Free dictionary defines politics as the methods by which people get, keep and use power in a country or society. From my observation of politics, I can say that politics refers to all the activities, intrigues and manoeuvring geared towards acquiring, exercising, preserving and influencing positions of governance. Law on the other hand is defined by the dictionary as a system of rules that are created and enforced through social and governmental institutions to regulate behaviour. The institution, which the constitution bestows with the power to interpret the laws and ensure that justice is done is the Judiciary which comprises all the courts in the land. Lawyers are the ministers in the temple of justice, while the institution, which conducts the election in Nigeria is called INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission). In a democracy, the rule of law prevails. The politicians are expected to conduct politics according to law. When they do it, the judiciary has no business to meddle with the politics of the country. However, when politicians fail to play according to the rules of the game in their quest for power, the judiciary becomes the hope of the victims of the injustice meted out by the raping of the electoral process by unconscionable politicians and their INEC collaborators.
Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the politicians have perfected the act of circumventing the law during elections in a bid to acquire power at all costs. A look at the definition of politics reveals that it involves intrigues and manoeuvrings, while the law, INEC and the judiciary ought to be insulated from intrigues and manoeuvring. However, the politicians have infected INEC and the judiciary with the intrigues and the manoeuvrings peculiar to politics with the resultant effect that our politics has become legalistic and our judiciary has become political. In advanced countries, any politician going into election prepares only two documents, victory speech or concession speech. The idea of going to court after election is an aberration that should not be contemplated and whoever does it is regarded as a sore loser and this may destroy the person’s political career. In Nigeria, any politician going into election also prepares two documents, victory speech or election petition. Politicians hardly concede defeat to opponents. In Bayelsa, for instance, the gubernatorial primary elections organised by both the PDP and APC and which were won by Senator Duoye Diri and David Lyon respectively were rejected by other aspirants who headed to the courts to challenge the outcome of the primaries. Timi Alaibe is challenging the primary election of Douye Diri while Heineken Lokpobiri challenged the primary election won by David Lyon. After the election in which David Lyon of the APC was declared the winner by INEC, Douye Diri of the PDP headed to court to challenge the electoral victory of David Lyon. On the eve of the swearing in of Lyon as the Governor of Bayelsa State, the Supreme Court decided that David Lyon and his deputy were not qualified to run for the election and consequently ordered that the next candidate who met the constitutional requirements and whom the INEC defined to be Douye Diri of the PDP be sworn in as Governor of Bayelsa. Timi Alaibe is still contending for the seat of the governorship against the incumbent Diri in a pre-election matter.
It is obvious that the politicians are no longer concerned with the will of the people in a democracy, they are now concerned with the will of INEC and the judiciary. Unfortunately, INEC and the judiciary have lent their hands to the unscrupulous politicians in this regard. Corruption is at the base of all these shenanigans. For example, if the politician is sure that he will not get a willing hand in INEC and the judiciary to thwart the will of the people and the wheel of justice, when he has a frivolous case, he will not venture into it in the first place. In Nigeria, very unpopular and incompetent candidates have risen to great heights politically by buying their ways through the INEC and the judiciary with its attendant consequences of low quality administration for the people. In Imo State governorship election, it was obvious that Emeka Ihedioha did not win the election in the first round having not garnered the required constitutional spread to be declared the winner yet INEC publicly declared him the winner. The trial tribunal and the Appeal Court also declared him the winner until the Supreme Court struck and declared Uzodinma winner. It was also obvious that the Supreme Court departed from its earlier standard of strictly admitting evidence, polling unit by polling unit, through a witness who was present at such polling unit. It had always frowned at the idea of one witness, who was not present at the polling unit, tendering the evidence for the entire election, which hitherto had made proving electoral malpractice almost impossible. But it allowed a police officer do it in Uzodinma’s case. Let us admit that jurisprudentially, there is nothing wrong in what the Supreme Court did by admitting the original counterpart copies of the INEC result sheets through a witness, assuming the result sheets were authentic, because this will make it easier for petitioners to prove their cases within the short time allocated to them, but the fact remains that the Supreme Court departed from its earlier manner of admission of evidence thereby making the law uncertain, unprecedented and allowing for intrigues and manoeuvrings.
The most disturbing aspect of the precedents of the Supreme Court that is clearly anti-democratic is the idea of declaring a person who did not participate in an election the winner of that election. This practice was established in Amaechi’s case. In that case, the PDP wrongly denied Rotimi Amaechi the primary ticket and heartlessly gave it to Celestine Omehia. It won the election with Celestine Omehia but Rotimi Amaechi went to court to challenge the nomination of Celestine Omehia in a pre-election matter. The Supreme Court held that Amaechi should be sworn in as governor because during the time of election, in the eyes of the law, Rotimi Amaechi was the candidate of the party. They also held that the votes of the people belonged to the party not the candidate. With due respect to their Lordships, democracy is not a government by “the eyes of the law”, it is a government by “the people”. Law is there to regulate how the people choose their leaders. Therefore, any method of bringing any candidate to power away from the will of the people is undemocratic. Also, the Supreme Court, by that judgment, seemed to reward the PDP for not organising a free and fair primary election. The apex court offended the overarching principle of law that nobody is allowed to benefit from his own wrong. If the apex court found that Omehia was wrongly nominated, the most appropriate judgment that would have done justice to the matter would have been to disqualify the PDP from the election and order the next candidate of the next political party that met the constitutional requirements to be sworn in. This would have made the political parties sit up in the conduct of their primaries. But that judgment made way for parties to continue with impunity in the conduct of their primaries in the anticipation that even if the judges disagree with it, they will substitute its choice with one of its own. Also the idea that votes belong to political party and not the candidate doesn’t just add up. In the declaration of result, it is the candidate that is declared the winner having scored the highest number of votes cast. The party is simply a mere vehicle, which the candidate uses to achieve his aim. Saying that the votes belong to the party is like saying that a passenger who is transported by a commercial vehicle should pay his money to the vehicle and not the owner or driver of the vehicle. Moreover, if we have independent candidates, which party will the votes be for? The apex court undermined the importance of putting up the right candidate by saying that the votes belonged to the party rather than the candidate. Everybody knows that people in a civilized world vote for candidates and not parties, but in our highly politicised judiciary, it is not surprising that the judges will decide that votes belong to a political party just to enable them achieve their political manoeuvring in deciding the candidate they prefer against the will of the people.
The lawmakers must rise up and incorporate in our constitution provisions that will deny the judges the opportunity to declare a non-candidate to an election the winner of that election. It is not enough to have it in the Electoral Act because the political judges will still strike it down as being inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution. These political judges are looking for excuses to manoeuvre political cases not to do justice and the legislature, which has become the hope of democracy should not allow it.