I really do not know how to react to the rather funny rulings coming from the Rivers State Election Petition Tribunal which nullified the victory of Governor
Nysom Wike, Saturday. Few days later, last Monday, another Tribunal voided the election of more than half of the state’s lawmakers including the Assembly Speaker. If the big shame must be further described, I consider it an embarrassment to Nigeria’s national democratic process with the Judiciary as the last arbiter of the common man as a necessary umpire.
Last weekend, in nullifying the Rivers state’s governorship poll, the tribunal sitting in Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to conduct a fresh one in the next three months.
Well, as the lawyers would say, “As The Court Pleases.” But as for me, no matter how pleased that court was to so rule, the circumstances of the ruling and all that I heard, read and followed of its processes vis-à-vis last Saturday’s ruling cannot be pleasing.
Indeed, I am compelled to fault the three-man tribunal on the grounds that its judgment was too hasty as it came less than 48 hours that both parties submitted their written addresses. Also, experts in law and related matters have not been short of words in condemning, questioning and faulting everything about Justice Suleiman Ambrosa’s judgement.
Now, common sense demanded that the Tribunal ought to have waited for the judgment of the Supreme Court over the issue of its jurisdiction before ruling on the matter. Obviously Justice Ambrosa’s Tribunal knew that the Supreme Court verdict would come up in a matter of days. But for inexplicable reasons, it chose to fast track its date of ruling.
If one must be reasonably reasonable, it goes without argument that in any case before a court of competent jurisdiction like an Elections Tribunal, its judgment could go either way. But the path chosen by the Rivers Election Petition Tribunal in this case, is particularly embarrassing. At least, not a few Nigerians, nay, the world know the
circumstances surrounding the Rivers State tribunal.
I can recall too that for reasons best known to the Courts, that Tribunal was not allowed to sit in Port Harcourt. It was taken to Abuja; and the Abuja Tribunal continued to sit.
In the course of that trial, the litigants – both plaintiffs and defendants – called more than 100 witnesses, documents that were presented as exhibits were more than 1,000. On the average, we should be talking of more than 100 witnesses and 1,000 documents that were admitted. Besides, there were nine written addresses, none of which was less than 40 pages. Last Thursday and Friday, the nine written addresses were adopted.
Shockingly, barely under 24 hours, notice had been issued that judgement was
ready. That judgment was given on Saturday. This sequence and turn of
events assault the sensibilities of lawyers that really believe in justice.
It beats me blank each time I struggle to fathom why the Tribunal would perform the record breaking miracle of delivering judgement on a matter with so much volume of documents and exhibits that would require hundreds of man-hours to devour, dissect and assimilate, preparatory to any plausible ruling just within a few hours. I had always thought that in considering its ruling on any matter, especially in such sensitive ones as election petition on the governorship election in a state peopled by learned, aware and mobilised as Rivers, the Tribunal ought to have been more careful, painstaking and fair in every ramification if its integrity must be maintained and guarded very jealously.
Question now is: can the action of the Rivers Governorship Election Tribunal be seen in line with the obviously misapplied, abused and misused Change mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration just for the sake of it? Or is it just to fulfill certain ‘demands’ in line with the ‘Changing times’?
Instructively and for the wrong reasons, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and all that identify with the Party are hailing the largely and roundly condemned Tribunal ruling. Some fellow Nigerians also would toe the line of the ruling Party; they may even ask me: “if na you nko?”
But I like the spirit of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in this matter. Governor Wike is taking the ruling in his stride; and his party and people of the state are only smarting for the outcome of the appeal filed by the governor; after which they may need to return to the poll rerun to reaffirm their mandate to the governor. The outcome may just become the needed opportunity for a final grand whipping of the APC out of the South South state; for in the words of the PDP Governors Forum, if elections are held 100 times in Rivers State, PDP will still win. May be then it would become more apt to declare that, indeed, changing times are here! In every description, the state is PDP’s territory.


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