Last weekend a judicial bombshell was surprisingly dropped in Nairobi, Kenya. It was indeed, from all indications, one monumental electoral verdict with continental implications. Four out of six Supreme Court Justices in the East African country had reached the historic decision that validated the opposition position that the recently-conducted presidential poll did not sufficiently comply with the country's constitutional provisions. Therefore, it was declared invalid, null and void! The apex judicial authority ordered that a fresh election is held within a period of two months.
Days before the hotly-contested Kenyan presidential election, Chris Msando, the Information Technology Manager at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), was found murdered! He had declared before he was cornered and tortured to death by reactionary forces bent on rigging the poll that the election of this year would not be manipulated as before because of the IT mechanisms put in place. Alas, he was taken out for good before he could put his anti-rigging measures to work. The election was neither free nor fair and it appeared from the look of things that IEBC just awarded victory to Uhuru to maintain the status quo.
The incumbent President, Uhuru Kenyatta, had said that though he disagreed with the novel ruling he would respect it the same. The opposition strongholds in the capital city and elsewhere it was jubilation galore, dozens of opposition members were killed following the electoral commission's declaration of the President re-elected with 54 percent to Raila Odinga's 46 percent.
But Odinga and his opposition NASA coalition had strongly objected to the declared figures, citing irregularities and manipulation of figures for the ruling party. They had alleged hacking of returns. Initially, Odinga had not wanted to use the constitutional means to obtain justice having lost faith in the judicial system.
Electoral violence in Kenya along ethnic lines had festered in 2010 when the then President Mwai Kibaki was awarded a fraudulent victory over the veteran opposition figure. Thousands were subsequently killed in the aftermath of the contested electoral decision. And thousands more were made homeless and thousands more wounded! The country was seriously divided and 'wounded' socioeconomically and politically.
Presidential elections in Africa are like a war fought with and without guns and roses. In Nigeria, like elsewhere in the poor continent souls, was always sent to the great beyond by agents of those big men hell-bent on ruling and stealing for their generations yet unborn! Yet the continent has never improved because of mediocrity and class looting. Desperation is the name of the game and whatever or whoever is found to be standing between them and power is swiftly dealt with.
This is about the first time in Africa that a Supreme Court would be intervening forcefully and commendably positively righting a perceived electoral wrong on the side of the opposition. In Nigeria, presidential elections have been rigged right from the Obasanjo second coming in 1999. As usual, nothing ever came out of the protestations of the opposition. The Supreme Court in Abuja was populated by Justices playing dangerous politics with the future of our generation! When a President is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of appointing the Chief Justice of the country, justice could be compromised on the altar of politics.
Raila Odinga could be compared to the Ghana’s current President, Nana Akufo-Addo, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, and the former President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade. These opposition politicians had tried and failed more than once to capture power democratically but never lost hope. They continued to push until victory came their way. Odinga is almost desperate to rule Kenya and he has been trying for years to occupy the executive seat without much success. Buhari tried three times and failed (sorry was rigged out) only to succeed in the fourth final attempt in 2015. Akufo-Addo and Wade equally gave it their very best but fell short until sweet victory came their way. Wade ruled Senegal for close to ten years, and Ghana now has Nana as President.
Last year, it would be recalled, the Department of State Services in Nigeria had beamed its searchlight on some senior Judges suspected to be collecting hefty bribes to give favorable judgments to politicians. Some high-profile Justices were arrested in a dawn raid in their residences as investigations were launched to unearth certain judicial indiscretions committed by the Lordships across the federation. It is needless saying here that the Nigerian justice system in general stinks; it is broken in the recent past and even present day! Reforming is just as imperative as the battle against graft gathers confusing momentum. When justice is denied, violence could be instigated, as the cheated party seeks to take the laws into their own hands.
But all cannot be considered negative in our embattled country. The gubernatorial 'war' in Rivers State involving the former Governor (and now Transportation Minister) Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi was 'won' by the opposition through the instrumentality of the justice system. Amaechi had obtained victory on technical grounds even when he never stood for any election as a candidate -- having been illegally and unjustly shoved aside by the godfathers and the PDP apparatchiks in both Port Harcourt and Abuja.
And in Anambra State, the former Governor Peter Obi equally had to use the law to foil his unlawful impeachment bouncing back to power by the strength of a judicial pronouncement in his favor. Across the federation, we have seen some Honorables and Senators removed from their seats through judicial interventions. Sometimes judgments went the way of the highest bidder given the level of corruption in the system, but sometimes too true justice was rendered without any gratification being paid.
While the ruling 'Jubilee' Party and their supporters were dazed following the annulment of the presidential poll, President Kenyatta who had initially said that he would abide by the ruling suddenly became combative as the impact and implication of the judgment sank in. He dubbed the respected Judges of the Supreme Court as "crooks" and tackling directly the God-fearing, incorruptible, Chief Justice David Maraga. Reminding the chief law officer that he was still the President and not president-elect Uhuru, in an apparent exhibition of rare executive anger, vowed to "fix" the judiciary upon his re-election. The Kenyan President must have won lesser admirers by his vindictive outbursts.
The problem here is that African politicians in their majority are hypocrites. Had the verdict gone Uhuru's way we would have been inundated with how credible the Kenyan justice system was and praise for the Judges would have poured in from his Jubilee ruling elements but now that they did the right thing they were being called names. Kenyatta must brace himself up for the battle ahead as nothing is gained by vengeance or threats. He is up against a formidable opposition.
The new presidential poll slated tentatively for October 17 would be interesting indeed. If the irregularities witnessed in the previous exercise were corrected the opposition led by the indefatigable Odinga stands a good chance of soundly defeating the ruling party. At 72 Raila may be giving it his last shot given his advancing age. It takes opposition unity to defeat the power of incumbency in Africa. Wade did it in Senegal, Adama Barrow pulled it off in the Gambia, Buhari made it possible in Nigeria and Akufo-Ado had it done in Ghana. Odinga could have it done in Kenya!
The overall 'winner' in this positive development is none other than Raila Odinga. Initially, he had refused to seek judicial redress understandably in the Supreme Court he had wrongly believed would not deliver justice. But today his decision to seek out justice has paid dividends. For many years he has been throwing political punches to become the President, and now another final opportunity has presented itself for him to borrow the boxing gloves of Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. He must give it the very best shot. This time Odinga must throw his last blow to be able to conquer what he deserves.
The Supreme Electoral verdict that emanated from Nairobi is a thing to be proud of, a thing to rejoice over. It has given electoral hope to the hopeless and served notice of true justice delivered without fear or favor. It remains to be seen if we can witness other rulings of this kind that reflect the reality on the ground elsewhere in Africa. The Supreme Court in Kenya has taken the lead! We expect others to learn a lesson or two from the courageous demonstration of judicial independence by the natural delivery of justice.