Nov 6,2023.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Following the final verdict of the Supreme Court on the outcome of the 2023 presidential election, Prince Adewole Adebayo, one of the contestants in the election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), has decried the attitude of politicians toward elections.
In this interview, he spoke on a wide range of issues, including the fact that politicians only go to court to get power and not justice, the need for urgent electoral reform to ensure that winners in any election are not sworn into offices until the cases against them in courts are concluded, the appointment of judges into the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and the place of technicality in legal proceedings, among others.
The presidential election petitions were expected to last for 120 days at the Court of Appeal and 60 days at the Supreme Court, which is about six months. But at the time the judgment was given, it was eight months after the elections, what is your overview of the whole process; could it be better?
Of course, it could be better and we must thank God because it was a total departure from what we used to have before. Three years down the line, litigation is still on such that the person is already preparing for the next election. But now, we say we should cut it short, and that is already in place. Now, the next target is to conclude everything before anyone is sworn in so that there won’t be colour perception about the judgement. The next we should aim for after the election adjudication is concluded before being sworn in is that we should have a case where our elections won’t have to go to court at all, like you have in some countries where you have about 1000 elections, and only one or two go to court or none at all. That should be our aim now.
What should we do to get to that Eldorado?
There are three things we need to do, but the majority depends on the politicians. One of them is to ensure that the law is reformed. Everybody involved in law reform is a politician; that is the irony of the matter. When we say we need to change the law, we must not forget that every member of the National Assembly is a politician and potential beneficiary of the law. The president is the other half of the legislative process because the legislative power of Nigeria is invested in two people – the National Assembly and the president, because if the president doesn’t sign, it cannot become law. So, the two of them are politicians, which means it is only by moral persuasion that such an amendment can be achieved.
In the 2023 election petition proceedings, the court spent less time than the litigants themselves. The Supreme Court spent less than a week to give its decision and they did similar thing when Awolowo and Shagari were before them. On the court side, there isn’t a problem. Where there is a problem is where you are asking the court to be faster than the legal proceedings or to give you relief which they can’t give by law, or to stop entertaining cases which they must entertain by law. Once the law is changed and the politicians change their behaviour, then, the judiciary is the easiest because it is the most law-abiding and most cooperative, and they don’t cause problems for anyone. I didn’t file the petition for the election, so the Supreme Court didn’t give me an unfair judgement because I didn’t file anything. And if I file a good one, they will give me good judgment. I think what is important to state here is that, an election petition is not a compulsory competition process in the quest for power. The reason we keep having this tension is because the court doesn’t have what the politicians want. So, there is no time in the history of election litigation that the history of election litigation that the politicians will be satisfied with the court because the court can only give you justice. Politicians don’t want justice. They want judgement leading to power. So, they see the court as another layer of getting power. But, the court isn’t designed to give you power. The court is designed to give you justice. So, sometimes you may get justice, but if justice doesn’t land you in power, you say this isn’t justice.
I think there is a general misunderstanding of the rule of the court and the rule of law, and I saw that in the course of our electioneering. There is none of this judgments by the Supreme Court that I didn’t predict. At no time can what happened on election day be before the court. That is not what it is for. What is before the court is the petition that the person brings before the court and if the petition doesn’t resemble what happened on election day, the court won’t talk about it because the court isn’t asked to supervise the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The court is there to listen to the petition before it and if the petition before it doesn’t capture INEC’s errors correctly and goes outside to talk about other things that conflict with the law, don’t say the judge who lives in Surulere, where the anomalies of the election happened, it is expected to see reasons with you. Sorry, he is not looking at that. He is looking at what is written before him. Judges don’t have plenary powers. They are like you and I on an ordinary day. The jurisdiction to determine the issue is limited by the claim before it and the applicable law.(www.naija247news.com)