By HOSEA NYAMLONG
The importance of judicial independence is clear and incontestable but what exactly does it mean? More importantly, what does it require in the context of democracy? Nigerian Supreme Court holds the key to our democracy if, the Supreme Court play its significant role in preserving the constitutional value of equality and justice for the benefit of all Nigerian citizens.
However, the news on how the apex court declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the March 9, governorship election in Imo State is not longer news in the public domain which has generated a lot of comments. Mr. Hope Uzodinma originally came fourth in the election with a total vote of 96,458, while Emeka Ihedioha got a total vote of 273,404 votes.
The final verdict of the Supreme Court came as a result of the fact that, some of the polling units results were excluded during the election, which favored Ihedioha. But the Supreme Court went ahead to Jaclare judgment in favour of Uzohinma without looking at the option of a re-run election in those polling units which were excluded. The apex court ruling generated reactions from all quarters in the nation.
In the same vein, the All Progressives Congress (APC) took the day, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were aggrieved over the final verdict of the Supreme Court that unseated the farmer governor, Chief Emeka Ihedioha.
By way of extension, the apex court sacked Mr David Lyon the candidate of the All Progrressive Congress (APC) as the governor elect of Bayelsa State on the grounds that his Deputy, Biobarakum Eremienyo, presented a false certificate to the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
INEC, in the build-up to the election, declared that Douye-Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had the second-highest number of votes and secured 25 percent of votes in five (5) of Bayelsa’s eight (8) local government areas, in the governorship election on November 16,2019.
In a swift reaction by the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, he said “the judgement of the Supreme Court lacks the fruits of justice and was based on mere technicalities which portend danger to our democracy. Which justice and democracy thrive on the altar of technicalities? Nobody has raised issues whether David Lyon and his running mate won an overwhelming majority”.
Mr Oshiomhole vowed to challenge the Supreme Court’s verdict.
If was suggested that, the apex court has demonstrated a balanced of power between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples, Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo and Balyelsa Staste.
Some other pundits suggested that, the apex court has demonstrated a balanced of power between the All Progressives, Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Imo and Balyelsa State.
Needless to say, Nigerian’s have expressed divergent views over the apex court’s judgment on Balyelsa governorship election as interesting as in Imo judgment and those who condemned the Supreme Court commend it, vice versa.
Nevertheless, the rule of law is important because its supremacy ensures that no person can claim to be above the law. It ensures adherence to principles of natural justice, fairness, impartiality and giving reasonable opportunity for people to accept judgements without undue complains.
The adjournment on the hearings of the application, filled by the sacked governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha Challenging the judgement that sacked him and that of Zamfara State governorship election will no doubt interesting.
The seven-man (7) panel of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Tanko Mohammed after listening to all the parties, will give its verdict.
To sustain democracy in Nigeria, the rule of law must prevail, in order to do justice to the elections petition before the courts. What Nigerians and the international community are waiting to see is a sound judgement being delivered to the best interest of the constitutional law of the land.
On the other hand, lack of internal party democracy in Nigeria, has becomes a threat to the consolidation of democracy in the country where by, political parties in Nigeria don’t take time to screen their candidates properly before elections is quite unacceptable and unfortunate.
Immediately after elections, petitions comes in from different angles with litigations that destroys the smooth running of democracy in the country. Most a times, better years that could have been use to bring development, end up in courts and at the end of the day, the dividends of democracy is not being deliver to the citizens of Nigeria.
However, the courts have no interest on who to be a political candidate of any party. So, political parties should be in a serious business by doing proper screeining of their candidates without imposition.
Nontheless, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come up, with a better way to make the democratic process smooth. This time around, INEC would display qualification for candidates in the forth coming governorship election in Edo State on 6, July, 2020 for electorates to scrutinize for false information from candidates contesting for the governorship election in the same step would be taking the state. This would be same step in Ondo State on 4, August, 2020.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who issued this statement on 21, February, 2020 was quoted as saying, “that failure of political parties to observe due diligent in the screening of their candidates lately has resulted in protracted litigations and eventually determined the outcome of elections by orders from courts. More so, the primaries in Edo State governorship would commence from June 2, to 27 while, in Ondo State, is fixed for July 2 to 25 this was in avoidance of acrimonious primaries”.
Therefore, democracy and the rule of law are the fundamentals in which institutions of government depends on and these are the essentials building blocks of our political system in that it is anchored in our constitutional tradition.
Basically, the courts must recognize the dangerous path (Nigeria) is moving on, and they should chart a new course to protect our democracy from domination of god-fatherism, and of special interest based on some reasons that are bias in Nigeria. Moreso, in a kind of constantly changing political world, we get to move fast. The Supreme Court must be up and doing to create acceptability in the eyes of the people.
Their judgements should therefore represents the views and aspirations of the electorates and not as deviant institution that sides with the wealthy, the privileged and the powerful. Judges are actually supposed to tell us what the law says and strengthen democratic system, that freely expressed the will of the people.
The apex court should enhance democracy through delivering a fair judgement under the tenents of the law of the land that would promote peace and justice. God Bless Nigeria.