ATTACKS ON ELECTORAL PROCESS: Politicians fighting for themselves, not Nigeria – Analysts

  • We should determine who governs us, not court – Citizens
  • Courts needed to set records straight – Lawyers


Uba Group

Refusal of Nigerian politicians to freely accept the outcome of electoral contests has been identified as the major reason the Judiciary has come to assume a central role in determining who governs the people rather than the results of the ballot.

Lawyers and politicians who spoke with The Point said many factors such as human causes and other blunders had been hampering the expectation of the people for acceptable elections but added that there was nowhere in the world where elections were adjudged perfect.

They said this just as many of those who were interviewed advised candidates who lost in the recently concluded Presidential election not to plunge the nation into unnecessary chaos, insisting that politicians who were kicking against the conduct of the elections and sponsoring various forms of protests were not doing so in the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians but for their selfish interests.

The experts, however, added that alleged corrupt practices of some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission were also contributing to the rising rejection of election outcomes.

A former Minister of Works and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Lagos State, Adeseye Ogunlewe, knocked INEC for failing to live up to expectations during the presidential elections.

He argued that nobody would have gone to court if INEC had done the right thing.

“There wouldn’t have been any need to go to court because if they transferred the results from the polling units electronically, everybody would have known the results, so there wouldn’t have been a need to go to court. The resolve to do a manual collation of the results caused the problem. If they can reconfigure and transmit all the materials, then the court would have had very little to do. INEC messed up everything and it is causing tension in the nation, it’s a pity.

“They don’t have any excuse. What about the banks that on a daily basis do transactions in millions, and you get an alert? You transact business in banks, ATMs, you get alert, and technology is available. It was their (INEC) problem. Once judgement is delivered, especially by the Supreme Court, that’s the opinion of the judge, we can only criticise it but we cannot say whether it was wrong or not. Even if you say so, how will it affect the decision? They are just like next to God, where do you appeal to? Although they are not infallible, but they are final, either by error or not, it doesn’t matter. If you continue to think about it, you’re just wasting your time because it will never rectify anything.”
As a panacea, Ogunlewe suggested electronic voting, arguing that the world has moved on.

“We lost Lagos, the home state of our presidential candidate, lost Nasarawa, the home state of our National Chairman, lost Kaduna where Governor El-Rufai is like a tin god, lost Plateau State with the Director General of the APCPCC as a sitting governor; even Imo state, where we have an APC governor. Who should be complaining of irregularities in that election if not our party?”

He stated, “We can make sure voters are the ones who choose their leaders through the electronic device. The world has moved far, but it’s a learning process. Maybe next time, we’ll get it better. It’s not rocket science at all. Banks use electronic transactions on a daily basis far more than what INEC has done. Because they are corporate bodies, they cannot afford to fail. But for INEC, whether they fail or not, there’s no sanction, you’ll just wail, cry and wait for the next election but the bank that misbehaves will lose customers who will move on to another.

“There is a lot of competition among them. Maybe there’ll be a time we will outsource our elections to corporate bodies or banks or a consultant. They will do far better than government institutions like INEC who know there’s nothing you can do to them when they fail. Even if they had provided an ordinary telephone for every polling unit and they directed that results be sent to the transmission room as text messages, it will go. How many text messages do we send in a day in every part of Nigeria? They are just very careless people. They did this deliberately. How can they put the whole country into this level of tension? Something you could have avoided but it’s gone, let’s hope for the best.”

Another chieftain of the APC, Yekeen Nabena, asserted that the court had a role to play in a democracy but blamed politicians he described as sore losers for the current situation.

He said, “It is not a normal thing but the courts have a constitutional role to play in everything that involves the laws of our land, including elections. There’s no politician who can behave like former President Goodluck Jonathan. Atiku himself should have behaved like Goodluck. In 2015, I can also remember that Atiku Abubakar was in APC when Goodluck conceded that he lost the election. We were all here in the country. So why then is Atiku now running to court to challenge the outcome of an election he lost? If truly he went into the contest for the love of the country; why fight the decision of the people and try to cause anarchy?

“If he noticed there were things going wrong with the processes before the election, as a lover of the country, he should have pointed it out so that corrections would be made and Nigerians would know that some wrongs were going to happen. He didn’t do that then after elections and the president-elect announced he wants to pull down the country he claims to love even by leading a protest when he is already in court.”

