I understand that the judgment of the electoral tribunal has caused Governor Mbah and his supporters to feel good. But that judgment will not withstand the appeal. Why? Let me explain to you. I am sure that despite the emotions and sentiments, a really intelligent person will see the problems with the judgment of yesterday. I had always felt that the tribunal would be bought by Mbah, but I never thought the judges would be so daft to give this kind of judgment. Even a first year law student would do better than the judges, going by their judgment. What matters is how the judge rationalizes his opinion. He must make effort to sound logical and reasonable. What happened in this judgment and the analysis of law made is mind-boggling, not because Mbah got the judgment, but that it was so poorly done that it rankles the intellect.
First, there was the question of whether the NYSC discharge certificate Mbah submitted to INEC was forged or not. (By the way, many people, surprisingly, do not know the difference between a photocopy of a document and fake version of that document. They also don’t know the difference between a document being authentic and a document being an original. But let’s leave the lecture for another day).
To this question, the answer should be either that the certificate tendered by Mbah is a true authentic certificate duly issued by the lawful authority, or that it is not. That was the question the tribunal set out to answer. It was so easy to answer this question. First, NYSC said it did NOT issue Mbah ANY discharge certificate. That means there was no certificate from NYSC for Mbah. That means Mbah was not supposed to have any certificate or to tender any certificate. So, for anyone to say Edeoga should show the “original” certificate in order to prove that what Mbah tendered was fake, that person cannot be an intelligent person. Edeoga cannot show or produce something that did not exist. No NYSC certificate ever existed. Evidence that no discharge certificate ever existed is enough evidence to show that any discharge certificate that was tendered by Mbah MUST be fake. It should not be so hard for an intelligent person to know that when something never existed, anything claiming to be that thing must be fake.
Rather than reach the only logical factual finding, the tribunal engaged in a scam. The tribunal claimed that Mbah’s fake discharge certificate which Edeoga obtained from INEC was not certified by INEC. By the way, what does it mean for a document to be certified? It simply means that INEC did not put a stamp on it to say that it was copied from its file. In this case that was not necessary.
Now, consider the following points of law:
(1) Mbah knew the document it gave to INEC as his discharge certificate. If it was authentic or different from the one presented to the court, he had a duty to respond. There is what we call burden of persuasion, which is different from burden of proof. Once the tennis ball of evidence is played into your corner, you must hit it back to your opponent’s corner. Mbah had the burden to persuade the court that he did not submit any discharge certificate. That was his only defense on that point. Since NYSC said they did not issue him any certificate, there was no certificate for Mbah to submit to INEC. So, the only way out for him was for him to show that he did not submit any certificate. If he submitted any certificate, whatever the certificate, it MUST be fake because the NYSC had shown that it did not issue him any certificate and there is nowhere else to get NYSC discharge certificate than NYSC. So, any further inquire as to the exact copy of the certificate tendered by Mbah is immaterial. No copy, no version, no color of NYSC discharge certificate tendered by Mbah could have been authentic. It must be forged. As long as he tendered any, he is doomed on that point.
(2) Also, there are certain presumptions of evidence that the tribunal was bound to make, but which it did not make. It is the law that when a party in possession of a document fails to produce such document upon request, the court must presume that the contents of the document he failed to produce are against him. Mbah was subpoenaed. That is, he was asked to produce documents – his NYSC discharge. certificate. He refused. He failed to. The court ordered him to come. He ignored the court. The court was bound by law to presume that the certificate was fake, which was why he refused to produce it upon demand. This tribunal failed on that.
(3) Knowing that its reasoning on this point had no substance, the tribunal jumped into an issue that was never before it. It went into the question of the minimum educational qualification for a person to be governor. And the tribunal pointed out that the minimum educational requirement was school certificate. But that was never in issue. The issue was forgery, not lack of minimum education. If the tribunal had addressed the forgery issue properly, it would not have had any need to dabble into the question of educational qualification.
The second issue the court blundered over was the issue of over-voting. It was very simple: Did that happen or did it not happen? The court answered that question in the most dubious manner possible. It basically said: “Yes, it probably happened, but the way we got that truth is not the way we want to get the truth”.
In all, the tribunal failed so woefully to meet the basic standards of fair and honest adjudication. When a tribunal fails in such a blatant and shameful manner, what is the conclusion to draw? There is only one conclusion to draw – corruption. The tribunal was bought, just as INEC was bought. What a shame!.
You have to understand that this is not about my personal feelings about these two men. We are dealing with the law. We are dealing with justice. Whether you like Edeoga or Mbah, you must love justice more than you love any of them. You must care about truth more than you care about the men. You must care about the fate of Enugu people more than you care about your friendship with either men. Though the entire judicial system in Nigeria is corrupt, I am strongly of the view that on appeal, the appallate judges would not accept this sham. Even if you must favor Mbah, why not do it in an intelligent manner that would not leave the majority of the people aware that your judgment was bought with money?