VICTOR C. ARIOLE contends that the September 6 ruling did not take the people into consideration

The Presidential Electoral Petition Tribunal (PEPT) rendering its unanimous  judgment led my curiosity into searching the minds of French philosophers of 18th Century in their dissenting voices on how not to allow the letters of the law render useless the spirit of the law. Baron de Montesquieu is the lead philosopher but not the utmost, even as a Judge. He removes “Baron” from his name because it is a “privilege” symbol. So, even as a judge, he is of equal status with the people.

In Jean Jacques Rousseau the letters are prone to ruin but the spirit is effervescent, ever glowing notwithstanding what human contact does to the letters. And it takes a Daniel to come to judgement to get the letters to respond to the spirit. His “social contract” is binding rules between a benevolent prince and the people; and craves for greater obligation from that benevolent prince who must listen to the judges who are go-between the benevolent prince and the people so as to remind him of the spirit of the law. Rousseau further envisaged the expected disposition of the prince and the judges in his “Emile”, as human beings that must be knowledgeable in all fields and be structural in the application of knowledge as against stuffing the head with information that lacks discerning in its application value. If you claim “INEC result viewing portal” (IREV) is not a function of electoral law why make it available and why allow tax payers money as well as international observers’ conscience be tied to it.

So, the burden of discernment is on the judges, and it extends to lawyers who either prosecute offenders or defend the law not to necessarily seek for loopholes to confuse the prince or the people.

As intermediary, the judges or lawyers are FRATERNAL with the PRINCE or The people as they choose to, given their proactive stance to quell impending danger, in line with the respect of “Fraternity, Equality and Freedom”.

In all evidence, the Judges, and the lawyers whether on the side of the petitioners or the defendants greatly fraternised with INEC – Independent National Electoral Commission. There was no Daniel among the judges to fraternise with the people in general, that is, the 90 million Nigerian electorate.

Nigerian electorate remains greatly undecided in this election and would have been allowed a second round to outrightly decide who they wanted so as not to enter into a trite law situation as it seems to be the case. It is certainly not easy to remove a sitting president by mere legalese. And as lawyers themselves say, it has turned trite as precedence of unending litigations after presidential elections since 1999 shows.

Nigerian Law exhibited ruin of the letters and it weighed heavily against the spirit that expects Freedom and Equality to be manifest among the people. Freedom and Equality were evidently sacrificed at the altar of INEC confraternity with the Judges and the Lawyers. On one hand the Judges hold sway in accepting whatever is admissible as exhibit and on another hand what they have accepted as admissible turns out to be hoax on judgement day as either flimsy evidence, or “not certified by the Registry of the court”, seems the language of loophole.

It makes one wonder whether the arrays of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) on both sides of the divides are not reflective of the mirror that is the Nigerian judicial system and legal education process. Indeed, another structural deficiency of Nigerian law and its educational products.

The SANs seem to be all on the side of INEC. No freedom or equality for the majority of the 90 million electorate. Both sides could not have done what so much pleased the Judges that they seem to see the process as trite.

This is where Voltaire the contemporary of Rousseau comes in with his education novel of “Zadig”, a training process of the masses that makes them see both the judges and the lawyers as their equals and must be questioned when they are not bringing to the table the worth of their knowledge. One of the judges to my greatest dismay berated European Union and ECOWAS observers’ reports as if Nigeria is an isolated island from the rest of the world. The world is a global village and technology enables anyone to live in the world as Alvin Toffler defines it, “electronic cottage”.

ECOWAS, EU paid a lot of money to get Nigerians to live that world on electoral value basis, and INEC must render account of it. IREV would have been the incontestable platform upon which no judge or court process would have been pronounced flimsy or uncertified evidence.

As a participant of that election the purported form 8A or even its further serials that end in 8E have duplicates that are not quite visible and, for sure, could not have been certifiable by the court even if they were even tendered as evidence. They were blurred and so they were, and could have been blindly certifiable by the IREV. Seeking for 133,000 copies of agents’ submission to validate petitioners’ and second defendants’ claims of being short-changed in allocation of votes sounds pursuing a wild goose chase like the only woman judge adduced in her own judgement, berating the petitioners’ approach to proving their cases. Or even the fourth judge that reeled out results uploaded to the IREV and expects both the petitioners and the second defendants to find solace in the partial nature that “favours or does not favour” them.

INEC is the prince in this PEPT judgement and the judges and the lawyers had allowed, through this judgment, the complete ruining of a social contract between INEC and Nigerians including the wider world. However, Nigeria has been given a President by INEC and it behoves the President to fill the gap of a wicked INEC by making the Presidency a greatly benevolent one, observing the constraints. Nigeria must help Africa reconnect with the progressive world.

The African spirit that is ever renewing itself in all the continents it goes through with pains and sorrow must not be ruined in Nigeria where it is representatively expressed in body and soul.

 Ariole is

Professor of French and Francophone Studies,

University of Lagos.

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