Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Supreme Court Judgment

To both winners and losers, the Supreme Court’s judgment on the 2007 presidential election has laid to rest all disputes on the matter. Of course not everyone may agree with the majority verdict, but the law has spoken. By the laws of the land, the Supreme Court is vested with final say on all matters relating to presidential election disputes.
The court has affirmed the legitimacy of Umaru Yar’ Adua’s election which had been challenged by two of his co-contestants- General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People’s Party {ANPP} and Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress {AC}.
The Supreme Court ruling had been long in coming. While many had criticized this slow, ponderous pace of the law, they also conceded that that was the price of due process. The rule of law is a process that sometimes tries people’s patience but the alternative is no better. It is in that spirit that we congratulate both the winner and the losers - the winner for going home, as it were, with the bull’s eye and the losers for their faith in the rule of law. This, we believe, is one of the ways to deepen democracy. In a polity like ours, the courts have a vital role to play in this regard because of the disputations that often attend elections. Their verdicts may not always reflect popular sentiments but they are binding. That is the essence of the rule of law. It is note-worthy that all the parties to the presidential election disputes have accepted their fate consequent upon the Supreme Court judgment. That is how it should be and we commend them for their maturity.
Now that all legal challenges to the 2007 presidential election are over, President Yar’ Adua could be said to have been freed from lingering questions of legitimacy. As he drops that unwanted baggage, Nigerians expect him to fire on all cylinders. So far, the impression has been that his government is in dire need of traction. If one wanted to be charitable to the president one would blame this on the legal distractions that he was facing on his mandate. Now that the matter is settled, it should spur the president to real action. To whom much is given, much is expected. The seven-point agenda looks good. Let Nigerians see it as a programme aimed at truly improving their lives. It contains all the ingredients needed to transform Nigeria into the big league economically. Now it must begin to take concrete form. However, unless those wonderful ideas are carefully put into action, they will amount to mere slogans. The president must guard against this. It has been the bane of many a brilliant government programme. We believe that this government should steer away from sloganeering and instead begin to implement policies that will endear it to Nigerians.
For example, the energy crisis as we have repeatedly said on this page, should be receiving more serious attention than it seems to be doing now. The president has a fresh opportunity to erase that impression. The Supreme Court ruling offers him something close to a fresh mandate to start all over. He should place emphasis on key issues such as electoral and public service reforms.
We also believe that the Supreme Court judgment should be carefully studied by the government. A careful study of the judgment will also show the shortcomings of the existing electoral practices. So, a lot can be taken from it in reforming the electoral system. This is an opportunity to get rid of them in order to improve the transparency and credibility of the country’s electoral process. By and large the challenge of the Supreme Court judgment is for the government to justify the court’s affirmation of its mandate. A mandate can be used in either of two ways - to re-invent a nation as Lee Kuan Yew did Singapore by turning it into a first world nation; or to mismanage the resources of a nation as has been the misfortune of many African nations.