The just concluded Presidential election has been adjudged to be one of the most controversial in the nation’s recent history, with reports of electoral malpractices and BVAS machines that didn’t work, despite the earlier assurance by INEC that they would function optimally. Nigerians saw a few videos of different electoral malpractices; they were not the exclusive preserve of only one party – all the leading political parties were involved. As Lawyers, we are familiar with the saying “he who comes to equity, must come with clean hands”. Are the hands of your party clean enough to come to equity?
Engaging in election malpractices is the function of people’s character. A lot has been written about the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi; however, none of the writings has impugned his character. On the contrary, during electioneering, we saw the dirty and unbelievable past of some of the contestants, bordering on all forms of corruption and drug dealing. Logically, those found wanting, by extension, have the character traits to engage in election malpractices with a clear conscience of nature. The man whose character does not entertain vices would hardly engage in such things. Therefore, I can tell you that Mr Peter Obi has not, and will not even be part of, where such is discussed.
On the issue of the BVAS machine that did not work, it is very clear that it was an essential part of the plan by those that rigged the election – the President, INEC Chairman and Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Have you asked yourself why, amidst the universal criticisms of the BVAS machines that did not work, only one party has not condemned it?
On the election being adjudged as one of the most controversial, may I add that it is the most corrupt election in the history of electioneering in Nigeria? The painful thing is that with BVAS, it would have been the best since it has comfortable safeguards, but like everything in Nigeria, we missed that opportunity of proving to the world that we have come of age as a nation and as a people. With what happened, most civilised countries are now looking at Nigerians as a nation of barbarians, because of the indiscretion of a few.
Given some of the outcries that have trailed the election, the observation of international election observers now the litigation that is following, would you say the election was really free and fair? How well would you say that INEC discharged its constitutional duty?
INEC failed woefully. Beyond INEC, our President, General Muhammadu Buhari would probably be remembered as the worst President since independence. I can understand the crude urge to rig elections, many years ago. However, with where we are today and where other countries are, it is heartbreaking that a leader who professes patriotism would allow such an avoidable disaster to befall the country today. While other countries are struggling to move forward, we are content to move backwards.
In the past, even with hitches here and there, international observers had given kudos to the conduct of our past elections. However, they all condemned the last Presidential election, because the rigging was brazen and stupefying.
Would you say that the 2023 elections met the expectations of the majority of Nigerians?
I have already described it as an election that ought to have been the best, because the designers of BVAS correctly provided safeguards against the evils of elections in Nigeria – over-voting, thumb-printing, and ballot-snatching, amongst others. However, by aborting the work of BVAS, it turned out to be the worst election. It did not meet the expectations of Nigerians and of the whole world, especially other Africans that look up to us for direction and guidance.
What level of confidence do you have in the Judiciary, the last hope of the common man, that justice will be dispensed fairly, in furtherance of Nigeria’s democracy?
There appears to be a consensus among Nigerians, pointing to the loss of faith in the Judiciary. All I want to say here is that, while not agree with them, this is an opportunity for the Judiciary to reassure Nigerians. Here, may we remember the immortal words of Aristotle, that “separated from law and justice, man is the worst of all beasts”. If justice is not done, we are simply craving a return to the state of nature. Nobody wants that for our dear country. The Presidency has moved some steps towards that, it is left for the Judiciary, peopled more by mature and circumspect men, to halt the descent into hell.
Some of the major foreign powers like the USA and the UK have already congratulated the people of Nigeria and the President-elect on the elections, though they also urged INEC to improve the electoral process for the Gubernatorial elections, for the people to eschew violence and inflammatory statements at this critical time, and for politicians to use the “well-established mechanisms for the adjudication of electoral disputes”. What do you make of their position?
I do not have the list of those who have congratulated him or not. In international diplomacy, offering of congratulations is normal, but not in any way meant to be a stamp of legitimacy. One would even notice that the congratulations are coming reluctantly, and what does that show you? Have you noticed that Nigerian Governors are not congratulating him? They know that Nigerians are angry, and would vote against those that do so. They are probably waiting to do so after the election. This shows us that offering congratulations is mostly perfunctory.
The issue of whether a Presidential candidate must win 25% of the votes cast in FCT is also one that has created a massive debate amongst Lawyers. Kindly, share your opinion on this
The framers of the Constitution, are clear about that provision. If they wanted Abuja to be considered among other States, they would have used the word “including”, but they clearly used “and” to show that Abuja stands independently of other states. Why seek an interpretation of a word that is plain and not ambiguous?
Valentine Obieyen, Labour Party
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