“When all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.” – CS Lewis
On Friday November 1, 2019, the Appeal Court sitting in Enugu ruled in the legal contest between Distinguished Senator Victor Umeh and Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, and unanimously ruled in favor of Senator Ekwunife, thereby validating her election as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Anambra Central Senatorial Zone.
My personal opinion on this matter is well documented. I remain convinced that the position of the law with regards to Section 285(13) of the 1999 Constitution as amended was not given its proper interpretation and that it will continue to be a contentious and recurring discussion.
The Appeal Tribunal further added to the confusion on the status of section 285(13) given that in the matter between Hon Dozie Nwankwo (APGA) and Hon Ayinka Valentine (PDP) delivered in the morning of the same day by same panel of justices, the election of the PDP candidate was nullified on the grounds that Section 285(13) is both a pre-election and election matter and therefore can form the basis of challenging whether the nomination of a candidate complied with the requirement of the electoral act. Surprisingly, the same panel of justices in the forenoon of same day dismissed Umeh’s petition which was anchored on Section 285(13) as a pre election matter. The volte face of the three man panel was puzzling to say the least and will remain a legal mystery.
The reality is that we make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. Do we then abolish the courts due to the uncertainty of justice? Why go to court to waste time and money when justice is not predictable no matter how white the law is? The law is fatally wounded when it strictly becomes what the courts say it is and not what the law makers enacted and codified in the law book. We have more often than not argued against executive interference in the judiciary, sometimes knocking our head to unconsciousness without paying adequate attention to the antics of judges who themselves handcuff their hands with factors outside the much taunted executive interference.
In this instance, whatever is the argument against the judgment of the Appeal Tribunal is now like medicine after death. The Appeal Court decision is final as there can be no further appeal. I know there is God’s hand in the affairs of men hence I concede to the will of God in this matter. The sensible thing to do is to congratulate Senator Mrs. Uche Ekwunife for her hard won victory at the Appeal Tribunal. I wish her well and pray almighty God to give her the wisdom to serve well.
Many of Umeh’s critics are ignorantly celebrating that he has been defeated. They forgot that defeat is not the worst failure, that not to have tried is the true failure. I salute Senator Victor Umeh for fighting hard and going through all the legitimate process as provided by law with decorum. He has proven he is a warrior and a fair fighter who never lost his cool even in an awful battle.
The few months he was in the Senate representing Anambra Central, he discharged himself creditably. He showed what effective representation is. His accomplishments are things of pride and the collective dream of the Igbo come true. We will continue to celebrate him as a hero and the voice of the people. I join his grateful constituents in saying thank you for a job well done and wishing him well in his future endeavors.
What happened on November 1st is not a dead end. There is a great future ahead. There are new battles to be fought, problems to be fixed, challenges to surmount and wounds to heal. Above all , there is humanity and God to serve.
I also commend and congratulate everyone who stood on either side during this period for their contributions towards building a just and egalitarian democratic society.
In the same spirit, I extend my congratulations to President Buhari and his party for their victory at the Supreme Court over the legal challenge mounted by Alhaji Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Now that all the legal challenges resulting from the 2019 general election has been resolved, I think it’s time for the country to move on. Beyond politics, I believe in the peace, unity and prosperity of Nigeria. My partisan opposition against Mr. Buhari is over. I pledge to offer my prayers and support to him and his government which will be rooted in constructive criticism and advisory.
Moving forward let me remind the president that the 2019 election fell short of expectations irrespective of what the courts have said. INEC also was unable to justify the huge expenditure invested in it. Thankfully, both INEC and the Civil Society Organizations who played key roles in the elections had all concluded their review and post-mortem of the election. Areas of shortcomings have been identified meaning there are rooms for improvements.
It is rather unfortunate that we are still grappling with the challenges of electoral rigging. The Independent National Electoral Commission is still facing the issue of logistics with regards to movement of election materials so much so that all the general elections were postponed with huge costs and other consequences. There is also the unnerving situation where security agencies like the military and police were involved in ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching and mutilation of result sheets. It is sad that successive elections in Nigeria have been recording low voter turnouts because voters believe their votes do not count.
The upcoming Kogi State election is already showing dangerous signs. Armed thugs are on the prowl, harassing and intimidating opponents while the security agencies look the other way.
All these flashpoints call for an urgent need for electoral reforms and the need to revisit the electoral amendment bill which the president in an unprecedented manner rejected for a record four times for reasons bordering on inelegant drafting, cross-referencing errors or simply due to the closeness of the amendment to the last general election.
I have always maintained that President Buhari can shape Nigeria the way he will want to be remembered. He can leave a positive legacy or an embarrassing one. He can grow this democracy or destroy it further. The choice is his to make, but if I am to offer a valuable advice, my honest take is for him to think above self and the party and think of the nation.
He can immediately set up a small committee to take another look at all the major electoral reforms beginning from the recommendations documented from the Justice Muhammadu Uwais Electoral Reform Committee to Sheik Ahmed Lemu Committee on Post-Election Violence of 2011 to the 2014 National Conference report to the Senator Ken Nnamani Presidential Committee on Electoral Reform down to all major election observer reports and submit to the National Assembly for prompt legislative action. Unlike in 2015 when the National Assembly spearheaded the electoral reform process, President Buhari must, this time round, seize the initiative patriotically.
Some of the recurring key electoral reform issues include the need for electronic voting and electronic transmission of results; granting of voting rights to Nigerians in the Diaspora through out-of-country voting; enhancement of participation of marginalized groups in the electoral system through affirmative action for women, youths, and persons with disabilities; provision for early voting for millions of Nigerians who are disenfranchised from voting due to their election-day duties. Such disenfranchised groups include poll workers, accredited observers, security agents on election duty, journalists covering elections as well as people on emergency duty during election days and other issues.