By Amaka Ezeno, MCLArb,

It is sad but a few thoughts about Nigeria makes one weak. Worst still, our glimmer of hope is trampled upon now and then by the ruling class. P.O.C. Umeh, in his poem, ‘The Ambassadors of Poverty,’ properly describes them as the corrupt masters of the economy with their head abroad and anus at home. The 2023 Presidential Election heralded a new dawn.

We had high hope and looked forward for the Nigerian dream. After the Election, many if not majority of Nigerians were disappointed as it was riddled with all manner of irregularities. What followed was a caricature of admonishment telling those who are dissatisfied with the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission to go to court.

Recently, one of the politicians, in what I firmly hold to be a Freudian slip rather than a mistake, said that those who cannot endure the pain of rigging should not contest elections. He retraced his tongue and said, those who cannot endure the pain of losing should not contest elections. Indeed, and unfortunately, rigging has become a constant in our electoral processes.

However, what is more alarming is the effrontery of those who have rigged election to tell others to go to court. It becomes a necessary conclusion that a politician who rigs election and urges you to seek redress in court must either have the wherewithal to rig the court, or has in fact rigged the court before you approach it. In either case, this is the beginning of the end.

This is the beginning of the end because justice becomes the advantage of the wealthy. Election should not be contested so that the court will determine the actual winner. Instead, it should first be free and fair, that is, it should be contested so that the people’s choice will become the winner.

Otherwise, when we all set our eyes on the judiciary, what is our hope that the court will not align with unrepentant criminals; that they will not examine the face, not the case; that they will not deliver the judgement in the language of brown envelopes; that they will not let justice elope with corruption?

It becomes a worrisome trend that every election must be contested in the court after the poll. For many reasons, the poll is the best place for contesting elections. Every voter goes to the poll with their prejudices or otherwise and cast his one vote based on his free choice for his or her own self. Even where it is an induced choice, the voter will reap the fruits of his sold rights. On the contrary, the court does not vote for itself. It votes for the people.

The danger is that subversion becomes a possibility either through the instrument of technicality or based on selfishness. The selfishness of the court is more painful than the selfishness of the individual voter because in the former, you are made to suffer for the partiality committed by another man. However, if the court must determine, it must so determine bearing in mind that indeed, it is the last hope of the common man.

In the words of Hon. Justice Uwaifo, JSC, in his valedictory speech, “A corrupt judge is more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. The latter can be restrained physically. But a corrupt judge deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals through abusing his office while still being referred to as honourable.”