By Amb. Umar Illiya Damagum
We express serious concerns over the underhanded design by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to cripple our democracy, overthrow the democratic rights of Nigerians, suppress the Rule of Law and downgrade our nation to a fiefdom run by the whims of a cabal.
Yesterday, our Party alerted that our nation is fast sliding into totalitarianism following the activities of a cabal in the Presidency which is out to emasculate Institutions of Democracy, especially the Judiciary in the desperation to subvert and overturn the expressed Will of Nigerians in the various election matters across the country.
Of particular concern is the perverse pattern and attempts by the APC to use certain hugely compromised Electoral Petition Courts to snatch elections clearly won by the PDP and award them to the defeated candidates of the APC who were rejected by the people at the polls in most States across the country.
This sinister agenda tailored towards a systemic emasculation of the opposition and foisting of an oppressive one-Party system is evident in the conduct and outcome of certain election petitions in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Delta, Ogun and other States of the nation where the Election Petition and Appeal Panels were used to rob the PDP of victory won at the polls.
Also of serious concern is the continuing stay of the patently bias Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel sitting in Abuja despite widespread demands by the people of Plateau State and the PDP for its immediate disbandment having regards to its varying and contradictory judgments against the PDP, which are also in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Electoral Act, 2022, INEC’s Guidelines and Regulations for elections.
You will recall that on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, our Party addressed a press conference in which we alerted Nigerians of the dangerous pattern of conflicting judicial pronouncements by the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel to decimate and alter the expressed Will of the people of Plateau State in the 2023 National Assembly Elections.
Our Party at that press conference, also raised concerns over allegations in the public domain that the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel has been hugely compromised and induced by the APC and the cabal to defy the Will of the people at the elections.
Allegedly in the bid to assist the APC, the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel, in clear departure from well-established Judicial Precedents on matters settled by the Supreme Court, delivered varying, contradictory and conflicting judgments on election Appeals with the same subject matter, same facts, same circumstances and same applicable laws in bias judgements clearly skewed against the PDP in favour of the APC.
Our Party exposed how, in a bizarre pattern, the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel ordered a rerun where the PDP won and the APC came third, while where the APC came second, it ordered that the Certificate of Return issued to the victorious PDP candidate be withdrawn and a new Certificate of Return be issued to the defeated APC candidate, who came second in the election.
Of course, the judgments immediately heightened apprehension in the State being a recipe for anarchy and chaos in an already tensed Plateau State.
This is especially as our Party duly conducted our Primary elections in Plateau State in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 and which was appropriately monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Given the inexplicable infractions in the varying judgments and the grave tension they triggered in Plateau State, our Party, in line with the aspiration and expectation of the people of Plateau State took a firm position and demanded that the President of the Court of Appeal immediately disband the allegedly compromised Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel.
Our Party also demanded that a new Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel be constituted to hear the remaining Appeals and that the manifestly bias and inconsistent judgments of the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel already delivered in the Appeals be subjected to judicial review.
To this effect, I as the Acting National Chairman of the PDP addressed a Petition to the President of the Court of Appeal wherein I officially restated the findings and demands of the PDP against the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel.
It is however curious and disturbing that up till this moment, none of the issues or demands made by the PDP has been addressed or met.
The continuing stay of the Appeal Panel is clearly pitching the people against the Court and the Institution of the Judiciary. It is vexatious, inciting and amounts to snubbing an affronted and injured people and daring them to do their worse.
The consequence is that the Judiciary is allowing itself to be seen as an institution that has no regards for the sovereignty of the people and their constitutionally guaranteed rights in an electoral process under our laws. Also, its paints the Judiciary in the image of an insensitive institution which has no respect for the Rule of Law.
The concern and fear of all well-meaning Nigerians is that when the Court, as in this case, conducts itself as if it is not governed by Rules, it destroys the respect and confidence of the people in the judiciary and such portends a great danger for democracy, peace and tranquility in our country.
The PDP therefore in very strong terms again calls on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the President of the Court of Appeal to save the situation by immediately insulating the Courts from the alleged influence of the anti-people cabal seeking to emasculate the judiciary and impose a totalitarian regime our country.
The PDP also urges the CJN and the President of the Court of Appeal, as very experienced judicial officers, to restore confidence in the Judiciary by immediately disbanding the present Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel, set up a new Appeal Panel and subject the bias judgments by the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel to judicial review.
This is the only way to avert crisis in Plateau State and redeem the image of the Judiciary from further negative public commentary.
The PDP will not relent in all its efforts to defend and preserve our democracy, respect for the Will of the people as well as the integrity of the Judiciary particularly in the handling of electoral matters in the country.
In this regard, the PDP invites all well-meaning Nigerians, Civil Society Organizations, the Media and indeed all lovers of democracy across the world to rise to the occasion, speak out and take urgent legitimate steps to defend the integrity of our judicial system and stem a looming crisis in our beloved country….
God Bless Nigeria.
● Damagum is Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and delivered this address at a press conference in Abuja.