Tai Emeka Obasi
The Challenges Facing The Panel.
A democratic setting comprises of the Presidency, The Legislature and The Judiciary. And most importantly, each arm must be independent and firm in discharge of their public functions.
Unlike most civilised countries of the world where there are hardly litigations after polls because the umpires are forever transparent, most elections in Africa are hardly conclusive without getting to the last level of judicial exercise to determine ‘real’ winners.
In Nigeria, it is even more pronounced that the Judiciary play a very prominent role in determining most of our elected leaders. Sometimes justice is done, sometimes it is not. In recent times the latter is usually the case, most painfully. What with technicalities forming the major crux of adjudication!
However, this particular Presidential Election Petition is delicately poised to test both the steadfastness of our Judiciary and indeed the fabrics of our unity to the very foundations.
Saddled to shoulder this burden were the five justices, who were presumably carefully selected, regarding on not only how high the stakes are but also on how hot the polity was and is still brewing
Despite the fact that the president of Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa initially made herself chairman of the Tribunal, the protests from the main opposition, the PDP and public outcry regarding her moral justification to be on the panel at all in view of her provable blood links to an interested party, forced her to recuse herself.
That unnecessary distraction took a whooping chunk of 33 days off the 180 days stipulated by The Constitution and backed by the Electoral Act to get every presidential election petition wrapped up.
Eventually Justice Mohammed Garba took over and leading four other justices,.2.Justice Abdul Aboki 3.Justice Peter Ige
4.Justice Joseph Ikyegh
5.Justice Samuel Oseji….
….the hostilities kicked off on June 10, 2019.
And immediately, the world turned their search lights on Nigeria.
HE Atiku Abubakar and HE Peter Obi presented a very formidable force while the platform they contested with, the PDP didn’t provide less.
Justice Garba and his team are in the eyes of the storm and their job is perhaps the most difficult in recent times. In the past, it has always been for such tribunal panels to rubber-stamp the wishes of the incumbent by affirming the INEC stance as legal. But this particular petition has been strung so taut that loose ends are almost impossible to find.
Each of the five grounds, if proven, can send Buhari packing. From what has transpired in court so far, avoiding all five booby traps and retain Buhari may not only be Herculean, it may also turn out the eight wonder of the world.
For unless technicalities come to play, and complex ones at that, no keen follower of the court proceedings was convinced that Buhari effectively defended the tight iron chain of fake certificates claims wrapped firmly around his waist, neither did his team convince even themselves that the taut iron rope around their client’s neck in name of lying under oath was loosened any bit.
It will therefore be a matter of the five justices either glorifying mediocrity and sink our democracy and invariably dear country or living up to the history beckoning on them and deliver firm justice. Whatever option they decide to take will be clear in matter of days.
Nonetheless, I cannot fault them on the manner they conducted proceedings thus far. Chairman Garba has been firm but jovial, tactful but fair, especially during cross-examination. And anytime he did consult with his team they didn’t come up with anything untoward.
Very worthy of note is the fact that Justice Garba completely ignored Justice Bulkachuwa’s dictates of barring all parties from discussing the proceedings anywhere outside the confines of the court. This was on May 8, when she initially kicked off proceedings before she was forced to step down. The woman was poised to gag the press on proceedings and hence prevent the public from ever knowing what was going on in court.
But Justice Garba took over the same team and gave the press the freedom, via body language, to professionally do their duty as patriots. That is a huge contribution to the democratic process. And they must be applauded for such professional reasoning.
They may have denied the Petitioners access to the contentious INEC server and had a few other rulings on motions and preliminary injunctions go the way of the Respondents but generally, any neutral should give them pass mark. Whether they are going to maintain this performance till judgement delivery is entirely a different kettle of fish.
Those that believe in prayers should therefore hold fast, asking the Almighty to provide the justices with enough courage to deliver justice according to equity.
Next we dwell on how the petitioners did in proviing their case.
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