Is Nigeria’s democracy under threat?

The recent judgements by the Court of Appeal quashing election victories of many elected lawmakers and governors are giving Nigerians sleepless nights. The 2023 elections have come and gone, the dust generated due to allegations of election irregularities are yet to settle. Little wonder, politicians who lost the last general elections or felt cheated besieged elections tribunal to seek redress. The elections tribunal and the Court of Appeal, through their judgements, have either affirmed or nullified elections leaving bitter or sweet taste in the mouths of contenders.

However, the manner by which the Appeal Court delivered judgements has become a matter of grave concern. For instance, opposition parties have blamed the ruling party of using the judiciary to upturn elections victory in many states they could not win. The Appeal Court has so far sacked governors Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano state, Lawal Dauda Dare of Zamfara and Mutfwang of Plateau state. The sacking of these governors who are from opposition has elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians. Besides, it questioned the credibility of the last general elections conducted by INEC as well as the impartiality of the judiciary.

While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had tried its best to conduct free and fair elections in the last general elections, Nigerians believe that, the barrage of litigations which flooded the courts are the commission’s great undoing. It also indicated that the last general elections were marred by irregularities as reported by some domestic and international observers. The inability of INEC to transmit elections result electronically as promised has cast doubt on the credibility of the last elections. 

Though, INEC can take a blame on some glitches in the 2023 general elections, political parties are not saints. Political parties had failed to manage crises that emanated from the conduct of their primaries. Some political parties went to the poll fractured. The desperation of political parties to win elections had resulted to vote buying, deployment of thugs to intimidate voters and above all use of compromised security personnel to rig elections. 

The judiciary is said to be the last hope of the common man. The men of the bench were dragged into election matters in 1979 by the military government to adjudicate disputes arising from the activities of political parties and elections. Since the return to democracy in 1999, the judiciary has been handling various cases related to elections disputes.

The million naira questions begging for answers are: has the third arm of government faired well in delivering justice and strengthening our democracy? is the judiciary truly independent? These questions, I think, remain contestable. The judiciary has been accused of partisanship. The outcomes of the election tribunal and Appeal Court’s judgements have raised more questions than answers about the neutrality of men of the bench.

There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria’s democracy is being threatened by the combination of factors including the desperation of our political actors to win elections at all cost, the complicity of some corrupt INEC officials who aided rigging and corrupt judges who dispense justice to the highest bidders. While these obnoxious forces have been with our democracy for long, they are increasingly becoming cog in the wheel of progress of our democracy. 

Our courts have since become another INEC awarding underserved victories to rich politicians. For Nigeria’s democracy to survive amidst coups that continue to rock some African countries, there is an urgent need for further reforms of our electoral system. The judiciary, which is the bastion of democracy, should sit up and ensure it delivers justice no matter whose ox is gored. For our politicians, they should strive to play the game by the rules. In case our democracy collapses, God forbids, politicians will be the biggest losers.

Ibrahim Mustapha,

Pambegua, Kaduna, Kaduna state 08169056963

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