The saga of Nigeria's disputed election results looks set to run well into President Umaru Yar'Adua's term of office. Although a tribunal of five judges dismissed pleas that the presidential election result be annulled at the end of February, the leader of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), Muhammadu Buhari, has decided to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.
Yar'Adua's position seems relatively secure, although the manner of his victory has certainly undermined his legitimacy, while the Nigerian leader is still struggling to fulfil one of his key electoral pledges--to bring peace to the Niger Delta.
Last April's elections may have seen the first transfer of power from one elected president to another in Nigeria's history, but there are few who would claim the polls were free and fair. International observers said the elections fell short of the standards expected and even Yar'Adua concedes there were flaws in the process that need to be addressed before the next elections.
While opposition candidates demanded a re-run and appealed to the judiciary to overturn the result, it always seemed unlikely that the People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate would be ousted from office. Nevertheless, the judges considered the pleas and duly announced: "Umaru Yar'Adua and Goodluck Jonathan remain validly elected as president and vice-president of Nigeria." It was argued that the opposition had failed to prove that the electoral violations were "substantial enough to invalidate the election result".
Judge Abdulkadir Abubakar Jega said: "The petitioners did not bring anything of substance to show that these breaches of the electoral act substantially altered the outcome of the election." The judges also concluded that Yar'Adua had received an overwhelming 70% of the vote, against just 18% for Buhari and 7% for former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
However, the Nigerian courts have overruled the election of seven state governors and several senators. The victories of all three senators from Benue, including Senate president David Mark of the ruling PDP--who would have become president had Yar'Adua and Jonathan been forced to stand down--have been cancelled. As in the presidential election, opposition politicians had claimed there had been widespread polling irregularities
Buhari's appeal to the Supreme Court may not stand much chance of success but it will continue to cast a shadow over his administration...