The presidential election of 2019 has come and, perhaps, gone. To some, it might have been confined to the dustbin of history but definitely not the throwbacks on the conscience of a nation, which has been wounded by its blatant disregard for common sense, a nation that needs healing.
The presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and former vice- president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has approached the courts to seek redress. His prayers? That he won the February 23 presidential election without let and he was brazenly rigged out by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, using apparatuses of state security and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the supposed umpire of the polls.
He is also praying the court to look into the merits of his claim that Buhari was ineligible to contest for the post of president, having lied under oath in the form CF001 that he filled and submitted to INEC to enable him contest for that office.
Since March 2019, Nigerians have been treated to a drama of the absurd; in all the legal tussles, their quest for justice has been treated with the greatest disdain, as if they do not matter.
The legal rigmarole has taken turns and twists, first from the refusal of INEC, a supposed electoral umpire, to grant the Atiku legal team access to electoral materials with which to prosecute its case, and this was done in disregard of a subsisting court order to make them available.
Then the legal tricks of deliberate delays. All the court theatrics no doubt robbed the Atiku and PDP legal team ample time and opportunity to parade all or most of its listed 400 witnesses lined up in support of its claims.
To start with, INEC shot itself in the foot by denying it ever had a server into which all election results were uploaded. It is a grave assault on the minds of many Nigerians. In this age and time, where did INEC capture data of over 80 million registered voters spread across 199,973 polling stations in the country?
Even against its own laws and guidelines, INEC had defaulted because it promised Nigerians foolproof conduct, collation and transmission of election results. If INEC gets away with a discharge from this, then all its principal officers, especially the chairman, should not get away with fraud. They should answer questions on the money approved for the procurement of this electronic facility. If INEC truly did not have a server, then where is the money allocated for it?
But yet more drama was to await Nigerians, as they woke up to a rude shock last week after Atiku and the PDP closed their case within the 10-day allotted time, presenting 65 witnesses of its 400 (because of time constraints). First, it was INEC that declared matter of fact that it did not have witnesses to call, and after a highly-disappointing parade of seven lacklustre witnesses that did more damage to the Buhari/APC defence line, they also opted for an abrupt close of case. Curiously, the APC closed its own case before it even started, without calling a witness.
Typically, the signal this sends to most Nigerians is that, just like the February 23 election, the APC is out to draw out another card in its pack of aces. Another short corner legion?
What suffers in the eventuality of a miscarriage of justice, as the sudden change of tactics suggests? Democracy is about to be taken to the slaughterhouse and where the will of the people is murdered in such a brazen manner, their existence is abridged. A stolen mandate is directly proportional to a stolen future and a perverted destiny.
The nation’s justices will write their names in 24-karat gold if they manifest the moral force as embodied by Lady Justice. By evoking its instrumentality of impartiality, the judiciary would be scored highly on integrity and fulfilment of the sacred duty bestowed on it by providence.
Long after this season, it would be said of Nigeria’s judiciary that it found itself at a crossroads, but showed uncommon courage in restoring hope to a country in need of salvation, and ultimately wrote itself in the golden book as champions of our democracy.
•Ojini, a microbiologist, writes from Asaba, Delta State