• Sat. Sep 30th, 2023

Presidential Elections Petitions Court (PEPC) outcome as an anticlimax

ByBassey Udo

Sep 16, 2023

By Bassey Ubong

Can the outcome of the Presidential Elections Petitions Court (PEPC) be classified as an anti-climax? The answer would depend on the individual and the glasses used to read the 12-hour verbal marathon by the five-member court. 

In the era of Guinness Book of World Records, who knows whether the judgment would one day not be classified as the longest in world history.

The Tinubu Team should see it as epochal, heave a sigh of relief, and pack their bags for a holiday abroad, for as we hear, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) goes home with at least N100 million on each case, whether the person wins or loses. 

The Atiku/Obi teams would, by this time, have concluded their acts for presentation at the next stage of the drama – the Supreme Court of Nigeria. To the two teams the script cannot be qualified as right, because the three teams appeared to have known the outcome well ahead of  September 6.

To the Tinubu loyalists and beneficiaries, the champagne bottles in the refrigerator would have been emptied by this time and they can punch figures in their calculators as to how much they expect their bank accounts will net on or before 2027. The opponents would scratch their heads, but remain hopeful.

Security agencies and the staff may continue to sleep with one eye closed, because no nation on earth appears to be as unpredictable as Nigeria. Who knows which group has sustained night meetings to confront the National Assembly or nearest High Courts or ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission offices? 

After the near zero eruption like a volcano which the Obi-Datti Vanguard gave the impression they were up to, security agents can heave a partial sigh of relief.

For other Nigerians, the episode of the 2023 Presidential Election high drama should be seen as an anti-climax. Verbal violence in particular from the Obi-Datti camp hiked the emotional and security barometers to boiling point. Some pundits and the less endowed promised Nigerians the EndSARS drama would be child’s play if Alhaji Bola Tinubu retained the ‘stolen mandate’ (Nigerians have a way with clichés. A friend who lost a juicy youth association election told me he will reclaim his ‘stolen mandate’ one of these days.

The word anti-climax has been used above, but are we sure we are far from “Much ado about nothing?” 

William Shakespeare, adjudged the greatest literary writer of all time wrote the play: “Much ado about nothing” between 1598 and 1599. The play fits into the genre known as anti-climax which stands a short distance from genres such as farce, parody, burlesque, satire, spoof, and few others which one should strain to avoid in a discussion about eminent jurists.

Dr. James Ene Henshaw, medical doctor and first published playwright in Nigeria wrote the play “Magic in blood” in 1964. Professor Effiong Johnson of the University of Uyo analysed the play on Dr. Henshaw’s 99th posthumous birthday on 29th August 2023 for Uyo Book Club and classified it as a farce. The central plot focused on a native court where the members demonstrated incredible behaviours which weighed on their decision with respect to the case of a stolen goat. 

Dr. Henshaw showed his prophetic inclination because what Nigerians witnessed in the Judiciary during the 2023 elections left them with dry tongues. 

Dr. Henshaw’s court on stage had one woman appointed to sanitise the revered outfit. The PEPC, like Dr. Henshaw’s court, functioned with one woman, Hon. Justice Bolaji-Yusuf. But in my personal opinion the lady in the PEPC acquitted herself well with special reference to her view of the handling of core issues by the lawyers to the petitioners. 

In Dr. Henshaw’s play, while the men continued their corrupt and immoral positions, the woman did something outrageous. With the loss of her precious soup to fire while she sat on the robbery case, the female judge returned to her seat with a pestle to fight the head of the court – a perpetual drunk – who defended himself with his walking stick! 

Anti-climax as a literary device dwells on a situation in which high tension and emotion follow an activity, but the outcomes fall below expectation. The end or outcome turns out to be a dramatic reversal of expectations.

The judgment of the PEPC, I want to believe, took no Nigerian by surprise. First, the major dramatis personae (the key actors) in the camp of the plaintiffs showed dramatic drop in energy as the case progressed. Either they lost interest or they had cause to believe their effort would be vain. Second, the section of the 12-hour judgment on petition flaws shows lawyers for the petitioners were found wanting in their presentations which may have occurred to them as the case progressed. Third, the statements from some official quarters had the capacity to scare citizens who may have wanted to demonstrate against a pro-Tinubu judgment. This must have made Nigerians to view the judgment with suspicion ahead of delivery. Fourth, the confidence which has followed actions by the challenged made Nigerians believe he had nothing to fear. 

For instance President Buhari ran the country without Ministers for months despite President Jonathan’s heroic decision to accept the verdict of INEC. In the current case, the man in Aso Rock Villa presented a team, got majority of them confirmed by a rubber-stamp Senate, swore them in and assigned portfolios, while the PEPC pored over tons of documents. Suppose the Kenyan experience played out and the man in office found himself out of office? Imagine what would happen to Ministers who had packed their personal effects and families into accommodation made for Ministers! This show of limitless confidence by President Tinubu (I pray his team should avoid the acronym BAT, because of the way our society sees bats) made many people believe it would be unnecessary for the President to have cause for worry. 

The fifth reason makes the exercise a knockout – the man whose office others want with desperation travelled to New Delhi, India for the G-20 Summit. He did it either to show the level of certainty on the outcome of the case or to be sure he took photographs with notable world leaders to be framed for his palace for the attention of his grandchildren and great grandchildren. This aspect should be taken with seriousness, despite the unintended consequence associated with the presence of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Without doubt more cameras focused on the World Trade Organization Chief Executive than Nigeria’s President.

I would advise Nigerians to let go and allow the business of governance to go on. If President Tinubu relaxes his grip on the jugular of ordinary Nigerians via reduction in gasoline prices and stoppage of the plan to increase school fees, long-suffering Nigerians will trudge on for four to eight years, while they wait for Messiah X or Y.

At the end of the day, the PEPC delivered what all sides expected. Attention has moved to the Supreme Court where the most unlikely thing will be a tsunami after Justice Tsamani’s long legal journey which ended like the world, like scientists speculate might end with a sigh rather than a bang, a classic case of anti-climax.

Dr Ubong, a writer and public policy analyst, lives in Uyo 

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