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THE SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON PRESIDENTIAL POLL

By NBF News
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that President Goodluck Jonathan won the April 16, 2011 presidential poll. The judgement, therefore, brought to an end the legal battle instituted by the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which challenged the outcome of the election.

According to the seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher, the CPC failed to prove its allegation that the election did not substantially comply with the provisions of the 2011 Electoral Act as amended.

Apart from the CJN who was absent during the ruling, other panel members present were Mohammed Mahmud, Walter Onnoghen, John Fabiyi, Olufunlola Adekeye, Bode Rhodes-Viviour and Sylvester Ngwuta.

In the lead judgement, Justice Adekeye upheld the November 1, 2011 verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal. Adekeye held that 'if a petition must succeed on the grounds of non-compliance, the petitioner must prove that there was substantial non-compliance, and that the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election.'

According to the jurist, 'as a result, the petitioner has two burdens to prove; one, substantial non-compliance, and two, that the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election.'

He held that 'the burden of proof actually lies on the plaintiff or the initiator. He, who asserts, must prove.' Thus, 'the petitioner who alleges substantial non-compliance must so satisfy the court-this petition failed to do so.'

In affirming that the return of Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo as the winners of the poll was in order, the apex court also held that the appellant abandoned the other vital aspects of its petition: the allegation of vote allocation to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Jonathan by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and also faulted the expectation by the CPC that INEC should provide it with evidence to prove its allegation. Adekeye observed that a party seeking to nullify an election must succeed on its own case, not on the evidence of the respondent.

While Jonathan hailed the verdict as a vindication of the outcome of the election, his opponent and closest rival at the poll, Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC faulted the ruling. Buhari maintained that the Supreme Court toed the same path it followed in 2003 and 2007 when it gave similar judgements on his appeal against the victory of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and his successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. He also averred that the court's decision was 'politically motivated and has little judicial content.'

This notwithstanding, Jonathan, who extended hand of fellowship to Buhari, commended him for using the judicial process in expressing his reservations on the conduct of the April poll and urged him to accept the ruling in good faith.

It is gratifying that the contending issues concerning the presidential poll have finally been laid to rest by the judgement. The CPC candidate should accept the ruling and contribute his quota towards nation building. He should bear in mind that there is always another election. Let him put the 2011 poll behind him and think of future ones.

Now that Jonathan has won the case, there will be no more distractions. He should, therefore, hit the ground running with his transformation agenda. The president should exert himself and demonstrate that he is really in charge of affairs in the country. Let him demonstrate good leadership on critical issues that affect the country, especially the security challenge posed by the Boko Haram insurgency. Jonathan should take the bull by the horns and rise to the nation's various challenges.

In Nigeria today, safety of life and property is paramount. This is one issue seriously begging for presidential attention. This is time for Jonathan to carry out his transformation agenda in critical sectors of the economy. He should use this opportunity to translate his agenda into concrete reality.

We enjoin Buhari and his party supporters to team up with the current leadership in moving the nation forward, irrespective of party differences. The task of nation building is the duty of all Nigerians. Therefore, all Nigerians should contribute in making the country a great nation. Above all, let the president be more courageous and pragmatic in tackling the myriad of problems facing the nation.