My people say, ever since the snake got pregnant, did we know that its baby will be a long “thing”. And so, the verdict of victory awarded to President Muhammadu Buhari by the Court of Appeal, last Wednesday, did not come as a surprise to me. Perhaps expectedly, tension had built up so much, especially in the Federal Capital Territory over how the judgement will go. All the newspapers ran the story of the Judgement on their front pages last Wednesday.
I was in the office of one of the ministers from the South West while the 9-hour judgement was being read, amidst solid tension that could even be cut.
“is there anything to worry about in the judgement?”, I asked the minister. Pouting his lips, he declared that “I don’t think there is anything that should worry us”, adding precariously: “except they want to scatter Nigeria.”
And so, the much awaited verdict from the 4-month legal battle came to a punctuated end last Wednesday when the 5-man panel unanimously declared that President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC was validly elected last February 23.
Long before and after the presidential election, supporters of the PDP had been so upbeat about the electoral prospect of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
And that was why the conclusion was strong and automatic when President Buhari was declared winner, that something was definitely wrong with the election and its declared outcome. That explains why Atiku rebuffed all persuasions not to challenge the results in court.
But one redeeming thng about the legal tussle is that it has further enriched the electoral jurisprudence in Nigeria.
The court judgement last Wednesday, had confirmed my fears that most of the drive to contest the result in court was powered by emotion and assumptions. Unfortunately, the courts deal with facts as supported by incontrovertible evidences. The evidences of the petitioner were rather scant and fluky. They hardly could establish truly any of the allegations.
Even on the orchestrated case of not being qualified, as some mocked the president as having presented “NEPA Bill” as his certificate, the court ruled that given the schooling history and leadership trainings Mr President had had, he is not just qualified for the election, but “eminently qualified”.
The petitioner and his witnesses could not really prove that the electoral process was compromised, neither could they establish that voters financially induced or harassed and that the process suffered non-compliance with the rules.
The court also found issues of the use of card readers and the electronic transmission of results as immaterial and unproven.
Almost on all fronts, the petitioner hit a brickwall in the hands of the panel.
Not even the tradersmoni, was adjudged to be vote buying gimmick by the sitting government and so it was also dismissed.
Also dismissed was the allegation that the security agencies helped to compromise the process and outcome of the electoral contest.
One after the other, for nine long hours, the court meticulously reviewed all the evidences and submissions of the petitioners and knocked the lids off them.
The judgement took so long that many of the lawyers were worn and dozed off, with some even snoring aloud in the court room.
Expectedly, the opposition party, the PDP and its candidate have not only rejected the judgement, they have also described it as “barefaced subversion of justice”.
It has further threatened to go the whole log by heading to the Supreme Court, believing that the apex court will upturn the election of President Buhari. That looks a far fetched mirage.
But all said, legal minds are worried that unless some provisions of the Electoral law are amended, it will ever be so difficult to prove a case of electoral malfeasance in court, especially against a sitting president. The provision that a petitioner has only 14 days to file a case with all the evidences, makes it practically difficult, given the large electoral space in the country, to effectively gather all relevant evidences within the stipulated time , to prove his/her case.
Perhaps consoling to he petitioner is the affirmation of his Nigerianess, which the APC had contested, and said he (Atiku) was a Camerounian.
President Buhari has invited all aggrieved persons to join hands with him to grow the country. It is hoped that whatever distraction the court case was, should be over now and real governance will begin in earnest.
Also important is that the end (?) of the litigation should reinforce investors’ confidence in Nigeria. And the only way to prove this is a rise in the nation’s FDI (Foreign Direct Investment).
Having crossed this hurdle, let governance begin!.