The sustained vitriolic attacks and despicable campaign of calumny against the Nigerian judiciary and the presidency over the judgments delivered by the Governorship Election Tribunals of Akwa Ibom and Rivers States by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its appendages in the media and the civil society should be deprecated by every truth loving person in Nigeria.
It is beyond political partisanship and affiliation.
Those who violently raped and emasculated this country for several years before the historic election of President Muhammadu Buhari, should be reminded that Nigerians rejected their criminal proclivities resoundingly at the polls and voted overwhelmingly for change.
The endless cries of the sons of perdition and the daughters of the Philistine against the nullification of the internationally condemned make-believe governorship election in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States amounts to dancing on the graves of the innocent citizens of this country who were cruelly murdered by the agents of election robbers on April 11th, 2015. Those seeking to subvert the course of justice through mischievous propaganda and premeditated attacks on the judiciary should know that they have the blood of innocent Nigerians on their hands.
We cannot forget so soon the indisputable fact that the so-called governorship election in the two States was characterised by snatching of election materials, mass disenfranchisement of eligible voters, violence, arson, blood letting, murders, kidnappings, and other illicit acts unprecedented in the history of elections in Nigeria. The Tribunals of both States were confronted and presented with hard facts and incontrovertible evidence. In Akwa Ibom State, two security agencies, namely; the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) wrote compelling reports on what they observed during the purported April 11th election in the State.
For emphasis and clarity, the observation part of the NSCDC report which was tendered and admitted as Exhibit 12 at the Tribunal is reproduced below:
"It has been observed clearly, that the general conduct of the April 11th Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections was not properly conducted by [INEC] by all standards, it appears INEC had a close relationship with the sitting authority in the State. Thuggery, killings,and snatching of election materials was above average. Therefore, the general conduct of the Election on April 11th, 2015 Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections was marred with high level of violence and killings."
Also tendered and admitted by the Akwa Ibom Tribunal was Exhibit 337 which is the Certified True Copy of the report of the Nigeria Police Force on the said election duly signed by Assistant Inspector General (AIG) B. A. Bolanta, NPM, fwc, supervising AIG, Akwa Ibom State Command. The report is littered with incidences of violence, killings, kidnappings, macheting, snatching of ballot papers, etc. It is instructive to note that the Nigeria Police Force, the 5th respondent in the case, did not defend the petition. Despite being served with processes, the police declined to defend the 'election' at the Tribunal.
No evidence was led by the Respondents (Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, PDP, and INEC) to discredit or contradict Exhibits 12 and 337.
In the case of Rivers State, officers of the Nigerian Army who monitored the election in the State gave irresistible evidence at the Tribunal of how violence, murders, arson, and wanton brigandage scuttled the April 11th election in the State. Their testimony was effectively corroborated by Mr. Charles Okoye the Head of Election and Party Monitoring Department of INEC who insisted while testifying at the Tribunal that the Rivers governorship election was "a sham and a mockery of democracy".
Is it not true that the then PDP-led federal government of Goodluck Jonathan aided the rigging of elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States? What are the pretensions about? Were people not killed and houses and properties destroyed during the so-called governorship elections in these States? Why are some people talking as if they were on the moon when democracy was massacred on April 11th in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States? Or did the Nigerian Army, the Police, NSCDC, and international and local observers all conspire to vilify and castigate the so-called elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States?.
No matter how hard those who are lampooning the judiciary and President Buhari may try to harass and blackmail the Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court before whom the decisions of the Akwa Ibom and Rivers Tribunals will be tested, the facts of what transpired on April 11th remains indelible. They may have succeeded in rigging the elections, but they will never succeed in their ongoing dispirited efforts to rig history.
The PDP, Governor Ayo Fayose, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), and their surrogates in the media, etc, should know that apart from the judgment of the court of law, there are two other judgments; the judgment of God and the judgment of posterity.
In an attempt to discredit the judgments of the Tribunals, allusions have continually been made alleging "harassment" of the Akwa Ibom and Rivers State Resident Electoral Commissioners by the Department of State Service (DSS). The questions are: how did the investigation of these persons by the DSS affect the proceedings of the Tribunals? Did the DSS restrain or bar any INEC official from testifying at the Tribunal? Is it not true that the ballot papers purportedly used for the Akwa Ibom State governorship election was wilfully immersed in water to frustrate inspection and forensic analysis by the Petitioners as ordered by the Tribunal? Does such despicable action by a so-called electoral umpire not constitute an electoral offense to warrant him being investigated sequel to a petition by the Petitioners?
