Post PEPT Perspectives and Maintaining a Peaceful Polity – By ThankGod Ukachukwu
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) would have delivered its judgement before this article is published. However, no matter the direction the pendulum oscillates, a peaceful polity is imperative to maintaining law and order and advancing our democracy. Since 2007 when President Buhari challenged the victory of late President Yardua, we have not had a hotly contested election at the tribunal. Unprecedented, former President Goodluck Jonathan declined from challenging his loss in 2015. However, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a dogged politician who has earned his dues in Nigeria’s political coliseum went ahead to contest the re-election victory of the incumbent. Ab initio, that decision is one, which against a section of Nigerians who think he should have rescinded, is in fact the best decision for our democracy.
Recall that the election reforms which accelerated progress and was instrumental in helping the opposition to surmount the ruling party in Nigeria came from former President Yardua’s efforts to improve our electoral processes after he admitted that the election that brought him to power despite winning at the tribunal was fraught with irregularities. The Uwais report, which he facilitated, culminated in a reformed 2011 electoral act, which was amended further in 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan. The judiciary as the 3rd estate of the realm is tasked with interpreting our laws and settling disputes and the PEPT is a prime medium of obtaining judgement, which has, wide and far-reaching ramifications. Whether the PEPT delivers judgement in favour of President Buhari or Alhaji Atiku, it is pertinent on the victorious to tow the path of former late President Yardua and reform our electoral system. The 8th Senate passed an electoral act amendment, which could have been assented by President Buhari, but he declined with reason that it was close to the election and hasty implementation will hamper elections preparations.
If PEPT judgement favours President Buhari, the president must ensure that he emulates Yardua and assents to the electoral act amendment to enhance our electoral system. Though I trust that Alhaji Atiku will ineluctably exhaust all legal provisions available to him by heading to the Supreme Court to attempt to get a favourable judgement. If judgement favours Alhaji Atiku and he eventually emerges victorious at the Supreme Court, I would expect him to assent to the electoral act amendment bill within his first 100 days.
There is a belief that the 2019 election was flawed and the opposition have more or less accused INEC of rigging the election in favour of President Buhari and APC. The veracity of the claim is hotly contested but I suffix it to note that the 2019 general election was better than the 2015 general election. And I expect that the opposition instead of antagonizing the electoral body, which is an institution of state, not the ruling party, to work towards enabling laws which will ensure efficiency in conducting elections. Our elections are as good as the laws guiding them. One of the controversies of the PEPT was a claim that INEC had a server which could be used to correlate physical results but because it was not mandatory, it was easier for the ruling party to arm twist INEC to ensure that electronic transmission of results was abandoned or compromised. We can recall how the election was postponed and how it affected voters who travelled to cast their votes and the violence in Lagos State, where APC chieftains rained terror on voters and ensured that many were disenfranchised. Now an electoral law, which makes it almost enhances conduct of election and makes it harder rig by introducing electronic transmission, will aid our electoral institution to deliver effective elections. The server controversy would have been easier to settle and most likely favour the opposition. Given the desperation of politicians, I would not blame any INEC official whose life was threatened who then steps aside to allow the politicians engage in manipulations in absence of enabling laws.
Victory to any side should be a time of reflection instead of gloating or rambunctious celebration. The unrest precipitated by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa is an indicator of the volatility with which Nigerians can easily degenerate into a Hobbesian state. We must avoid actions like the post-election violence of 2011. The loser must ensure that he doesn’t incite his followers to riots while the winner must call for calm and restraints. Any unrest can deteriorate and no one will be spared. There is a video trending on the Internet where hoodlums attacked someone in a high end SUV in traffic during the reprisal riots taking advantage of chaos to vent their anger and frustrations with the state of the country on the well heeled. The enlightened and social media users must ensure that they do not become avenues of instigating violence. We must ensure that our democracy remains intact. The PEPT and its outcome is an avenue for winners and losers to seek ways to further strengthen our democracy. And indubitably, democracy remains the best form of government for our country and we must guard it jealously.
ThankGod Ukachukwu (@kcnaija), Software Engineer at Turing.com
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