ABUJA, Nigeria – In an impassioned press conference held on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, the Coalition for the Protection of Democracy, COPDEM, expressed deep concerns regarding the recent Supreme Court decision on the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
The court had affirmed Chief Bola Tinubu as the duly elected president, a decision that has since sparked widespread national and international debate.
“Despite global outcry, the Supreme Court chose to make the Nigerian jurisprudence a laughingstock of the global community,” said Great Imo Jonathan of COPDEM’s Media Team.
Highlighting the foundations of law and the essential role of the judiciary in a democratic society, COPDEM critiqued the Supreme Court for seemingly inverting “common sense” and ignoring principles of justice. The group questioned the court’s interpretation of forgery within electoral contexts versus criminal contexts.
“We have reiterated on several occasions that ours is not only a Court of law but public policy. Forgery of certificate for the purpose of election and electoral processes and forgery under criminal law are not the same issue,” stated a previous ruling by Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad.
COPDEM cited Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad’s recent remarks as a clarion call for change within the Nigerian judicial system. Among his concerns were the unchecked powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, irregularities in judicial appointments, and the troubling absence of representatives from the North Central zone and the Southeast at the Supreme Court.
The coalition’s statements also emphasized the need for Nigerians to remain resilient in their pursuit of democracy and the rule of law, reminding the nation of the power inherent in the collective voice of its citizens.
“The 2023 elections have shown the strength of the people’s anti-establishment movement in Nigeria,” Jonathan asserted, adding that the results have demonstrated the potency of the youth’s voice, the people’s resolve against corruption, and the impending end to “tyranny and selfish godfatherism” in Nigerian politics.
Laying out COPDEM’s forward-looking goals, Jonathan rallied for unity among Nigerians to reclaim their nation. Their objectives include driving out the “criminal political class,” championing credible candidates, fostering unity beyond tribal and religious divides, and creating a constitution reflective of the nation’s diverse identities.
Ending the conference on an empowering note, Jonathan remarked, “Personal sacrifices are necessary for achieving lasting changes we desire in Nigeria. This, we have chosen to undertake and demonstrate to Nigerians that what we seek is achievable, collectively.”
Only time will tell how the nation will respond to COPDEM’s call to action. But one thing is clear: the quest for democracy in Nigeria is a fight that many are willing to undertake.
The unedited press release is republished below:
BEING TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY COALITION FOR THE PROTECTION OF DEMOCRACY, COPDEM ON 31st OCTOBER 2023
THEME: PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: SUPREME COURT JUDGMENT, STATE OF THE NATION, AND THE WAY FORWARD
Good morning gentlemen of the press.
We have invited you to this media parley in response to recent development in our beloved country, Nigeria, especially with respect to the Supreme Court decision on the legitimate challenge by opposition parties against the failings of our electoral system and the judiciary, the major culprits being INEC, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, PEPT, and the Supreme Court.
We have also convened this event to inform Nigerians about our next line of action as Coalition for the Protection of Democracy (COPDEM).
We aim to take the country back from the hands of those that have ruined it.
Despite global outcry, the Supreme Court, like the Appeal Court before it, chose to make the Nigerian jurisprudence a laughingstock of the global community.
In reaffirming Chief Bola Tinubu as the duly elected President in the presidential election of 25, February 2023, the Supreme Court has chosen to invert common sense, throw reason, logic, and principles of justice out of the window.
As Nigerians, we ask, please, what is law and why do we go to court?
To a lay man, law is simply the ratification of those common convention, principles, ethics, and mores we have all chosen to live by as humans in a society. We make them into a document and create infrastructures and institutions to interpret them whenever there is need for clarity.
Therefore, the court, as such institution, carries the burden of reminding us why we are humans and how far we have travelled from primitivity, as hunters, gatherers, wanderers that are not bound by laws but simply living in a Hobbesian state of nature.
The court and laws are there to inhibit by punishing such primitive tendencies to ‘snatch it,’ ‘grab it’ and ‘run with it’ like we saw on 25 February this year.
Courts and laws should exist to chide, reprimand, and necessarily sanction actors of such conduct, either as individuals or as institutions.
The law reminds of the need to set standards and follow them strictly. When the law and courts fail to do their duty, anarchy prevails, general disillusionment about the place of the once hallowed temple of justice sets in. We begin to see good as bad, and bad as good.
“The character of Judges is public property. Justice must be rooted in confidence, and confidence is destroyed when right- minded people go away thinking: ”The Judge is biased”. – See: Bakare vs. Apena 4 NWLR (part.33) page 1SC
To our utter dismay, eternal shame and pain, the Supreme Court, in its recent Judgement in affirming Tinubu as president has set a dangerous precedent where no matter the gravity of an alleged offense, the suspect can readily escape justice if he is smart enough to plead technicalities.
Let us look at it this way: Imagine that you were wrongly accused of murder and charged to court. And you’re convicted by a high court and the verdict was upheld by the appeal court. Finally at the supreme court your lawyers got a CCTV footage that proves you didn’t commit the crime. The supreme court justices said since your lawyers didn’t tender the footage at the lower court you will be hanged as earlier ruled.
That’s Justice in Nigeria. A man commits forgery, snatches, grabs, and runs away with an electoral mandate that doesn’t belong to him, all he needs to get away with it is to get the umpire to declare his claim as winner, then tell his opponents to go court. Confident that in court, only technicalities rule, not rule of law.
With due respect to the Supreme Court Justices, forgery in election matters is not same as forgery in criminal law.
In the case of SALEH V ABAH (2017) The Supreme Court treated forgery under the electoral act as it is provided under same act.
