The long awaited judgement of the Supreme Court on the appeal challenging the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu by former Vice president Atiku Abubakar and Peter Gregory Obi has finally been buried. The duo disagreed with the earlier tribunal judgement which dismissed their plea challenging the outcome of the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
Nigeria’s Supreme Court upheld President Tinubu’s election, bringing to an end a legal challenge brought by his two main rivals, who argued that the election was marred by irregularities. This judgement has given Tinubu a clear mandate to govern Africa’s most populous nation for the first term of four years.
Tinubu will now focus on how to fix the weakening naira and widespread insecurity ranging from kidnappings, farmers-herders crisis, oil theft, Boko Haram/banditry and secessionist agitation in the South-east. Since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria is still a case study for election irregularities as allegations of rigging and ballot box snatching have continued to trail each electoral cycle including the 2023 elections.
The Supreme Court unanimously threw out Atiku/Obi appeals as “lacking in merit”, leaving the two presidential candidates’ fate hanging on the next elections in 2027. There have been numerous legal challenges against previous presidential elections but none succeeded. The fact remains that, unless the electoral umpire exhibits its capacity as an independent entity, the courts will continue to decide the fate of our elections.
Recently, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu, had taken the stage over incessant conflicting judgments by the courts, which have become a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s electoral jurisprudence. Politicians have reduced our courts to collation centres and polling units where election results are now contested, which is inimical to the electoral process.This ugly development is attributed to the nation’s prevailing political culture – those who lose hardly accept defeat while the winners are not magnanimous in victory.
Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party’s Peter Obi had asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the election won by Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But, the Supreme Court in its wisdom validated the victory of Tinubu as the duly elected President of Nigeria, bringing the legal battle to an end.
The opposition leaders said in separate affidavits that the election was fraught with irregularities and accused INEC of breaching the law by failing to use electronic machines to upload results, among others. Atiku Abubakar and Obi have both enjoyed the luxury of our courts when landmark judgements were delivered in their favour. It is expected that, both should resort to appreciating in a most profound way the courts of the land as the last hope of the common man even when it goes against their their expectations.
However, it is worrisome that in their separate press conferences, the nation’s judiciary was painted black. Flipping through their statements, it is clear that patriotism in Nigeria is lacking in our politicians. Thus, former President Goodluck Jonathan will remain in the national archives for being a statesman by accepting defeat by President Muhammadu Buhari in order to save our baby democracy in 2015.
Atiku Abubakar, who benefited from several court judgements during his political face off with his boss former President Olusegun Obasanjo, should have led the stage by accepting the outcome of the elections now that the highest court of the land has decided. According to him, “As long as Nigeria wins, the struggle would have been worth the while. By that, I mean that the bigger loss would not be mine but Nigeria’s if the Supreme Court legitimises illegality, including forgery, identity theft, and perjury.
“If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies by its judgment that crime is good and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost and the country is doomed, irrespective of who occupies the presidential seat”.
Similarly, Obi, who rose through the Supreme Court to become the governor of Anambra state, said, “It is, therefore, with great dismay that I observe that the court’s decision contradicts the overwhelming evidence of election rigging, false claim of a technical glitch, substantial non-compliance with rules set by INEC itself as well as matters of perjury, identity theft, and forgery that have been brought to light in the course of this election matter. The Supreme Court judgement willfully condoned breaches of the constitution relative to established qualifications and parameters for candidates in presidential elections”.
Though Atiku and Obi have affirmed their loyalty to the court, considering their remarks, they still cast doubt on its affirmation of Tinubu’s victory. It is one thing to affirm your loyalty to the courts and it is another to accept its rulling. Nigerians, especially, politicians must accept that the rule of law also means respect for the decision of the court. It then means that there should be respect for the orders of the courts.
As two of the leading presidential candidates in the 2023 elections, their failure to accept this judgment with patriotism is a disservice to Nigeria’s democracy. They must understand that the country is greater than anyone and their ambitions. Politicians must not always win; when they lose, they must respect the intervening democratic processes and institutions so as together heal the wounds created and support the government to succeed.
This election has been the most virulent and expensive for Atiku having contested the election on a broken platform. Nigerian politicians should not allow lawyers to bind them into an electoral challenge that lacks legal foundation, because when the chips are down the court will rule only on the basis of law. The challenges confronting us a nation have been attributed to a wide range of factors such as lack of patriotism, weak institutions, poor socioeconomic and physical infrastructure to drive development. Atiku and Obi must exhibit high level of patriotism by joining forces with the Tinubu administration to restore the nation’s lost glory.
President Tinubu needs and must employ the services of more qualified Nigerians and experienced economic thinkers to facilitate his drive to restore the country’s peace and security. He should rekindle the nation’s confidence in the system. He should strive to serve all Nigerians of all political persuasions, tribe and faith with honour and respect for the diverse opinions uniting values of the citizens. As INEC set for Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa elections tomorrow, Professor Yakubu must ensure that desperate politicians are not allowed to subvert the will of the people in order to avoid voter apathy in the next elections.
INEC and the courts must protect the nation’s democracy by ensuring justice, fairness and equity where the will of the citizens prevails at all cost.The interest of the country must stand and be protected.
Danaudi, public affairs analyst, writes from Bauchi, Bauchi state via [email protected].