25 September 2018

Nigeria: Conflicting Legal Opinions Trail Re-Run

Constitutional lawyer, James Ezike, yesterday, took a swipe at the contentious Osun State governorship election, and submitted that the show of desperation by political actors was an indication of lack of democracy in the country.

Ezike, a personal counsel to late Chief Emeka Odumegu Ojukwu, said he did not see any reason for a rerun, stressing that in a democracy, people who lose elections are not desperate because it is a call to service.

Explaining further, the lawyer said what transpired in Osun State was an indication that Nigeria is not a country working for her people formed, insisting, "If we have democracy, the desperation will not be there. Like I have been saying, Nigeria has not been formed. If so, a person who does not win election will want to represent the country. It is not the fault of the people; it is the fault of the military, who are representing the interest of foreigners."

Ezike said if an election was held and a result sheet was torn to shreds as it happened in one polling station, it should not nullify the election, saying, "they should compile it, get the photocopy. Why are you cancelling it when the results are already there?

On the legal implications of INEC's action, he said although details of what transpired in other areas are sketchy, there are different interpretations of the courts on the matter.

According to him, "If the interpretations of the courts should guide us, it is suspicious that INEC will come with different bases for cancelling elections. In one case, they said, results were more than registered voters. You can see immediately that someone programmed it to fail. Otherwise they should know when you are voting.

"INEC said they have PVCs, so what happened to the PVCs? What happened to the voters' register? How is it possible? All this boils down to the fact that we don't have a democracy. This is the continuation of military rule and nobody cares.

"I contested elections to the House of Representative in 1979. I lost but my uncle who was a member of the House of Assembly was angry with me that I did not contest the result because my opponent was not qualified. I said no; he won the election because of Nnamdi Azikiwe. I was in National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The people do not even know him, but voted for him because of Zik.

"In a democracy, a person in jail can be voted for. All these that the military added that if a person had been in prison, you cannot vote for him is not right." he added.

But renowned human rights activist, Ebun Olu- Adegboruwa urged Osun people to embrace the rerun and choose their leader.

He, however, cautioned INEC on the need to maintain its independence and retain the confidence of our people in the electoral system.

The choice of leaders, he said, belongs to the people and the electoral body should not be seen as being partial or acting in favour of a particular political party.

Also, Mr. Olu Adegboruwa stated that the video of INEC officer seen on social media tearing result sheet did not speak well of the body.

"That is why I said the conduct of INEC in the election left much to be desired. I will appeal to all our people to participate in the rerun rather than going into litigation since an opportunity has been given. Let them do the rerun and let our people embrace it and choose their leaders."

On whether INE's guidelines should supersede the constitution, he said the case of Faleke in Kogi State has more or less validated INEC's guidelines.

"When chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) argued the same point at the Supreme Court, he was over-ruled, that the constitution has given INEC powers to make guidelines.

"In that case, I do not want to say that the guideline supersedes the constitution; the important thing is that INEC has powers to declare winners of elections even though the parameter to declare it may be questionable.

"What I am saying is that even the challenge we are facing with prolonged litigations, the fate of people of Osun should not hang in the air, since an opportunity has been given to make a re-run.

"I think a rerun should come on board and thereafter we will be able to decide a winner. If Adeleke of PDP has been the choice of the people, I believe the people will still vote for him. Any state that owes workers' salaries, that state does not deserve any vote from our people. The fact that Aregbesola is struggling to get his anointed successor elected is a loud testimony on his performance."

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