PEPT Verdict, Supreme Court And Wole Soyinka’s Sophism
When the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, chose to downplay the import of the issues pertaining to the election and the PEPT verdict, he was not being fair to the generality of Nigerians, especially the youths who had seen in the poll, an opportunity to change the ugly narratives of the nation’s politics.
By Emeka Alex Duru
In the days ahead when the Supreme Court delivers judgement on the issues arising from the 2023 presidential election, the controversies and disputations surrounding the contest, would be laid to rest. The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), which served as the Court of first instance, had on September 6, given its verdict in support of the declaration of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the winner of the election.
But Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), are not satisfied with the pronouncement. Both have approached the Supreme Court for final adjudication on the matter.
Obi, filed 51 grounds of appeal before the Court to invalidate the election of Tinubu. He maintained that the PEPC erred in law and thereby reached a wrong conclusion when it dismissed the petition he lodged to challenge the outcome of the presidential poll.
Obi contended that the Justice Haruna Tsamani-led five-member panel of the Court of Appeal, indulged in a grave miscarriage of justice against him, when it held that he did not specify polling units where irregularities occurred during the election. He further faulted the PEPT for dismissing his case on the premise that he did not specify the figures of votes or scores that were allegedly suppressed or inflated in favour of President Tinubu and the ruling APC.
Atiku has similar grievances against the Tribunal. He told the apex court that the verdict of the PEPT, which dismissed his petition against the outcome of the presidential contest, was not only perverse, but occasioned a grave miscarriage of justice against him. He accused the panel of erring in law, when it failed to nullify the presidential election on the grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022, even when evidence that was adduced before it, showed that the INEC acted in breach of extant laws and regulations guiding the conduct of elections.
With the move by Obi and Atiku, Nigerians are again, looking up to the judiciary to point the way forward for the country. This is one assignment the apex court must rise up to. The verdict by the PEPT, if sustained, has far reaching implications on future elections in the country. Among the striking points raised by the Court was in dismissing the allegations by Atiku and Obi, that Tinubu was arrested or had criminal records in the United States of America.
The panel also ruled that no record of criminal arrest or conviction was established against Tinubu by the petitioners. It specifically maintained that LP and Obi, failed to prove that Tinubu was convicted for money laundering in the United States.
The Court also stated that INEC, was not statutorily required to transmit election results electronically. It equally dismissed LP/Obi’s Petition on 25 per cent needed to win the presidential election in 24 states of the federation including the FCT. According to the court, FCT residents have no special privileges as the petitioners claimed. The court also rejected the European Union (EU) report on the polls, arguing that it was not tendered by an official of the body.
The allegation of Tinubu’s dual nationality, his breezy credentials and double nomination against his running mate, Kassim Shettima, were equally discarded by the court. At the end, Tinubu was given a clean bill of health and his election for the presidency, affirmed.
The take-away from the judgement is that the billions of naira of tax-payers’ money appropriated for the provision of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV), technology as a game-changer, training the personnel and the time deployed in educating Nigerians on the workings of the facilities, have just been wasted. What that means, is that politicians can manufacture any figure in elections to win. It is therefore a matter of winning, not how it is attained.
These are issues Obi and Atiku have taken to the Supreme Court for final decision. They are not personal but aimed at enriching the culture of democracy in the land. When therefore, the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, chose to downplay the import of the issues pertaining to the election and the PEPT verdict, he was not being fair to the generality of Nigerians, especially the youths who had seen in the poll, an opportunity to change the ugly narratives of the nation’s politics.
Soyinka had in a recent forum in South Africa, claimed that LP leadership knew that Obi lost the election but was trying to mobilise young people in the country to protest against the outcome on the banner of lies and deceit. He said; “I can say categorically that Peter Obi’s party came third not even second and the leadership knew it but they want to do what we call in Yoruba ‘gbajue’, that is a force of lies.
“They were going to send some of the hardliners, proud young people into the street to demonstrate. I’m also ready to be among such demonstrators but only on the banner of truth not on lies, and deceit”. He had also accused Labour Party of being a regional organisation.
That is taking sophism too far. Soyinka has no grounds to speak categorically on who won or lost the election. He is neither the INEC nor the Courts. Like any other observer, he can only make assumptions but not with any air of finality. He is increasingly appearing as an interested party in the exercise. Since the build-up to the elections, there have been these strange coincidences on developments around the polls and his interventions. Labelling Labour Party which won in the entire South East, cleared the strategic Federal Capital Territory (FCT), trounced Tinubu’s APC in Lagos, made good showing in the North Central and garnered majority of votes in South-South, as a regional outfit, is a serious disservice to truth, by Soyinka.
On the surface, the Professor sells the impression of an elder statesman calling for order at uncertain times in his country. But more critical analysis exposes him as having more than a passing interest on the eventual winner of the election. There is no doubt that he is a Tinubu supporter. Some say he does that as pay back for favours he had received in the past or for whatever reasons. It is entirely his business, anyway.
To be sure, he has the right to support any candidate or political party of his choice and owes no one apology for that. He has also paid his dues in the making of Nigeria. All through, he has led a life of struggle for a better society. Or so, it seems. So, it can be taken that he knows what he wants. But to cash in on his stature and international connections to foist his choices and views on Nigerians, is clearly out of it.