Barring any last minute change, the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal (GEPT) sitting in Lafia, would deliver judgement in the petition instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its gubernatorial candidate, David Ombugadu, challenging the election of Governor Abdullahi Sule of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
After parties to the petition – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), first respondent, Engineer Sule, second respondent, APC, third respondent as well as PDP and Ombugadu, the petitioners – filed and adopted their final addresses, the tribunal reserved judgment to allow for time to consider the facts and details of the case.
It’s therefore worrying that at this crucial moment when the tribunal is considering the details of the case, PDP has chosen to spread propaganda, misinformation and outright fake news, in order to attract sympathy from the judges of the tribunal.
Fake news can incite unrest and hate speech, which could undermine the nation’s democracy. Aware that their petition may have suffered a shipwreck, the petitioners have perfected the uncanny ability of manipulating the facts of events attended by Sule and to conjure up meanings that would appeal to sentiments.
Of course, PDP characteristically refuses to acknowledge that the hallmark of the country’s judiciary are impartiality and fairness, for which the judges of the tribunal have sworn to an oath not to be influenced by friendships or public clamour.
This oath further requires that judges disregard their personal opinions on social, political, and legal issues and scrupulously follow the law. Judicial impartiality demands that the rule of law prevails no matter how strongly a judge holds a personal view or how vehemently a judge disagrees with the law.
In order to prosecute its affront on the justice system as well as the sensibilities of its gullible supporters, especially young people who are frequently exposed to social media, the PDP employs varying forms of propaganda intended to instil fear, stoke uncertainty and unease in its audience.
The assault started with organised street protests, with mostly widows of murdered security operatives from Akwanga, deployed to display nudity and to harangue public sensibilities. The protest continued throughout the proceedings of the tribunal, as a mark of obvious distrust and contempt for the judiciary.
Now that the tribunal is about to deliver judgement, PDP are upping their ante by manipulating the facts relating to the activities of the governor and other principal actors in the state.
After the recent visit by some traditional rulers from Nasarawa state led by the Emir of Lafia, HRH Justice Sidi Bage Muhammad, PDP alleged that the entourage went to curry favours from Vice President Kashim Shettima to influencing the judgement of the tribunal.
Knowing full well that their supporters are likely to cross check the facts, PDP used the media to spread falsehood and propaganda regarding the trip. The fact about the visit of the monarchs was that they went, like their counterparts from the North, to congratulate Shettima on his election as vice president.
The PDP exploited the fact that the traditional rulers paid the visit on the same day the tribunal adjourned for the adoption of final written addresses, making it easier for their sympathisers to believe their lies.
Again, PDP saw another chance to appeal to sentiments with the recent trip to Abuja by Governor Sule, ignoring its positives, especially the resounding engagements by the governor. On arrival in Abuja on Thursday, the governor first met with the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dele Alake, where issues of collaboration were discussed. With Nasarawa state being the Home of Solid Minerals, the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development is integral to the development aspirations of the state.
That same day, the governor also met with another powerful delegation led by the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Ali Pate, who was accompanied on the visit to the Nasarawa Governor’s Lodge by the interim Chief Executive Officer of Gavi, Mr David Marlow, who disclosed that his multi-billion dollars organisation will manufacture vaccines in the country.
Nasarawa was chosen among other states to host the CEO of Gavi, because of its achievements on immunization coverage. During the meeting, Sule invited Gavi to set up their vaccine factory in the state, with a free land incentive.
The following day being Friday, Sule visited the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nyesom Wike, to further seek collaboration with the FCT on infrastructure and security. His administration has already gone far with the immediate past FCT minister and the governor felt the need to meet with Wike in order to speed up the various commitments made with the former minister.
Part of the commitments was for the state to collapse the several motor parks along Abuja-Masaka axis and build one central motor park, while the FCT would dualise the Nyanya-Masaka expressway. The Nasarawa state government constructed the Sani Abacha Mega Bus Terminal with 900-vehicle capacity to honour its side of the bargain.
As a direct fallout of the meeting, Wike promised to convene a meeting between states neighbouring the FCT, namely, Nasarawa, Niger, Kaduna and Kogi, to addressing security issues.
Instead of appreciating these giant leaps, the PDP saw yet another opportunity to spread propaganda and falsehood. PDP went to town with the ludicrous headlines, “Do not drag Tinubu, Wike into Nasarawa politics, PDP tells Gov Sule”, among others.
With the tribunal about to pronounce its judgement and by deliberately targeting the fears and anxiety that most people view as fundamental to the political development of the state, when people are agitated and anxious over the outcome of the tribunal judgment, the PDP is trying hard to intimidate the tribunal in order to secure a favourable verdict.
It has therefore become pertinent to draw the attention of the PDP to the recent judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, particularly to the ruling of Justice Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf, where she berated the petitioners for their inability to prove their cases.
Ali Abare is the Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Nasarawa State.