Of Pyrrhic Tribunal Verdicts

by Peter Claver Oparah

Last Saturday, April 19th, I was invited to the Channels TV’s breakfast programme, Sunrise, to discuss the voided Bayelsa State governorship election. Before we went into the studio for the broadcast of the program, I met with other invitees to the program and these include Osa Director, the Editor in chief of The Insider magazine, Chudi Achike, a Public Affairs analyst and two other brilliant lawyers. In the brief informal discussion we had before we went into the studio, we found out that all of us were concerned about the political developments in the country arising from the continued voiding of more gubernatorial elections and the order for re-run elections in most of the seats where elections were voided. We shared the common sentiment that the entire process is one huge sham that is aimed at entrenching the PDP, which is at the center of the monumental electoral fraud that happened in April 2007. We failed to understand why most of the election tribunals are ordering for re-runs, which will end up favoring the unrepentant hounds in the PDP, as the same INEC that was used to perpetrate this fraud is still the same body looked up to conduct the re-run. Osa Director and one of the lawyers were to discuss the Kebbi and Sokoto cases where two different standards were employed to determine the same case.

In the program proper, I called back the minds of the interviewers that anchor the program that I was on the same program on Saturday, April 28th 2007, on the day of the make-up elections that were made to pad the shambolic process of April 14th and 21st. I reminded them that there was nothing strange in the continued strings of judicial annulments we are witnessing now but that most Nigerians are having the feeling that more of such parodies should be voided. I reminded them that on the earlier program last year, where I featured with Simon Kolawole, the editor of This Day, I had predicted that most of the so-called elections would be annulled because the entire thing was a huge mockery on the electoral process and I confessed that I was surprised that we were not having more than the number of elections annulled so far because my expectation then was that we would have had a higher casualty rate from the macabre and howling sham Iwu and company concocted last April.

I did however express my fear that the initial applause that attended these annulments are beginning to wane so fast as Nigerians are coming to the realisal that maybe, we are caught in the deadly ring of a scamming ring that spans the Yar’Adua presidency, the PDP, the electoral body, the security agencies and the judiciary itself. I had my reasons for the creeping sense of skepticism in the face of the recent pronouncements of the elections tribunals all across the country. My primary fear is that the decision to retain Iwu and his cohorts after the shameful outing of April may be Yar’Adua’s way of playing his own card in the emerging conspiracy to ensure the people are handed placebos, in the name of judicial victories at the tribunals and the seats in contention are returned to the PDP, the chief perpetrator and foremost beneficiary of the electoral heist of last April. I see the order for re-runs as a clever way the judiciary wants to ensure the PDP is primed to recover these seats they stole through the back door. I believe it mocks decency to allow a run-down fellow like Iwu and a credit-less institution like INEC, which wastes tax payers’ monies in instituting needless cases for the PDP in a bid to justify the electoral heist they committed last April, to continue toying with the fate of the country through the spates of re-runs, which end up equally soiled and mangled like the charade he conducted in April and ordering the parties to re-present themselves to Iwu, with the deployment of all security agencies to work to return the PDP, is a grand way of poking fun at Nigerians who were victims of Iwu’s elephantine indiscretions last year.

The standard attitude to the re-run is that Yar’Adua and his PDP comrades race to the affected state where another governor has fallen to boast that the PDP will win again, the in-coming governor pledges that his mission would be to return the deposed governor, Iwu and his INEC will make a confused claim that it had been ‘vindicated’ by the latest ruling, haul invectives on the rest of the world for having the audacity to question the bizarre scruple he deployed in the April sham and promises a cache of what it lacks the moral strength and capacity to give; free and fair polls. The security agencies would be given a mandate to do all to ensure the PDP returns, a horrible sham, akin to the April charade will be organized, PDP will claim ‘victory’, Iwu will claim to have conducted the best election in the world and another year added to the PDP’s new government! At best, as we have noticed in Kogi where a so called re-run had been conducted, a fellow like Iwu, driven by a shameless mindset and with a remorseless knack to deny his well-known acts would only be working to justify the bizarre fraud he perpetrated in April 2007 and this can never favour any party opposed to the PDP, which he had, more often, openly canvassed for when he is supposed to be an umpire for all the parties. The case of the Abuja ANPP senatorial seat that was voided by the election tribunal is particularly instructive. The seat was voided on the reason that a candidate was excluded from the polls and the phantom re-run led to the return of the PDP candidate! This is when almost all the seats contested in Iwu’s shoddy exercise was riddled by allegations of exclusion of one candidate or the other and the tribunals have so far, treated the excuse with levity.

