By Prince Ejeh Josh
Over the past few weeks, following the February 25 and March 18 presidential and governorship elections, the Nigeria political system has come under heavy attacks, spiraling confusions, conundrum and hullabaloo from different public affairs analysts, who are preponderantly self-appointed analysts, legal experts and political pundits conclusively dashing out unsolicited advice and manufacturing imaginary results, facts and evidence from sources only they could verify and prove.
Almost every Nigerian appears to have become pseudo-lawyer authoritatively throwing up spurious claims about the roles of the electoral umpire—the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and the only arbiter—Judiciary—constitutionally saddled to entertain complaints from parties aggrieved with the outcomes of the elections and ensure justice. In fact, some Nigerians from certain quarters and orientation have assumed the positions of INEC chairman and head of the judiciary. They claimed repository and monopoly of knowledge and discharged ministerial functions synonymous with fascism and absolute dictatorship. Contrary points and positions are met with resistance conscientiously but ignorantly held as absolute.
Prior the conduct of the national elections by the INEC, one thing kept resonating among some Nigerians who had, probably, stiffly, rigidly and adamantly made up their minds and, of course, predetermined who the winners and what political parties the winners should come from, and that thing is the arrogation of exclusive right unto themselves and the fact that anything less than their candidates’ emergence would amount to political injustice, rigging and compromise not only by INEC officials but also by judicial officers.
It is, therefore, not surprising that before the outcome of the elections, some candidates had already assumed themselves to be president-elect, governor-elect and whatever the position they ran. These illusion and delusion both by the contestants and their supporters gave them false hope that the electoral umpire and the judiciary would be blackmailed into deviating from the law at their instance. For them, other candidates had been rejected inasmuch as they were not their preferred candidates. This is their slanted, perverted and straightjacketed worldview. In the realm of security analysis, we see such extreme view as act of fanaticism with a potential danger of destroying not only liberal democracy, but democracy in itself.
The above extreme view gave rise to spurious and unfounded allegations that INEC officials had been compromised with bribe, starting from the lazy and devilish news that the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, boarded an all-night emergency chartered jet to Lagos where he had a nocturnal meeting with Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu before declaring him president-elect. They did not stop at that; the judiciary became another victim of their desperation and cranky hysteria, more so, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, as disguising as an infirmed patient on a wheelchair smuggled out to London in order to meet the president-elect, Mr. Tinubu. It was more interesting when the alleged details of the discussion between Tinubu and the CJN purportedly emerged and circulated on social media. And that left nobody in doubt as to the danger fake news is posing on our nascent democracy and national security.
That not enough, lawyers—properly defined by law as persons, having received special and distinct trainings which transmogrified them from ordinary persons or laymen to learned men (Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria)—joined the bandwagon of unlearned pedestrians in the speculation and in arriving at conclusion without any shred of facts and evidence. We have heard lawyers throwing caution to the wind, perhaps, driven by emotion, sentiment and the urge to win the affection of the few but vociferously misguided public by telling them what they wanted to hear rather than guiding them on the extant laws and regulations, and the need to disabuse their minds of monomaniac fundamentalism, zealotry to moderation, tolerance and accommodation in their views. On this premise, respected legal practitioners engaged in bared face lies, ad baculum and petitio principii to drive their arguments. When carefully interrogated, they engage in ad hominem to wade off superior and sound arguments from eclectic approach. I had been in courts where judges had to, time and again, query the qualifications of some “senior lawyers” as to whether they passed through the Council of Legal Education (Nigerian Law School) or had been availing themselves further research and development.
Of course, these set of lawyers could please their clients by deliberately misleading them in public with false information. This creates a wrong impression of the judiciary as prejudice once judgment given is at variance with their expectation against what their lawyers had told them. In recent times, I have even seen unlearned and untrained citizens in law directing the court—Judiciary—on what to do and how to give their rulings and judgments in favour of certain candidates and parties. They bask on euphoric assumption of having the best lawyers, the best cases, the best arguments and the best opinions without taking time to weigh the strength and weakness(es) of their cause vis-à-vis the opposing parties. With respect to them, they appointed themselves lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants and judges. They’re like turnkey operation or one-stop shop, and their imaginary judgment must stand regardless of contrary evidence.
