The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) has just treated Nigerians to a dramatic tale. At the very beginning, the choreographic sequences looked promising. People followed the proceedings of the tribunal with a measure of hope. It was so because the people needed an elixir; something that would take them out of the trauma of the grand deceit that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had visited on them.
In the face of this despondent atmosphere, the PEPT was seen as a soothing balm. It was thought that it would depart from our interminable tale of sameness. Nigerians hoped to find a new day and a new meaning in the tribunal. That was why they asked that its activities be beamed live to the Nigerian audience. The petitioners, in their eagerness to see what the tribunal had in stock for them, equally asked for a live telecast of its proceedings. Curiously, the respondents thought otherwise. They did not want the cameras. They wanted the job to be done behind closed doors. The PEPT, for reasons that were not quite clear to many at that time, went the way of the petitioners.
Nigerians were largely innocent at that stage. They did not therefore lose sleep over PEPT’s rejection of live telecast of its proceedings. They anchored their hope on the belief that the tribunal would depart radically from our familiar path of corruption and perfidy.
After several weeks of operating behind closed doors, the PEPT has finally stepped out in the open. It offered Nigerians a live telecast of the result of its underground work even when they did not have the privilege of watching how the results were arrived at. Regrettably, rather than get the much needed relief from the tribunal, it gave them shock and disbelief. The people are even more perplexed than they were when Mahmoud Yakubu presented them with the results of the worst election ever conducted, so far, in the history of Nigeria.
From what we have before us, INEC and PEPT are birds of identical plumage. What suits one suits the other. Like INEC, the PEPT has deepened the woes of Nigerians with a perfidious drama of fortune. Also like Mahmoud Yakubu’s 2023 presidential election result , Simon Tsammani’s presidential election petitions verdict is an assault on the collective intelligence of Nigerians. The tribunal gave Nigerians the impression that it was working; that it had a job to do. But in the end, Nigerians have come to discover that the Justices that sat at the tribunal were jeering at us. They were amused at our level of credulity. They must have been surprised that we took them serious in the first place. They knew we were naive. That was why they offered us an unsolicited live coverage of its judgment. The objective was to transfix us to the point of irrationality. The ploy worked to a large extent. Nigerians may have realized that they were being led by the nose all along. But that realization is coming a little too late.
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But if Nigerians are disappointed by the load of nonsense that the verdict of the PEPT is, they are astounded by the manner in which the judgment was procured. For the first time in the history of the country’s electoral jurisprudence, both the respondents and the Judges operated interchangeably. The position of one represents that of the other. In this instant case, their Lordships ceded their responsibility to the respondents. Since self-preservation is the first law of nature, the interested party who was allowed unfettered access to the judgment served his own interest to the fullest. That was why they got the petitioners to fail on all fronts. No merit whatsoever was found in any of their grounds of appeal. Everything was considered incompetent and unmeritorious. That is the stuff every hatchet job is made of. Devastate your opponent to the point of stupor. Make him doubt even his own sense of proportion. Make him to wonder aloud whether he is awake or in a somnambulant state. That is where the PEPT has left Nigerians. The people are still gazing vacantly into space. They are looking morose and castrated.
The victor, on the contrary, is grinning at the vanquished. He is having a good laugh while his victim pines away in anguish.
The Justices, to all intents and purposes, were not interested in the law. If they were, they would have made something out of Section 134(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which makes a clear and unambiguous statement about the place of the Federal Capital Territory in a presidential election. If the Justices cared a hoot about the law, they would have made an issue out of INEC’s open air violation of the Electoral Act, 2022. The Justices were not interested in any of these. They simply read the statute books like a piece of literature and either dismissed their content or subjected them to whatever interpretation that suits their purpose.
To imagine that their Lordships acted in the way they did in spite of the tension in the land says a lot about who we are as a people. Since the historic election of February 25, 2023, Nigerians have remained agitated. They have been ill at ease with the rape and roguery that attended the polls. They had hoped for a new order. But they got a raw deal. They got the very opposite of what they wanted. Faced with this unpalatable state of affairs, the judiciary was being looked upon to remedy the situation.
But the judiciary, peopled by the same Nigerians who were clamouring for change, could not be bothered. The Justices were not interested in the howl over a new Nigeria. Something must have told them that it was their turn to get even with Nigeria. The country may not have met their expectations. Some may have been eking out a living in spite of their high profile status. The tribunal, it would seem, offered them a lifetime opportunity. They are ready to grab it with both hands. It really would not matter to them if that is considered decent or not. For them therefore, what mattered was their self-preservation. It did not matter if the house called Nigeria collapsed in the process.
This takes us to the ultimate level of the concern that we are expressing. What implication does this sell out have for Nigeria as a country? If the geographical entity weathers the storm, what about its quest for democratic governance?
Where and when shall we find Nigerians who, like Caesar’s wife, are above board? These are questions for another day.
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