Again, I found everything wrong with the queer sense of justice behind most of the recent election tribunal judgments where offences were established and no offender identified. In nearly all the cases determined, the tribunals have refrained from coming clear on who did what in the bacchanal electoral infamy that are spawning these annulments. They merely declare elections as improperly conducted and order for a re-run with the beneficiaries of the electoral fraud as contestants and the main perpetrators of the fraud as the umpires once again. One or two tribunals have offered vacuous mild rebukes that were not directed at anybody or any institution and Iwu’s INEC, the chief culprit in the sordid affair had waxed of its readiness to conduct a credible election this time around while in another breath, blaming politicians outside the PDP as those behind whatever imperfections his culled minds allow him to perceive in the charade he had been celebrating since April 2007. I believe that the idea of not pinning the proven shortfalls on anybody or any institution is deliberate and is meant to ensure that the same discredited people and institutions are allowed to have their way with a system that is manned by the most unscrupulous of fiends and their cahoots. In the case of Sokoto, for instance, the Appeal Court ruled that the deposed governor, Wammako, was indeed a member of the ANPP just a few days to the election of April and couldn’t have represented the ANPP given the provisions of the electoral law that stipulates that a candidate of a party for an election should enjoy membership of the party he is representing for a reasonable period before the election. Curiously however, the same tribunal ruled that Wammako is legible to contest the re-run polls but one wonders whether he would conduct as a candidate of the PDP or ANPP. The Sokoto case was even better than the Kebbi State where a lower tribunal annulled the election of Dakingari on the same premise as the Sokoto case. But stranger still the same Appeal Court that hacked off Wammako spared Dakingari on some inchoate reasons, which Nigerians however believe was not unconnected with the fact that Dakingari recently married one of the daughters of Yar’Adua.

It is instructive that apart from the Anambra case where the Supreme Court threw to the dogs the elaborate machinations of Iwu and his benefactor, Andy Uba because they tried to cook up a convenient electoral parody that infringes on the legitimate mandate of Peter Obi, the Rivers State case that was a PDP versus PDP affair, it is instructive that only two of the elections have been decided without ordering for a re-run. While the Adams Oshiomhole victory in Edo via the tribunals was roundly lauded because it met the expectations of Nigerians on what the tribunals ought to do; punish the offender and reward the victim, the Abia case was a clear case of raking out convenient reasons to return the state to the PDP. After deciding that the PPA candidate and incumbent governor, Theodore Orji scored majority of votes cast in Abia State, the tribunal was to import curious reasons that border on membership of the Okija Shrine and non-resignation of appointment as reasons why it gave Abia to the PDP. In a state like Oyo, the tribunal was to indulge in an untidy play-acting with figures to retain the state for the PDP while some state elections were voided for sundry reasons that range from evidence of non election (Enugu) to cooking of figures that were not supported with legitimate electoral documents (Bayelsa) and also to spurious disqualification of candidates by the INEC, acting in concert with the PDP (Kogi, Adamawa,).

I had gone to this lengthy analysis to present the incongruities and contradictions that riddle adjudication on the electoral process in Nigeria. It is as if judges depend on their whims to rule on issues as no standards are adhered to. It is as if the much-trumped electoral laws are worthless legislations that remain at the mercy of the interests and mindsets of the judges. This much was said by the infamous Ogebe verdict on the presidential petitions both Buhari and Atiku instituted against Yar’Adua last February. If there are electoral laws, which are adhered to by the both the electoral bodies and the tribunals, then somebody and some people would be held responsible for the irresponsible mishandling of the country’s anti-climatic general elections last April. These culprits would bear the rap for the present strings of annulments and must have been adequately sanctioned so that prospective villains, stalking the system and waiting for their time to rape and assault the country would be dissuaded. If there is no conspiracy to return the voided seats to the PDP and firm up its culture of impunity, most of the electoral petitions would have been decided in the favour of the complainants and this has nothing to do with re-runs that may end up worse than the charade that spurned the present spates of annulments. One feels that if electoral re-runs have to be embarked on, there must have been a reasonable cleansing of the temple of fraud and open racketeering that inflicted the country with such horrible gashes April 2007. One would have believed that if the minders of the Nigerian system intend to free the polity of the ennui of electoral perfidy, there would have been a pro-active response to the widespread demand by Nigerians, still shocked and awed at the manner the country’s electoral process was corrupted and criminalized last April, that the leadership of INEC be relieved of the arduous responsibility of organizing future election and face the law for their treasonable acts last year. Trying to insist on the same rotten vessel of electoral perfidy for the conduct of election re-runs smacks of expecting to harvest oranges from a mango tree. Iwu and credible and honest polls are diametrically separated that they can never have a common ground.

But one issue is very clear as the power conspiracy widens, the ranking misuse of power in Nigeria to deepen official corruption and as a fast impending food crisis dawns, Nigerians are getting more aware and these are good ingredients for the type of revolution Nigeria needs. Soon and very soon, I believe those that are moonlighting about ruining Nigeria for the next sixty years will hear from robbed, distraught and hungry Nigerians.

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