President-elect Yar Adua
Much muscle flexing and political vituperation has been on since the elections in Nigeria of April 21, 2007. Most observers, commentators, pundits and interested parties are of the view that the elections were far from being free or even fair. But we had a result; we had the INEC declare a winner in President-elect Umar Yar’ Adua. Congratulations would be in order. We understand that General Mohamadu Buhari, the next runner-up is not interested in petitioning the result of the election. However, Abubakar Atiku’s lawyers are probably drafting the legal papers to set aside the elections. That is the Rule of Law in action.
National Assembly Intervention?
Before we move on, we need to deal with a small matter of the newspaper report that the National Assembly is contemplating steps to nullify the elections. Interesting scenario, but the National Assembly lacks the authority in law to do that. Not under the Electoral Law of 2006 or even the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The only body duly authorized and saddled with that duty is the Electoral Tribunal. Besides, the elections are supposed to be a time when the National Assembly shows its own submission to the will of “we the people”. While the interested National Assembly members, as individuals, may even be aggrieved by the conduct of the body of Nigerians in elections, as a body, they can protest that fact only with cause in law by proving their respective cases at the Election Tribunal established by the Electoral Act 2006.
Remedies at Law
The Electoral Act 2006 provides:
145. (1) An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds, that is to say:
(a) that a person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election;
(b) that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or noncompliance with the provisions of this Act;
(c) that the respondent was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the election; or
(d) that the petitioner or its candidate was validly nominated but was unlawfully excluded from the election.
(2) An act or omission which may be contrary to an instruction or directive of the Commission or of an officer appointed for the purpose of the election but which is not contrary to the provisions of this Act shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election.
Grounds of petition.
One major ground of Petition any of the parties would be quick to allege is that of rigging of the said election. However, in order to nullify the votes of the party you allege against, you must need prove that the persons who perpetrated the acts did so as agent of the said party in order to hurt them. To mention, for instance, that thugs had snatched ballot boxes on camera may be true, but unless you show that they affected your chances of winning or that they gave your opponent an advantage or that they substantially altered the general over-all results rendering same inconclusive, it may be hard to prove damage to your party.
Curiously, although the PDP ruling party would give anything to win Lagos State , AC had not only control but won in Lagos . In Abia, although the party machinery were clearly PDP, Orji Kalu’s PPA is reported to have swept Abia. In Kano State , we saw the demonstration of the prowess of ANPP. In any of these strong showings if any of the interested parties have an interest in overturning the result or if they allege that things were not done in accordance to law, the recourse would still be to the law, to show that if they were not rigged, they might have won. It is not enough to allege that there was rigging, therefore the elections should be cancelled in totality.
The Electoral Act further provides:
146. (1) An Election shall not be liable to be invalidated by reason of non compliance with the provisions of this Act if it appears to the Election Tribunal or Court that the election was conducted substantially in accordance with the principles of this Act and that the non compliance did not affect substantially the result of the election
(2) An election shall not be liable to be questioned by reason of a defect in the title, or want of title of the person conducting the election or acting in the office provided such a person has the right or authority of the Commission to conduct the election.
Certain defects not to invalidate election.
147. (1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, if the Tribunal or the Court as the case may be, determines that a candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on any ground, the Tribunal or the Court shall nullify the election.
(2) If the Tribunal or the Court determines that a candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on the ground that he did not score the majority of valid votes cast at the election, the Election Tribunal or the Court, as the case may be, shall declare as elected the candidate who scored the highest number of valid votes cast at the election and satisfied the requirements of the Constitution and this Act.
While Abubakar Atiku as a candidate and all the International and local observers as well as any Nigerian can take whatever legal action they deem fit, regarding legal remedies, except damning evidence is brought forth that shows a substantial non-compliance with the particulars of the law that goes to the foundation of the result, one may be in order to ask Umar Yar’Adua to constitute his Transition Committee. The duty of the Transition Committee is to explore ways of healing the wounds, reaching out to all the Resourceful Nigerians to find a way out of the woods with a clear vision to govern with the purpose of changing Nigeria rather than rewarding political party hacks.
Congratulations to President-elect Yar’Adua.