Hope! Justice! These two words have suddenly taken a prime place in Nigerian lexicon. The Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal made this possible. Last Friday, the tribunal ruled that Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party won the September 2018 governorship election in Osun.
The three-man tribunal ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not substantially comply with the Electoral Act 2010 in the conduct of the run-off in 17 polling units. Hence, the electoral umpire, it noted, wrongly declared Adegboyega Oyetola of the ruling All Progressives Congress as the winner of the election. It said INEC should realise that “it holds an office of public trust and should at all times, strive to maintain the sanctity of the electoral practice.” Since this ruling, many Osun citizens have out-danced the antelope in their ecstatic bid to celebrate the victory.
Every honest follower of the Osun governorship election knows that Adeleke suffered grave injustice during the exercise. He was leading and was already beginning to clink glasses when INEC declared elections in some polling units inconclusive. It ordered a rerun. That rerun was massively compromised. As various credible reports indicated, the security agents, apparently at the instance of the APC, intimidated and scared away many supporters of the PDP. That was how the victory table turned and the APC candidate, Oyetola, won.
In some of my earlier interventions on this page, I had denounced this abracadabra of an election. I am not an Osun citizen. Neither do I have any stake in the election. But injustice to one is injustice to all.
This same abracadabra has played out in some of the states where supplementary elections were held last Saturday. Kano is a typical example. Thugs were the overlords this time, and they reportedly unleashed violence on the state. My happiness is that we still have a judiciary that can right the many wrongs inherent in our frail democracy.
In 2003, for instance, Mr. Peter Obi contested the governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in Anambra State. But INEC declared Obi’s opponent and then PDP candidate, Chris Ngige, as winner. The Court of Appeal upturned Ngige’s victory in March 2006. Obi assumed office on March 17, 2006 only to be impeached by the state House of Assembly in November of the same year. He challenged his impeachment at the Court of Appeal in Enugu and won. He came back as governor on February 9, 2007 and eventually completed his second tenure on March 17, 2014.
Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, is also a beneficiary of this type of justice. Amaechi had won the PDP governorship primaries in 2007, but the party substituted him with Celestine Omehia over allegations of graft. Amaechi felt short-changed. He went to court. Though Omehia won and was sworn in as governor in May 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Amaechi not Omehia was the legitimate candidate of the PDP. In October 2007, Amaechi reclaimed his mandate. He was to later complete his second term as governor of Rivers State.
This is the beauty of democracy. The powers that be can manipulate the system as they like. But the judiciary, as the last hope of the people, can restore justice.
Luckily, we have done away with military rule. They are only being used in the current dispensation to snatch ballot boxes and intimidate voters during elections. But the courts are there to dispense justice. And with what happened in the Osun election petition tribunal, there is hope that justice will be done in the Atiku Abubakar versus Muhammadu Buhari presidential election petition case.
First published in The Sun of Monday, March 25, 2019.
By Casmir Igbokwe