The 2023 presidential election may have come and gone but the political, legal and economic ripples generated therefrom are still reverberating strongly across the land, from the East to the West and North to South, with no sign of ebbing soon.
As the nation awaits with bated breath, the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court, any call for a run off of the February 25, presidential election is not only selfish, self-serving but quite insensitive to the yearnings and aspirations of the long suffering Nigerian voters on the one hand and the desperate economic and cash flow challenges confronting the country, on the other hand. Furthermore, can a nation in such dire straits, economically, as Nigeria afford the huge costs of staging a rerun election in the face of competing and unsatisfied demands for scarce resources?
Even if a re-run was to be had, is it not the same INEC who has highly been vilified by Nigerians and accused of ineptitude, incompetence, compromise, vested interest and deliberate sabotage of the presidential poll that is still constitutionally vested with the responsibility to conduct it? What is the assurance then that the outcome of the exercise will not be tainted or flawed and end up in even bigger controversies than when we first began?
Barring any legal, constitutional and technical justifications, such as: disqualification or non-qualification of the contestants and the controversial and vexed issue of 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), there is no basis at all to call for a run-off of the presidential election when the court (as an unbiased arbiter) with painstaking and due diligence can readily ascertain the true winner of the disputed February 25 election.
The major task before the court is to determine and declare the real winner of the election based on total votes received, and state by state distribution of the scores of each of the candidates between the three major contestants of Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Bola Tinubu of the APC and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Since all three leading contestants (not just the usual two) lay strong claims to have won the keenly contested election, the sagacity of Solomon will be required to resolve the knotty issues surrounding the presidential election. The loss of the political parties’ and people’s trust and confidence in the neutrality of the election umpire- INEC does not in any way help matters.
The only reliable and acceptable way to ascertain the true winner is for the court to make the necessary adjustments for the disputed votes between the parties or collate the results from the valid Result Sheets (Forms EC8A) from the over 176,000 polling units in the country. The true winner must be declared.
It may be a cumbersome and time consuming task, but no sacrifice will be too much for the court to make, to come up with a fair and incontrovertible verdict that will be acceptable to the majority of the stakeholders.
As far as this election goes, the court has to remake the disputed results declared by INEC in the light of the available evidence and facts before it. This becomes even more compelling in the face of the vigorous and relentless challenge of the declared results, by a party adjudged by INEC to have come third at the poll. This in itself, is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria.
Anything short of this will be an extension of the anti-climax foisted on Nigerians by the INEC’s perceived shoddy handling of the election results and would be unacceptable to the beleaguered millions of voters. It will even amount to a mistrial of sorts and so, a travesty of justice.
Finally, as the saying goes, the judiciary is the last bastion of hope for the common man. Nigeria is now at a crossroads, the uncertainty and tension in the land over the unresolved outcome of the presidential poll is palpable and the judiciary can ill afford to betray the confidence and the expectations of the people.
Above all else, the people deserve to know who truly the winner of the last presidential election is. That is, the people’s true choice and his winning votes. That’s not too much to ask of the court.
Edo-Ojo is a chartered accountant and retired banker. Email: [email protected]