The recent judgements by the Supreme Court on the various appeals filed by some governorship candidates who lost out in the 2019 gubernatorial elections marked an end to the legal battles that trailed some of the outcomes of the last general elections.
The apex court had earlier affirmed the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, whose victory in the February 23, 2019 presidential poll was challenged by his closest rival and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.
After the 2019 general elections, 807 petitions were filed by aggrieved parties and candidates. Of this number, 582 petitions were dismissed by the various Election Petitions Tribunals and courts, 183 other petitions were withdrawn by the petitioners while 30 results were upturned by the courts.
Unlike before, the governorship elections cases would have ended at the Court of Appeal, but for the amendment to the Constitution and Electoral Act that paved the way for the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter on petitions over governorship elections.
According to the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), governorship election cases traverse a journey of three steps. They start at the tribunals, from where they move to Court of Appeal and terminate at the Supreme Court. Petitions over a presidential election commence at the Appeal Court and terminate at the Supreme Court.
Before then, appeals over judgements by the state and National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunals have been settled at the respective divisions of the Court of Appeal, which is the final arbiter in petitions over state and National Assembly elections.
No doubt, the legal battles were not unexpected. After every election circle, the victors usually celebrate their triumphs at the polls and consequent inauguration for the respective offices for which they were elected, while most of the losers usually cry foul.
However, the beauty of democracy is that the system provides a window for those who feel aggrieved over the outcomes of election to seek redress in the courts rather than resorting to self-help.
But now that the legal option has been explored by those who felt aggrieved over the respective results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and judgements on their petitions delivered by the courts, we implore all parties in the various cases to accept the rulings in good fate. In every contest, there must be winners and losers.
To the winners in particular, we commend those who have already extended hands of fellowship to their rivals. But, beyond the olive branch to opponents, we want to remind them that it is time for the business of governance as the “legal distractions are over.”
Against this backdrop, we insist that all elected officials at the various levels of government must show visionary leadership, which is the principal element that ensures government serves as a vehicle for the attainment of the socio-economic aspirations of citizens.
We premise the reminder on the fact that a major challenge the country has faced in over half a century of her existence as an independent nation is incompetent leadership.
With a population of over 180 million, Nigeria is indisputably Africa’s most populous nation and largest democracy in the continent. However, the leadership deficit that assails the country is so legendary that from all indications, the nation has continued to lag behind in an emerging world order that emphasises clear-headed and able leadership.
With a few exceptions, Nigeria has been struck by a string of incompetent leaders at the various levels of governance in the present dispensation. Unfortunately, these crop of leaders are gradually running the country aground, while “less endowed” nations that got independence the same time with us, have continued to make progress.
Nigeria’s problem had never been paucity of funds and resources, but lack of political will to do the right thing. This explains why the country has stagnated in almost all facets, as it takes commitment and focus on the part of leaders to deliver good governance.
The nation is not where it is supposed to be, not because of God’s design, given her human and natural resources, but because of bad leadership that could not put the resources to good use and, until the nation gets the problem of leadership right, not only at the federal level, but states and local governments, chances that it will make a headway remain slim.
No one needs to remind our elected leaders that the high level of dissatisfaction and discontent in the polity at the moment over rising insecurity and high cost of living speak volume of the need for them to think out of the box on the way forward. They should note that the era of globetrotting in the name of scouting for foreign investors’ that never came is over.
Rather than continue to waste taxpayers’ funds on such adventures, they should sit back home and look inwards on how to harness the nation’s abundant human and natural resources. Most importantly, there is the need for the leaders, irrespective of political leanings, to put heads together on how to tackle the security challenge that poses a great threat to Nigeria’s unity and corporate existence.
Given the fact that leadership is not a tea-party, what the citizenry require from leaders at the various levels of government at this auspicious time of the nation’s history is exceptional organisational skills that enhance performance and ensure legendary positive impacts instead of failures and excuses.