This was also the similar dust the opposition parties, specifically the Labour Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance are raising in Enugu State governorship election’s outcome. Before the election, their minds were already fixated on who would lose and those to win. Even though some candidate—Labour Party’s Chijioke Edeoga—had no manifesto, fallen short of having any programme for the people of the state, and with his presence hardly felt by the electorate as he had no campaign visibility, he and few of his supporters kept singing victory song that was soon extinguished and turned to dirge by the collective stand of the people. Many wondered if they would manufacture votes from the blues or their false impression was still based on their legendary warehouse of fake news. They didn’t surprise Enugu people after playing clannish and primordial politics coupled with the herd mentality that accompanied the Labour Party where supposed intellectuals beclouded themselves with sectional interest against collective, transcendental values. They, however, were still roundly defeated to the satisfaction of Enugu’s electorate due to their incompetence, cluelessness and history of leadership failure.
While it became glaring that they’d lost the election, the Labour Party governorship candidate, Edeoga, and his sponsors, hastily called that the results, already collated and announced, be halted and reviewed. With the letter written by them, INEC, acting on the power conferred on it, heeded to the petition and suspended the electoral process even to the chagrin of millions of Enugu citizens. The commission diligently carried out the review, almost taking side with the Labour Party against the people of Enugu State arising from duress, pressure and undue influence, but with overwhelming evidence that the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party had enjoyed massive support among the citizens, not much could be done to alter the collective voice of the people manifested through their index fingers on March 18.
After the declaration and announcement of the rightful winner of the election was made by the INEC Returning Officer, Prof. Madu Ofo Iwe, acting on the authority and power conferred on him by the law, all hell broke loose as sponsored fake news, fake petitions and misinformation deliberately targeted at smearing the images of the PDP, its candidates, some INEC officials and the judiciary started flying unrestrained. Chijioke Edeoga, had days after, called for another review, denial of issuance of certificate of return to the winner and cancellation of the election in the state. This was a desperate ploy and decoy to frustrate the mandate of the people, arrogate judicial and extra-constitutional powers on the INEC to violate the rights of Enugu voters. Again, INEC took the second review just to display fairness, transparency and integrity, and yet resolved the law against the inspiring malice that motivated those power desperados and voyage of futility in which they’d embarked.
Not satisfied, Edeoga and his sponsors recruited some lawyers and social media fake news purveyors to push the mendacious narrative that INEC had received a whopping sum of one billion naira bribe to sustain the people’s mandate. When the lie couldn’t sell, a certain lawyer—one Alloy Ejimkeonye of 0emerald Chambers—torpedoing on a dangerous threshold of emotion and legal rascality, descended to the point of ridiculing the noble profession, bringing our most revered and cherished profession to question of integrity, disrepute and embarrassment before the world with baseless, conjectural and idle claims, among which is that INEC, through one of its National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, collected bribe and that the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) should have the name of Festus Okoye, a lawyer, struck off the roll of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
At this juncture, one would question the letter, its content and its originator. Every certified and qualified legal practitioner—short of those being questioned by judged in courts—who could have gone through the futile letter would question the propriety and probability of such letter coming from a lawyer—Principal Partner of a law office—as the law is clear on the offences or alleged misconduct that could summon a lawyer to appear before the disciplinary body (See section 12 of the Legal Practitioners Act). Does the LPDC have the power to assume the jurisdiction over the unfounded allegation made by Ejimkeonye against Festus Okoye? What are the roles of the INEC as it relates to elections and electoral process? Had INEC complied with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act in the discharge of its functions during the election? Does the law change to accommodate speculation obstinately propagated by those with a negative herd mentality? There’s definitely a clear dichotomy between politics and law and the questions above would be dissected to de-escalate, counsel and liberate the brainwashed in the next phase of this work.