Osun’s Inconclusive Elections & Powers of the INEC: Proper Approach for Nigerian Lawyers on Issues for Determination – By Sylvester Udemezue
On this controversy, there are some questions much of the comments I have read online has directly or indirectly failed to address:
▶ (1). Is INEC legally empowered to make such guidelines for elections?
▶2). Are the extant guidelines inconsistent with any provisions of the 1999 constitution, as amended?
▶3). Have the guidelines even been applied in any elections in Nigeria, in the past?
▶4). Have the guidelines recieved any judicial endorsement, irrespective of constitutional provisions?
▶5). If the guidelines were legitimately made, in the sense that INEC was not ultra vires in having made it, and the guidelines have received judicial endorsements in any decision by a competent court (which has not been upturned), then, were the guidelines properly applied in the Osun State scenario, in the sense that all conditions precedents for the application of th guidelines had been met before INEC rolled out the guidelines in support of its decision to hold that the elections were inconclusive.
A disinterested dissection, consideration of and answers to these questions/issues are our only hope for proper determinations or resolutions as to whether or not the INEC was right in having declared the Osun elections inconclusive in application of its guidelines. I encourage us to approach this matter as objectively as possible, because the future happiness of this great country, I believe, lies in the fate and survival of our constitutional democratic experience. Meanwhile, honestly, I think much of the challenges some Legal Practitioners in Nigeria encounter in respect of proper interpretation or adumbration of rule of law have much more to do with the difficulty some lawyers’ have in being able to draw a clear line being between their legal duties and ethical responsibilities as lawyers in society and their responsibilities to their clients or to political, social, religious or ethnic organisations or other interest groups to which they belong or whose interests they represent. Some Legal Practitioners easily overlook the fact that, irrespective of their political leanings or cultural, ethnic, religious or social predilections, they have a primary responsibility as lawyers to uphold the truth, promote the rule of law, and desist from dissemination of false information, rumour-mongering or propagation of propaganda. This duty is overriding and far supplants the lawyer`s duty to his clients as well as his desire to protect or advance the any provincial interests he represents. It could therefore be concluded that promoting the truth, justice, due process and rule of law, is the most obvious and fundamental role for lawyers in a constitutional democracy. This duty is not necessarily such a simple one. Thus, OKECHUKWU OKO has given an eye-opening account of how crucial, yet difficult, this role is in a fragile democracy such as Nigeria’s. In the introduction to his essay, “Lawyers in Fragile Democracies and the Challenges of Democratic Consolidation: The Nigerian Experience,” he succinctly describes it in the following words:
“Because of their status, special skills, and training, lawyers have the opportunity and indeed the obligation to help attain the nation’s political imperative of consolidating democracy. Unlike their colleagues in stable democracies, however, African lawyers face a phalanx of harsh realities and pragmatic constraints that severely limit their ability to deepen democracy, or even perform their traditional functions. Africa’s distinctive problems include political instability, social disequilibrium, insecurity, corruption, ineffective and inefficient public institutions, and a lack of a democratic culture. (see Okechukwu OKO, in 77 FORDHAM L. REV. 1295, 1295-96 (2009)).
Worthy of mention, at this juncture, is Mahatma Gandhi`s shining example of what the role of lawyer should be in democratic society. On page 4 of the book, THE LAW & THE LAWYERS (by M.K Gandhi), it is reported thus about Mahatma Gandhi`s love of truth and justice:
“If there was one characteristic more than another that stamped Gandhi as a man amongst men, it was his extraordinary love of truth. The Mahatma was an ardent and inveterate votary of truth. Truth, like nonviolence, was the first article of his faith and the last article of his creed. It was therefore no wonder that in his practice of the law, he maintained the highest traditions of the profession and did not swerve by a hair’s breadth from the path of rectitude and integrity. He was always valiant for truth, bold in asserting it in scorn of all consequence, and never sold the truth to serve the interests of his clients. He never forgot “that if he was the advocate of an individual, and retained and remunerated, often inadequately, for his valuable services, yet he had a prior and perpetual retainer on behalf of truth and justice.” It may truly be said of him that he practiced law without compromising truth.”
As affirmed by Mr. Justice Crampton in R. v. O’Connell et al. (1844), 7 I.L.R. 261 at 313, he (the lawyer) “will ever bear in mind that if he be the Advocate of an individual, and retained and remunerated (often inadequately) for his valuable services, yet he has prior and perpetual retainer on behalf of truth and justice; and there is no Crown or other license which in any case, or for any party or purpose, can discharge him from that primary and paramount retainer.” Likewise, in an article titled, “Role of Lawyer in the Society: A Critical Analysis,” and published in The Clarion: A Multidisciplinary International Journal, Volume I, Number I, February (2012) pp. 148-52, the author, Balin Hazarika, has this to add about the proper role of lawyers in a democratic society:
“It is possible to have different views of what a lawyer does. Some may say that a lawyer is a business person, not unlike the barber, the doctor or the shop owner, providing a service to paying customers. Others will see a more public-abiding role for the lawyer, providing a service to paying clients but also maintaining an eye on the public interest, justice, and fairness of society. This difference in view will account for differing opinions about what a lawyer should do in a morally difficult position. In democratic societies, lawyers surely fill an important role that no other professional fills: the lawyer is the guardian of the rule of law, the ideal that all people stand equally before the law and neither expect nor receive special treatment from it. In emerging democracies, this role is especially important for lawyers, who have the potential to become the great levelers between the powerful and the less so. A lawyer’s function therefore lays on him a variety of legal and moral obligations toward:…the public for whom the existence of a free and independent profession itself is an essential means of safeguarding human rights in face of the power of the state and other interests in society….”
I will offer my legal opinion on this controversy, shortly. And I would be guided by the above comments of mine.
Then you, All.
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