Brutal Post-election Litigation: Eyes On The Judiciary
Brutal Post-election Litigation: Eyes On The Judiciary

By Isah Aliyu Chiroma

In a democratic country like Nigeria, post-election moments frequently emerge at key junctures, indicating the nation’s continued effort to consolidate its

democratic values, notwithstanding periodic strides towards democratic administration. Post-election period comes with a lot of crises, from announcement of results to election tribunal, and now the Supreme Court. With the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999, expectations for stability and the strengthening of democracy were raised. Post-election crises have been a recurring cycle in recent years due to irregularities, allegations of fraud, and controversial outcomes in succeeding elections.

First and foremost, there is a lot of corruption in the political system. Election process integrity is compromised by corruption, which also erodes public confidence and increases discontent. This has succeeded in creating nuisance in the political terrain. The quest for power becomes intertwined with exacerbating the potential for conflict.

As we have seen, election appeal tribunals have annulled some elections in some prominent states like Zamfara, Kano, Plateau and Nasarawa states, where some lost in election tribunal, while for some, the appeal tribunal upheld their victory. In this fashion, some governors came out of the appeal tribunal victorious. They include the governors of Bauchi, Benue, Adamawa, Kebbi, Kaduna, Delta, Ogun, Lagos, Ebonyi and Cross River.

Nigeria’s Supreme Court is essential to the democratic structure of the nation, especially when it comes to settling post-election issues. Its decisions have great weight as the ultimate arbitrator and have broad ramifications for the political system and the rule of law. The court has been tasked to rule on divisive election cases that frequently divide the country in recent years. Nigeria has experienced difficulties holding free and fair elections because of its diverse ethnic and religious population. Post-election disputes are not unusual, and the parties that have been wronged can seek redress from the Supreme Court as the highest authority. The Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution grants the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction over election petitions, designating it as the last arbiter in these cases.

The court’s rulings provide a foundation for upcoming cases and advance the field of electoral jurisprudence. Maintaining the integrity of the electoral process and making sure that situations that are similar are handled similarly depend on this consistency. The court upholds the idea that no person or political body is above the law by closely interpreting the constitution and election regulations. This promotes a respect for the legal system and strengthens democratic institutions.

Preventing protracted uncertainty and potential unrest is crucial for maintaining the stability of the political system. The electoral process is made more successful overall by the court’s capacity to hear and decide election petitions quickly.

The idea that the Supreme Court lacks independence is one significant shortcoming, particularly in instances that are politically sensitive. Political pressure and meddling are examples of external factors that have an impact on the court’s rulings. This casts doubt on the legal system’s impartiality and erodes public faith in the judiciary.

Parties may get confused and disgruntled as a result of unclear legal interpretations or apparent conflicts. To increase the credibility of its rulings, the court must give thorough and understandable justification.

The Supreme Court’s treatment of evidence, especially electronic evidence, has come under fire in an era of technological breakthroughs. There have been doubts about the court’s ability to completely understand and assess sophisticated technology evidence in matters involving elections. To guarantee a complete and correct evaluation of the evidence, the court must adjust to the rapidly changing technological landscape. To keep the public’s faith in the democratic process, electoral disputes must be perceived as being settled fairly and justly. Decisions that are unfair or divisive have the potential to destroy public trust in the democratic process and cast doubt on the legitimacy of elected officials.

The ability of the Supreme Court to successfully settle those conflicts is directly proportional to the political landscape’s stability in Nigeria. Political stability is bolstered by fair and prompt judgments, while contentious or slow-moving choices can cause rifts and even revolution. Beyond purely legal issues, the court also has a role in fostering stability in the larger social and political sphere.

The Supreme Court’s difficulties and critiques highlight the necessity of further judicial reform. The judiciary should be made more independent, any prejudices should be addressed, and the court’s ability to handle complicated legal and technological concerns should be strengthened. Building a robust and reliable legal system that can successfully negotiate the intricacies of post-election disputes requires judicial reform.

Nigeria’s Supreme Court decides on post-election challenges, which significantly influences the democratic environment of the nation. The court’s rulings support the rule of law, set legal precedent, and are consistent; nevertheless, there are drawbacks as well, such as a perceived lack of independence and logical contradictions. The court’s rulings have wider ramifications that touch on political stability, democracy, and the necessity of continuous judicial reform. The integrity and legitimacy of the democratic process in Nigeria are contingent upon a watchful and accommodating court, given the country’s ongoing struggles with its electoral system.

If elections were peaceful, devoid of violence, then post-election judgments should not create nuisance in the political atmosphere. This pattern of political behaviour will not only disrupt the political system, but instability in the Nigerian political realities. A reflection of this is what the future holds for the generation to come.

I will close this with the incidence that happened after the 1979 election, where the gang-up of four minus one took place, the winner, Shehu Shagari said during the NPN convention in Port Harcourt, “Let me say emphatically that any conspiracy or gang-up against any component part of this nation by another group of fellow Nigerians is, to say the least, immoral. The path of courage and wisdom has no room for strife and rancor. Whenever a group of men or parties conspire to fight just one man or one party, that is indicative of cowardice, failure and inadequacy of each and every member of the conspiring group.”

*Chiroma wrote from Abuja.

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