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News Updated: November 29, 2023

2023 elections: Knocks, kudos as judiciary makes final pronouncements 

By David Abakpa
November 29, 2023
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The recent political events across the country have continued to generate reactions, especially with regards to the rulings of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT, and the Appeal courts rulings.

AllNews.ng recalls that it was highly reported that the Nigerian 2023 general election was the most competitive and controversial election in the history of the country since return to democracy.

With the emergence of a third force in the name of the Labour Party, LP, and the Obidient movement, it was no longer the usual battle between two traditionally known political parties, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

There were expectations, however, that the ruling APC would be sacked using the instrumentality of the third force backed by majority of young Nigerians. 

Recall that young Nigerians had initially lost hope in the electoral system with the notion that despite their participation, elections could be rigged in favour of a candidate. But with the introduction of the Biometric Voters Accreditation System, also known as BVAS, and the promise of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that election would be transmitted directly through the IREV, young people became excited about the exercise and many of them trooped out to collect their Permanent Voters Card, PVC, ahead of the polls.

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Despite their participation and their effort towards changing the course of history, the election fell short of their expectations. 

Pre-election controversies 

Recall that at the political parties level, zoning became an issue, especially with the case of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The third force emerged after Mr Peter Obi moved to the Labour Party (LP) following PDP's failure to come to terms on zoning the presidential position to the south. PDP left its primaries open for contest and in the end, Atiku Abubakar defeated Nyesom Wike. This was the beginning of Atiku's trouble as Wike and other four governors also known as the G-5 teamed up with some other presidential candidates. Wike's political move to support the APC's Bola Tinubu was public knowledge as it was believed he had a deal with Tinubu ahead of the poll. It was obvious that PDP was heading for a self-destruction. 

Similarly, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was also faced with high condemnation for endorsing Muslim-Muslim ticket instead of Muslim-Christian ticket as had been the tradition.

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Another thing not working for the party and Tinubu was the performance of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari which was characterised with insecurity occasioned by banditry, insurgency, and helder-farmers violent crisis.

Just before the election, Naira scarcity hit the country amid an existing poor economy. This further complicated issues for the ruling party and its candidates, giving the oppositions the opportunity to shine.

But despite the controversies and other factors working against the big parties, the ruling APC retained power as declared by INEC under the leadership of Mahmood Yakubu.

The dissatisfaction

After the announcement of the result of the national election, there were mix-reactions across the country.

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While some Nigerians believed the result was not the true representation of what happened during the election, others believed Bola Tinubu had paid his dues and deservedly won the election. 

AllNews.ng recalls that both Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Atiku Abubakar of the PDP went to court to seek justice.

The opposition candidates in the presidential election argued that despite criminal allegations involving Tinubu, allegations of rigging and failure to upload and transmit results online in line with the INEC guidelines, the commission still declared him winner of the exercise. The next was for the judiciary the decide the fate of millions of Nigerians in order to uphold democracy. 

Knocks, kudos

While some Nigerians believed that INEC was biased and accused the election umpire of not following Electoral Act, others had argued that Labour Party was mere an arm of the PDP. Their argument is that by breaking away, APC was given the advantage. 

But in his reaction in a letter on the election results, a former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo called for the cancellation of the election claiming that the results declared did not correspond with the wishes of the people. 

In reaction, the then Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, however, described Obasanjo's reaction as "inciting, self-serving and provocative". 

He expressed surprise that a former president of a country could make such an unverified claim against the electoral body.

After so much legal battle, the judiciary threw out all the cases brought before it by the oppositions and upheld Tinubu's election at both the PEPT and the Supreme Court. The ruling came despite the campaign of "All Eyes on the Judiciary". The rulings did not pass without some heavy remarks.

According to the Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Yusuf Ahmed-Datti, on ARISE TV, the Supreme Court did not affirm Tinubu's election but merely upheld INEC's illegality. 

"Please quote me on this: the Appeal and Supreme Courts did not affirm Tinubu’s presidency. They merely upheld the illegality of INEC’s declaration.""

“We accepted the judgment because it was the last step for HE Peter Obi and I to take; we rejected and did not accept it as a valid judgment.”

Governorship/Senate/H'Assembly rulings 

Further more, recent conflicting judgments by elections tribunal and the Appeal Courts have created more controversies, with the judiciary getting more knocks then ever. 

Many political candidates had headed to the tribunal court to seek redress over their dissatisfaction in the election. Some of the elections into the House of Representatives, senate and governorship elections have been upturned while others have been affirmed by the courts.

AllNews.ng recalls that the tribunal in Abia nullified the election of Amobi Ogah, a Labour Party (LP) member representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi federal constituency on September 7, 2023.

The tribunal declared Nkiruka Onyejeocha of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the House of Representatives seat in the state.

The tribunal held that, “There is no evidence of giving 21 days notice to INEC by the respondent before conducting their (LP) primary election,” the tribunal ruled.

“No date of primaries was placed before us, no evidence of primaries and the 3rd respondent has always said it’s an internal affair of the party.”

Also, opposition governors are also at the mercy of the judiciary as many Nigerians believed that the court judgment so far went in favour of the ruling party as the Nasarawa State Chapter of the PDP has rejected the verdict of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja that invalidated David Ombugadu of the PDP and affirmed the victory of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) governor, Abdullahi Sule.

However, the party has approached the Supreme Court to seek a reversal, according to a statement signed by the state chairman, Mr. Francis Orogu, and made available to newsmen in Lafia, the state capital.

Similarly, a massive protest also erupted in Jos, the Plateau State capital, recently after the Appeal Court in Abuja nullified the election of Governor Caleb Mutfwang, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and named his All Progressives Congress (APC) rival, Dr Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, as the winner of the poll.

In a unanimous decision, the three-man appellate tribunal sacked Mutfwang over PDP’s lack of structure and non-adherence to court orders.

The panel held that Muftwang was not validly sponsored by the PDP; that his nomination contravened section 285(2) of the constitution.

George chides judges 

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olabode George, has condemned the decision of judges who recently upturned the election victory of politicians.

George was reacting to the controversy surrounding the Appeal Court verdict in Kano State.

According to the politician, it is worrisome that Nigerians no longer trust the judiciary.

Addressing a press conference in Lagos on Monday, the PDP chieftain said: “This system is worrisome because if the people don’t believe in the third arm of government anymore, anarchy looms.

“Obviously, the unholy alliances between some politicians and judges are dangerous to our democracy. Millions of people will come out on the day of the election, queue, collect ballot papers, and cast their votes for their preferred candidates, results will be announced, and everybody will jubilate only for three, five, or seven judges to upturn the popular will of the people.

“The best the judiciary must do in political cases is to adjudicate, and where there are discrepancies, order a rerun without giving victory to party A or B.

“It is wrong to remove the power of the electorate to elect political leaders and for the judiciary to tell us who the winners are. This is not good for Nigeria. This is not good for our electoral system. A compromised judiciary is dangerous.”

 

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