The judgment of the Ogun State Election Petition Tribunal in Ogun State in the petition of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) governorship candidate remains a sore point in the court trials of the April elections.
According to media reports, the Tribunal struck out the petition on the ground that the petitioner did not disclose his party, age, educational qualification and nationality.
This is a surprise. It did not show that the members on that panel appreciate the magnitude of the problem that the flawed April elections have caused the country.
Since those elections that were condemned worldwide because of the irregularities that characterised them, Nigeria has remained a pariah nation in the comity of nations. In spite of the efforts of President Yar’Adua who has admitted the flaws in the elections, the international community still relate with Nigeria from a long distance
Between 1999 and 2007, Nigeria made giant strides in correcting its pariah status which the government of General Sani Abacha conferred on her. However, the gains of the eight years have been frittered away by the impunity with which the April elections were rigged in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Local and international observers of the election were unanimous that the election was flawed. Ditto the Nigerian media.
The public outcry that greeted the election was tempered by the conviction that the patriotic Nigerian judiciary would do justice in the petitions filed before it by aggrieved victims of the elections.
These expectations were frustrated with the kind of judgment coming out of Ogun State. In this age, it is incredible that an Election Petition Tribunal will strike out petitions purely on technical grounds. It is worse that such ground was the failure of the Counsel to the candidate indicating the candidate’s age and party. Media has reported that the same Tribunal struck out 25 of ANPP’s 32 petitions on technical grounds.
Election rigging constitutes a serious threat to the survival of democracy in Nigeria. It should be confronted with all seriousness and dismissing petitions on flimsy excuses should be avoided.
The big question that should agitate the mind of the Tribunal panels is whether those who were declared winners of the election truly won election or not. This should be the concern of Tribunals to ensure that outcomes of elections reflect the true intent of the electorates. It will be tragic for the nation if the electorate lose faith in the intervention of the judiciary.
It is sad that the Tribunal in Ogun State did not appreciate this. We hope that the Court of Appeal will do this and restore the faith of Nigerians in the election tribunals.
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