The verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court was not totally unexpected, given the stark realities facing us as a nation and the state of the law.
The principles of presumption of regularity of elections and that of substantial conformity make it extremely difficult to prosecute elections successfully.
In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners in order to upturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.
I honestly don’t think anyone expected a different verdict from what was delivered in Abuja today, particularly the lawyers. The tension was completely unnecessary.
This is why we emphasize always that the focus of anyone hoping to birth a true change in our electoral history should be on the electoral umpire. Without first unbundling INEC to make it more independent, non-partisan and effective, anyone declared “winner” will most often coast to victory in the election tribunal.
Wednesday’s verdict should be a reason for sober reflection by all, especially for the parties in court, their lawyers and all lovers of democracy. The petitions could have been decided purely on points of law and within few days of the election.
There can be no real victory in the resolution of the legal issues by the court when the fabric of our democratic engagements seem to have been hijacked and compromised. Part of the lesson in this process is for us to go back and review the electoral process and the litigations following it. INEC as it is presently constituted cannot birth any credible election in Nigeria.
In all, may be there was too much expectation that the status quo will be upturned, whereas many of the principles of law canvased had long been settled by the apex court.
While encouraging all parties to continue in towing the paths already defined by law for the ventilation of grievances, we owe Nigeria an urgent duty to dismantle INEC, urgently.