Today, exactly 193 days after the presidential election on February 25, all eyes will be on the judiciary as the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) makes its decision in the long-awaited case against President Bola Tinubu’s election victory. Tinubu has been in office for 100 days as of yesterday.
Even though this isn’t the last stop in the legal fireworks over who won the election, as the Supreme Court is eager to hear from the losing parties and candidates, the run-up to today has been intense and tense, with the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), trying to protect its mandate and the leading opposition parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), throwing everything they have at each other.
Nigerians, whose lives are already hard because of the new government’s economic policies and who will be on the second day of a two-day warning strike called by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), will take a break from work and routine to watch the proceedings as the five-man panel decides on the petitions brought against President Tinubu by PDP’s Atiku Abubakar and LP’s Peter Obi.
Some people wonder if the court will throw out the election on February 25 and order a new one, but others think that if that happens, the country will be in even more trouble and crisis.
Even though no court in Nigeria has rejected a presidential election since 1999, this kind of thing doesn’t happen all that often in Africa. Already, the appeals or highest courts in Malawi (2019), Kenya (2017), Comoros (2016), and Madagascar (2001) have thrown out the results of presidential elections.
The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) said it has increased its deployment across the country to improve security and prevent a breakdown of law and order, regardless of what the PEPC decides.
Soldiers quickly checked vehicles yesterday at the Gwagwalada and Nyanya axis entry points to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
ACP Muyiwa Adejobi, a police spokeswoman, told reporters about the deployment and said that the police are committed to keeping people and property safe before, during, and after the judgment.
"The NPF strongly warns everyone, including troublemakers and political gladiators, to be careful in what they do and say, because the Force will not tolerate actions that could lead to violence or chaos. No matter what political party they belong to, all citizens must work for peace and stay calm for a safe and peaceful atmosphere.
For the PDP, party leaders are fasting and praying very hard. The fasting and praying season, which started last Monday and finished yesterday with a special prayer session at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, was also attended by secretariat staff.
At the prayer session, everyone was locked in a series of prayers asking God to help. In his sermon at the meeting, Boni Haruna, a former governor of Adamawa State and the head of the PDP Christian Religious Body 2023, read from First Samuel 30:1-8. He told party members and Nigerians in general not to give up hope because there was still hope.
He said that the party could still get back everything that was taken from it, just like David and his friends did when their enemies stole everything from them in the Bible.
Haruna told reporters right after the meeting, “We believe God will help us win. No matter what the verdict is, we hope it will bring Nigeria closer together. We are not looking for bad things to happen.”
Chinwe Nnorom, the Director of Press for the PDP, was also there and said, “Today’s judgment is not a coincidence. We have been praying before, and it’s not that God wasn’t answering us, but we are before the Chief Judge of the universe. God is with us, and he never changes.”
On Monday, the PEPC set today as the day to decide on the three ongoing cases that are challenging the results of the presidential election on February 25. The PEPC is located at the Court of Appeal headquarters in Abuja.
It has been about a month since the court heard the final arguments of the petitioners, and it will be about two weeks before the 180-day limit that the law says the cases made in March must be heard and decided within.
After hearing the parties’ final statements in August, the five-person court panel led by Haruna Tsammani put off making decisions on the petitions.
Atiku, Obi, and a political party called the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) all made their petitions to challenge President Tinubu’s win.
Also, LP called the public’s and democracy watchers’ attention to some things happening in the country yesterday, before today’s PEPC decision. Obiora Ifoh, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, said in a statement that the party was especially shocked by what retired Justice of the Supreme Court Mary Odili said in Abuja over the weekend at a colloquium to mark the 25th anniversary of the promotion of well-known lawyer J.K. Gadzama to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The statement also brought to the public’s attention the fact that some people, including serving pastors and well-known lawmakers, were bragging about what happened that day.
"We as a party find it unfortunate and dangerous for our democratic journey as a country when people who should know how important it is to protect the independence of the judiciary use it in bad ways just to show loyalty and support for their interests.
"We also noticed that the retired Justice lavishly praised the lawyers for both APC and Candidate Tinubu when the gathering wasn’t theirs."We think this is a very low thing for a well-known judge who reached the top of her career in the country’s highest court and who, as Chairperson of the Body of Benchers, should be leading the way in protecting the integrity of the courts.
"It’s also strange to anyone who has been paying attention to what’s going on in Nigeria since the presidential election on February 25 that the PEPC, which didn’t want live TV coverage of the petition meetings, wants the decision to be shown live.
"What happened between the hearing and the giving of the decision that made the live coverage, which they said was a matter of policy, change all of a sudden?
"We know that people working for the government try to set up problems and put them on the political opposition. In a democracy, people have the right to protest, and state security agents must protect both those who are demonstrating and those who aren’t. ", the statement said.
It did, however, ask Nigerians to stay calm and peaceful, follow the law, and realize that this situation has not hit its logical end.