Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia and one of the most defining figures of the East African country, once said: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
On Friday, July 5, 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria erred in the discharge of its sacred duty by giving in to fear – an alien element never known to the apex court- when it gave victory to the Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, in the election petition case before it. The crux associated with the ruling was not based on the power of the apex court to determine the case but most importantly, its failure to determine such on merit, ending up with the convenient compass of technicality. This sudden approach of convenience is an anathema to every known doctrine of justice. If for anything, it negates good conscience. But now, will there be a reoccurrence to this newly found travesty against Lustitia?
On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, the Supreme Court of Nigeria will once again be put to test when the case between Ned Nwoko and Peter Nwaoboshi appears before it. Will the apex court give in to convenience or stand on the footprints of many Justices of its making by adhering to its own stand of ensuring the prevalence of true justice?
In its ruling in the case between Akeredolu vs Olusegun Abraham (2018) 10 NWLR Part 1628, the Supreme Court itself speaking on the travesty of justice stated: “Technicality in the administration of justice shuts out justice. A man denied justice on any ground, much less a technical ground, grudges the administration of justice. It is, therefore, better to have a case heard and determined on its merits than to leave the court with a shield of the victory obtained on mere technicalities.”
The case between Ned Nwoko and Peter Nwaoboshi beyond the pieces of evidence presented before the Federal High Court and Appeal Court is a case between impunity and integrity. What is on trial is the integrity of the electoral process of Nigeria and the highhandedness of the political parties against the sanctity of law guiding the entire process of a free and fair election.
It is a case between a man who contested for the Senatorial primary of his party- the Peoples Democratic Party, scored 453 votes and declared the winner of the Party primary against another who came second, scoring 405 votes but miraculously had his name forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the winner of the primary.
The Federal High Court in Abuja in protest to the crass impunity of the Peoples Democratic Party ruled that Mr Peter Nwaoboshi should never have been declared the winner of the Delta South Senatorial seat as he was not duly elected by members of the party at the primary. It then ruled that the electoral commission should without further delay, issue Mr Ned Nwoko the certificate of return.
This is a déjà vu in the corridor of justice as the wisdom and heroism of the apex court was once tested in 2007 when it ruled on the case between Rotimi Amaechi and Celestine Omehia. That landmark judgement checked the excesses of power mongers and emperors of political parties who have turned themselves to gods, cherry-picking which of the electoral laws to obey and disobey. If these new categories of emerging gods are not shown the path of law, then we are a step towards enthroning dictatorship and burying our hard earned democracy.
The new Supreme Court must stand and remain standing for the oath it took to promote all manner of men and most importantly, protect our institutions and laws which are the nucleus of our Federation.
Party primaries are an integral part of the electoral process protected by laws and affirmed by the same. Doing anything short of protecting its sanctity will be rewarding impunity and disregard for the electoral process.
If results of primaries are no longer sacrosanct then maybe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should then simply ask political parties to write names of its candidates on a sheet of paper and forward same to it. If party primaries are now shambolic symbols that hold no weight, then the electoral guide of having electoral officials, representatives of security agencies at party primaries is merely a coven for jollof rice feast and merriment.