Will The Election Tribunals Deliver?

by Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku

Everyone seems to be towing the wide and sensible path that leads to the determination and resolution of the many inconsistencies that trailed the governorship and presidential elections. Ideally, that path is the path that a sensible and civilized political culture prescribes: that if you were deliberately or inadvertently shortchanged in an election that had the clichés of fairness and freeness and freedom attached, you have no other method other than the bottleneck of an election tribunal to seek redress first of all, and justice much later on. What learned people of the law are saying is that all over the world, elections aren’t 100% s perfect and if we have ours declared as 80% perfect, why don’t we all go to bed and have a good night’s sleep? No, no, that won’t do – the election tribunals are there to tie the many loose ends there are and get us back to sanity once more.Famous last words.

I’m not a lawyer, though I have that burning desire to be one just for the fun of it. I have lawyer-friends who I have a lot of respect for on account of their personal integrity and professional acumen. For now though, I have no idea what they think about these tribunals. In the determination and in the interpretation and resolution of how to clear the smoke and the confusion that billows around our democratic ethos, the law and the purveyors thereof seem to call the shorts, em shots. But within the circumference of the explication of the law itself, we find that the law is an ordinary donkey. To understand the metaphor of the donkey, I suggest we take a look at the modus vivendi of that animal: a donkey is strong and doughty. Saddle a donkey with all sorts of garbage and baggage but its sturdy back like the camel’s will stand. I’d seen a donkey once saddled like this; it had tears in its eyes but it still struggled on despite the fact that it looked worn out and would drop dead the next minute. The donkey, like the law, has one universal shortcoming that sets it apart from its cousins the horse and the zebra: it is slow, very cumbersome and very, very impersonal. And if this is the reason why it is said that if justice is delayed it is denied, it cannot have been put better than that. We met a Benjamin the donkey in Orwell’s Animal Farm. He was cynical. He never complained about the drudgery that had become the lot of Animal Farm despite the overwhelming statistical evidences to the contrary. Benjamin was a survivor: when other animals got boiled at the knackers, sold to the human-animals, it was Benjamin that survived the post-revolutionary polity of Animal Farm.

It is the Law or the Judiciary among the triumvirate in the calculus of the rule of law that has been the last man standing. It has weathered the political storms of this country of ours and has been the wind vane for the strong currents of discord that blew the Executive and Legislative arms and legs of government recently. The Judiciary has been the last hope of the common and uncommon man. Therefore, in the determination and resolution of the many inconsistencies that were the hallmark of the governorship and presidential elections, it is the election tribunals that the learned people say we must have recourse to. They say that people should not be foolish and carry the baggage and garbage when the mule is there. They say we must not insist on an outright cancellation of an election considered by respectable and objective considerations as the unfairest and most manipulated in the annals of this country’s history. They say we must exhaust every ‘peaceful’ method in the books for the resolution of election conflicts. They insist that the law be allowed to run its slow, donkeyish course.

Well, all of that is ok. And I suppose that the learned and unlearned people who insist that the election tribunal takes its course know what they are saying. I also believe they know what they are doing because as we said somewhere in this discourse, the law has always delivered. The only thing that bothers some of us is that there is nowhere in the world where elections are so shoddily put in place as to warrant the contestants having to go to court to challenge results. I have also not heard about it anywhere that elections were conducted and it was tribunals that became the final arbiter in elections that were supposed to be transparent. But ours is a peculiar country where all kinds of contraptions and all manner of theories can be experimented.

But we must be thankful that the tribunals are there anyway. They are the valve with which we can let off that ill breeze that swept the entire land in that national disgrace called elections. Otherwise, I can imagine what other methods Nigerians would have employed to express the anger and frustration they feel at either being disenfranchised, out-rigged and out-rightly cheated out of contention. The other man who was supposed to have won the freest and fairest election in this country in 1993 lost out entirely in July 1998, three whole years after he was dumped in jail. I wonder: if there were election tribunals at that time, would he have ended the way he did?Would the tribunal at that time have delivered? I have my doubts.

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