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When tomorrow comes, can Pontius Pilate remove Caesar? by Jude Eze

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As the nation awaits the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal tomorrow, Nigerians are holding their breath in anticipation of justice being served. The outcome of this judgement will determine whether the purported winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential election, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is indeed deserving of the title. With the weighty eligibility encumbrances and legitimacy albatrosses surrounding his victory, Nigerians are yearning for a fair and transparent resolution.

A nation, supposedly “built on the principles of justice and equity,” expects nothing less than an unbiased verdict from the respected Tribunal. Nigerians believe that this judgement will not only determine the fate of the alleged winner but will also serve as a litmus test for the country’s democratic process.

As the saying goes, “Justice is blind,” and we expect it will not be swayed by any external influence or pressure. We are expecting that the judgement will be based on the merits of the case and not on jargonistic technicalities.

The second and final part of the holy book of christian religion began with four books of Gospel. While the first three were synoptic (identical or similar in presentation), the last being the Gospel of St. John presented a unique plot that drew more elaborate attention to the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was more eschatologic.

In the 18th and 19th chapters of his gospel, John painted two interesting scenes of the world’s justice order. Pontius Pilate, the Governor-General and executioner of justice, as the country representative of Caesar — the Roman colonial overlord of the time, found Jesus innocent of all the charges leveled against him. But the Jews insisted that he be sentenced, simply because some pharisaic aristocrats incited in them the falsehood that Jesus blasphemed in his teachings. At that point, Pilate discretely sought an escape route to set Jesus free without incuring their wrath.

So he told them that in line with their custom, it is mandatory that he grant amnesty to one criminal (prisoner) during annual feast of Passover. He vetoed to use that prerogative to free Jesus. But the Jews preferred and insisted on Barabbas — a notorious bandit instead (Jn. 18:38-40). They preferred injustice over justice. In the words of Fulton Sheen, the Venerable Archbishop of Florida, “Ever since that fateful day, man had, sadly, continued to silence justice and extol injustice.”

This led to the second phase of the portrayal of temporal justice order. As the trial proceeded after a prolonged inter-transfer of jurisdictions between Pilate and Herod, Pilate openly declared that he couldn’t find a single ground upon which to sentence the innocent Man — Jesus. At that instance, the wailing crowd blackmailed him with a colonial infringement threats. They said:
“This man pronounced himself a king. And it constitutes a direct contempt on Caesar.”
By playing this colonial card, the people placed Pilate in a tight spot. He had to decide to risk abdication of his seat as governor, which entails forfeiture of his political fortunes by acquitting Christ, or sentence him and remain in Caesar’s good book.

As he weighed the options, his confusion increased. Somehow, he choose what every average politician would have chosen under such instance — he moved to save his career, and slammed death by crucifixion on Christ Jesus.

Tomorrow, the 06 day of September 2023, in the hilly city of Abuja, another state trial starres on the modern world.
A five panel of Court of Appeal Justices would choose, between justice and injustice, between patriotism and parochialism in our national political history.

This election under review, saw an unprecedented number of youth participation. Mr. Peter Obi’s commanding aura and disarming personality was a huge rebait to the Nigerian youths fatigued by the fraudulent 2019 general elections. He restored hope on the youthful population and challenged them to “take back their country” by revolutionary ballots. They came out in their numbers, endured the harshness of the elements and guarded their electoral franchise jealously.

But in the dead of the night, while the nation slept, the enemies of democracy came and stole their mandate, leaving behind, a trail of severed scion of injustice which the contestants in the election are seeking and hoping to redress in the court tomorrow.

Never in our history has presidential election been free and fair. Yet no tribunal has ever mustered the courage to remove any president produced through an apparently flawed election.
Even the so-called “free and fair” 2015 election that brought in Muhammad Buhari was marred by widespread rigging and underage voting up north, but President Jonathan conceded defeat citing fear of impending implosion that his continued presidency would bring by the embittered opposition coalition of the time.

The reason why citizens are gasping in apprehension about tomorrow is simply due to the initial signs of foul play exhibited by the tribunal at the commencement of the trial. Their refusal to allow live streaming of the proceedings was a negative tide against the free flow of current of justice. It irritates sane minds that they had now elected to televise the judgement pronouncement session tomorrow, “when the deed is already done in the dark.”

Veteran Journalist and public policy analyst, Charles Ogbu preempted a bad judicial outing tomorrow and said: “Despite pleas from millions of Nigerians, and argument by Counsels to the Petitioners, the Court of Appeal refused to televise the PEP proceeding for the whole world to see how they arrive at whatever decision they would arrive at, but now that they have finished cooking their agbado food, they now want to televise it to give it the cloak of transparency and credibility.”

Are we supposed to teach our “learned” justices that the process is almost always more important than the result? If you genuinely want to do justice, then you must make yourself seen to be doing that.

Transparency and accountability are the pillars upon which a strong democracy is built. The people of Nigeria expect these principles to be upheld by the tribunal, ensuring that no stones are left unturned in the pursuit of truth. As former American President Abraham Lincoln aptly stated, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

The hopes of Nigerians rely on the Tribunal’s ability to shed light on the alleged illegitimacy questions clouding the victory of President Tinubu. They hold the responsibility of unravelling any irregularities, ensuring a fair assessment of the electoral processes.

As the eminent South African leader Nelson Mandela once stated, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” They have to exhaustively address any alleged intimidation, voter suppression, or irregularity that may have marred the electoral process — the Rivers magic, the Lagos broad daylight robbery, etc. By doing so, justice becomes the beacon that guides Nigerians towards a fair and democratic society.

Drawing a conclusion without examining the facts is an endeavor that can lead to grave consequences.

Furthermore, Nigerians are hoping that the tribunal will not only provide justice but also send a message that corruption will not be tolerated in the country, no matter who the perpetrator may be. India’s Mahatma Gandhi counseled: “Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.”

As the nation eagerly awaits the judgement in less day 24 hours, Tinubu’s alleged victory at the February poll demands a transparent and unbiased assessment of the electoral processes. The tribunal carries the weight of the nation’s hopes and aspirations, ensuring that truth prevails and democracy thrives; for justice is the only solace, illuminating the path to a stronger and more democratic Nigeria.

May daylight spare us!

✍️ Jude Eze.

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