Overview and analysis of the PEPC judgement—My view
By Godson Moneke
Wednesday 6th September, 2023 was the date the presidential election petitions court (PEPC) gave the judgement on the three petitions before it which arose from the the February 25, presidential election in Nigeria. There is a reason the judiciary is called the last hope of the common man despite it being the physically weakest of the three branches of government. However, in this weakness lies it’s hidden strength. I see the judiciary as the most powerful of the three branches of government because it is often called upon to moderate the excesses of the other two branches to prevent them from going overboard. Merit and competence are given primacy in judicial appointments unlike in the other branches where much consideration is given to populism. The judiciary is seen as the most respected branch of government because it does not take sides with any of the parties whenever it is called upon to adjudicate disputes between them. They are nonpartisan and people look up to them for succor. WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN IF HE GAINS THE WHOLE WORLD BUT LOSES HIS SOUL. But how do you rate a Nigerian judiciary which is always eager to descend into the arena of dispute and take sides with one of the parties? Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This disease has infected the Nigerian judiciary, it urgently needs to be cured.
When a people lose confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary in the ecosystem, the system is courting anarchy. The judgement of the judiciary is supposed to be very unpredictable because being versed in the laws, the judges interpret them devoid of emotions and sentiments. But where judgments are predictable and interested parties goad the injured to go to court dismissive of the predictable outcomes, it should worry all, especially the judges because they are losing it. Democracy is anchored on the rule of law with judges as gatekeepers but if the citadel of justice is corrupt, what will happen to the body polity? It will rotten and collapse!!! Therefore, the judiciary has to sit up and be alive to its responsibilities before the whole edifice collapses on its head as HISTORY WILL NOT FORGIVE IT FOR A WILLFUL SIN OF OMISSION AND COMMISSION. It is in the above light that I see the the judgement of the five man PEPC as bothering on rascality. They could still have arrived at whatever judgement they wanted using the laws and giving more solid and informed reasons. What they did on that day was akin to adopting the written addresses of the respondents as their judgement. It is very disgraceful. The language of their judgement was vexatious, vile, vulgar and discourteous. To give a judgement that looks like an advocacy for one of the parties is befuddling and brazen.
What with the rogue HEADER, TPLT ON CERTIFIED COPIES OF THE JUDGEMENT? What kind of careless and indefensible TELLTALE SIGN Is that? Mind you, TPLT is the acronym for TINUBU PRESIDENTIAL LEGAL TEAM which coordinated the the legal challenge of the current president of Nigeria at the presidential election petitions court. I have listened to the explanations of Mr Ogala of the TPLT on why the header appeared on the certified copy of the judgement but he sounded unintelligible, unconvincing and puerile. He called it a WATERMARK which exposed the level of his ignorance and idiocy. It is better for a foolish man to keep quiet in a gathering than to speak and expose his ignorance and stupidity.
Now, let us look at the graphic sketch and adumbration of some of the issues raised in the election petitions which the court dismissed. 1) The FORFEITURE raised in the petition is a CIVIL FORFEITURE but this fact does not make it any less CRIMINAL than a criminal forfeiture. The major difference between a CIVIL FORFEITURE and a CRIMINAL FORFEITURE is that in a civil forfeiture procedure, only the ASSET is involved and the culprit does not take a PLEA OR STAND TRIAL as would happen in a criminal forfeiture procedure. Forfeiture trials whether civil or criminal are CRIMINAL CASES. Example of civil forfeiture trial is what the federal government is doing with DEZZIANI ALLISON MADUEKE , a former minister of petroleum resources during the presidency of Goodluck E. Jonathan . FORFEITURE IS A FINE AND DISPOSSESSION OF AN ASSET. The case is between the STATE AND THE CULPRIT. It is difficult to subsequently arrest the culprit and charge him with criminal forfeiture when you have already taken a civil forfeiture proceeding against him having regard to the law on DOUBLE JEOPARDY. Therefore, we must bear in mind that CIVIL FORFEITURE TRIAL IS NOT A CIVIL TRIAL AND THE OFFENSE IS NOT A CIVIL OFFENSE. It is therefore fraudulent for any JURY to dismiss it as a CIVIL OFFENSE. 2) You open a bank account in your name, address, phone number, social security number, passport photograph, thumbprint and bank verification number (BVN) , Etc. It is therefore laughable for any jury to attempt to separate you from from such bank account because YOU CAN SUE AND BE SUED THROUGH YOUR BANK ACCOUNT. 3).
