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The judiciary and challenge of 2023



Presidency: Supreme Court to the test, By Emma Nwosu

By Emma Nwosu

To condone the permissiveness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the dictatorship of the ruling parties in the 2023 general elections is to consign Nigeria to democratic perdition. In particular, the “at all cost fight for it, grab it, snatch it and run with it” jungle mindset – in the belief that stolen mandate is irretrievable in Nigeria – must be put to death, otherwise, our democracy will never be worth it.

But, will the judiciary, which holds the ace – since technology, too, has been subverted – rise to the will of the people in need of salvation, or would it fall back to technicalities, as usual?
If the judiciary can stand with the people, Nigeria could be restored to the journey to its destiny as a world power and the pride of the black race which glimmered in the First Republic but, which is no longer possible without credible elections by which a new breed of leaders may emerge to change the trajectory.

If it also fails and plays vassal to the Federal Government and the ruling party, like the INEC, resentment and repression would get worse until quenched by a popular revolution by the national movement of disconsolate youths and well-meaning citizens, at home and in the diaspora, who are dumbfounded by the Nigerian condition, in comparison with what it could be, given her resources and the accomplishment of her citizens all around the world. Sadly, Nigeria, as an entity, may, then, come to an end.

Those of us, who have witnessed the rascality of our politicians, from the First Republic to the Fourth, must remind the judiciary that unchecked dictatorship of the ruling parties and shambolic elections constitute the principal cause of each breakdown of Nigeria’s democracy – starting with the Northern Peoples’ Congress and the general elections of 1964 (with particular reference to the Western Region) which, eventually, triggered the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat and all the aftermath.
The power of democracy lies in the freedom of the people to change the government, occasionally, in the quest for prosperity. Once that freedom is hijacked, democracy is dead and, with it, accountability and inclusive prosperity. You can only have oligarchies of vampires and predators – which has, largely, been the case of Nigeria. Such a leadership can never deliver unity, peace, trust and cooperation between the government and the people, not to talk of development. It cannot correct itself. Instead of transparency, it would enthrone the culture of rascality by which it came to power.
Ongoing strong-arm tactics, such as gagging the mass media and projecting phantom treason, interim government and other anxieties, as a pretext to clamp down the opposition and sweep truth under the carpet, is indicative of such a leadership. Morning shows the day.

Nigerians have been under that yoke of subjugation and could not have returned the iniquitous APC or PDP to the Presidency in 2023! Indeed, early returns from polling units, across the country, indicated that the APC was struggling, neck to neck, with the PDP at about 20 percent of the votes, compared to 80 percent for the LP. The electorate meant to dislodge the old guard comprehensively and are yet to come to terms with the results eventually declared by the INEC, which defy their expectations as well as the 2022 Electoral Act and technology.

That Act provided for biometric accreditation of voters (to eliminate ghost-voting) and for uploading of polling data directly from the polling unit to the central result collation and viewing portal, once every accredited voter has cast his vote and the ballots tallied and signed by all parties – leaving no room for external influence or manipulation. Indeed, the INEC promoted this protocol to the status of an agreement with the electorate on which basis they trooped out to vote.

But that was not to be in the February 25, 2023, Presidential election and the March 18, 2023, Gubernatorial and House of Assembly elections. The game-changing Act and technology were, apparently, sabotaged, to make way for fake returns – against the run of votes!

Results were delayed for days in the course of devious trading between governors, candidates and INEC officers. According to Professor Nnenna Oti, the exceptional Returning Officer for Abia State: “they came with threats, they came with money, they came with intimidation, but I stood my ground” – which betrays what transpired outside the polling units nationwide and the manner in which governors and ruling parties “won” their states! In Lagos State, for example, presiding officers were caught on video warning voters that they were instructed “from above” never to upload polling data at the polling unit!

Evidence abounds of buying, suppression, reduction and transposition of votes and of intimidation, ethnic profiling and disenfranchisement of those presumed to be opponents’ supporters. In particular, the Igbo and their look-alikes were prevented from voting in most parts of Lagos State by thugs and bloodhounds of the ruling party, who also inflicted numerous deaths and mortal wounds on them.

Snatching and destruction of ballot papers and ballot boxes in opponents’ strongholds were rampant. Patriotic polling officers, who refused to alter polling data were brutalized. There were reports of late arrival and unpreparedness of polling officers at targeted polling units. Some polling units were not served, at all, but data were manufactured for them in faraway states. There were instances of occultic sacrifice and invocation meant to scare voters.

Meanwhile, Nigerian youths (at home and in the diaspora) whose future is most at stake, had banked on the assurances of the INEC (that the 2022 Electoral Act, technology and votes would count) to run a prolific campaign with Mr. Peter Obi (whose life, physical, mental and spiritual energy as well as unmatched prudence and selfless service, both as governor of Anambra State and as businessman, overwhelmingly, won their confidence) to propel him to the Presidency to reposition Nigeria.

They remain convinced that Obi won but was robbed of the February 25, 2023, Presidential election. Unless that conviction is empirically debunked, their disconsolation will be implacable and they will confront the deceptive system in a struggle the old guard can never win.

Fortunately, the incidents of that election could be easily unraveled by IT experts and by forensic audit of the original Form EC8As signed by all parties at the polling units. There should be no room for the pretext of “technicalities” or “substantial compliance” – not after spending billions on technology, with the INEC vociferously advertising its capacity to upload results, real-time, from polling units (achieved in off-cycle elections and in the National Assembly election held on the same day with the Presidential election). You cannot pick and choose at large like INEC did.

The opportunity for restoration of the power and freedom of the people and for satisfying everyone with the facts is now in the hands of the judiciary, which is beseeched to rise to the occasion. Otherwise, Nigeria’s cascade into the abyss may continue..

•Emma Nwosu is a former bank chief and political commentator.

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