With substantial compliance as standard anything can happen By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

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WHERE is the celebration that is supposed to accompany the victory of the President? Did his supporters understand the verdict? Are they in such shock that they won that they could not celebrate? Something is wrong especially with the hinging of all the things about elections on “substantial compliance”.

After labouring through words that sounded so disjointed, oh they really were, in 13 hours, the panel birthed “substantial compliance”. The election had been won, as the court pleases.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, added to the gloom with its two-day warning strike that left the country in darkness. What a day this 6 September 2023! A day to remember in a different September.

Nobody is sure what people were expecting from the judgement which benumbed many. Did that include the supporters of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was at a summit in India where we were told investors were tumbling over each other to grab part of the economic package that he shared with the international community.

It was on record that more people slept in court than ever witnessed during a trial. They slept through most of the judgement. The scene was as disturbing as the incoherence of the Chairman of the Presidential Election Petition Panel, Justice Haruna Simon Tsammani, who stumbled through the scripts with startling unfamiliarity. He cut a pitiable sight in his labour.

In a way the scenes epitomised where Nigeria is. Nobody bothers any longer with what Nigeria is. Is it a long-lost ambition? We are heading to nowhere. There is no sign of the conclusion of matters that could lead to the improvement of the national, our people, our communities.

The despondence is obvious. Our songs are dirges. Our poems are elegies. They are rendered in silence expanding the reaches of the depth of the silence.

Lyrics of Sound of Silence, the 1964 classic by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel relate to 6 September.

_Hello darkness, my old friend_

_I have come to talk with you again_

_Because of a vision softly creeping_

_Left its seeds while I was sleep_

_And the vision that was planted in my brain_

_Still remains_

_Within the sound of silence_

Simon wrote that song at 21. He was as youthful as our younger populations that made their best investments in the 2023 election. I commend them for taking the result, which the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar has called, “judgement, not justice”, in their stride. The adoption of peace while waiting for the final decision at the Supreme Court is commendable.

All we hear is a dirge of despair and depression about the future. We have moved backwards in unimaginable ways. How do we dismiss a national expenditure of N355 billion on BVAS for the election and rolled all that back?

*Dreams that are in our heads. What do we do with the dreams?*

The judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, which upheld the election of Tinubu despite evidence of irregularities, manipulation, and violence, raises considerable concerns for the future of law and order. Not left out is the place of justice in our laws. The people expected to get justice at the tribunal.

It was not available. The tribunal could not provide plausible explanations except that it found relief in technicalities that have rendered the Constitution and the Electoral Act ineffectual. It drilled into it.

Are we to believe that all the assurances that INEC gave about the elections meant nothing? The panel expertly shredded all the submissions about the infractions in the elections. INEC, a public institution, would not provide electoral materials that the candidates needed for an effective challenge on the poor conduct of the elections.

What is left for us to do in the circumstances? Do we have any recourses? Those are the questions that hurt and haunt Nigerians? They find no satisfying answers.

People have lost hope. Things are so bad that people do not believe the Supreme Court can give a different verdict.

Our laws are the cause of these issues. How does a country operate on “substantial compliance”? What does “substantial compliance” really mean? How can a country run on no standards?

If a country is unable to establish firm standards on which to found its decisions, the country would have lost a foundation on which to exist on a sustainable basis.

“Substantial compliance” means whatever the tribunal says is it. There are no details of what the compliance is.

Violence, suppression of votes, vote buying, and all manners of rigging, are now permitted. What the candidates just have to do is ensure that all these are done in “substantial compliance”.

Nigeria’s adoption of “substantial compliance” as a national standard remains the enthronement of minimalisation of standards, and approval of a country where standards are the least consideration.



*NYESOM Wike* , has complained about the inflation of contracts. Are Nigerians impressed? We are used to these talks. Wike rounded off his angst with the disclosure that he would pay N3 billion monthly over two years – that is N72 billion – to complete the construction of the Millennium Tower in Abuja. We would probably borrow the money for the Tower.

*WHATEVER* the decision of the tribunals has not reflected in any concrete efforts at managing the hunger in the land. Do the authorities feel what the people feel?

*ONE* of the States that took an early lead in providing palliatives is Nasarawa. There is no happy ending to the story – security agents are in markets arresting those selling the items that the state government bought to ameliorate the suffering of the people. It was not stated if the suspects would be charged to court.

*BEYOND* talking, what are governments doing about the impending flood? Last year’s flood was enough notice to governments except that they don’t care.

_Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues_

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