With the apex court’s affirmation of his mandate, President Bola Tinubu should focus on rebuilding Nigeria, writes Bolaji Adebiyi

“There is no merit in this appeal, it is, therefore, dismissed,” John Inyang Okoro, justice of the Supreme Court, said on Thursday in his lead judgment in the appeal Abubakar Atiku and his Peoples Democratic Party brought to upturn the verdict of the Court of Appeal, which validated the victory of Bola Tinubu and his All Progressives Congress at the 25 February 2023 presidential contest.

A few moments later, the appeal brought by Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the election was also dismissed for lacking merit. The third appeal, brought by the Allied Peoples Movement had on Monday been dismissed at the adoption of address stage when its lead counsel could not show what the party would gain if it won the appeal having performed woefully at the polls.

With the dismissal of the appeals, the end came for months of legal agitations, perhaps masturbations, by the leading opposition parties who lost the presidential contest seven months ago. They had expressed their disagreement with the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, approaching the Presidential Election Petition Court for redress.

That court’s panel of five led by Justice Haruna Tsammani told them on 6 September 2023 that their grievances were misconceived and, indeed, had no basis. It accordingly trashed them. Unhappy with that unanimous decision, the litigants approached the apex court for a review. While it took the lower court a whooping 12 hours to deliver its judgment, the upper court used much less than three hours to conclude its pronouncements. The seven justices came short of saying that the appeals ought not to have been brought because the issues set for determination had been decided in several previous cases.

Understandably, Tinubu, in less than two hours after the pronouncements accepted the judgment and asked Nigerians to join him in the onerous task of rebuilding the nation. “We are all members of one household, and this moment demands that we continue to work and build our country together,” he said in his conciliatory statement, adding, “The strength of our diversity and the great citizenship that binds us must now compel us forward in directing the energy of our people towards building a virile, stronger, united, and more prosperous country.”

Nothing less could have been expected from a president, whose speed of delivery of electioneering commitments had been slowed down by the bitter disputations over his electoral victory. Given the zero-sum nature of politics in this environment, he must have been aware that the favourable outcome of the judicial challenge is not enough to guarantee the peace he needs to successfully implement his programmes. His soothing words of assurances to the opposition elements and the appeal for cooperation are, therefore, appropriate and commendable.

While the opposition camp has been largely muted, there was an indication of an elongation of hostility from the camp of the PDP yesterday with the leading opposition party expressing disappointment with the verdict of the apex court. “The PDP asserts that it is indeed a sad commentary for our democracy that the Supreme Court failed to uphold the provisions of the law,” it said in an angry statement by Debo Ologunagba, its publicity secretary.

It complained: “Instead, it trashed the expectation of the majority of Nigerians who looked up to it as a temple of impartiality to deliver substantial justice in the matter having regards to the laws and facts of the case.

“Nigerians earnestly expected the Supreme Court to uphold and defend the clear provisions of the 1999 Constitution in terms of qualification and minimum requirement for a winner to be declared in a presidential election in Nigeria.”

While its candidate, Atiku, is probably still studying the judgment, it is safe to say that this subsisting reaction on behalf of the party and its members typifies a familiar tendency among politicians to accept only favourable judicial outcomes. It remains to be seen how the party came to its conclusion that the Supreme Court did not uphold the provisions of the law. And coming from a legal mind like Ologunagba, who ought to understand the finality of the apex court, it must be shocking to his learned colleagues.

It is the requirement of the 1999 Constitution as altered and the Electoral Act 2022 that aggrieved parties submit their grievances to the judicial process and, having elected to do so, be bound by its outcome. It is commendable that all parties have complied with this. But it goes beyond that. The outcome ought to be acceptable while dissent should be expressed without casting aspersion on the judiciary and its processes. The PDP statement fails this test and is unfortunate, particularly because it was endorsed by a lawyer, whose primary responsibility is to promote public confidence in the judicial process. What else does the party want?

Between the lower and upper courts, 12 jurists, five below, and seven upstairs heard its dispute. All 12 came to the same conclusion: its complaint lacked merit. How can the party insist on the correctness of its position after it has submitted itself to the legal processes of the law? In any case, should the party not have a sober look at the comments of both senior courts that the presentation of its petitions showed a misunderstanding elementary principle of laws?

Anyway, what is important now is that the favourable judicial outcome has strengthened Tinubu’s hand by removing the legal distraction to the exercise of his mandate. Going forward, he will no longer be at liberty to complain or give any excuse for any act of omission. He must accelerate the formation of his government and proceed, as he has promised, to begin to confront those daunting challenges facing Nigerians.

Adebiyi, the executive editor of Western Post, is a member of the Editorial Board of THISDAY Newspapers  

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