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Opinion: 2019 Election Petitions: The Judiciary Can Help Sanitize Nigerian Electoral System

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By Raymond Nkannebe; Esq.

With the limitation period for the presentation of petitions flowing from the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections having closed a fortnight ago, and those of gubernatorial and Houses of Assembly elections closing on the 1st of April, 2019 save for states and local constituencies where supplementary elections were held on the 23rd of March, 2019, it is safe to conclude that the politicians have had their day under the proverbial sun, and have now passed the ball into the court of the judiciary who must now get to work in the next one year at least to determine the catalogue of petitions that have proceeded from the womb of the 2019 elections which in many ways brought to full glare and national embarrassment, the weakness of our electoral process. So bad was it, that some segment of the civil society posit that it is arguably the worst election to have been conducted in Nigeria since the dawn of uninterrupted democracy in 1999.

Contrary to the situation in 2015, the victory of president Muhammadu Buhari is today a subject of litigation. Whereas former president Goodluck Jonathan made the now famous phone call to his opponent candidate Muhammadu Buhari when it became crystal clear that he was on the wrong side of the ballot, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar rightly or wrongly depending on the individual’s political bias, has decided to challenge the re-election of Muhammadu Buhari in court.

In a 147-page petition filed on his behalf by a battery of very senior and distinguished members of the bar, Atiku and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are asking that the result of the election as announced by the electoral umpire, INEC be nullified, and their candidate returned. According to them from what one gathers from the well laid out petition, on a proper computation of results from the polling units, it was the PDP and their candidate Atiku Abubakar, and not Muhammadu Buhari who won the election. They have made a heavy weather of having evidences which support this proposition particularly the smart card reader data from all the polling units across the country transmitted to INEC’s back-end server during the course of the polls.

Beyond Atiku’s petition, a staggering 736 petitions challenging one election or the other, have been received by the election petition tribunals inaugurated by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, two weeks before the conduct of the election. This number understandably could increase as the final collation of results by INEC in Rivers state last week, has seen some candidates and their political parties angling to challenge the return of incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike.

The climate of rigging and manipulation of election results in Nigeria added to the undue militarization of the electoral process by the incumbents who are often in control of the security apparatus often necessitates the challenge of elections by Petitioners on a number of grounds that have been laid down by the electoral law namely, that the person whose election is being challenged was not qualified to contest the election ab initio; or that the winner of the election did not score the majority of lawful votes cast at the election. Others are that the questioned election is invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Act; or that the Petitioner was validly nominated but was unlawfully excluded from contesting in the election by the electoral umpire. See section 138(1) )(a-d) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).

It is however not in the fleshing out of the grounds of the petition and the particulars in support of same that the Petitioners often run into a problem but in the leading of evidence to establish to the required degree of proof, the often serious allegations contained in most petitions such that could eventuate into a return of the petitioner by the tribunal as was recently seen in the Osun state election petition tribunal which nullified the victory of incumbent governor Gboyega Oyetola in favour of Senator Ademola Adeleke. This writer however understands that decision is a subject of appeal at the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja.

A holistic appraisal of the election petitions that have made their way to our courts and/or election tribunals as far back as the cases of Omoboriowo v Ajasin (1984) 1 SCNLR 108; Obih v Mbakwe (1984) LPELR-2712 (SC); Nwobodo v Onoh (1984) 1 SC 1; Buhari v INEC (2008) 19 NWLR (pt. 1120); Ojukwu v Obasanjo (2006) (EPR) 242 to name a few, will readily reveal the near impossibility of upturning an election through the courts. A petitioner almost always finds himself contending with a large body of case law and statutory provisions that literally excuses and/or explains away the electoral infractions complained of in his petition. Save for a handful of cases where a petitioner was returned through the tribunals, thousands of petitions go to court at every election cycle without any success. Perhaps the circumstances of the 2007 general election puts the difficulties faced by a petitioner in proper context. Despite the winner of that very controversial election acknowledging that the process which brought him to power was fraught with widespread irregularities and gross manipulation of the electoral process, it is ironical to say the least, that the challenge of that election at the presidential election tribunal by then General Muhammadu Buhari came to nought. Such is the lot of the Petitioner.

