- Democracy, according to Ross Feingold [sic], is considered the most legitimate form of government because the power of choice rests with the people. “But when this power dynamic is altered and citizens lose their influence, the legitimacy of the system is threatened”. That is where we are in Nigeria today because the choices made by citizens with their ballots are being increasingly rendered useless. And this threat to ‘the legitimacy on the system’ is coming from our courts, including the highest court in the country whose decisions are not only final but affect those of lower courts.
- Yesterday, the Supreme Court put a final seal on the Bayelsa State gubernatorial election by dismissing the review application of Mr David Lyon. The ruling APC candidate had won the election in the state before the recent Supreme Court judgement that due to multiple certificates (with different names) presented by his deputy, the votes accorded him be voided and his defeated PDP opponent be declared winner. That, of course, is pleasing to the PDP leaders who have been carrying their pot bellies from one embassy to another in an ill-advised campaign against the Supreme Court. Sadly, it has also led to a more sinister decision by a number of APC hoodlums to lay siege to the home of a supreme court Justice. But whichever way we look at the ugly developments, it is very disturbing that the integrity of judgements coming from our courts is being openly questioned. More worrying is that in Nigeria today, neither those who cast the ballots nor those who count them decide the outcome of a democratic process. The decision as to who represents the people is now with Judges.
- At the end, it is very clear that while the political parties must wean themselves of bad behaviour in the conduct of their primaries to nominate candidates for elections, both the Constitution and the Electoral Act would have to be amended. We cannot continue with a situation in which Judges will veto the choices of the electorate on the basis of technicalities. If this democracy is to survive, it is imperative that the judiciary as an institution and judges as individuals are not only impartial to those who appear before them but also that the wider public have the confidence that cases affecting their well-being will be decided fairly and in accordance with the law.