The Seven Hidden Faces With Strong Finality Voices By:Babafemi A. Badejo, Ph.D - THE BUSINESS PACKAGE


Monday, November 6, 2023

The Seven Hidden Faces With Strong Finality Voices By:Babafemi A. Badejo, Ph.D

October 26, 2023, was significant for Nigeria. It was the day the Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN), following the same path of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) decided on who would be the President of Nigeria for the next four years. I was not eager to listen to the pronouncements of the panel of seven senior jurists in Nigeria. Being a legal practitioner or put differently, as a learned as opposed to a schooled Nigerian - a wording that does not amuse one of my friends that I call “egbon kekere”, I was not expecting a different decision than was announced. Many other Nigerians, for different reasons did not expect anything different. 
I had confidently told one of my teachers as well as a dear friend to expect the confirmation of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT), by the Supreme Court as the president of Nigeria, in spite of the loud noises (whether at the Chicago State University or on the so-called PBAT’s FBI papers), in faraway United States of America. Both issues, are not foreign judgements to be canvased before the Supreme Court for consideration. Even then, foreign judgements have procedural hurdles before they can be placed before the SCN, moreso, when not pleaded at the PEPT. And what’s the emergency in the “discovery” on an issue late Gani Fawehinmi had brought before the courts over two decades ago?
I was at Abeokuta on the day of judgement. As usual, there was no electricity and I was not ready to power the generator loaned to me by retired Justice Abidoye Olugbemi; as a friend desirous of making me happier at Abeokuta. My not putting on the generator was not because of the horrendous jump in the price of fuel. It was because I normally do not find it easy to crank the set to supply electricity. Hence, I did not have the option of watching the television. Luckily, a friend sent me a live YouTube link to watch on my phone. As I watched, my internet supplier went caput or “pafuka” as we say in Pidgin!
I no longer had the luck of listening to the weighty voices of my Lord Justices without their faces. I still ask myself why My Lords allowed the cameras into the court but hid their faces from viewers. The Yoruba say: “oju l’oro wa”, meaning eye contact is the essence of verbal communications. And you only hide your face when you are ashamed of what you are doing or when you are afraid and needed protection by being ‘faceless’. 
Were My Lords afraid of being marked down by the supporters of one of the appellants, since they had promised hell and brimstones since justice, for them, was for their candidate to be declared the winner? Or was the problem that of not knowing how far the desperate appellant who finally left the American courts would go? Why the faceless reading of judgements? Did we not know the 7 My Lords, already with their passport size photographs widely available on the internet? I thought to myself that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. No-one dared to order the Justices to allow cameras into their court. If they chose to allow the klieg lights, probably for transparency, then they should have gone the whole hog and allowed their respective faces to be beamed all over the world.
Though very few Nigerians stepped forward to cast a ballot on which of the three people were at the fore-front of the selection process. Actually, out of the registered voters of 93 millions, only 28.63% voted in trying to select a president. Like him or not, PBAT was the announced winner. Unlike the situation in many countries, Nigerians knew that their votes would not count in the end. They knew the SCN must push all other responsibilities aside whenever the electoral industry was in full swing. In the large part, we lack the spirit of sportsmanship to call and concede to the opponent.
All sorts of arguments were brought to justify why even the third person in the race should be declared the winner of the selection. So much was made of the immediate electronic transmission of results from polling units. Though it was not the law, but it was promised by the head of the selection process. Was he bound to fulfil a promise made on television if it became impossible for him to execute? But then, what about accountability as expected from a public official given the humongous costs involved in acquiring the technology? He did promise and failed to deliver. Shouldn’t he have resigned?
Well, we wait for someone to sue him for the damages suffered from the failure to transmit immediately. I asked a Professor friend of mine who demonstrated so much disdain for the failure of the representation, if that failure really vitiated the entire process and should lead to the cancellation of the entire process? I did not get an answer till date. Parties’ representatives signed manually and kept copies that were later collated and subsequently uploaded. Were there manipulations within the hours of delay? No credible evidences were provided to support this position. The vociferous nature of the cries actually made me think about the possibility of my compatriots having planned a technological heist that would have made the manipulation of the Kenyan 2017 presidential elections a child’s play.  
Their other grounds, including hanging on to the absurd interpretation of the 1999 Constitution to the effect that the overall winner of majority votes failed if he/she did not have 25% of the votes cast in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory even if such candidate had 25% of votes cast in two-thirds of the states of the federation. To have upheld this absurdly mischievous argument would have meant that voters in Abuja have a veto over the overwhelming two-thirds of the states making up the country.