The sad consequence(s) of this is that it has helped to fester the culture of rigging across board. The Nigerian politician having understood how difficult it is to upturn an election through the courts, has devised even more brazen and disingenuous means of rigging him or herself into power and thereafter, dare their opponent to go to court to challenge the victory. Anyone who has had the privilege of studying the electoral forms from our shambolic elections will readily come to terms with the fact that elections in Nigeria are basically a riggers affair. It is the candidate who is able to out-rig the other through any means whatsoever that is often declared the winner thus making a mockery of our democracy.

In a bold attempt however to improve the sanctity and integrity of our electoral process and to the credit of former chairman of the electoral commission Alhaji Attahiru Jega, the smart card reader was introduced in the 2015 general election to checkmate the recurrent problem of multiple accreditation of voters against the spirit of the voters register. The genus of the smart card reader machine was to ensure that only bio-metrically accredited voters could cast valid ballots at the polling booths. It was thought that it would solve the recurrent problem of multiple thumbprinting by unscrupulous elements who lend themselves to politicians who prostitute the electoral process.

But the legality of the smart card reader as an instrument for the conduct of elections was to evolve into a serious constitutional debate on the back of the petitions that made it to the election tribunals following that round of elections. In the case of Nyesom v Peterside (2014) 5 NWLR (pt. 1430) 377 a full-bench of the apex Court despite acknowledging the motive behind the introduction and use of the card reader machine in an election, which needless to say was to bolster the democratic norm of “one man one vote”, went ahead to strike it down for having derived its efficacy from the INEC guidelines which obviously was in conflict with section 49(2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which nominates the voters register as the instrument of accreditation of voters and proof of over-voting by a person challenging an election.

In answering the question whether failure to use card reader for accreditation of voters can invalidate an election, the apex Court Per. AKA’AHS held instructively as follows, “the introduction of the card reader is certainly a welcome development in the electoral process. Although it is meant to improve on the integrity of those accredited to vote so as to check the incidence of rigging, it is yet to be made part of the Electoral Act. Section 138(2) envisages a situation where the Electoral Commission issues instruction or guidelines which are not carried out. The failure of the card reader machine, or failure to use it for the accreditation of voters cannot invalidate an election. The section provides as follows: “138(2) an act or omission which may be contrary to an instruction or directive of the Commission or of an officer appointed for the purpose of election but which is not contrary to the provisions of this Act shall not of itself be a ground for questioning the election”.

With the above sentiments of the apex Court, many of the petitioners who went to court in the last cycle of election hoping to make a case out of the non-use of the smart card readers in the accreditation of voters at the polling units found themselves on the wrong side of the law, and severally paid with a dismissal of their petitions. Unfortunately, none of the petitioners drew the attention of the apex Court to the amendment of section 49 (2) of the Electoral Act which was signed into law by former president Goodluck Jonathan on the 20th of March, 2015, just 8 days before the holding of the general election. On their part too, the judex did not take judicial notice of this amendment to the principal Act which legitimized the use of the smart card reader for voter accreditation; the very basis upon which the Court upheld all the disputed governorship elections conducted by the INEC on April 11, 2015.

Having said that, the 2019 elections and the petitions trailing it, provides another window of judicial activism for the judiciary which has the potency of revolutionizing our electoral process and by extension, our nascent democracy. With the countrywide criticisms that have greeted the conduct of the just concluded general elections ranging from selective use of the smart card reader machines in some places and the outright thumbprinting of ballot papers in the quarters of party chieftains and what not, in a barefaced prostitution of our electoral process, suffice it to say that the ball is effectively in the Court of the judiciary to rise up to the occasion in ensuring that not a single illegal vote counts in the return of a candidate.

A simple way to do this, is to ensure the fulsome recognition of the data from the smart card reader machines and using same as a benchmark for reconciling the total votes cast in a polling unit so as to check against over-voting which was perpetrated by politicians with reckless abandon in the just concluded 2019 elections. In places where the smart card reader machines malfunctioned and thus were not used, the tribunals must ensure that the procedure enumerated by the electoral umpire on how voters in such polling units should cast their votes, was applied to the latter. Anything otherwise, must of necessity lead to the cancellation of the results from such unit as consecrated by the relevant provision of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), and the Guidelines of the electoral commission 2019. Thankfully, the apex Court in the Nyesom v Peterside case (supra) acknowledges that the innovation of the smart card reader machines was well intentioned in that, it was calculated to improve the integrity of our elections. The petitions that are now lying before the several election petition tribunals across the country, provides an opportunity for the judex to uphold the smart card reader machine and lend it the much needed judicial imprimatur which counted against its usage in the last cycle of elections, irrespective of the consequences for the individual poll where it is applied.

