RECENTLY, governorship candidates aggrieved by the decision of the Supreme Court challenged its verdicts on two election matters. The challenge has just been laid to rest by the court. In the Bayelsa case, the court had earlier voided the election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election on account of the forged credentials submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by his running mate. And according to the extant laws of the land, the implication of the perjury is that the APC had no valid governorship candidate in the election and as a result, all other conditions that the party met in the election for its candidates to be declared winners by INEC were of no moment. The declaration was done in error; that was the essence of the court’s earlier decision which the party and its governorship candidate sought to overturn.
Even though the Supreme Court in rare but clear cases of clerical errors or slips can sit in review of its verdicts, that does not detract from the fact that its decision on any matter is final. Therefore, any applicant seeking a review of the apex court’s earlier verdict must approach it in that context, not with a posturing of appealing the verdict as if there can be no end to litigation. If the court had granted the request for the reversal of its decision in a clime where the average litigant is inordinately interested in having his way with the court, it would have opened the floodgate to a deluge of similarly frivolous and vexatious requests in the future. The law that punished the former governor-elect for the offence committed by his running mate may seem draconian and irrational, but it was not the apex court justices that wrote it. It was the politicians who did and only they can cause the law to be altered. But until that is done, it remains the law. Again, while the erstwhile Bayelsa State deputy governor-elect may not have had the intention to commit perjury, it is on record that he serially and recklessly bore different names on his credentials, a development that cast a pall of doubt on his true identity. And having failed or neglected to fulfil the requirements of the law to harmonise those identities, he and his principal could not have escaped the fate that befell them at the Supreme Court. The justices apparently do not know what goes on in the inner recess of the former deputy governor-elect’s mind: their decision, as it should be, was based on the facts/evidence before them and the law. It is laudable that in the instance case, the Supreme Court stood firm and staved off possible intimidation, especially in the wake of unguarded statements by politicians and street protests. This is salutary.
In our view, a core issue thrown up by the Bayelsa case is the inability and/or refusal of political parties to exercise due diligence in screening candidates for elections. For far too long, they have foisted unqualified and shady characters on the electoral process through their warped internal processes. Forgery is a serious crime and in the instant case, it is mind-boggling that a candidate whose academic credentials bore as many as five unrelated names was presented for election, with the voices of critics within the party apparently having been muted by its leadership. The party’s woes in Bayelsa State where its candidate no doubt won the popular vote are therefore self-inflicted. It is hoped that going forward, all political parties in the country will start acting in accordance with the laws of the land in presenting candidates for elections. The verdict of the panel of justices who handled the review of the apex court’s earlier decision on the Bayelsa governorship election cannot be faulted. It has helped a great deal in affirming the independence of the judiciary.