Wed, 30 Aug 2023 Feature Article

The 2023 Presidential Election Tribunal – A Periscope

The 2023 Presidential Election Tribunal  A Periscope

As NIGERIANS await the September verdict of the presidential election tribunal on the contested presidential election that saw Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu been sworn in as president, it is important to look at some of the issues that are stake.

It is an undeniable truth that electioneering processes worldwide follow a procedural trajectory – commencing with ward-level elections, culminating in the main elections, and potentially extending to various tribunals in cases of discontent from participating parties. Thus, the prevailing circumstances at the presidential tribunal we currently find ourselves in are not an aberration within our established democratic electioneering process.

Consequently, certain parties that participated in Nigeria's 2023 presidential election, upon identifying constitutional and procedural violations in the INEC-conducted elections, have resorted to the presidential tribunal. Their objective is to voice their dissatisfaction and concerns regarding the overall electoral process by presenting substantiated grievances. The involved parties are The APC with Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mr. Shettima, The PDP with Alh. Abubarkar Atiku, The Labour Party with Mr. Peter Obi, and The APM. In this scenario, The APC with Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, alongside INEC, took on the role of respondents, while the others were the petitioners.

A few weeks ago, the tribunal, led by Justice Tsammani, acknowledged and adopted the written statements and submissions of the concerned parties. Thereafter, assurances were given regarding the communication of the judgment day.

With the facts presented by all parties now publicly accessible for examination and without any iota of predication and being prejudicial, it is incumbent upon us – the Coalition of Nigeria Stakeholders Forum – to objectively analyse and assess the significant points of discontent raised during the tribunal sittings for our thoughtful consideration. The constitutional and electoral guidelines violations include among others:

PETITION ON THE NARCOTICS PROCEED’S FORFEITURE OF $460,000 US TO THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT: According to section 137 (i) (d) of our 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria constitution as amended, anyone fined for any offence involving dishonesty or fraud either civil or criminal is NOT qualified to be president of Nigeria. *The current CJN (Justice Kayode Ariwoola) while serving as a justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria declared in a case between Mohammed Abacha vs Federal Republic of Nigeria that, ‘there can’t be forfeiture without a crime’*. In a majority decision, he defined forfeiture to mean: the loss of a right, privilege or property because of a crime, breach of obligation or neglect of duty while also declaring the word ‘forfeiture’ to mean, the divesture of property without any form of compensation. He inclusively noted that, any person(s) who has forfeited property(ies) on the basis of a crime CANNOT be entitled to indemnity because, it is a form of punishment and there is no indemnity in Nigeria’s criminal procedure. (SOURCE: There Can’t Be Forfeiture Without Crime- CJN Ariwoola Past Judgement – Politics – Nairaland ) Even in America where this crime of narcotics peddling was committed with its consequent forfeiture, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu would have lost his right to vote and be voted for as a ‘FELON’. Where then does his electoral qualification lies when even the highly revered distinguished Senator Opeyemi Bamidele who happens to be Mr. Tinubu’s only witness at the tribunal openly declared at same tribunal that, this petition was actually true and factual? There is no hiding place for a golden fish.

PETITION ON 25% VOTES IN ABUJA: In 2003 case between Obasanjo vs Buhari, the Supreme Court ruled that, all that was required of Obasanjo was to score 25% only of all casted votes in Abuja and not an outright win. The supreme court adjudicated that, a presidential candidate needs to score 25% in 2/3 of the states of the federation and ‘MUST’ still score 25% in Abuja. Equally in 2008 between Buhari and Yar’Adua, the earlier precedent of the supreme court was upheld and hence, Buhari’s petition was struck out.

 The supreme court judgements had laid the facts concerning this section of our constitution inta-allia: Abuja represents all Nigerians and as such any presidential candidate must show equal 25% popularity in Abuja as in 25% of all states of the federation. All past presidents including late MKO Abiola scored 25% in Abuja and there shouldn’t be an exemption now as that section has not been amended.

THE CERTIFICATE FORGERY PETITION: The supreme court judges (two of which are still serving) in 2017 delivered a unanimous judgement that disqualified a PDP candidate because he forged his certificate while another judgement was delivered in 2020 against Diri/Lyon David when Lyon was found culpable of certificate forgery just 24hrs before swearing-in ceremony. If what one is holding is actually genuine, what then is the essence of hiding behind a finger – bring out the whole facts for verification. However, how then do we resolve the disturbing discrepancies and circumstantial fallacies in Mr. Tinubu’s academic records which he himself has placed on the table of errors committed by the clerk of the Chicago State University (CSU)? The unveiling scenario can bring all certificates from CSU into questioning if unresolved justly.

NON-COMPLIANCE TO BVAS ELECTORAL GUIDELINES: In understanding the claimed electoral infractions here, reference can be made to Oyetola vs Adeleke where supreme court upheld and reinforced all the guidelines, processes and procedures involved in the conduct of elections. Can we now say collation can happen without reference to IREV; that, IREV is no longer required despite its accorded importance in the duly accented to Electoral Act of 2022 that, ‘a collation officer MUST consult the copies of IREV before starting collation at the ward level’ – the consequential effect of non-compliant to this means that, any rigged election result figures can be collated without verifications.

Another area of electoral discontent has to do with the alleged double nomination of Mr. Shettima as the running mate to The APC presidential candidate Mr. Tinubu which while trying to safeguard on it according to the petition of APM led to the invalid nomination of Mr. Tinubu himself. To proof this, the APM claimed to have obtained CTC of various documents and quoted some sections of the constitution to back up their claims.

In all of the above instances, it is imperatively crucial and incumbent on us at Coalition of Nigeria Stakeholders Forum to appeal and urge our tribunal judges to adjudicate on these matters impartially and without biases, following their core values. This invariably is an essential prerequisite for fostering peace, thereby forging a cohesive nation in which both socio-economic and pollical progress can be guaranteed. Oh yes; as adapted from Martin Luther King Jr, justice at its best dispensation can be love, correcting everything that stands against that love; likewise, Frederick Douglas indicated that, where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob, denigrate and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. Essentially, all eyes are on our judiciary to save the sinking democratic ship of our independent Nigeria

Dayo Kayode, PhD
Socio-Political Technocrat
Ifako-Ijaye, Lagos.
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