At a time when it has been shown that the executive and the legislature are enmeshed in a dark conspiracy to the detriment of our democracy, such as was seen in the circumstances under which assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill (2018) was refused by president Muhammadu Buhari, the judiciary can step in, in its hallowed capacity as the avowed defender of any democracy to sanitize our electoral system. This is what Nigerians who are increasingly losing confidence in our electoral process earnestly asks of the judiciary.

 

Raymond Nkannebe; a legal practitioner writes from Lagos.

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Food for Living: Your Blessing is in Your Hands

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By Henry Ukazu

Dear Destiny Friends,

One of the world’s favourite singers, Teddy Pendergrass, in one of his hit tracks, It’s so good loving somebody when somebody loves you back, posited that one of the best feelings in life is to have a requited love; to be loved by the person you love. The feeling is unimaginable by every standard. Without mincing words, there is an uncommon strength love gives us. When there is mutual love among couples, they are bound to attract unimaginable blessings.

This article, however, is not about love per se, rather, love is used here to show how blessed we are when we have people who genuinely love us for who we are, despite our limitations. For instance, the love of a child by her mother is priceless.

When we talk of blessings, most times we think the creator of the universe will come down from heaven and bless us, we fail to understand that human beings are the real blessings. Someone once jokingly said, if God wants to bless you, he sends a man/woman to bless you, but if the devil wants to destroy a man, he visits him with a woman. The morale of this story is that human beings can either make or mar you. You cannot underestimate the importance of having the right people in your life, especially if you are married, have a business, or working on a project.

Sometimes, we think opportunities will come from heaven, but the truth is that the opportunity we seek is right in our hands. Sometimes, we think human beings will come through to us just because we are in need. The truth is that it is very rare to see people who can assist others without demanding anything in return. In most cases, people will only give you money when you have value, in terms of a product or service, to offer them.

It is imperative to note that one of the killers of opportunity is the poverty mentality. This is the major reason most people lose opportunities. These set of people think blessings, favours, opportunities and many more will come to them, they fail to understand that it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, you will have to go out to search for the opportunities that is obviously searching for you.

Let me share a personal story. A couple of years ago, a young man named Sodeeq Abdulakeem Sulyman reached out to me via twitter to be his mentor after reading one of my articles. I felt honored, but was curious to know why he reached out to me, he said he has been reading my article and saw consistency in addition to the attitude and mindset I use to write, and that it appealed to his values. I gladly accepted the opportunity to add value into his life. It may interest you to know that this young man proved to be an exceptional being. It didn’t take long to make him the Chief Operating Officer of my company (GLOEMI). The interesting thing about this relationship is that we have worked on several projects, and we now work like a family. If this young man didn’t reach out to me via twitter, who knows if our paths wouldn’t have crossed. Do you see that your blessings are in your hands? You can apply the same strategy to win people.

Most times, we look for people to give us work, connect us to a resourceful person or even mentor us. The mistake we make is we don’t take time to add value to our lives. When you add value to your life, it will be easier for people to locate and connect with you. Value can be academics, skill, information, networking, right attitude or understanding.

Let’s take a case study of understanding. There was a story of two wealthy men who were taking a walk, Mr. A saw a poor man and said to Mr. B, let’s help this man, Mr. B said, it makes no sense because this man is not interested in anyone assisting him. If you help today, tomorrow he’ll return to this position. Mr. A said, he’ll give it a shot. He called the poor man and told him he’ll give him bread and that he should eat the bread alone. The man agreed. The rich man went to the bakery and told the pastry chef to add a $10 million check inside the bread and he gave it to the man. The man went home and informed the wife of what happened, the wife was happy he came back with a nice, delicious bread, but she queried him saying, only him can’t eat the bread alone when he has a family. All effort to make the woman understand proved abortive. They began to raise their voices and one of their neighbours heard the noise and asked if everything was okay, they explained the situation to the man, out of pity, the man bought the bread from them at a decent price since he observed they needed money and the wife was happy. When their neighbour went home, he was happy to see a $10million check and he quickly cashed the check and didn’t inform the couple.

