Presidential election yoke upon the judiciary
Sir: Before the February 25 date arrived, it was predicted that the 2023 general elections will be another milestone in Nigeria’s political journey: if effected with transparency and fairness, it will launch Nigeria on the path of democratic consolidation, and if poorly managed; degrade the democratic process further.
Beyond imponderables, the fervour with which the 2023 campaigns were conducted had never been experienced in Nigeria. The emergence of the Labour Party (LP), which was implicitly a Movement was least expected. LP was a revolutionary outlier; anti-norm and anti-old order. Its impetus derived from the authentic national desire for change anchored by the Obidient Movement bulwark.
As legendary Chinua Achebe once remarked, “Nigeria is what it is because its leaders are not what they should be.” Despite her leaders, as Nigerians demanded leadership change –they coveted something markedly different from the erstwhile order. They set out to orchestrate that change by registering massively to vote. They understood fully, that there would be consequences if Nigeria failed to get it right in 2023. They also understood that discontented circumstances required resilience.
Beyond the search for a new genre of leadership, what Nigeria needed most was to embark on true nation-building devoid of past excuses and recriminations. Germane to such desire was how best to orchestrate the long-missing core values and elements of nation-building; namely, genuine self-rule; creating effective and strong governing institutions; cultural match and legitimisation of her diversity; and orchestrating equitable and sustainable strategic development via long-term planning.
Regrettably, in her sixty-three-odd years of independence and return to participatory democracy in 1999, no Nigerian government has been able to offer Nigeria a transformative leadership – the sort that redefines a nation and catapults it from routine to remarkable. 2023 seemingly offered a different vista and hope, more so since the Buhari Administration had in eight years proven most ineffectual.
Nigeria needed to change. Its numerous unmet needs and expectations demanded to be rigorously addressed. Doing so, required a new mindset, a tectonic shift from the old order; and so in the national interest, and not on sectional or primordial considerations.
Despite these concerns, the elections proceeded apace. INEC failed to meet its own benchmarks or pass its self-prescribed litmus test, which it tried to pass off as “technical glitches.”
INEC’s disposition unwittingly set the stage for an election that ought to have been settled via ballot counts to default to the judiciary.
The yoke of salvaging Nigeria’s democracy is now upon the judiciary. It is incumbent on the judiciary to prove Nigerians wrong. Consequently, national interest considerations, above all else, should compel the judiciary.
Oseloka H. Obaze, a diplomat, politician, and governance and public policy expert, is a card-carrying member of the Labour Party.
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