Nabena argued that the 2023 election should not be one in which the winner would be determined by the courts, noting that the APC, even as a ruling party, lost most of its strongholds.

“We lost Lagos, the home state of our presidential candidate, lost Nasarawa, the home state of our National Chairman, lost Kaduna where Governor El-Rufai is like a tin god, lost Plateau State with the Director General of the APCPCC as a sitting governor; even Imo state, where we have an APC governor. Who should be complaining of irregularities in that election if not our party?”

“I want to tell you that the last option any politician has is the court. We have seen in Bayelsa State where an APC governorship candidate won an election in 2019 and a day before his inauguration, the Supreme Court nullified his election on a technical ground and forced a PDP governor on us. The truth is that people forget so fast. The only person we had to appeal to at that time is God and that is for four years and that is what we have done,” he said.

Spokesperson for the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, also told The Point: “It is unfortunate that matters in a democratic setup end up in the court but with all due respect to our courts, we have belief and trust in them; but they are being manipulated by the politicians. And so, that breeds some doubts on the part of the electorate.


“Today, the Nigerian electorate are looking up to the Judiciary to do the right thing, considering the fact that many people are just too ready to manipulate the system.”

He tackled the electoral umpire, saying if the umpire had done the right thing, nobody would go to the court.

“If they do the right thing, the Nigerian people will benefit, they themselves will benefit and democracy will equally thrive but the idea of subjecting these processes to the whims and caprices of the courts are actually unbecoming and that has to do with the situation of having the right processes not being adhered to,” he said.

Tanko regretted that the just conducted February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections turned around to be a major discouragement to the Nigerian youths who he said had, notwithstanding previous elections, made up their minds to participate fully in the exercise.

“Like I said, what happened portends danger to our democracy, particularly, the Nigerian youth whose hope had been raised and then dashed. There is danger ahead of us and I believe the Judiciary should tread carefully because the life span of our democracy lies in their hands. If they treat it well, we will survive it, if they don’t treat it fine, there may be a total breakdown of law and order, especially on the part of INEC,” he stated.

In an interview with The Point, a lawyer, Olamiji Martins, said it would be difficult to find politicians who would accept the outcome of an election when they lose, saying that it was only former President Goodluck Jonathan that had lost the presidential poll, accepted defeat and congratulated the winner since 1983 when the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, challenged the victory of the late President Shehu Shagari in court.

He said, “We can’t rule out the role of the Judiciary in our electoral process in Nigeria. Since Awolowo challenged the victory of Shagari in court, there have been presidential electoral litigations, except for 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan called President Muhammadu Buhari and congratulated him after losing the election. The roles of the Judiciary in our electoral laws have become sacrosanct. For instance, in the case of Bashir Machina and Senate President Ahmad Lawan, the Supreme Court nullified Machina’s victory at the primary election because his lawyer filed originating summons instead of a writ of summon. That was on technical ground because if the court had looked at the merit of the case, Machina would have won.

“So, you can’t separate our electoral processes from judicial litigations because as it was in the past, so it is and so shall it be forever except if there is nothing called the Judiciary anymore. Instead of ventilating anger on the streets and causing violence, it’s better for politicians to go to court.”

“Even as civilised as America is, there are still election litigations there. No election can be 100 per cent perfect as long as human factors exist. Humans are prone to errors. You can only hear of “free and fair election” but you can’t hear “perfect, free and fair election” because of human factors,” he added.

On the role of INEC, Martins said, “The role of INEC as the electoral umpire is something that should be called into question. The INEC Chairman did promise that no error would come up as regards election results but let me say that he was over-excited because he might not have known that testing something in a particular state doesn’t mean that it would be effective at the national level where election would be done across the country at the same time.”

The lawyer also argued that some INEC officials were corrupt and gave themselves up for manipulations, adding that should the ugly trend continue, the nation would not escape election disputes littering the courts.

“Don’t forget that some of these INEC officials are not saints and they can’t imbibe the vision of the INEC chairman for a free and fair election. There is nepotism there, bribery, people who have secured interest, agents collecting money, and other human factors that may make rubbish of an election no matter how much effort you put in there.