On a subsequent day, this poor man was back on the street looking for support, the wealthy man saw him again and asked him if he ate the bread alone, he explained to the man what happened. The wealthy man told him he’ll give him another chance but this time around, he sternly warned him not to share the bread with anyone. The poor man was happy for the second chance, and promised he won’t share the break with anyone. When he arrived home, he explained to the wife what happened. But the wife wouldn’t accept the excuse which led to an altercation. Their neighbour came around and asked what’s the issue again, the couples explained their side of the story to the neighbor. The neighbor offered to pay double of the price he bought the first bread, the man refused, and the wife was infuriated. The neighbour increased the price again and again and the man refused, the wife out of annoyance accepted the money and told their neighbour to take the bread. Guess what, this time, there was a $20million check in the bread. The point of this story is that whatever we are seeking is also seeking us. The poor man lost a golden opportunity because of the poverty mentality.

Just like your life is in your hands, your blessings are in your hands. Therefore, take time to evaluate the people in your life, the strangers you meet on the street and the information circulating around you. In all these, if you can manage and nurture them, you’ll attract the desired blessings because success in life is more of a strategy as opposed to hard work.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a public speaker, youth advocate and creative writer. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Food for Living: Why You Need ‘Real’ People in Your Life

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By Henry Ukazu

Dear Destiny Friends,

No man is an island is an oft-quoted line that has proved overtime the indisputable fact we all need people in our lives. The creator of Heaven and earth in His wisdom created man and woman. He knows Adam couldn’t do all the work and that was why Eve was created to be his help mate. In our journey through life, we need people. We need help mates. These people can be friends, family members, life partners, colleagues, business partners, mentors, mentees, leaders, destiny helpers, parents, etc. It is imperatively important we take time to find such people and when found, nurture them like precious pearls, and do everything in our power to keep them because such beautiful souls are priceless.

According to an African proverb, if you want to go fast, you go alone, but if you want to go far, you go with a team. In every sphere of life, you need the right people. For instance, one of the best things that can happen to any company is to hire people who are competent in the work they do in addition to being passionate about the work. One of the best forms of marriage is marrying your best friend who shares the same belief, vision, and understanding with you. One of the best things to happen to anyone is having a family, and true friends who support him despite limitations.

It is undisputable fact that human beings are the oil and lubricant we need to succeed. This is because they spice up our life with various varieties; they make life very interesting with the fun they bring on board.

One of the greatest assignments life has given to us is to search for genuine friends who will be there for us in good and bad times. That is why it is critically important to be intentional about the places you go, the people you relate with and the book you read.

In our contemporary society, we have seen and experienced people who have betrayed our trust, love, loyalty, etc. This set of people may never believe they could do such, but the irony of life is that circumstances don’t say who you are, they reveal who you are. According to a former Governor of Lagos in Nigeria, Babatunde Fashola SAN, “may your loyalty never be tested”. Indeed, one of the hallmarks of friendship is loyalty. That is why when you have a friend or partner who is loyal and faithful to you never you thread on the patience of the person, neither should you take the person for granted.

As fondly stated in social parlance, it takes a community to raise a child. Success in life is not a one-man’s effort. Yes, you can achieve success on your own when you need to prepare for an exam, do a particular work or even improve your personal and professional life, but even at that, sometimes you need mentors or even friends, who can inspire you to be the best version of yourself. If you truly want to succeed in life, you need a team, but more importantly, you need the right team of people who not only understand the work at hand, but also believe in you and are passionate about the work.

Having the right people in your life is truly priceless. The world is filled with fake people who I call fair weather, parasitic friends. The people in your life matter a lot because you need them to climb the ladder of success. You need people who will defend your name when you can’t defend yourself. You need people who will recommend you for opportunities. You need people who can serve as mentors and burden bearers. You also need people who genuinely pray for you, and assist you even without you knowing them. Some of these people might not even need your appreciation or seek payback in the nearest future. They just do it because that’s who they are, or they just believe or find favour in you. They are the real people you need in your life.

