PEPC JUDGMENT: Again, The Judiciary Indicts Itself

EXPRESSO 》》By Steve Osuji

JUDGMENT WITHOUT JUSTICE: It was an unduly long and tiresome pronouncement last Wednesday,  6th of September. One couldn’t help but feel for lead justice,  Simon Tsammani.
For over 12 hours,  he rattled on and on like a cranky molue. The old jurist hurtled endlessly over a rough terrain of arcane legalese. Half the time, half his audience was tired and weary and the other half  dozed. Hardly any one in the hallowed courtroom or without seemed to have joy listening to the labourous proceedings.
Even Tsammani who projected some humour during the months of trial now sounded sombre and dry with no mirth in his voice anymore. No spark of eloquence lit the long rendition. It’s apparent that Tsammani is not a man naturally given to erudition and as he stumbled over the tome of text, it appeared he didn’t prepare the  ruling therefore didn’t internalize it for he had much too much difficulty reading it. From his veiled position, he came out like a man under duress, probably with a gun to his head as he read the judgment.
It should have been Tsammani’s moment in the sun and our judiciary’s finest day in history.  But both Tsammani and his judiciary family chose to convene under an incubus. They couldn’t rise above the mundane and hobbled histrionics. They refused to transcend the movement. It was a day made especially for the likes of Chukwudifu Oputa, Akinola Aguda and Kayode Eso; they would be sneering from the other side of the divide wondering  – what a wasted day in an epoch!

TSAMMANI’S SEANCE SESSION: The Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) had ruled out live television streaming during the long trial. Now why the volte face to allow live television during ruling? Many more Nigerians would have understood this judgment better if they had seen the process leading to it. In the UK, India and even Kenya the other day, livestreaming activities in the court is becoming the norm. Way back in 1973, 40 years ago, the US had put the famous Watergate trials live on television for the world to see and follow. It was live television that gave wings to the fall of President Richard Nixon.
During covid in 2020, most trials were online real time. UK has a bustling YouTube where anyone in the world could go view causes going on live or check the archives. In a few years, judiciaries across the world would have set up online video channels for airing and documenting all courtroom proceedings.
Unless a court has something to hide, live broadcast coverage of proceedings makes it open and transparent. The benefits of this to study, research and practice is unquantifiable. Further, institutions and government systems must increasingly breakdown the old barricades against openness and accountability.
Why would a court adjudicating over a cause of presidential magnitude bulk at showing the world the how and howtofores of reaching what would be an earth-shaking decision? It is for the foregoing reasons that Tsammani’s so-called live ruling on the 6th was as eerie as a séance in a coven of cultists: a noxious voice ululating in a large high-ceilinged chamber filled mostly with people in cultic uniform. It was a surreal environment that produced a spooky result.

 JUDICIARY IN SELF-ANNIHILATION: In the days Nigeria’s judiciary acquitted itself well as the pristine and unassailable third Estate of the realm, hardly any ordinary citizen dared to publicly discuss a major court ruling much more discount it openly. But in the last decade or so, every major ruling from our Appellate and Supreme Court has been matters of open debate and public angst. Judges have opened themselves to odium and public abuse for perverse pronouncements and rogue rulings. We have witnessed the total absence of integrity and the reign of mediocrity.
While rigour, high learning, erudition and gravitas were the hallmarks of great jurists, today we see Supreme Court justices looking scruffy and carrying an unkempt visage. They seem at home in raucous parties and they crave social functions.
Today, corruption has taken over the soul of the judiciary to the point that finding a ‘clean’ person on the bench is an exception rather than the rule.  This is why they have become naked. Even a kindergarten can see through their sham of rulings. Every layman at the street corner can second-guess them, see through their suborned rulings almost always.

JUDGMENT WITHOUT JUSTICE: This explains why where petitioners pray for simple justice, their causes are subverted with legal jargons. These days, you cannot win a high stake petition anymore  (especially election cases), unless you go through the stomach of the judges. They forget that they live in our midst and we know how stupendously affluent many are; especially some of the election tribunal judges since 1999. You will never get justice on the merits of your case – that has almost become the norm in election matters.
Apparently, this PEPC didn’t disappoint. That’s why ruling against Peter Obi and Abubakar Atiku and  in favour of incumbent President Bola Tinubu didn’t surprise many Nigerians. There are so many audaciously incongruous points,  many jagged edges and commonsensical issues made obtuse and  flying against logic. One is the requirement for 25% of votes in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. There are over three precedents laid by the Supreme Court settling this constitutional point. Almost every Nigerian who can read has this information. Yet our eminent jurists threw this issue out with nary a mention of these prior rulings by the apex court. Another small point is the matter of electronic transmission of election results. For about a decade, Nigerians clamoured for constitution review to accommodate this vital ingredient for ensuring transparency and vastly improving the voting process. Hundreds of billions of naira was released to INEC to equip itself and its processes and ensure electronic transmission of results in the 2023 general elections. Prior to election,  INEC assured the whole world it was not only ready to do so, that it would indeed adopt and deploy the technology without fail. But there we were,  one of the jurist unashamedly donned the garb of a defence lawyer and tried to convince the world that INEC was under no obligation to deploy electronic transmission. Even INEC dared not tell us that,  it tells us about a phantom glitch. So what was the purpose of the electoral law review? So much for neutral arbiters!

OLD ORDER: NO DISLODGING THE LEVATHAN: So much is wrong with the PEPC ruling as apparent to even a novice. So much is wrong with our judiciary and so much more is wrong with Nigeria. Of course it all boils down with the old, corrupt order. They are holding Nigeria and all her institutions to ransom. The old order is mortally wounded and has been boxed to a corner. It’s in its last throes of death. For instance,  with the miasma that’s President Tinubu’s educational background (and lack thereof), his serial perjury and dalliance with drugs, he would never be able to stand any election in the US or any decent country.  Yet in Nigeria, the judiciary has continuously propped him up each time his barefaced perjury and mendacity  are challenged in court since 1999. Some judiciary!

GOING FORWARD: The obviously short-changed litigants have proceeded to the apex court. But whichever way this goes, there’s much more to be done if Nigeria must be liberated from the stranglehold of anarchists and kakistocrats. Our electoral laws must be fine tuned some more to entrench more devices that imbue transparency. Electoral matters must be concluded before swearing in; the electoral umpire must go to jail if he’s seen to deliberately  subvert the process, etc. The judiciary must be reformed and fortified to enjoy true independence.
Lastly ,  it is hoped that the Supreme Court would rally to redeem the situation as the petitioners approach its sanctuary.


Feedback:  /08.09.23

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