP and LP rejected the verdict and gave strong indication of taking the matter to the Supreme Court, which is allowed in the circumstance.
Looking at the furore that was generated across the country shortly after the election, the sentiments that rose from the final judgement could also be understood. But what has not been clear is the postulation by the opposition parties, specifically, the petitioners that the cause of justice they sought was faulted through the verdict of the Tribunal. In particular was the Atiku Abubakar who insinuated that the judges have failed the nation’s democracy in theory and practice.
To be sure, Atiku said, at a world press conference he addressed on September 7: “The last presidential election in our country and the way it was managed by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, leaves behind unenviable precedents, which I believe the courts have a duty to redress. Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election, and I am afraid that the judgement of the court as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal yesterday, failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.”
The election itself has been tagged variously by opposition as “banditry” “robbery” and has been given other derogatory appellations even at the time the petitions were still under Judicial scrutiny.
We in Greenbarge Reporters online newspaper are not comfortable that about 24 years into unbroken democracy, politicians still see free and fair election from the point of view of their being the winners. In other words, to them, elections are rigged if they don’t win and adjudged the best if they win. This is without any exception.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its Presidential candidate, including their supporters, would have put up the same posture if they had not won the last presidential election and if the Tribunal had ruled against them on Wednesday.
What is worrying is for the losers to be imputing bad motives to the judicial handling of the election petitions.
Who told Atiku and Peter Obi that Tinubu would have taken it lightly if the case didn’t favour him? Of course, Tinubu and the APC would have been raving if they had lost the election, and at the Tribunal.
One wonders why the politicians who lose elections are taking pleasure in rubbishing all the institutions that have to do with the administration of electoral processes in the country: the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the judiciary and others?
Though the country, especially America from which we model our democracy, as we know, hardly drags the winners of elections to Court to challenge the validity of the elections, we need, if we must deviate from accepting the results of elections at first instance, to imbibe the spirit of trust in the institutions that are constituted to carry out the processes, believing that such institutions are not flawless, but mean well.
And the most dangerous thing to democracy is when politicians begin to question the judiciary, in situation where they lose. When they begin to give the judiciary a bad name so they can hang it. And hanging it may be an invitation to unpleasant consequences, some of which can, advertently trap them and their unpolished ambition.
After 24 years of democracy and elections to install leaders, our politicians should learn to grow out of this sentiment, of it is either they win by any means or the country should be destroyed, through their utterances that suggest such.
If the democracy should take root and grow in Nigeria, and indeed, Africa, respect for the law and the institutions that govern the system, even at the point of “provocative loss” of election, as it had often happened in America, is the best way to go. Any thing short of that is a blind walk into political self defeatism.