Attaining Electoral Justice Without Election Petitions

By Yusufu Shehu Usman

There is no doubt that the electoral laws have been enacted with a view to providing legal reliefs to the victims of electoral injustice and those short changed either by the manipulation of the process, corruption or gross irregularities perpetrated in the conduct of elections.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, election Petitions have become a permanent or recurring feature in our electoral processes.
A flood of Petitions follow the conduct of elections at all levels with the losers approaching the various election petition Tribunals set up across the country seeking justice from the legal system
But, have the Tribunals and the Courts that sit on Appeal over the decisions of the Tribunals actually served justice to the petitioners?
If the statistics are any thing to go by, most of the petitioners have lost in their bid to get redress through election petitions
Many reasons could be responsible for this ranging fron the state of the electoral law itself, to corruption and the grounds on which some of the petitions were predicated
From my observation, the only ground on which petitions may clearly succeed, is the ground challenging the qualification or eligibility of a candidate to contest the election in the first place
Apart from this, all other grounds like electoral malpractices except probably electoral violence, constitute an uphill task for Petitioners to prove before the Tribunals
The Petitioner may do his best to establish clear evidence of malpractices or substantial irregularities but the law provides that such is not ground enough for voiding the elections unless the petitioner goes further to prove that what he established, substantially affected the results of the election
I view this provision of the law as unfair and skewed in favour of the declared winner of the Polls
That is why Politicians could do every thing including malpractices, irregularities and falsification of results to get a favourable declaration by INEC. Once the declarations is secured, the results though falsified, become the threshold the Petitioner Is expected to upset.
But, how can he do that when, the INEC without whom the result could not have been falsified team up with the declared winner to defend the false result before the Tribunal?
Every Politician knows this and that is why instead of fighting hard to get the votes from the electorate, they concentrate on getting a declaration by INEC at all costs and by all means, fair or foul.
It’s for this reason that i have always maintained in my many posts on the issue,that the Electoral law is skewed ab initio In favour of candidate declared winner by INEC and the petitioner condemned to a near impossibility of proof and unless the proof of irregularity or malpractice are given an evidential pedestal to stand on their own as independent standards of proof without linking them with the final results, we will continue to have the same results from election Petitions and from the Tribunals.
Nothing will change until we change the law. As it commonly said, you can’t continue doing the same thing over and over and expect different results
The only way to attain electoral justice in our political system is to conduct the elections in a fair, free, transparent and credible manner
If we achieve this, candidate who lost will accept the results once they Perceived that they were beaten fairly and squarely.
They may not feel inclined to file petitions before the Tribunal and our resources and the precious time of the Judges could be channelled to more beneficial services
The problem with our electoral process especially the conduct of elections should be laid directly on the door steps of our Politicians not necessary the law . They hold the key but do not appear ready just yet to allow us have a free and fair elections.

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