Just as the supporters of one of the appellants had issued threats on any Nigerian who dared to oppose their preferred candidate, they became very loud in vociferous cries of the people watching the judiciary. Though I do not belief their preferred candidate would support such bullying of the justices on social media, he did not try to curb his supporters.
The attempt to intimidate the judiciary was resisted by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), when he stated that justices do not operate on the basis of public opinion but rather, according to the law. And what constitutes public opinion these days? Vox Populi? How do we arrive at the voice of the people? Is it the voices of those who are loudest on social media if a summation of that were possible? 
Or would what religious leaders of all sorts say constitute the voice of the people in a country like Nigeria with a diversity of religions with all sorts of self-serving liars regularly giving us all sorts of messages from God? There were several such cacophony of messages as we approached and during the 2023 elections. Some claimed God told them they were the next president of Nigeria. Gullible followers agreed, remained supportive as these people paid the humongous sums demanded by the shifting alliances of thieves that we call political parties as premium for seeking to use their platforms to acquire political power. Some rallied followers behind ethnic agenda making an unnecessary issue over the ruling party’s decision to have what we now call Muslim-Muslim ticket. Many of us, especially the Yoruba, with adequate socialization into religious tolerance, never thought this was an issue, in spite of the contrary preaching of Yoruba Pentecostal mis-leaders. 
The ‘trance – like gyratic’ fervour towards these politicians in religious garbs remained high despite the clarity that they have no “anointing” to deliver messages from God to Nigerians or that such lies couched as Vox Dei (God’s Voice) had been wrongly interpreted or prematurely delivered. Some, especially the Pentecostals, over-reached themselves as they announced in details how God would translate their chosen one into Aso Villa. Unfortunately, most of these prophesies came to nought, including on how God had decided that the justice system would rectify the process.  
By the way, if we could ascertain Vox Populi, should we willy-nilly succumb to it as justice? Unequivocally, I say not at all. We have to live with the decision of the seven Justices, despite the well-articulated parting or valedictory shots of Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, who further affirmed that the judiciary was not bereft of corruption. He raised concerns about some decisions arrived at by the highest court of the land. Pushing for reforms, especially of the office of the CJN from which the two immediate past occupiers left with ignominy though they received soft landing, he added what seemed strange to me. Justices are appointed on the basis of their representation of their respective ethnicities or if you like, in the non-constitutional but more modern Nigerian lingua, their geo-political zones. So, what should one of the appellants whose geo-political zone was not represented at the apex court do? Reject the decision of the seven justices?
Well, we all must rise, acquiesce and in unison say: As the Court Pleases. In effect, it was the decision of the hidden-faced seven justices with strong voices that mattered in the end. And this raises the fundamental question of why we spent so much money to undergo a charade in order to be described as democratic in spite of the cries of a number of people like myself who, overtime have been insisting that elections/selections do not make a country democratic. Why did we acquire expensive foreign exchange draining hardware and software but failed to use them? The value of the naira that has nose-dived would have been slightly better without these and similar acquisitions. We need not calculate the discord the 2023 presidential selection brought into Nigeria, including many lives lost. Should we really continue with this charade of national presidential selections? Are we unable to think through what could work for us with minimal human and material losses and conflicts? I have never seen as much ethnic and religious divisiveness in Nigeria as that brought by the 2023 selections.
It is sad that we go through all these wastages of individual and national wealth in order to be described as a democracy. In the end, there are no improvements in the lives of our people. If anything, poverty and insecurity are getting worse by the day. The elected officials are collectively laughing openly at the expense of the people at the hallowed legislative assemblies of the federation and the states as the respective executive arms play along, acquiring frivolities as personal play toys with no thoughts of letting the people ‘breathe’; thereby, snuffing life out of many. 
No, Nigeria is not a DEMOCRACY. It is the extent to which a government of the people, by the people and for the people nudges humanity towards utmost freedom that makes a country democratic. The core of this effort are the improvements on the achievements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights coupled with strides on the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals. These are not “dividends” of democracy, they are the core or the principal on what it takes to be democratic. Selections/Elections representing just an aspect of participation is a small portion of the three facets of the simplistic definition of democracy. “By the people” is merely one-third of the equation and even within that one-third, in the 2023 presidential election, it was the will of the seven hidden faces with strong voices that, in the final analysis, really counted.

*Babafemi A. Badejo, author of a best-seller on politics in Kenya, was a former Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, and currently a Legal Practitioner and Professor of Political Science/International Relations, Chrisland University, Abeokuta. Nigeria.

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