Also, I find it scandalous that a jury would rely on a REPLY TO A LETTER FROM THE US CONSULATE, WITHOUT SEEING THE ORIGINATING LETTER BY THE NIGERIAN IGP. 4) FORGERY IS A VERY SERIOUS CRIME BECAUSE IT IS THE BASTION OF DISHONESTY AND CRIMINALITY. Therefore, when an allegation of forgery is leveled against anybody, you don’t just dismiss it with a wave of the hand. The constitution talks of SUBMISSION OF FORGED CERTIFICATE TO INEC. The constitution does not say anything about where you graduated from. That is a classical case of OBFUSCATION to divert the argument from the main issue. It is more worrisome when the allegation of forgery derives from documents obtained through a court process involving the UNIVERSITY AND A COURT . No letter was received from the university authenticating the certificate which is the subject of the dispute. On what then did the jury base its decision that the certificate was not forged? When there are two documents, one or both cannot be genuine. Which is the genuine certificate, the one submitted by the presidential candidate to INEC or the one obtained from the university through the court process? It is not difficult to get the answer. The PEPC judges should not take Nigerians for fools. The information obtained from the university which the presidential candidate claimed to be his describes the candidate as as AMERICAN CITIZEN (Black American) but the candidate filled in the INEC FORM that he is not. Information obtained from the university described the candidate as a FEMALE but the candidate who filled the INEC Form is a MALE. Shouldn’t it AROUSE CURIOSITY OF THE JURY? This is commonsensical and does not require the INTELLIGENCE OF A GENIUS. THE ISSUE IS AUTHENTICATING THE CERTIFICATE WHICH WAS PRESENTED TO INEC AND AFFIRM THAT IT IS NOT A FORGERY. IT IS DIFFERENT FROM CONFIRMING WHETHER SOMEONE ATTENDED AND GRADUATED FROM THE UNIVERSITY. What is happening now is like somebody who is asked to write about Jesus Christ, choosing on his own to write about his disciple, Peter . They are two different things. But, what is tedious in the university simply authenticating a certificate purportedly issued to their graduate by them instead of the present rigmarole? The university is putting up suspicious behavior.
Until recently, most universities were in the habit of issuing certificates about five years in arrears. Most graduates make do with ATTESTATION LETTERS during this period. It is possible that when the certificates are eventually issued, the Vice Chancellor at the time of graduation may have left office such the certificate is signed by the new Vice Chancellor. The new signatories put the date they append their signatures on the certificates to authenticate and clear any doubts. This ought to reflect on the reissued certificate presented by the presidential candidate. By the way, knowing fully well the controversy surrounding his university credentials during his governorship era and knowing that between 1999 and 2020 he could have sat for NECO OR GCE AS A PRIVATE CANDIDATE and presented same to INEC. What is required is evidence of attempting the exam and not whether the person passed it. . Why go this current route with the attendant controversies and embarrassment? It is obvious that the presidential candidate in question while adept at political maneuvering is lacking in planning and foresight. When the National Assembly was considering amending the 1999 constitution (as amended) to provide for university degree or equivalent as the minimum academic qualification for presidential candidates, one of the presidential candidates who saw himself as the target of the proposed constitutional amendment quickly enrolled with a university in the UK and obtained a Master’s degree. That is what is called PLANNING AND FORESIGHT.