“The saving grace that the INEC chairman enjoys is that the issue of the uploading of election results online is not in our Electoral Act, 2022 as Amended. The only regret I have is that it was INEC that gave his words that everything would be done electronically.

“I want to advise that because of the peculiarities of Nigerian politics, we should tread softly and should not bite more than we can chew and we should not undertake or give promise when we know that it is not humanly possible or some circumstances can make things to change,” he admonished.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party from one of the South-South states admitted that politicians rather than the courts or INEC were to blame for the “ugly development.”

“If you are looking for the reasons, don’t go too far. We politicians are to blame for the ugly development. You cannot blame the Judiciary. The court will not come to you; it is you who will always go to the court. And you cannot blame the umpire either. The rules are already set. They try, most of the time, about 90 per cent to follow the rules. But do you know that politicians are always looking for ways to violate the rules thinking they will get away with it. But when another person says no, I won’t agree, and then the court comes in and in the process, we the politicians are indirectly outsourcing the mandate to govern or rule or lead the people for a given period of time to the courts of law. Outsourcing because when the court will scrutinise whatever has happened in the process of adjudication, that power to confer mandate on an individual would have been passed to the court of law to exercise,” he explained.

He argued that until politicians learned to be free, fair and credible in their dealings, electoral matters would always go to the law courts for final determination.

“Yes, you may argue that the court is merely affirming the position of the majority of the people during the election; the truth is that the moment the court decides to sit on an electoral case, the outcome cannot be said to be a 100 per cent decision of the electorate again. The court comes in as a catalyst, giving authority and a seal of approval to the efforts of the electorate.

“But in many cases these days, people are worried. The decisions are becoming controversial and becoming veritable topics for news reviews, analysis, criticisms etc. Any pronouncement that is largely criticised is not because people hate the judge or one of the parties, it is because the people, even as unlearned people, know what is right and what is wrong. So, when what is patently wrong comes out of the judicial forge as shining and attractive, people don’t applaud, they grumble loudly,” he noted.

“We can’t rule out the role of the Judiciary in our electoral process in Nigeria. Since Awolowo challenged the victory of Shagari in court, there have been presidential electoral litigations, except for 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan called President Muhammadu Buhari and congratulated him after losing the election. The roles of the Judiciary in our electoral laws have become sacrosanct”


A public affairs analyst, Ifeoma Ogbonna, said that “selfishness” and “obsession with power” were two of the reasons for the growing cases of election disputes in Nigeria.

Ogbonna, who is also a Port Harcourt-based chartered accountant, noted that such election disputes were usually not in the interest of the people, adding that the situation would continue to get worse because Nigerian politicians were “irredeemable” and “have no honour”.

Ogbonna said, “If you check very well, selfishness and dangerous obsession with power are two of the reasons we have the growing cases of election disputes in Nigeria. Sadly, when an election matter is before a court, it is really not in the interest of the masses but that of politicians. And the bad thing about the situation is that it will continue to get worse because politicians are irredeemable. This is why I always advocate for Nigerian youths to retire the unprofitable ones.

“These politicians would do anything to get to the top. They will crush you even if you are a member of their family who stands against their ambition. They have no honour. None will accept defeat and call their fellow contestant who wins an election to congratulate him or her. They simply think about what they stand to lose if they do that, and continue with their litigation.”

Ogbonna also observed that because of the animosity in the polity, the courts would continue to decide who leads or rules the country, noting that the Judiciary had become a tool in the hands of politicians to use to “jettison the will of the people”.

“Politicians don’t respect themselves, and the Judiciary has become a willing tool in their hands to jettison the will of the people. Look at what happened in Imo State with Hope Uzodimma, for instance,” she said.

To an Owerri-based political critic and lawyer, Ihejirika Emeka, the court is an integral part of the country and one of the arms of government.

He said, “What the courts do is to set the records straight. The courts tell you what is right, what has been done well and what has not been done well. In this present election, the Labour Party is alleging that the APC rigged the election, that Peter Obi won the election.

“If he presents evidence and the court sees that evidence is overwhelming, then they will toe his line. We are not saying there is no corrupt justice but our mindset should be that the courts are there to put the records straight; they might not be there to take sides.”

“So, since you have the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, the court is there to interpret the laws. If there’s a dispute as to who takes what position in the Executive, they bring it to the Judiciary because their work then is to take a decision based on constitutional provision,” he stated.