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Is Nigeria’s democracy under a threat?

The recent judgements by the Court of Appeal quashing the election victories of many elected lawmakers and governors have given Nigerians sleepless nights. The 2023…

The recent judgements by the Court of Appeal quashing the election victories of many elected lawmakers and governors have given Nigerians sleepless nights. The 2023 elections have come and gone; the dust generated due to allegations of election irregularities is yet to settle. Little wonder, politicians who lost the last general elections or felt cheated besieged elections tribunals to seek redress. The elections tribunal and appeal courts, through their judgements, have either affirmed or nullified elections leaving bitter or sweet taste in the mouth of contenders.

However, the rate at which the Court of Appeal delivers judgements has become a matter of great concern. For instance, opposition parties have blamed the ruling party for using the judiciary to upturn elections victory in many states they could not win. The courts have so far sacked Abba Kabir Yusuf of Kano State, Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State and Caleb Muftwang of Plateau State.

The sacking of these governors who are from the opposition has elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians. Besides, it has questioned the credibility of the last general elections conducted by INEC and the impartiality of the judiciary.

While the Independent National Electorates Commission (INEC) had tried its best to conduct free and fair elections in the last general elections, Nigerians believe that the barrage of litigations which flooded the courts is the commission’s great undoing. It has also indicated that the last general elections were marred by irregularities as observed by some domestic and international observers.

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The inability of INEC to transmit election results electronically even after relevant electorate laws have been enacted by the National Assembly and adequate funds budgeted and released to that effect hampered the credibility of the last election. Though INEC can take the blame for some glitches recorded in the 2023 general elections, political parties are not saints. Political parties had failed to manage crises emanated from the conduct of their primaries. Some political parties went to the polls with divided houses. The desperation of political parties to win elections had resulted in the use of money to buy votes, deployment of thugs to intimidate voters and above all use of compromised security personnel to rig elections.

Judiciary is said to be the last hope of the common man. The men of the benches were dragged to election matters in 1979 by the military government to adjudicate disputes arising from the activities of political parties and elections. Since the return of democracy in 1999, the judiciary has been handling various cases related to election disputes. The million-naira questions begging for answers are: has the third arm of government fared well in delivering justice and strengthening our democracy? Is the judiciary truly independent? These questions, I think remain contestable. The judiciary has been accused of partisanship. The outcomes of the election tribunal and appellate court judgements have raised more questions than answers about the neutrality of men on the bench.

For Nigerian democracy to survive amidst coups that continue to rock some African countries, there is an urgent need for further reforms of our electoral system. The judiciary which is the bastion of democracy should sit up and ensure it delivers justice no matter whose ox is gored.

Ibrahim Mustapha Pambegua wrote from Kaduna State

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