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Eyes on ‘eyes on the judiciary’



Lekan Sote

An unattributed online comment stated that, “During the elections, there was nothing they did not do, including cyberbullying, threatening, abusing, insulting, name-calling, accusing, hounding, targeting, ganging up, mocking, caricaturing, and harassing anyone who refused to support them… They made minimal attempts to be persuasive.”

They even ran billboard campaigns that needlessly fell foul of the regulations of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria. They should have been sanctioned beyond merely pulling down the attempt to intimidate the judiciary.

As Atiku and Obi are preparing to approach the Supreme Court for a final once-over on their petition against President Bola Tinubu, all eyes will be on all the eyes that are going to be interrogating the judiciary.

Maybe their lawyers will be more serious and pay attention to matters of law and evidence instead of the false posturing that they have been enacting for the purpose of the television cameras as they have been doing all along.

Some of the lawyers are known more for the parting on their hair, the Brookes Brothers feel of their bespoke suits and the new title that they got an opportunity to show off to the unsuspecting world.

There is more than a wager that many of those keeping eyes on the judiciary are from the #EndSARS pressure group that ferociously engaged the state in 2020, but eventually failed after the state met them with violence.

The #EndSARS pressure group initially adopted former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as its prospective presidential candidate for the 2023 general elections but adopted Obi after Osinbajo lost the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress in 2022.

Those nearly seven million people who voted for Atiku in 2023 may not be as truculent as the Obi group and have merely tagged along because their candidate, like Obi, has gone to court.

If you concluded that the weapon most used by those keeping an eye on the judiciary is mainly propaganda, you would be correct. They dug out the video where Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, described democracy in a justifiably scathing language.

A friend asked why it was so. The answer, from another friend, is that the intellectual input for the “all eyes on the judiciary” campaign is from the Obi partisans, who probably have the patent on propaganda.

The tragedy is that, rather than get their legal team to dig well for evidence to show that the presidential election did not substantially comply with the Electoral Act, they went on a jeremiad of sort, chasing shadows and failing to adduce evidence to convince the court of the “rightness” of their plea.

The Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum is so disgusted with the poor showing of the legal representatives of Obi and Atiku at the Presidential Election Petition Court and they have called them out accordingly.

Following are the excoriating words of PANDEF: “With due respect to the learned lawyers, who handled those petitions, perhaps they need to apologise to their masters and principals who gave them those jobs. From what we witnessed yesterday, they did not do a good job.”

Recall that Justice Mistura Bolaji-Yusuf insinuated that the court is no Father Christmas that will scour the Internet, or any net, for evidence to help the petitioners prove their case. What is not brought to the court cannot receive the judicious notice of the court.

It is not certain that Santa Claus comes down the chimney of any home these days, yo-yoing, as he presented Christmas gifts to children of all ages. Kids of old used to play a game of soccer, called “Work-and-Eat,” whereby you become the goalkeeper if you score a goal.

Justice Bolaji-Yusuf observed that, “It is obvious that the petitioners were fixated on the belief that they won the election, without any cogent and credible evidence. And they did not even bother to place any such credible evidence before the court.”

Then she asked, “Were (the lawyers of Atiku and Obi) expecting the court to go and gather evidence from the street or the market? Or to be persuaded or intimidated by threats on social media. That is not the way of the court.” Simplicita!

The Evidence Act, where Osinbajo, who has congratulated Tinubu on the court judgment, by the way, is an expert, is the golden rule for cases such as those brought to the courts by Atiku and Obi.

One is compelled, though, to ask if what appears to be the insinuation by the justices that once a candidate “with k-leg” is nominated by a political party to run for elective office, he cannot be challenged by non-party members.

Anyway, if the fumbling lawyers had known that their clients had no case, they shouldn’t have led them by the nose to be slaughtered in the temple of justice, wasting good money that could be used to achieve better purposes.

One wonders if the Nigerian Bar Association should not consider a sanction against the lawyers for a shoddy job, that’s if the Supreme Court of Nigeria does not also sanction them for leading their clients to certain perdition.

Atiku and Obi should be looking towards obtaining a refund from their lawyers, and brief another set, if they truly want to take their cases up to the Supreme Court which may be even more severe than the Presidential Election Petition Court.

Those who have appointed themselves to keep an eye on the judiciary need to pay more attention to hard facts, and not sentiments that are not too grounded on logic. It loses sympathies and support for them.

Many Nigerians, including this writer, who didn’t put much store in the prospect of an Atiku presidency, but had hoped for an Igbo President, for equity and fair play, are no longer very sure they want to go with people who hurl insults and other verbal violence at people who merely ask what the points of their arguments are.

Too often, their arguments fall into the void of “non sequitur,” because their conclusions do not always seem to follow the premises that precede. And that can be very frustrating for those who genuinely want to understand their case and help them explain and broadcast it.

Whoever thought the best way to pursue their thinly veiled, but justified, quest for an Igbo President is to make doubters, or those who do not agree with them, uncomfortable didn’t seem to have thought it through. And if he did, he recommended the wrong approach.

When Rev. Jesse Jackson lost his presidential bid in 1984, African Americans didn’t despair or lapse into abusive narratives. They regrouped and thought out more collaborative strategies that introduced Barack Obama in 2004 and made him President of the United States in 2009.

Those, whose eyes are trained on the judiciary, should also get a handle on their law and politics.