Where was Prince Olisa Metuh, Governor Ayo Fayose, and their band of false alarmists when the people of Akwa Ibom were prevented from freely exercising their franchise on April 11th?. Is Governor Fayose who voted for himself during the June 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State aware that aside Mr. Umana Okon Umana of the APC, candidates of two other political parties, namely; Bishop Samuel Akpan of the Accord Party and Etebom Christopher Itiat of the DPP, gave evidence at the Akwa Ibom Governorship Election Tribunal that they were denied the right to vote for themselves which was upheld as the truth by the Tribunal or is he talking simply because he thinks that responsible leadership is all about moving from one local beer parlour to another and sharing rice in the name of "stomach infrastructure"?
Where was Intersociety when innocent Nigerians were killed on April 11th, 2015 in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States? Intersociety's petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria on the so-called "interference" of the Executive with the cases at the Tribunals makes a mockery of the very values that a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) with such a name should represent. Intersociety's petition is nothing but a by-product of 'Stomach Activism'.
Again, it has been suggested that the relocation of the Akwa Ibom and Rivers States Governorship Election Tribunals to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja was in furtherance of a sinister plot to manipulate the outcome of the cases at the Tribunal. This is a very ludicrous and untenable argument. At whose insistence were these Tribunals relocated and what precipitated the applications for their relocation? The President of the Court of Appeal relocated the Tribunals to Abuja because of apparent and manifest security threats and concerns.
In the case of Akwa Ibom State, the PDP had practically turned the premises of the Tribunal in Uyo prior to its relocation to a party secretariat. While the Tribunal sat in Uyo, the PDP consistently mobilised thugs and its supporters in buses to the Tribunal at each sitting. This created a rancorous and tensed atmosphere which deprived the Tribunal of the serenity and decorum that was required for the judges, lawyers and witnesses to effectively attend the Tribunal without fear. Both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have ruled that the relocation of the Akwa Ibom and Rivers State Tribunals was constitutional, lawful, and justifiable given the security challenges in both States. So what is the cacophony about if the highest court of the land has agreed that there was security challenges to warrant the relocation?
How come the PDP is completely silent on the judgment given in favour of its leader in the Senate, Sen. Godswill Akpabio, given that the Tribunal that delivered the judgment (which is now a subject of debate and controversy) in the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial election petition case of Inibehe Okori vs Godswill Akpabio also sat in Abuja? Or is the issue now about the specific part of Abuja where each Tribunal sat? If the Presidency is interfering with the Tribunals why is it that other Tribunals, like that of Delta and Imo States, have given judgment in favour of the PDP?.
We all know that the PDP from inception despised the Card Reader with passion. The reasons are visible to the blind. With Card Reader, 16 will no longer be greater than 19 in Nigeria; with Card Reader, those who have been rigging elections in this country since 1999 will be consigned to the dustbin of history and political oblivion. For the PDP, cohesing and blackmailing the courts to reject Card Reader is a do or die affair.
Simply put, the Card Reader poses an existential threat to all that the PDP represents - rigging, murder, corruption, and other vices inherent in the party. Prior to the election, the party had ferociously resisted the use of the Card Reader. All sorts of dubious propaganda was orchestrated against the Card Reader. In the end, PDP lost and Nigeria won.
Card Reader survived the Executive, it survived the National Assembly, and I believe the Judiciary will be guided by the law and the overriding need to enhance our electoral process in reaching its verdict. From the legal point of view, I had previously written elaborately on why the Supreme Court should uphold the Card Reader therefore it is not necessary to re-argue that in this article. But suffice it so say that returning Nigeria to the pre Card Reader era will deal a deadly blow to our democracy and electoral process.
It is insulting to the collective sanity of the Nigerian people for the very cult of rascals who arrogantly deployed state apparatus, resources, and institutions in rigging the shambolic April 11th, 2015 gubernatorial elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States to be accusing the presidency of "interfering" with the judgments of the Election Tribunals. How come that the APC is unsatisfied with, and is appealing, against the controversial judgment of the Akwa Ibom State Governorship Election Tribunal if indeed the Tribunal's decision was at the behest of the presidency or the APC?.
Nigerians should understand that these unsubstantiated, malicious, and reckless accusations are aimed at infusing disaffection into the minds of gullible members of the public. Clearly, the principal objective of this sinful campaign is to intimidate and blackmail both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Nigeria into giving favourable judgments for the PDP.
May they never succeed.
Inibehe Effiong is a Legal Practitioner and the Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD).