Judges are no longer appointed based on merit but are products of the interplay of politics and nepotism. Worse still, the appointment of electoral officials has also been hijacked by the ruling party as seen in the latest nomination of Resident Electoral Commissioners where card carrying members of the ruling party and aides to politicians in the APC are being appointed into INEC. When two critical institutions like the court and the electoral commission are trapped in an evil web of political machination, it becomes next to impossible for democracy to thrive.
As a stakeholder in the presidential election of February 25, I, along with other well-meaning Nigerians have done my bit in ensuring that our democratic process enjoys the privilege of full disclosure of the character deficiencies of the current political leadership. I also believe that even if the Supreme Court believes otherwise, the purpose of technology in our electoral system is to enhance transparency and not merely as a viewing centre. We have to move with the world and not be stuck in time.
Implications of PEPC and Supreme Court judgments
I leave Nigerians and the world to decide what to make of the Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision. But here’s my take. The judgments of the PEPC and the Supreme Court have very far-reaching grave implications, including the following:
One is the erosion of trust in the electoral system and our democracy. Nigerians witnessed as the National Assembly changed the electoral law to improve transparency in the process. Of particular importance was the introduction of modern technology to help eliminate the recurring incidents of electoral manipulation, particularly during the collation of results. Nigerians and the world also witnessed as the leadership of the INEC, especially its Chairman and National Commissioner for Voter Education reassured Nigerians on national television multiple times that the use of that technology would be mandatory.
Yet that same INEC undermined the use of that technology during the elections and collation process and declared as winner someone who clearly did not win the Presidential election. They then went further to take sides in the courts in a dogfight to defend their illegality. Who would convince the millions of Nigerians to vote in future elections after they suffered endlessly on queues to register to vote, to collect PVCs and to vote, based on INEC’s assurances only to see their votes stolen and given to someone they did not vote for?
When people lose trust and confidence in elections, democracy is practically on life support. And by affirming and legitimizing the continued lack of transparency in our electoral system the courts are continuing to usurp the rights of voters to elect their leaders. The other grave implication is that contestants in Nigeria’s elections should do whatever is necessary to be declared the winner. That includes identity theft, impersonation, forging of educational and other documents, perjury, and violence.
And, as they do so, they should ignore whatever the law says and whatever assurances from the leadership of the electoral umpire about what the law says and what they would do in compliance. And they would do so knowing that our courts would approve of their behaviour or at best pretend not to take any notice of it. The third is that if you are robbed of victory, do not bother going to court for redress because your glaring evidence of the robbery will be ignored in favour of the mandate bandit.
Also, your lawyers, however distinguished and accomplished, may be ridiculed by the judges who may also go out of their way to make even a stronger case for the so-called “winner” than even their own lawyers were able to do. These are clearly self-help strategies and actions bereft of the law and constitutionalism. Only lawlessness and anarchy will result from such, with violence, destruction and implosion and loss of our country likely to follow.
I believe that we still have a small window to prevent these from happening. I still believe that we can rescue this country from the strange imposters that have seized it illegally and are holding it by the jugular. Let me caution that the leaders of those African countries that have completely collapsed into chaos never came together one day and agreed to collapse their countries. Rather their countries collapsed because of the incremental and compounding individual and collective utterances and actions of those leaders.
Nigerians know more about the person sitting in office as their President and how he got there, and the dangers that it portends for them and the country. It is for them, especially the younger generation whose futures are to be shaped by that man, to decide what they want to do with the knowledge.
Now, let me give a historical perspective to the constitutional evolution that gave birth to the 1999 Constitution. In the build up to the current democratic dispensation, agitation was rife amongst members of the political class and a large number of civil society bodies to envision a constitution that would operate a democracy in a functional order after the nasty military regimes. These agitations and necessities of the circumstance of that time led to the convocation of the 1995 Constitutional Conference, which I was privileged to be a part of, alongside other prominent political actors.
The Constitutional Conference was expected to create the frameworks upon which a new constitution would be built in order to make the dreams of a democratic society. A number of far-reaching reforms and recommendations were made, which drew from our past experiences and aimed at safeguarding the new constitution from the mistakes of the past.
One such headline recommendation was the concept of rotational presidency anchored on the principle of 6 years single term among the 6 geopolitical blocks. Even the notional idea of delineating the country along geo-political blocks was a creation of the 1995 conference. Another thematic recommendation at the conference was that the Federal Capital Territory should be given the democratic opportunity to elect for itself a mayor who shall emerge from popular franchise. These two recommendations were part of the landmark reforms that were submitted to the military government that convoked the Constitutional Conference.
However, and rather disappointingly, the government that midwifed the current democratic dispensation and enacted what is now known as the 1999 Constitution, expunged these two recommendations from what eventually became the body of legislation to govern our fledgling democracy.