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S’Court verdict and PDP’s disorientation, By Ehichioya Ezomon

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By Ehichioya Ezomon
Shock and disbelief, then criticism, swept through the camp of the opposition on Wednesday, October 30, 2019, following the Supreme Court judgement in the appeal by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
  Whether it’s for real or mere pretence, the opposition expressed bewilderment that despite the “indisputable evidence” it adduced, and the brilliance of its presentation, the court dismissed the appeal for “lacking in merit.”
  Did Atiku and PDP actually think that the Supreme Court would upturn the well-founded judgement of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), which dismissed, in its entirety, the petitions filed against the declaration and return of President Muhammadu Buhari in the February 23, 2019, poll?
  Perhaps, they were gambling, and hoping for a “miracle” to turn, in their favour, the PEPT verdict that’s unanimous on the five grounds they pleaded for determination.
  However, delivering the lead judgement, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Mohammed, said he and members of the panel had read, for two weeks, the documents and exhibits filed in the case, and found the appeal “lacking in merit.”
  The six members unanimously consented to the judgement given in less than an hour after the court took arguments on the 66 grounds of appeal filed on September 23.
  The appellants had prayed the court to reverse the return of President Buhari, and declare Atiku as the victor in the election, or order a re-run by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
  Failing to get their prayers, they blamed the Judiciary for being hijacked and emasculated by Buhari, who, coincidentally, the apex court’s decision favoured in the February poll.
  Leading the pack, as usual, at throwing mud at the Judiciary, was the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), spearheaded by Imo Ugochinyere.
  The CUPP and its mouthpiece have been unrestrained in levying bogus and unsubstantiated allegations against institutions of government that have anything to do with elections in Nigeria.
  Sadly, Atiku, a former Vice President, who’s a beneficiary of the same court in the 2007 general election, joined the fray, describing the Judiciary as being “sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal.”
  In other words, he’s accusing the court of doing the bidding of the Buhari government, by not properly evaluating the evidence and submissions of the appellants both at the PEPT (Appeal Court) and the instant court.
  But holding brief for the PDP, its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who has lately taken the back seat in the face of the burgeoning CUPP headhunter, was measured in his reaction.
  “What we witnessed today (Wednesday) was not what majority of Nigerians, who participated and observed the presidential election, expected; and this includes even members of the APC,” he said.
  “The PDP notes that it, indeed, made a solid case, with indisputable evidence, showing that Atiku Abubakar won the presidential election, and as such, is surprised that the justices of the Supreme Court held otherwise; however, that is the highest court of the land.”
  Similarly, the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, would rather leave the matter in the hands of God, “the ultimate Judge,” even as he thanked Nigerians for their “support for PDP, for your commitment to democracy.”
  To him, “Nigerians know that you voted PDP; even APC knows that you rejected them on February 23, 2019. The international community knows you voted for PDP. If the Supreme Court of seven justices says otherwise, leave it to God, the ultimate Judge.”
  Yet, nothing could sober the CUPP, represented by Ugochinyere, who spewed diatribes. Since forming alliance with the PDP ahead of the 2019 polls, the group has levied fathom allegations against President Buhari, the All Progressives Congress (APC), INEC, security agencies, and the Judiciary.
  Particularly in the lead-up to the petitions, and appeal by Atiku and PDP, the CUPP regularly raised “alarms” over “uncovered plans” to manipulate the system, to favour Buhari and the APC.
  It orchestrated the recusing of the President of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, from heading, and participating in the PEPT, on the grounds that she’s likely to influence the composition of the panel, and its final decision.
  The CUPP also maligned Justice Mohammed, as a “handpick” of President Buhari to replace former CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who’s forced to retire for alleged official misconduct.
  In that regard, it repeatedly claimed a “plot” by Justice Mohammed to also handpick, “without regard to tradition,” the members that would hear the appeal by Atiku and PDP.
  It called for empaneling of the members “by seniority,” and the list accordingly published in advance of the sitting of the Supreme Court on the matter.
  Thus, its mind made up about a potential bias by the Supreme Court, it’s no surprise that the CUPP came out swinging, blasting the institution as having “murdered the hope of Nigerians for a better life, and betrayed the country with the hurried affirmation of President Buhari’s election.”
  It reminded Nigerians of its earlier revelation about the “plan” by Buhari to “write the results” of the February 23 poll for the INEC to announce, and by inference, for the courts to endorse, as the product of the balloting.
  But the poser: Wasn’t this the same CUPP that accused Justice Mohammed of a sinister motive, for “delaying” to constitute the appeals panel, to frustrate the timely disposal of the matter? So, what’s its problem with the quick resolution of the case?
  The issue shouldn’t be the “haste” to dispose of the appeal, but on whether the Supreme Court did “substantial justice” to the causes brought before it, to satisfy the expectations of the people, and for the decision to serve as an enduring precedent!
  It’s gladdening for Atiku to come around, and acknowledge that the “Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but that it is infallible because it is final,” and that the judicial route he chose to take, as a democrat, “has come to a conclusion.”
  What he and others crave is for Nigerians to decide “whether justice was done,” as, in his words, “only Nigerians are infallible in our democracy,” and “only God is infallible everywhere.”
  Still, it’s Atiku, PDP and its coalition partners’ right to criticise the judgement, but they have to accept the reality. The Supreme Court is the last bus stop for electoral matters in Nigeria; the zenith of all legal struggles; and the end of the political road for them in 2019.
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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