Judges power to annul polls enormous, needs review, says Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said there is a need to review the power of judges to annul elections, thereby overruling the franchise of millions of Nigerians who choose a particular leader.

He described as unacceptable a situation where three or four judges would determine who rules after Nigerians have gone to the polls to make a decision.

The ex-President spoke on Monday at a high-level consultation he organised on ‘Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy in Africa’ held at Green Legacy Resorts, Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.

The high-level consultation had in attendance academia and politicians, such as former governors of Ekiti, Jigawa,  Cross Rivers and Sokoto states, Kayode Fayemi, Sule Lamido, Lylel Imoke and  Aminu Tambuwal, respectively.

He said, “I believe whatever form of democracy we have or whatever system of government we have, three or four men in the judiciary should not be able to overturn the decisions of millions that have voted. Now, we have to find a way to handle that.

“I don’t know what the way will be but, for me, I think it’s totally unacceptable that millions (of votes), maybe 10 million on one side, maybe nine million on the other side; then, you have five people sitting down, three of them agree, two disagree. And you come up and make cathedral pronouncements that cannot be changed. I believe that should not be accepted.

“How do we do it? I don’t know. But whatever form of democracy we have, we should look at how to handle this. If you say, ‘Go again for election,’ then, what happened to the previous election? I don’t know.

“So, I personally feel strongly about it. It does not matter what you say about the judiciary, but in fact, only five people or seven will sit down. If there are five, three may agree, two may not agree, and the decision of three will be final. All that you have done comes to the decision of three or decision of four.”

Obasanjo also said he has reservations about the phrase “Nigerian factor” because it is generally used to explain away wrong things.

He said for failing to play by the “Nigerian factor” rule, his party lost in a local government election in 1998.

Obasanjo said in the spirit of the “Nigerian factor,” party leaders had told him that there should be money allocated for the police and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission but he kicked against the idea on the grounds that policemen and INEC officials are government workers who earn their salaries.

Recalling the experience, Obasanjo said, “When things go wrong, you said the ‘Nigerian factor’. The first thing I learnt in politics was this thing I called the Nigerian factor. In 1998, we had the first local government election. We had parties, and here in Abeokuta, we met in my office and they came up and said, ‘Look, this is money for INEC, money for police.’ At a stage, I said, ‘What nonsense! Are the police not being paid, and INEC too?’

“They said, ‘That’s how we do it’. I said,‘You cannot do that.’ So, they didn’t do that. And of course, we lost all the local governments. We lost all. And then they came to me and said, ‘Baba, you see? If you had allowed us to do it the way we used to do it, we would have won. And I felt guilty.

“During the next election, which was state Assembly, I just stayed in my house. I said, ‘Well, do whatever you want to do, I will not be a part of it’. So, I didn’t even go. But the result was the same. One of the people who got money didn’t even distribute it to where he was supposed to distribute it.”


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