By Law Mefor
The world over, politicians try to win elections by fair and foul means. That tendency is the reason institutions and laws exist and are operated by men of honour and integrity, who are sticklers to rules and unyielding to pressures from partisan interests.
The February 2023 Presidential election in Nigeria is a watershed and a new low in the kind of life Nigerians live as human beings who deliberately refuse to grow up and join civilized societies. Our leaders lack honour and integrity, and have now added impunity by refusing to obey the laws of the land.
Nigeria’s problems are essentially civilisational, not education. Nigeria has more graduates than Britain. But the question is: what is the quality of the human beings who live in Nigeria and are Nigerians? That is what the problem is and why the country is more of a jungle, governed by the principle of anomie – where human values count for really little, where dogs eat dogs.
Nigerians have been subjected to dehumanising and annihilating conditions and many of them needlessly perish and the law and its enforcers do very little to ensure decency, most basic requirements of law and order, and life for the living. Justice in Nigeria is now often for sale. You cannot even get the police to investigate your case without parting with money and judges easily accept bribes to render justice, going by the numerous damning disciplinary cases decided by the NJC.
Where the law appears to be serious and following the trajectory of justice, it is just for some symbolic gestures to create the impression that the nation is under law, or a top personality is involved, or the international community has expressed interest and the nation needs to save face and appear good like the rest of the civilised world.
It is this murky background that will shed light on the PDP’s protest match to the INEC headquarters in Abuja to present a five-point demand, which summarized, is a demand for the cancellation of the charade called February 25 presidential election. Many say it was a needless protest match since the matter is already in court. Those who say this underestimate the rot in the nation’s polity, which the judiciary has turned out to be the most recent victim.
Presidential election petitions have a lot to do with politics and technicalities. The Supreme Court is a court as well as a policy-making body. That is why the apex court dabbled into the currency crisis and even set a date (Dec 31, 2023) for the old naira notes to cease to be legal tenders, a function that ordinarily belongs to the CBN/Executive arm.
What this means is that if the opposition political parties keep quiet, their petitions may not be decided on point of law, but on technicalities and political exigencies. Their case may end up as a travesty of justice and the citizens will feel more bewildered and betrayed, and will likely be forced back into apathy and depression, or even into self-help that may convulse the polity to the point of rupture and, as PDP has warned, truncate the nation’s fledgling democracy.
The judiciary is brought into this presidential election conundrum because the process was marred by INEC abandoning the Electoral Act 2022 and its Guidelines, and descending into the arena as a player, rather than remaining the umpire statutorily assigned to it by law.
What INEC did can be better understood by taking a look at what happens in the game of football. The referees and players know the rules of the game and the referee moderates the play according to those extant rules. If there is no referee, a team can do anything to win just like in politics. The players will use the hand of God to score as Diego Maradona did in the 1986 world cup final between Argentina and England. The goalkeeper can always handle the ball outside his 18 yards box. No referee worth his name will allow such flagrant violations in the field of play.
Imagine the referee in a football match removing the goalposts or moving them to the sides of the field while the game is on. Imagine the referee allowing players to score with their hands, thus changing the football game to a game of handball. This will be absurd. Yet, that was exactly what Professor Mahmood Yakubu did in the February 2023 Presidential election, when he abandoned the Electoral Act 2022, and resorted to manual collation (Electoral Act 2010) and refused to match the manual results with results directly transited from the polling units as required obligatorily by law.
Professor Mahmood’s impunity was so glaring and nauseating. All the objections and complaints fell on deaf ears. He even promised the opposition parties that he would consider all the observations and complaints once he was done collating.
Most Nigerians still believed him then thinking they were dealing with an honourable man whose word was his bond and waited. Mahmood completed the collation, and rather than review the objections as required by the electoral act, which gave the Commission two whole weeks to review cases before announcing winners, he went on to announce a president-elect. Thereupon, he also asked the opposition parties to go to court. This is tantamount to telling the political parties to go to hell!
This last act of impunity speaks volumes and shows that the Commission does not care about how Nigerians feel. Of course, most top leaders in Nigeria have dual citizenships and one will not be surprised if Professor Mahmood is holding the citizenship of say a Caribbean country with a sprawling mansion and a yacht waiting for his retirement into opulence and freedom from any sort of want.
The PDP protest to INEC is really necessary to continue to draw attention to what is going on and to officially file a complaint with the electoral body lest the Commission claim that such a complaint never came to it. That way too, the judges who are also human first and foremost will see the need to dwell on the law and serve justice that will be satisfactory to both Nigerians and the international community who felt also so disappointed.
Three former Presidents led various international observer teams to this fiasco called presidential election, including Uhuru Kenyatta, who as a sitting president allowed a free and fair election that produced William Ruto as his successor against his (Uhuru) preferred candidate.
The Kenya’s experience has been so exemplary that that nation’s Supreme Court had to cancel the presidential election and their electoral body repeated it to meet the requirements of Kenyan electoral laws.
Unfortunately, Nigeria rather than being an example to Kenya and other African countries, it has since been the other way round. Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and others are now showing good examples to Nigeria, the so-called giant of Africa!
The PDP 5-point demands on INEC are clear and ultimately seek a cancellation of the presidential election since it was conducted outside the extant Electoral Act 2022. Kenya did the same not quite long ago, even for lesser violations of their laws.
As the PDP noted in their petition to INEC, there is nothing ambiguous about Section 64 (4) of the Electoral Act, which states: “a collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election, subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the number of accredited voters stated on the collated result is correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units and that the votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from polling units”.
Comparing the transmitted result with the physical result by the collation or returning officer as a legal requirement under the Electoral Act 2022 is what is called ‘Condition precedent’ in law and conjecture in scientific reasoning and logic – ‘if this, then that…’
Yes, collation done without verification and confirmation with the transmitted results directly from polling units is fraudulent and a violation of the law and ought not to stand.
· Dr. Law Mefor is a senior fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter :@DrLawMefor1.