When the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, decided to mount a legal challenge to the result of the February 23, 2019 presidential election which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari, it was on two grounds.
The first being the claim that Buhari was not qualified to stand as a candidate having not provided evidence of minimum educational qualification. The second was that a separate result on an INEC server showed that Atiku, rather than Buhari, won the election.
On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal agreed with the results declared by the electoral umpire and ruled against the petitioners on both grounds.
The five-man panel that included Justices Muhammad Garba, Abdul Aboki, Joseph Ikyegh, Samuel Oseji and Peter Ige held that Atiku and the PDP failed to discharge the burden of proof of the allegation of non-qualification of President Buhari to contest the election.The chairman, Justice Garba, who read the lead judgement, held that evidence before the court showed that Buhari obtained the Cambridge West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate, insisting, therefore, that he was “eminently qualified” to contest the election.
Citing a previous Supreme Court judgment, Justice Garba said: “Submission of educational certificate is not a requirement for qualification to contest election for governor under section 177 of the Constitution.
“It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to his Form CF001 before a candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election.
“In effect, the 2nd defendant went through secondary education and then proceeded to military school. The military school is higher than secondary education.
“Thus our conclusion is that Buhari is not only qualified but eminently qualified to contest the presidential election.
“The onus rests squarely on the petitioners to prove their assertion that the 2nd respondent does not possess the educational qualification to contest the election or that he submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification.
“This I have mentioned that the petitioners failed to prove. The petitioners cannot, therefore, rely on any failure in the case.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent does not possess the qualification to contest the election into the office of the president as stipulated in section 131, 137, 138 of the Constitution.
“I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election into the Office of the President as prescribed in section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.”
Many Nigerians disagree with this verdict but are not surprised, nevertheless. Even the president himself, in his quiet moments, will admit that this judgement rankles for the simple reason that it lacks the essential ingredient of integrity. The president knows as a fact that he does not have an authentic WAEC certificate.
On the issue of server, the tribunal not only declared that there was no evidence that INEC transmitted the results of the 2019 presidential election electronically but also stated that no law in Nigeria allows electronic transmission of results using card reader.
“These claims cannot be countenanced because they lack worth,” Justice Garba bellowed.
“Based on the available evidence, it is clear that the results were collated manually. The evidence and report of witness 59 of the petitioners (PW59), cannot be relied on that there was indeed INEC server or servers, as the case may be, into which the results of the presidential election were transmitted.
“Card reader machine has not replaced the voter register. A petitioner must rely on the card reader to prove non-accreditation or over voting. I have carefully examined and examined Exhibit 28 (INEC Manual for Election) tendered by the petitioners, I did not see where there is provision for electronic transmission of result of election.
“The petitioners have therefore failed to prove that the second respondent (President Buhari) did not score a majority of lawful votes in the election.”
That put paid to the legal challenge. Buhari’s second term has been given legal imprimatur. Unless the petitioners appeal against the ruling at the Supreme Court, and I don’t see what difference that will make, Wednesday’s ruling will bring closure to the 2019 presidential election, adjudged by both local and international observers as one of the worst elections in Nigeria.
I doubt if any Nigerian is shocked. Shortly after the election, I had advised the former vice president against challenging its purported outcome in court, not because I believed he lost. No! My reason was simple. Nigeria under Buhari’s imperial watch does not deserve that sacrifice. I still stand by that.
But he went to court all the same. There is no Nigerian I spoke to before Wednesday that believed the judiciary will deliver justice in this matter. Not even one. That is where we are right now. President Buhari prides himself as Mr. Integrity. But in everything he does, he betrays that claim.
Despite Justice Garba’s assertion, I don’t know how many Nigerians believe the president has the requisite certificate(s) for the election. If he has, he should flaunt them and stop hiding behind his finger. His claim that the certificates were with the military board were proved beyond any reasonable doubt to be mere hot air.
The precious time the leader of the most populous black nation on earth used to run from pillar to post procuring questionable WAEC certificates could have been put to better use.
In fact, if he wanted, he could have used the time to sit down and write WAEC examination all these years. After all, General Yakubu Gowon, his superior in the army, went back to school in the United Kingdom after he was overthrown in a military coup and came out with a doctorate degree. General Olusegun Obasanjo did same after serving as a two-term president. Today, he is a proud doctorate degree holder. Many of Buhari’s colleagues who went into the military without a certificate in the 1960s did same after their tour of duty. But President Buhari spent 30 solid years after he was overthrown on August 27, 1985 bearing malice against everyone.
The president may ululate and do the victory dance but didn’t one of his forebears, Usmanu Dan Fodiyo, spiritual leader of the 19th century Fulani Jihad, say that conscience is an open wound, which only truth can heal? Buhari may have conquered and subdued Nigeria, but he cannot conquer his own conscience. He should be worried that there is no joy in the land and the fact that he was declared winner of an election globally acclaimed as fraudulent is not a feat to be proud of.
I am worried that 20 years into this democratic journey, we have made no progress. Nigeria’s democracy is stunted because something has gone fundamentally wrong. Our hard-won democracy has become undemocratic. Simple! And an undemocratic democracy is an oxymoron.
Universally, the idea of democracy is that system of “government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines democracy as “government by the people, especially rule of the majority; a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
The word “democracy” is a combination of two Greek words – dêmos (which means ‘people’) and krátos (meaning ‘force’ or ‘power’). So, even in the original Greek parlance, democracy literally means “people power.”
In a democracy, the citizens exercise power by voting.
John Locke, English philosopher and one of the most influential of the enlightenment thinkers, said, “There is no practical alternative to majority political rule, that is, to taking the consent of the majority as the act of the whole and binding every individual.” Democracy is rule of the majority.
There is no democracy without free, fair ad credible elections, which was what Abraham Lincoln, former U.S. president, alluded to when he defined it as, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
In Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The people content of our so-called democracy is totally missing. Instead, we are increasingly relying on few men, who may not even have cast their ballot, to determine who governs just as it happened on Wednesday.
After millions of Nigerians went out on February 23 to cast their ballot, the onus fell on five men sitting on the bench to decide who superintends over our affairs. That is crass democracy.