According to the presiding justice in the case, he stated “We have reiterated on several occasions that ours is not only a Court of law but public policy. Forgery of certificate for the purpose of election and electoral processes and forgery under criminal law are not the same issue. Forgery under the Electoral Act is a specific law on forgery or presentation of a forged certification for the purpose of election. The best forum for electoral forgery is election tribunal as against general criminal trial. This is what played out, rightly in this appeal.”
The Supreme Court treated the issue of Tinubu’s forgery as if under the criminal law.
What the electoral act is saying is different from what the law of forgery under criminal law has provided, the court if not biased should interpret the law as it is, anyone who has presented a forged certificate should be disqualified from contesting for any office within Nigeria.
We hereby call on all Nigerians in authority to heed the call of Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, Jsc, Cfr, to amend the laws and rescue our judiciary.
1. Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad said it loud and clear last week that our Supreme Court of today has been punctuated by turbulent cracks made awry and askew.
2. He bemoaned a situation where the powers of the Chief Justice of Nigeria is excessive and he lamented the Depleting Number of Justices at the Supreme Court.
3. In his considered opinion the oversight functions of our all the 4 major judicial bodies should not rest on an individual alone. And that a person with absolute powers, it is said, corrupts easily and absolutely.
4. He stated that CJN neither confers with fellow justices nor seeks their counsel or input on any matter related to these bodies. He has both the final and the only say. He said this needs to change.
5. He stated that the Supreme Court as the final court in the Presidential, Governorship and National Assembly election appeals leave the litigants who approach the court seeking justice in limbo; waiting endlessly for justice to be served.
6. He said that the North Central zone and the Southeast no longer has any presence at the Supreme Court and that it is dangerous for democracy and equity for two entire regions to be left out in the decisions that will affect the generality of Nigerians.
7. He said that the Supreme Court is in a state of “unimaginable retrogression.” And added: “It is evident that the decision not to fill the vacancies in the court is deliberate. It is all about the absolute powers vested in the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the responsible exercise of same.”
8. Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad also said Nigerians should enquire what the judiciary also does with its allocations.
9. He said that the process of the appointment of Judges and quality of judgments of courts is not based on merit. Appointments are polluted by political, selfish, and sectional interests. Court officials and judges are easily bribed by litigants.
10. Children and other relatives of serving and retired judges and justices are being appointed into judicial offices at the expense of more qualified candidates lacking in such privilege and backing and that the process of appointment to judicial positions are deliberately conducted to give undue advantage to the “children, spouses, and mistresses” of serving and retired judges and managers of judicial offices.
11. At the Court of Appeal, it is also asserted, presiding Justices are now being appointed out of turn. And there is the further issue of the unpredictable nature of recent decisions of the courts as well. Several respected senior members of the bar has criticised recent supreme court judgements including inter alia, the Ahmed Lawan, the former President of the Senate and the Imo Governorship appeals, he claims that decisions of the apex court have become unpredictable.
12. It is difficult to understand how and where, by these decisions, the judicial pendulum swings. Filth and intrigues characterize the judicial institutions! Judges are comfortable in companies they never would have kept. Some judicial officers even campaign for the politicians. It cannot be more damning! The Honourable Justice said and added;
13. The procedure for judicial appointments is increasingly being compromised.
14. He concluded that the judiciary he is exiting from is far from the one he voluntarily joined and desired to serve and be identified with has become something else.
We understand that Nigerians are at crossroads currently.
But as COPDEM and other partners in our democratic struggle have often said, our journey isn’t a sprint but a marathon.
And so, we tell Nigerians that want to see a better Nigeria: We have to remain focused on the goal – Tinubu will not be successful in inflicting the Nigerian mind with the notion that crime and corruption is okay.
The 2023 elections have shown the strength of the people’s anti-establishment movement in Nigeria; and for the reduced rigged numbers which he was given, the outing is promising in the following ways:
1. It has shown the youths that they have a voice in the political future of our country.
2. It has shown that their votes can overwhelm the agenda of political godfathers.
3. It has shown that political touts and agberos can only make noise but not change any political outcomes.
4. It has shown that even if Rivers State result is changed, it will be uncovered.
5. It has shown that the people are bigger than the local political charlatans in their states.
6. It has shown to the Federal forces that the dogged resolve of the people in standing for what they believe in.
7. It has shown that the people can never be intimidated from taking charge of their destiny.
8. It has shown that the average man and woman in every ethnic group in Nigeria are frustrated with corrupt elite politicians pushing tribal and ethnic bigotry and want a better nation.
9. It has shown that Nigerians reject the takeover of the country by a cartel.
10. It has shown that the end of tyranny and selfish godfatherism in Nigeria politics is near.
11. It has shown all Nigerians that they can take back their country.
Finally, in the last one year as a coalition made up of Nigerians, home and abroad, we have consistently stood at the vanguard of promoting democracy, rule of law offering insights on political matters. We shall continue to do so even more now. Rather than weaken our resolve, the recent happening have further strengthened our resolve.
We are by this call extending invitation to our compatriots to join this struggle. With COPDEM, we intend to:
1. Chase out the criminal political class from power.
2. Search, encourage sons or daughters of a nobody with credibility, strong character, and integrity to run for political office.
3. We want to fight and contain tribal and religious sentiments in Nigeria’s political space.
4. We want to Promote equal opportunities for every Nigerian.
5. We see the promotion of a national identity built on mutual understanding of our differences.
6. We are looking forward to a day when every nationality in Nigeria can come together to produce a constitution that we can all be proud of.
Personal sacrifices are necessary for achieving lasting changes we desire in Nigeria. This, we have chosen to undertake and demonstrate to Nigerians that what we seek is achievable, collectively.
Thank you, and God bless!
Great Imo Jonathan,
Media Team, Coalition for the Protection of Democracy (COPDEM)