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Our rigging machine is stronger than yours

By now, most of you already know how I miserably failed to make it into the legal profession. If you’re curious, that truncated ambition had…

By now, most of you already know how I miserably failed to make it into the legal profession. If you’re curious, that truncated ambition had nothing to do with being a perennial blockhead. The many articles I wrote then for a Benin City-based legal newspaper are there as proof.

Unfortunately these days in Nigeria, there are more lawyers than doctors and psychiatrists. The truth is that we need more of the other two. Many of us are simply not well. Our bad state of mental health manifests exponentially during elections.

Our election-induced megalomania is so high that except we start diagnosing and treating, we might have an election-induced zombie apocalypse in which young people start shooting at each other in our hands. From social media posts, those who did not commit suicide in silent protest against INEC’s perceived or known injustice two weeks ago have turned against their age-old friends and neighbours. Nigerians have a way of expressing that shock; they say – no be juju be that?

For the known dead, there are perhaps thousands of others who would finally end up treating election-induced high blood pressure, and believe me they would not be those who contested and lost at the last polls but members the supporters club.

In this country, we do not know how to play politics and methinks it has to do with our innumeracy. If you can’t count, then nothing you do will count. How do I know? Because like Sesame Street’s Garry Gnu, I too can’t count and this is the principal – reason I ended up in journalism. Every clown can string words together to make a sentence, even those who do not know or do not care about attribution. Check your favourite comedian for acclamation.

With our selections over, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu did not waste time even in the face of the virus called Dinomyletis before declaring a winner and handing them the certificate of completion declaring Bola Ahmed Tinubu Nigeria’s 7th President–elect. Depending on whose mathematics works for you, if you add MKO Abiola and Ibrahim Babangida to the list you’d probably be talking about number nine.

Whether seven or nine, there is something odd about the whole exercise even when it’s not enough to baffle or discombobulate Muhammadu Buhari. He wasted no time inviting his successor to Defence House in preparation for transition. The president is hardly swayed by public opinion or even court rulings. He sees himself above the law.

In all these preparations, there is a snag, and this is where lawyers come in. Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi; Tinubu’s two closest rivals at the polls are unhappy with INEC’s slovenly sloppy officiating. Each believed it rightly won and swears to prove it in court. This is where lawyers come in – instruments to wrest a perceived stolen electoral mandate from a presumed winner. This is a fantastic addition to any attorney’s resume. They are all brushing their wigs and dispatching their gowns to their dry cleaners in preparation for the mother of all battles.

Things are, however, never so simple. There is something uncanny about Atiku’s latest race. Five of his party’s governors ganged up against him to the very end accusing him of breaking the unwritten rules of zoning by which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was supposed to have barred northerners from vying for the presidency.

The presidential contender did not help himself by picking Arthur Okowa, the bashful governor of the oil-rich Delta State as his running mate over the garrulous and clownish Nyesom Wike who came second during a hotly contested party primary.

Days after announcing his decision to challenge Tinubu’s winnings in court, seven PDP governors pulled their legal apparatchik from Atiku. They discovered that the dispute is a case for the election petition tribunal and not the Supreme Court.

The unflappable Atiku stands unfazed. There is something about Obasanjo’s former deputy that unnerves. Nothing seems to bother the 76-year-old. Public office aspiration has thrown so much dirt at him, that if he were a garbage heap, he’d be suitable for successfully transplanting an iroko or a baobab tree.

Peter Obi is the direct opposite. After waiting several anxious days to address the media on his next line of action, the one-time Anambra governor and the new bride of ‘lazy’ youths and idealistic adults broke down in tears in Abuja. He announced that he would not accept defeat and launched a challenge. In-between tears, Obi assured his supporters that a court victory is only a challenge away. The two losers have obtained court leave to scrutinise INEC’s documents to buttress their case.

The tears of aspirants are of electoral value in Nigeria. Since the late Sam Mbakwe invented it and earned the sobriquet of the weeping governor, many other powerful men have broken down in the face of defeat. They include General Muhammadu Buhari, as then addressed just before Tinubu claimed to have emerged to wipe his tears. If precedence is anything to go by, Obi’s tears (and those of his running mate, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed before him) could sway the angels of justice into working out a miracle at the tribunal.

According to those who do the count, no Nigerian presidential election has ever been upturned by a court or tribunal. However, if pessimism ever won anything of value in Nigeria, both Ahmed Lawan and Godswill Akpabio would be in political Siberia. They gambled with their senatorial seats and won both in court and with their electoral supporters. Those who say miracles don’t happen are definitely not Nigerians.

In the upcoming mother of all legal battles, the world is about to understand why our democracy is truly homegrown. From the audio, video and paper evidence now freely available on social media, there were no saints in the February 25 polls. Everyone was a rigger in their neck of the woods using massive thumb printing, ballot snatching, thuggery and other means to foment electoral landslides.

By the time the lawyers have bamboozled us with their arcane Latin maxims, milords the justices are bound to come up with a verdict to capture the headlines – our rigging machine is better than yours.

While we wait for the legal theatrics, another election is scheduled for this weekend. It promises to be as hot as the last one. The governors of 28 of Nigeria’s 36-state structure are up for re-election and Obi’s Labour Party appears to be the new sword of Damocles hanging on their re-election bid. For once, the men who determine who lives or dies in their states are subject to the people’s will and many of them are not so sure.

To avoid being victims of an upstart’s marauding electoral armada; established parties and their candidates have resorted to garnishing their re-election porridge with the spices of ethnicity, religion and other schisms. After all, this is a battle and didn’t the sages say that foul is fair in the art of war? May the best candidates win – but if they lose, nothing spoil – it’s jobs for lawyers.