THE JUDICIARY AND NIGER STATE GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION
In today's Nigerian political dispensation, if there is an undeserving bad cop image institution then it is our judiciary. For most political losers, who cannot endure their electoral irrelevance, the judiciary, not their wholesale rejection by the electorate and our masses must come to blame.
And often being well oiled financially, these moneybag losers, in league with news merchants and fat fee lawyers constitute themselves into political public nuisance. A key arm of their arsenal is to upturn the peace of the land by imaging and painting the judiciary in very bad light and terrible colours.
From Enugu to Ekiti, from Sokoto to Niger, Nigerian politicians come with a terrible trace element in their blood, and that is to co-opt and corrupt the courts and judicial process if only to win at all costs. And in failing before a morally upright judiciary and her honourable justices, to whom they went to in the first instance, they start in the manners of the household chicken. If we can't eat nobody else will. And unfortunately, the judiciary who they abuse so incessantly are institutionally too tongue tied to speak out.
Let us take for an illustration, the case of Niger State, which may serve as a locus classicus. Chief David Umaru was the governorship candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in the Governorship Election held on 14/04/2007. Of course, he contested against other candidates of other parties including Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, OON, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Expectedly Dr. Aliyu who is one of Nigeria's brightest sons, detribalized and people-driven, won on his personal recognition and love by the people, plus the immense political good will and reach of the PDP.
For citizens of Niger State, it was politically like the return of the Mahdi … and even the blind could see that Dr. Aliyu is the electorate's overwhelming choice and preferment. And to confirm this, all other contestant parties and their candidates in the gubernatorial election showed their satisfaction with the results and congratulated the PDP and Dr. Aliyu for their popular mandate and victory. But not for the ANPP and their candidate, Chief Umaru.
With a large financial war chest and against the will of the people he deigns to govern; he went to court and stayed in court. And now he is gone down and is politically drowned, like the doomed Titanic.
It is now history that the five learned justices of the election tribunal unanimously dismissed the petition on the 9th of June 2008. Apparently dissatisfied with the judgment, Mr. Umaru proceeded to the Court of Appeal, Abuja division [sitting as the Appeal Tribunal].
The learned justices of the Appeal Court, in determining the case, saw through the mischief brought by the ANPP candidate in the name of an appeal, and in a unanimous and well considered judgment delivered on the 19th of February, 2009 promptly dismissed the appeal.
Again, not satisfied with the scholarship and wisdom exhibited by their Lordships of the Appeal Court, and Umaru, knowing fully well (and being also a lawyer) that the 1999 Constitution provides clearly that the Court of Appeal shall be the final court in the determination of a governorship election petition, again brought an application dated: 1st April, 2009 before their Lordships, intending to reopen the issues already determined by the honourable court, with the expectation that the court may oblige him and decide his case differently.
It is, however, instructive at this stage to emphasize that all the issues of law raised and canvassed in Umaru's application are exactly the same as those already determined in the Appeal. In the emerging scenario, and to the non discerning mind, all the publications in the media, since the appeal, and the subsequent application were pending before the Appeal Court, it may appear that there may be some merit in his case.
On the contrary, and to the learned, and persons of discerning minds, the seaming guerilla and ambush approach perpetrated in prosecuting the case could not stand the test of time, and was doomed, even at its inception.
Consequently, the eventual failure of his appeal, and the unmeritorious application, did not come as a surprise. It was doomed to fall like a pack of cards, and it eventually did!
In simple terms, what Umaru tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to achieve by his application before the Court of Appeal, was for the learned Appeal Court Justices to set aside 'Ex debito Justiciae' the judgment previously delivered in the same appeal, while contending that the court had no jurisdiction at the time it gave the previous judgment.
The attempt to turn the learned justices against themselves was not only laughable, but also unconstitutional. Perhaps, Umaru forgot that the Appellate Court, having decided on issues emanating from the lower tribunal, cannot sit on appeal against itself; and that election petitions are 'sui jeneris' (special proceedings).
It is therefore against this background that the learned justices of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division must be commended for their scholarship and industry in dispensing justice in this case, and thereby strengthening our faith in the judiciary as the last hope of the people.
Special thanks must therefore go to God for the successive and consistent victories achieved in all the cases filed against the chief servant's election. The fact that the learned justices at both levels of the election cases were not distracted or intimidated by the vigorous media campaigns, calculated to chart a predetermined outcome, and to confuse the general public, in favour of the ANPP candidate, cannot but depict the hand of God at work.
I therefore salute the courts for carrying out their Constitutional responsibilities without fear or favour; the members of the People's Democratic Party, and the general public for their support and encouraging patience. I strongly advise all election losing politicians to come to terms with their fate and allow the system to run and consolidate democracy without their throwing in their ego just to disrupt progress. This is especially so for Chief Umaru.
I also give commendations to the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, for remaining focused throughout the trying times of distraction, and for ensuring that the people who massively voted for him are not denied the dividends of democracy, and good governance.
Mallam Jilani al-Imam is an Abuja- based