I have supported the Progressive Brand of politics for as long as I can remember because I believed that the future of Nigeria rested in that political ideology. For example, I supported the UPN, the SDP, the AD, the AC, the ACN, the CPC and the APC until 2019 when they used the instruments of State to win a presidential election it was obvious they lost. I loathe injustice no matter who the victim is. You do not have to win an election at all costs and that was why people like us detested the DO or DIE POLITICS of the Obasanjo and Iwu era. Regrettably, I saw that Buhari was not better than those he spent a greater part of his life criticizing. What a Hypocrisy!!! He was even worse!!! I never supported the PDP until 2019 because Buhari betrayed the ideals of Progressive Politics which I believed in. I saw in Atiku, a progressive politician in the PDP so I switched my support which is always unwavering to him. I supported Atiku in 2007 when he contested under in 2007 under the AC, then in 2019 and now in 2023 under the PDP. By the way, political parties in Nigeria are not identifiable by any ideology and that is why it is easy to switch political parties without any qualms. Political parties in Nigeria are used merely as vehicles for winning elections and gaining political power, SIMPLICITA!!! Since 1999, I have come to see Tinubu as a symbol of Progressive Politics in Nigeria but I doubt if I can say so now considering his metamorphosis over the past eight years. It was the legendary Williams Shakespeare who said that there is no art for reading the mind from the construction of the face. It was my grandmother who advised me that a true friend is known by how he uses power given to him, whether financial power or political power. Just like Buhari, Tinubu has shown that he is provincial politician no matter how he labors to mask it. Apart from the fact that he used Buhari to attain power, I do not see him as ULTRA CONSERVATIVE and FUNDAMENTALIST as Buhari. When people accuse him of nepotism in the appointments he is making, they forget that he borrowed it from the PLAYBOOK of Buhari before him. Why didn’t these people SHOUT AND MAKE NOISE when Buhari was giving out all the JUICY POSITIONS to his northern FULANI MUSLIMS? Is it because TINUBU is a YORUBA MAN that these hypocrites are suddenly waking up? While I want a president who sees the whole country as his constituency like Atiku , a greater blame for the current nepotistic rule of Tinubu should go to Buhari because he started it. Even at that, Tinubu will always be better than Buhari because, he will only appoint brilliant and qualified persons who can add value to the job unlike Buhari who gave appointments to persons who could barely write their names provided such persons were northern Fulani Muslims . It is little wonder that the greatest heist in Nigeria happened during the eight years of Buhari presidency and he saw nothing wrong with it. Tinubu has a right to appoint whom he knows can do the job irrespective of where he comes from. But I believe that there are capable hands outside the Yoruba ethnic group after all, it is Nigeria’s resources that are being managed not Yoruba resources but don’t forget, Buhari started it all !!!
I do not have an apocalyptic wish for my country no matter what but I want the right thing to be done. Let me make it clear that I have no problems with any of the eighteen presidential candidates being declared winner of the election but I insist that the laws and due process must be followed. The stakes are too high to allow HOOKS AND CROOKS to come into play. Going by the judgement delivered by the PEPC, it is now INEC and not the people that determines the victor in any electoral contest in Nigeria. If the people have no say in who governs them, why waste their time and resources on something that is more of a smokescreen?
The judiciary by their actions seem to be encouraging fraud and irresponsibility by INEC. It appears that the judges are reluctant to check INEC and thus allow them a free rein. The question remains; who checks INEC? The current situation is antithetical to democratic tenets. Are the court ABDICATING THEIR ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES ? Where is the system of checks and balance in all these? The judiciary has some questions to answer here and they owe the people some explanations. INEC violated the 2022 electoral act and all the subsidiary legislations arising from it yet the PEPC did not find anything wrong with it. The 2022 electoral act gave INEC the powers to make make rules and regulations guiding it actions AND AFFAIRS but the PEPC wants Nigerians to believe that those subsidiary legislations meant nothing and cannot be relied upon by Nigerians to hold INEC accountable. The PEPC thus presented INEC as an Institution without any accountability which squander peoples money, waste their time and deceive them in the bargain. This is reprehensible before equity, good conscience and commonsense.
I believe that while all eyes should be on the judiciary because of the public interest the presidential election result has generated to keep them on their TOES, it should not be overdone to amount to STAMPEDING, INTIMIDATION AND BLACKMAIL. What is important is to listen to elegant arguments of the lawyers to the parties before the judges and draw independent conclusions from them. People are advised not to comment and give opinions on matters before the courts but that was not the case from what I saw and read. We must not allow emotions to take the better part of us as to cast aspersions on the judges handling your case. You unwittingly make them your enemies by doing so and it is not advisable. Too many cooks spoil the FOOD . You can report proceedings in the courts without passing judgements. The proceedings in courts are solemn and people should stop goading the judges or justices as the cases may be. Allow the lawyers to be in control and stop behaving as if you know what they know or even more.
FINALLY, let me make clear that I deprecate the judgement of the PEPC judges especially their logic on the requirement of 25% in Abuja. I believe they stood that provision of the constitution on its head when they argued that the 25% requirement for FCT will make residents or indigenes of FCT to enjoy a superior status to the rest of Nigerians. Their reasoning is a red herring as that section of the constitution does not suggest such absurdity. The judges are to interpret the constitution as it is and not to rule on the propriety of that section with a view to striking it down. That is the requirement of the constitution whether it is good, bad or unreasonable. It is not in the place of the judges of the PEPC to revise the constitution. This amongst others mentioned earlier, reinforced my position that the judgement of the PEPC was not a REASONED JUDGEMENT.
Godson O. Moneke, a registered quantity surveyor, economist, sociologist, administrator and sociopolitical advocate wrote from Abuja. Readers are permitted to share.