Predictably, the Justices of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Tanko, arrived at the judicial answer to the PDP’s appeal without even looking at the question. While I am not part of those that believed that the PDP won the elections,nor was I expecting The Courts to nullify the elections, I was horrified at the manner at which the SC reached its decision to dismiss the Atiku appeal in under 50 minutes.
I have been around for a while and have heard and seen all sorts take place(some too embarrassing to narrate here), I was not ready for what took place yesterday.
The Justices of the SC, who had been enmeshed in a crises of confidence over the constitution of the Appeal Panel, were not even masking their biases in their hurry to achieve their predetermined agenda. These Men in Black threw caution to the wind and openly mocked due process and fairness.These men scoffed at opportunities that presented themselves for them to at least redeem some image for the judiciary. They had crossed the rubicon and there was no coming back. Let me produce four Instances in yesterday’s charade that leads me to conclude thus:
1. Denial of fair hearing.The PDP had 7 Appeals.The Sypreme Court refused to consider 6 of them which was necessary for the proper determination of the main Appeal and proceeded to give judgment in the main Appeal.Justice Rhodes Vivour openly complained that the PDP must be kidding to expect them to write 7 judgments. Pardon me, Sir, may I ask why you are paid as a judge of the apex court if not to adjudicate and pen your judgements?Is laziness now a virtue?He also displayed his lack of knowledge of the Appeals when he claimed that some of the interlocutory Appeals constituted an abuse of Court process,even when none of the Respondents made such an application, thereby betraying his neutrality. Put simply,he made a case for the APC. As if that was not enough Justice Ariwoola took over the proceeding by overriding the CJN when the PDP sought to consolidate all the Appeals & shouted “No!,no consolidation”. Why were they in a hurry when there were still 12 days before the end of the prescribed 60 days?
2. A case of Quid Pro Quo?
Justices Abba Aji, Inyang Okoro and Amiru are all regular guests of the EFCC where they are still facing investigation for corruption. Why will the CJN include such people when it is likely to create an impression that the Sword of Damocleshanging over them may be put to nefarious use by agents of one of the interested parties? The opportunity to inspire confidence in a critical institution of state that was low on public trust was missed by a CJN conscious of how he got into Office.
3. Lack of Federal Character.
The panel as constituted was a rape of our constitution which requires federal character representation in such a national assignment. From the Court of Appeal right through to the Supreme Court, there was a systematic exclusion of Judges from theSouth East. An entire region that was suppressed during the election, was also treated as not having one worthy judge to serve in an election petition of this magnitude. The Courts in my opinion have become an extension of the ruling party’s perceived anti-Igbo sentiments.Since the SC has said that it would give reasons behind its decision to dismiss the entirety of the Appeal, it will be interesting to see how Section 52 (2) of the Electoral Act will be interpreted by them. Justice Abba Aji asked INEC lawyer to read out that section,but the lawyer instead told the Court that the section allows INEC to conduct election in any manner it desires. So, I wait to see if the Court will state otherwise.Finally, it is important to highlight that the CJN claimed that they had read the briefs for over two weeks and reached the conclusion that the Appeal lacked merit. Now, the entire briefs filed before the Supreme Court was less than two weeks yesterday when the Court sat. From where did they manage to get two weeks studying the briefs? Also,in my humble opinion,that statement betrayed the preconception that the Court had reached a conclusion before even hearing the Appeal. Given the tensions that the appeal had generated, the SC lost a teachableOpportunity to restore the dignity of a critical institution like the judiciary.
The allegations made by the opposition that the CJN was forum shopping for pliant judges was blatantly foregrounded by the audacious contempt that the justices held the arguments of the opposition.