A predictable outcome, long foretold, By Simbo Olorunfemi

“Were they expecting the court to go and gather evidence from the streets or from the market, or be persuaded or intimidated by threats on social media?”

Justice Bolaji-Yusuf

Of a truth, the judgement(s) of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was quite predictable. Indeed it was an outcome which many independent minds, here and there, had long foretold.

It should not have taken a 12 hours lecture on electoral jurisprudence to a partly snoring audience for anyone with as much as a rudimentary knowledge of the election process, the outcome of the election and factors that led to the eventual outcome, the position of the law on the issues raised (some of which the courts had previously made pronouncement on); and what is required to trigger an upturn an election to realise that the petitioners were simply on what one of the Judges described as “fishing expedition or a roving enquiry”, “inquisitorial adventure”, with their approach to the task at hand.

Hardly could one have an open mind and not come to the realisation that the issues that had been vigorously canvassed in the last few months had no legs to stand upon, except fictitious ones framed in minds ruthlessly manipulated by propaganda, sentiment and/or ignorance.

It is to the credit of the Judges who sat on the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal that inspite of the identified technical deficiencies that became a fixture of the process, they did not summarily thrash the petition(s) as they could have, but chose instead to invest considerable time and energy to not only consider the substantive issues raised, one after the other, sifting for possible merits that might speak up for the cases. The Judges even bent backwards to examined exhibits which they had already struck out on technical grounds for defective evidential value, just to ensure that no stone was left unturned.

There is absolutely no doubt about the industry on the part of the Judges. The cases might have been consolidated, yet the fact of organic and fresh endeavour on their part in taking on issues that had been canvassed and addressed in other petitions was still there to see, for those who followed the judgement with an open mind and a keen eye on language and tone.

None of the issues raised, no matter how trivial or settled, was beyond them. None of the Judges was shy in offering an opinion or advancing a position on the issues at stake, with Justice Ugo taking us on a voyage on logic and Justice Monsurat Bolaji-Yusuf leading us into an understanding of the difference between a “civil” and “criminal” forfeiture.

The breadth and depth of their scholarship was refreshing to see.

But then, their task was made easy by the poor quality of the petitions and arguments canvassed. However, rather than join the queue of those who have put the blame for the watery petitions squarely at the feet of the Lawyers who represented the petitioners, even if one can see where the critics are coming from, I would think that there is more to it than that.

I do not think that the Lawyers are inept, as some have argued. It cannot be that the Lawyers did not realise that overturning election outcomes usually runs through the path of subtracting figures from the tally credited to the opponent and finding ways add up to their Client’s tally, so that the final figures will conclusively speak in the petitioner’s favour as winner of the election.

What I think played out was that the petitioners having sat their independently collated figures side by side with the ones declared by INEC, came to the realisation that there was obviously no path to overturning the election results with the aid of Mathematics. The Maths simply didn’t add up, hence the decision not to tender results and engage on a contest over figures, but rather take to the path of technicalities.

They had to take to making generic allegations, rather than data-led specific interrogations. They did not choose to be nebulous. They did not have much of a choice in the matter. Given the limitations, they had not much of a choice but build their case around technicalities – seeking a disqualification of the Presidential Candidate on grounds of forfeiture of money in US or dual citizenship (Atiku); querying the validity of the nomination of the Vice Presidential candidate for double nomination; seeking to invalidate the election on grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act for failure to electronically transmit results; and that a Presidential candidate needs to win a minimum of 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory to be validly elected.

It is instructive that the Labour party did not bother to advance any evidence-led argument in the direction of having won a majority of valid votes in the election. While many find that strange, I argue that they did not do so because they simply could not logically and mathematically do so.

Their strategy, even in the public domain, has always been one of shying away from putting forward figures, even for the Labour party Candidate whose every sentence is laced with statistics.

It is strange that even though there was a live and public presentation of the judgement, there continues to be a misrepresentation of what was said. There is a lady presenter on Arise TV that has repeatedly put it out that the Tribunal ruled that the use of BVAS by INEC is not compulsory. The Tribunal never said so. The Tribunal only restated the position of the law is that electronic transmission for collation is not mandatory.

Her confusion is even mild, compared to that of her colleague who, after all these months and several explanations out there, he is still unable to understand the difference between the BVAS and IReV. Whereas Justice Tsammani had to emphasise for the benefit of people like him that the “IReV is not a collation system”, he still does not get it. He continues to ask why INEC apologised for a glitch in the operation of IReV, if, as the court ruled, electronic transmission was not mandatory.

Oga needs to understand that INEC apologised for the glitch in the operation of IReV, a VIEWING portal, not a Collation platform. BVAS delivered on its mandate for the purpose of accreditation and capturing of election details. Transfer of results, as provided for in the law, as announced before hand by INEC and known to everyone who participated in the election, was manual.

The idea that a glitch in real-time transmission of a photocopy of the election result, which was already in the hands of all party agents and publicly displayed, in anyway amounted to fraud or should serve as a technical ground for invalidating the result of an election is ridiculous.

It is not a surprise that the judgement has done nothing to cause a change of mind on those whose eyes had been on the judiciary, given that their understanding of justice is an endorsement of their position, and not any other. As a friend here stated, even if the judgement had come from God, many of those who disagree with this one will still fault it.

Well, for those with an open mind, this judgement is another reminder that many of these issues are not as complicated as often made out.

If your definition of justice is not that of going to the stream with a basket, expecting to come back with water enough for the household to drink, there is no way that judgement should have come as a surprise.

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