Journalism in the service of society

From the mouth of His Lordship

“The position grew so wild after the 2015 elections,” he writes, “that the number of election petitions far outstripped all other cases filed in all the courts in the country. Many of the senior lawyers who had cornered the very lucrative briefs from the election petitions amassed stupendous wealth.”

Unfortunately, and in spite of the valiant efforts by a few conscientious judges still on the Bench, the cloud of suspicion has, regrettably, thickened.

Abuja special status

Apart from Akintan’s personal decision to be different, there was something else in Reminiscences that caught my attention: the judgment in Joseph Ona & another V. Diga Romani Atenda (2000), 5 NWLR (Pt. 656) 244 in which he played a leading role. This judgment by the Court of Appeal, in my view, addressed one of the vexatious points in Obi’s petition that a candidate must have 25 percent of the votes cast in Abuja or else cannot be declared validly elected.

Until I read the summary judgment in the book, I was under the impression that Abuja residents had two heads; that apart from having a special political status, the dichotomy between “settlers” and “indigenes” was also real.

But in the judgment in the case under reference – a case of trespass, harassment, humiliation and defamation in a land dispute – which was, in fact, referred from the High Court to the Court of Appeal for determination, the court made it clear residents of the Federal Capital Territory are by no means special.

In the words of Akintan, “It is (therefore) totally illegal for any of them to claim any special right over any other Nigerian occupier of the territory.”

Conclusion of the matter

If there is no dichotomy in the status of residents, and they have no exclusive proprietary right over and above citizens anywhere in the country, how can they claim a casting vote that holds the country to ransom at elections? It would be interesting to see how the Supreme Court answers this and other questions that would come before it in the Abubakar-Obi appeal.

What I hear former Supreme Court Justice Akintan say, clearly in Reminiscences, is that the fewer court-imposed candidates we have – and one might add, the less crooked the political parties, the election management body and the media – the better for the electoral system and the judiciary.

Azu Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP  

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