To know a passionate being, look at how they invests their time. For instance, volunteers are some of the most passionate people on planet earth, if they don’t believe in a project, they’ll find it hard to support the cause. When volunteers believe in you or in an organization, they invest their time and resources in the project

Take time to find the real people in your life, and endeavor to appreciate them for their selfless and genuine care.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a public speaker, youth advocate and creative writer. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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Food for Living: You Are Called to Be a Blessing

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By Henry Ukazu

Dear Destiny Friends,

The greatest blessing the whole world is being a blessing.”  Jack Hyles

It is generally believed that the joy of life is not a function of how happy one is, but how happy others can be because of them. If you are asked, what’s the best investment you can have on earth, what’s likely going to be your response? If you are a minister of God, you are likely to say, God, a real estate developer might say properties, a doctor or health practitioner might say, good health. A believer in education might say education, a life coach might say investing in yourself. The list is literally endless.

But for the purpose of this topic, I will say the best investment anyone can have is to invest in human beings. When you invest in human beings, the reward is priceless. Have you ever noticed that there’s a kind of joy that comes to you when you realize you are the reason why someone is smiling? How will you feel when you are the cause of someone’s pain?

Would you love to be a blessing or a pain to someone?

I have since come to the sublime understanding of life that the giver’s hand is always on top, and the receiver’s hand is always beneath. I have also realized that when you spray perfume on someone, it always leaves a fragrance on your hand. I’m sure you must have have notice. That simply tells you that your blessings are around you. It’s just like lighting the candle of another person with your candle.

It is a fact of life that you’ll get what you want faster when you help other people to achieve what they need. When you show love, empathy, kindness, and genuine interest in people, they are bound to appreciate by showing gratitude to you when they see the positive change you have brought to their life if they have a conscience. This principle of life will only work in your favor when you give genuinely as opposed to giving to receive the adulations of men.

To be a blessing to others come in different forms. You can literally be a blessing by saying the right words, giving a helping hand, being a good servant leader, employee, being a mentor/mentee, selfless or even praying for someone. In being a blessing, you don’t need to have money to give, though money is important. Being a blessing cost less because it cost literally nothing to be kind. For instance, it doesn’t cost anything to say thank you, please, I’m sorry, etc. These words are very powerful if used in the right context because it is capable of evoking emotions in the minds of people.

We live in a cruel and inhuman society where people don’t literally care for others. They literally look for themselves, family members, and close associates. They are just basically concerned with their interest. They fail to understand that whatever goes around comes around. It should be noted we are all strangers and visitors on earth, at the end of our transient moment, each and every one of us must surely live on this sinful earth to our creator where we are expected to give account for our life.

One of the painful feelings anyone can have when the end of life is near is to live in regret especially when you realize that you didn’t do much for the people you are supposed to assist. For instance, if as a married man, you squander your money on ladies’ and on frivolities activities instead of investing in properties, viable businesses, etc; and supporting your families, friends, and associates, you will have a deep pain in your heart. Imagine being a politician or leader and you fail to make good policies or develop your community by building infrastructures, providing education, health faculties, power, and the basic human need for your people, and towards the end of your administration you realize you have done literally nothing, the kind of regret you’ll have if you have a conscience will be unimaginable

To be a blessing is the easiest thing you can ever do. Do you know you can just pray for your friends, family members, meet someone’s needs by just giving someone hope by offering good thoughts with encouraging words, and giving your time? Do you know you are blessed to bless others? Yes, you are literally blessed to be a blessing to others. Do you know that when you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure you have abundance? According to Mark Batterson “when God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living. Raise your standard of giving.”

Being a blessing is like saving money because you save money for money to save you. When you bless others, the universe has a way of blessing you in ways and manners you won’t understand.

In conclusion, do you have anything you are hoping to get? If yes, consider showing kindness to people selflessly and see how the universe will work in your favor by attracting the opportunities you desire into your life.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a public speaker, youth advocate and creative writer. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success and President of gloemi.com. He can be reached via info@gloemi.com

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