April 22, 2023

‘GO TO COURT’ now reinforcing violence, rigging

Edo election


•INEC failures, rot in judiciary fueling it in Nigerian politics

By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

In Nigerian politics, the phrase “go to court” has become a ubiquitous refrain. It is the go-to solution for any electoral disputes and a phrase that has become synonymous with the Nigerian electoral process.

However, what was once seen as a means to resolve electoral disputes has now become a tool for political manipulation and subversion.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria is responsible for organizing and conducting elections in the country. However, in recent years, it has been accused of failing in its duties, leading to a rise in the number of electoral disputes.
This has resulted in a situation where instead of improving, the Nigerian electoral process has regressed, with the ‘go to court’ option being seen as the only viable means to resolve electoral disputes.

The 2023 presidential and governorship elections were particularly contentious, with accusations of vote rigging, electoral malpractice, and corruption being levelled against various political parties.

In the aftermath of the elections, the parties declared winners would often tell their opponents to ‘go to court’ if they had any grievances. This has led to a situation where the person declared the winner of an election is often at an advantage, as the legal system is seen as slow, cumbersome and easily manipulated.

The rot in the Nigerian judiciary has also played a significant role in the rise of the ‘go to court’ culture. The courts are often seen as corrupt, with judges susceptible to bribery and intimidation. This has led to a situation where justice is not always served, and the party with the deepest pockets often emerges victorious.

Recently, there have been numerous allegations of politicians bribing officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, and ‘buying’ thugs, to rig elections.

The cases of the Lagos, Rivers and Adamawa governorship election were a particularly egregious example of this.

Last weekend, Aisha Dahiru also known as Binani, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the election by Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Adamawa State. However, it was later alleged that Yunusa-Ari had been compromised by the APC to declare Binani the winner. It was a scandal that rocked the country even as the mess has been reversed and the real winner returned as governor.

The fact that politicians are able to brazenly bribe officials to rig elections and then rush to court to stop the nullification of their illegal declaration as winners or ask their opponents to ‘go to court’ is a clear indication of the rot that has set in within the Nigerian electoral process.

It is a system that is increasingly being undermined by corruption and political manipulation, and one that is failing the people of Nigeria.

So what is the way forward?

According to political analysts, the answer lies in strengthening the institutions that are responsible for ensuring free and fair elections. These include INEC, the police, and the judiciary. These institutions need to be truly independent, transparent, and free from political interference.

They argue that the ‘go to court’ culture has led to a situation where the electoral process is constantly being undermined, and that it is time for all stakeholders to come together and find a better way forward.

Baring her mind on the issue, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the judiciary should not be dragged into what is clearly an illegal affair ab initio.

“CDD calls on the leadership of judiciary to stand by its earlier warning to judges and other judicial officers that they should avoid unwholesome interference in the political process,” she told Saturday Vanguard.

Hassan further stressed that fixing the rot in the electoral system also requires a change in the mindset of politicians and other stakeholders.

According to her, they need to understand that democracy is not about winning at all costs, but about serving the people. They need to understand that their actions have consequences, and that the future of the country is at stake.

“We, therefore, call on political actors, electoral officials and security agents to operate within the ambit of the law and avoid any situation that can lead to chaos or threaten peace,” the CDD Director added.

In the same breath, the National Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, Engr Yabagi Sani, said the way forward is for all stakeholders to come together and find a better way to resolve electoral disputes, one that is fair, transparent, and just.
“The need for Electoral Offences Commission to try electoral offenders cannot be overemphasized.

“INEC should justify the confidence the populace reposed on it and do the right thing as we collectively consolidate our democracy.
“IPAC, therefore, reiterates its call for a review of the process in appointing Resident Electoral Commissioners as some of them are partisan and ignorant of their statutory duties and will go out of their way to foist their preferred candidates, thus subvert the will and mandate of the people which could lead to political upheavals.

“The ballot is sacrosanct and must be respected as power belongs to the people. Anything short of this is unacceptable,” he told Saturday Vanguard

For other stakeholders, one way for Nigeria to discourage this narrative of rigging the election and asking your opponent to ‘go to court’ is for the courts, as an institution, to make it a rule to always order fresh polls where there are credible doubts on the polling, rather than judges deciding the victor.

Until these and other measures are adopted and earnestly practiced in Nigeria’s electoral system, the ‘go to court’ culture may continue to be a negative standard in the country’s politics. And democracy will continue to be raped, as politicians brazenly bribe officials to rig elections and then ask their opponents to ‘go to court’, knowing full well that justice is unlikely to be served.