While many African countries are experiencing military coups which can be termed as liberatory from neo-colonialism, Nigeria witnessed what I may term judicial coup. On Wednesday September 6, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), five-member panel of judges dismissed petitions filed by Atiku Abubakar and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Peter Obi and the Labour Party, and the Allied Peoples Movement, APM, challenging the declaration of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, winner of the February 25, 2023 presidential election.
They delivered a judgement that a common man could understand to be farce that even the supporters of President Bola Tinubu in whose favour the judgement was declared, could not rejoice.
The six-hour verdict read by the judges whose faces were under cover reeks of a premeditated show and the casting of the constitutional requirements and electoral law to the background for a capture of the state by men who have demonstrated to inflict pains on Nigerians in many measures while mocking the poor.
As the five-man judges ruled, many of the contentions were cast to the dustbin with judgement of convenience for the man who lived his saying – “Political power is not going to be served in a restaurant. They don’t serve it a la carte. At all cost, fight for it, grab it and run with it.” Indeed, the judiciary ran with the aberration of an election organised in the last election.
Granted that in the court, evidence, not conjectures matter, the petitioners were blamed for not producing enough evidence to prove their case even when the judges were aware of how Professor Mahmoud Yakubu and INEC blatantly refused to avail the documents, while they disobeyed the Tribunal’s order with no consequences. Through the manner of the judgement, it is a judicial cover up for the impunity that was carried out in the 2023 elections.
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Nigeria is supposed to be practicing democracy but over the years, since the return of the said democracy, the country is rather practicing kakistocracy – a government that is ruled by the least suitable, able, or experienced people, and plutocracy – a ruling class whose power derives from their wealth.
It is a known assumption that judgements are bought in Nigeria and therefore the judgement by the PEPT seemed highly bought. To address that, the young Nigerians began a campaign; “all eyes on the judiciary” to make the judges do the right thing and give a right verdict. But, the judges being members of the elite, did not fail to represent the small group of political elites against the Nigerian people.
Labour Party’s spokesman Obiora Ifoh said the judgement “did not reflect the law and the desire of the people. Nigerians were witnesses to the electoral robbery that took place on February 25, 2023, which was globally condemned but the Tribunal in its wisdom refused to accept the obvious. What is at stake is democracy and we will not relent until the people will prevail.”
“The Judgement is against reason, against the facts and evidence presented in Court; against the relevant Electoral Laws, Guidelines and Regulations as well as the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). Indeed, the Judgment is generous in technicalities and very short in delivering substantial justice in the matter.” Debo Ologunagba the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party stated.
Election litigation should come before any dubiously declared winner is sworn-in. The practice of interrogation of a contentious election and final determination in the courts after swearing-in of any declared winner is injurious to Nigeria. This cause further loss of faith in the strength of Nigeria’s institutions which are simply appendages to the presidency and the president.
The judgement day was not only to determine the actual winner of the election marred by irregularities and flagrant malfeasance, it was also a judgement day for the judiciary. The verdict, as evidenced in the “silence” on the streets is that the judiciary aimed for and carried out a judicial coup. It is now left for the apex court, if approached, to redeem itself.