Eight long months after Nigerians trooped to the polls to elect a president from amongst the various contenders in the presidential contest of the period, the Supreme Court of Nigeria finally gave its verdict on the contest, and evidently brought the process to an end.
In its ruling as declared by Chief Justice of the Federation, the court affirmed the outcome of the results as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and asserted also by the Appeals Tribunal that Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent President, won the said elections and was therefore rightly sworn in for a second term in office.
In his response, Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President and Buhari’s main challenger in that contest has alluded to the fact that the judgement may not have addressed all of his concerns. However, given that the Supreme Court is the last line in the chain of lawful contention, he, and his similarly less-than-satisfied party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP are very simply constrained to now sheath their swords.
In his own response, President Muhammadu Buhari said that he was not only satisfied with the verdict but that it was now time to keep the distractions of the process behind him and focus on the solid task of fixing the nation. We agree with him.
We are however bothered that it took all of eight months for the process to be resolved. While this is in itself an improvement on what used to happen previously when cases used to drag through the better part of two to three years, we think that it is still a tad too long, and as President Buhari himself has admitted, too disrupting and unsettling. We think more should be done between the judiciary and the National Assembly to further reduce the time tally. Indeed, the ideal situation in our view would be for all such disputes to be settled before the swearing –in date of May 29th.
Another point has to do with the imperative of even deeper electoral process reform going forward. This is more so when some of the even more salient points of dispute in the judicial challenge were essentially dismissed on seeming technical grounds. For justice to be done and seen as done, more reform would need to be infused into our system to help ensure that winners of electoral contests do so, as much as is possible on clear and almost seemingly unimpeachable grounds.
In our view then, the onus may very well now lie on the victorious President Buhari to cause a very holistic review of the process to be carried out in such a way as to ensure that as many inadequacies as remain in the system are tackled and addressed. Here, we are referring to issues like the use and deployment of security personnel during elections and the inevitable migration to an electronic voters system.
Here, we recall that at the close of the 2007 polls, the then winner, President Umaru Yar Adua had admitted that there were indeed irregularities in the polls process and that something would be done about it. He dutifully then went on to inaugurate the Justice Uwais Commission which reviewed the process and then made far-reaching recommendations for reform. Unfortunately, Yar Adua took ill and died before he could definitively act upon the report and successive administrations have equally not taken the reforms process much further.
Given that some of the challenges that the Uwais Reform Commission addressed remain with us, it is important that political will be found to address them even ahead of the 2023 polls.
However, going beyond the issue of the imperative of electoral systems reforms, there is also the crying need for the administration to focus on the crisis of governance and development in the country today.
Only recently, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq accepted that as much as 90million Nigerians were living below the acceptable poverty mark. This indeed is a scandal in any currency. However, beyond the mere platitude of announcing that the administration intends to take 100million citizens out of poverty, we have not seen any concrete plans, actions and activities to suggest that this would be done.
In fairness to the administration, it seems bent on driving, particularly agricultural reform, particularly as it has to do with ennobling more Nigerians to grow food that we eat. However, and as rounded economists have argued, this in itself is not sufficient to constitute a thorough-going economic policy that would deliver much needed dividends of jobs, wealth and prosperity. More cross cutting reforms have to be introduced in education, skills acquisition, fiscal policy, the manufacturing and the trade sector, etc if the nation is to have a fighting chance in ensuring that its current demographic time bomb does not end as a demographic and social disaster. The time to act is now.