THE JUDICIAL DECIMATION OF PDP AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
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In the history of elections in Nigeria I had never seen the type of reversals of electoral results by the courts as we have seen in recent times. Last week was particularly spectacular as the appeal courts in Abuja, Lafia, Owerri and Enugu went on a kind of stampede and by the time the week ran out, a significant number of seats won by the PDP in the legislature, especially the senate had been annulled. In Rivers state, it was more like a tsunami that completely wiped out all the electoral victories of the PDP in the last General elections. And except for one case in Nassarawa that affected the APC, almost all the judgements were against the PDP. Very Puzzling!
By the last count PDP had lost Taraba and Rivers State, through judicial declarations and I have heard comments about the puzzle of the Taraba case. The tribunal that was seating in Abuja because of security conditions annulled the Taraba gubernatorial elections and handed victory to APC because the party primary that elected the PDP gubernatorial candidate was held outside Taraba, for the same security considerations! Preposterous ! Why not ask PDP to rerun the primaries?, that is assuming, some PDP candidates complained. As for Rivers, the verdict was not very surprising as the APC raised alarm from the day of the election. Now the fate of Akwa Ibom is hanging on the balance as the tribunal judges have reserved their judgement. Till when ?one may ask . Lately, Ayo Fayose of EKITI State raised fears that the long settled Ekiti elections may be revisited through some ongoing manouvres. How can this be ?But the decimation has been most devastating in the National Assembly where many of the PDP Senators from the North Central, South East and South South regions have been ousted. Those who escaped the tribunals got decapitated by the Appeal Courts. The judgements may well be deserved but the trend is shocking and disconcerting for our democracy.
The way things are going, the opposition offered by PDP is largely whittled down and that portends some danger for our democracy. The APC already has majority in the Senate and in the house and with the recent court declarations, should the PDP lose the reruns, then the APC may have two thirds majority in the National Assembly. Thus they can pass any legislation without opposition. This will be like running a one - party state. Certainly this will not be the best for a democratic Nigeria. Some of the failures of governance noted during the reign of PDP can be traced to poor opposition especially when PDP had absolute majority due to electoral victories. After the formation of ACN, meaningful opposition became visible which improved significantly with the formation of APC. This created two big parties with almost equal strength which changed the nature of governance and legislative activity. Debates became robust and the Nation became better for it as the arrogance of PDP was moderated. Indeed most stable democracies all over the World have two strong parties, especially those who run the presidential system. This gives credible choice to the electorate as we saw in the last General elections and creates alternative views. But if we continue on this current path of judicial decimation of PDP, we may end up with greater tyranny. It certainly will not be in the best interest of the generality of Nigerians.
The other question that arises is what to make of the claim of INEC that it conducted free, fair and credible elections in 2015. How come such credible elections are being roundly upturned by the courts, especially the appeal Courts. Or could it be that credible elections were only held in the North, where APC had landslides, since there has hardly been any judicial revisions in most of the North except where the PDP won like in Taraba State gubernatorial or in the Benue South senatorial where PDP's David Mark won. To be true this should be troubling to any fair minded person.
Now have we considered the costs of all these to the political contestants and even to the National economy? A candidate who spent money to win party primaries, then expends so much to prosecute the elections and then has to hire costly Senior Advocates of Nigeria( SAN) to defend them at the tribunals and appellate courts with associated costs, will go through this whole process again. The cost must be mind boggling. Of course the cost of rerunning the elections by INEC can also be heavy on the National treasury, much more so now that the Nation is facing economic challenges. What of disruption of work and social life that occurs during campaigns and elections. Add the violence and destructions of human lives and material assets that occur at each electoral season and which worsens when elections are repeated .These costs are becoming too heavy for the Nation and can also provide incentives for promoting corruption, rather than reducing it.
I fully appreciate the need to let Justice have its way, but we can not make participating in the electoral process such an expensive project. Otherwise, it will be only money bags who will participate in elections in the future and this may deny the Country of other less financially endowed good people. And we can not be unmindful of the possible corrupting influence of these money bags and their cohorts on the entire electoral and judicial processes. Thus, the time has come for the INEC to ensure that its elections are TRULY FREE,FAIR and CREDIBLE. And when this is done, the need for judicial intervention will be minimal as the judges must have to give greater credibility to the INEC released electoral results.
In all this, it is important that the will of the people is not thwarted. With all due respect to our Honourable judges, it will be a travesty of Justice and the repugnation of the sovereignty of the People, if the verdict of one or three judges over rides the true will and wish of the electorate. This may portend such great danger to our National democracy as some people may come to the wrongful conclusion that there is no need to spend money at the campaign or even to make much effort at the elections, since it is the courts that will ultimately decide who wins. That will not do our Nation any good irrespective of party affiliations, since what goes round,ultimately comes back. And to be true that is my worry and the true motivation for this intervention. And it thus presents a major challenge for the current political leadership.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR