In a concerning turn of events, President Tinubu finds himself at a crossroads, facing pressure from some state governors who have been recently ousted from office by electoral tribunals. These governors are allegedly seeking to enlist the President’s support in their efforts to undermine and overturn the tribunal’s decisions. It is crucial for President Tinubu to recognize the importance of upholding the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary in our democracy.
The recent wave of gubernatorial tribunal rulings has been met with mixed reactions across the nation. It is expected that all those governors that had unfavorable judgments from the Election Tribunals will seek redress in higher courts. However, others especially those from the ruling APC have appeared to be resorting to political maneuvering in a bid to reverse their fortunes. This situation raises important questions about the sanctity of the electoral process and the role of the judiciary in ensuring fair and transparent elections.
Recently, Nasir Gawuna of the APC upstaged Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf of the NNPP at the Tribunal. In Nasarawa State, Dr. David Ombugadu of the PDP defeated Governor AA Sule while in Kaduna, Senator Uba Sani secured a pyrrhic victory as the Tribunal ordered a rerun election in some wards against his challenger, Isa Ashiru of the PDP.
The story in Kogi State is slightly different as the Tribunal declared Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan of the PDP winner of the Kogi Central Senatorial Election and sacked Senator Okere of the APC. Kogi’s case is peculiar because of the forthcoming governorship election in the state and any judgement favourable to the PDP at the Court of Appeal might have a domino effect on the election.
There are media reports that some of the governors that had their elections nullified at the Tribunals are busy crisscrossing the country enlisting the support of religious leaders, traditional rulers and political leaders to influence the outcome of judgements at the higher courts.
Of course, the final port of call is Mr. President, especially for the governors of the APC, who feel that President Tinubu owes them a favour. Many of them believe that the president is vulnerable and they will even go to the extent of blackmailing him.
As a very experienced politician and tactician, Tinubu has the capacity to withstand adversaries without necessarily inheriting the sins of others. Any attempt to interfere with the court processes could undermine his government with the attendant chaos. President Tinubu should choose the side of the people and not of those in power without political influence as they were rejected by their people at polls.
The 2023 general elections recorded the highest number of governors who wanted to go to the Senate after completing their tenures but majority of them were rejected by their people after serving for 8 years in the saddle. This is a testament to our political maturity and by extension our democracy and political process. Any attempt to tamper with the will of the people by the president at the higher court will be a huge setback to our democracy.
Let me use this medium to refresh the memory of Mr. President that his ACN, which was one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, was the biggest beneficiary of the non-interference of the executive in the judicial process. States like Edo, Osun and Ekiti couldn’t have gone to the ACN if former President Goodluck Jonathan chose to influence the outcome of the judgments.
Under Buhari, the Supreme Court took away Bayelsa State from the APC and handed it over to the PDP on the eve of the swearing. That was democracy in action!
In Nasarawa in particular, the people defied all forms of intimidation and harassment even from their traditional rulers and voted for Dr. Ombugadu of the PDP because they were yearning for change. The victory of the people of Nasarawa State can only be guaranteed if the judiciary is allowed to dispense justice based of facts and not influence.
The independence of the judiciary is a cornerstone of any democracy. It is essential to prevent the abuse of power and maintain a system where the law is applied equally to all, regardless of their political affiliations. The President, as the leader of the nation, must be particularly vigilant in safeguarding this principle.
It is imperative for President Tinubu to resist any attempts by these ousted governors to pressure or influence him into meddling with court judgments. The President must demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law, fair elections, and the democratic principles on which our nation is built.
Furthermore, it is essential for civil society organizations, the legal community, and the citizens to be vigilant and support the independence of the judiciary. The checks and balances within our system rely on the separation of powers, and when this balance is threatened, the very foundations of our democracy are at risk.
President Tinubu faces a crucial test of his commitment to upholding the rule of law and protecting the independence of the judiciary. It is a test that will define his legacy and the strength of our democratic institutions. We urge the President to stand firm in his support of the judiciary, ensuring that justice is served without political interference and that the integrity of our electoral processes is preserved for the benefit of all Nigerians.
Anthony Kila. Prof. Of Development and Strategy.