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If the judges who handled Enugu election petitions and appeals were medical doctors

Two people in a community fell critically ill and after a series of laboratory tests, were referred to a specialist hospital for treatment. At the hospital, the doctor on duty, after analysing the laboratory results, invited the patients to his consulting room to inform them of the outcome of the diagnosis and the sort of treatment recommended.

To the first patient, this doctor said his result showed he had typhoid fever and that he was going to be placed on ciprofloxacin antibiotics over a period. The patient left the room to the ward where he took his bed.

It was now the turn of the second patient, and the doctor, the same doctor, stared long and hard at him, adjusted his glasses, and said, “Well, just like the patient who left before you, you also have typhoid fever, but rather than administering ciprofloxacin antibiotics on you, I am recommending that you be placed on doxorubicin liposomal for the rest of your life.

For those of us not familiar with this drug, doxorubicin liposomal is a drug administered to cancer patients.

The question now is, how possible could it be that the same doctor, handling two patients who came down with the same ailment, prescribe different treatments? Wouldn’t complaints and petitions have been flooding the regulatory authorities for the sack and perhaps arrest and imprisonment of the errant medical professional?

This is the confusing situation in Enugu State where the judges that handled different election petitions delivered varying and diametrically conflicting judgements, even when the material ingredients of the different cases were strikingly similar.

The cases in reference are the governorship election petition that pitted Chijioke Edeoga of the Labour Party, against Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as well as the Nkanu East State Constituency contest between Okwudiri Nnaji of the Labour Party and Okey Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party.

In his petition heard and adjudicated at the Enugu Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, Chijioke Edeoga placed three issues to be determined, one of which was whether there was overvoting in about 15 polling centres in Owo and Ugbawka in Nkanu East Local Government Area of the State. To prove his case, Chijioke Edeoga produced certified true copies of the election results from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to establish that indeed, there was overvoting in the places he alleged.


Considering that the elections were conducted on the same day, March 18, 2023, it was only logical to expect a similar outcome in both cases. But these experts, like the doctor in in the analogy presented earlier, prescribed different remedies for patients manifesting similar symptoms. While the court ruled that Chijioke Edeoga could not prove that there was overvoting in the identified voting centres in Nkanu East, Okwudiri Nnaji was adjudged to have proved there was overvoting and was able to get the court to order a fresh election within 90 days.

In a strangely cruel twist of fate, the judges at the tribunal determined the case against the petitioner, stating that he could not prove overvoting in the places he alleged.

But across the partition, in another courtroom, was the Enugu State and National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal was sitting. In this court, Okwudiri Nnaji, who was flying the Labour Party House of Assembly ticket on the platform of the Labour Party, was advancing exactly the same arguments pushed by Chijioke Edeoga – that there was overvoting in Owo, Ihuokpara, Ugbawka 1, and Akpawfu\Amagunze Wards, all in Nkanu East Local Government Area, the same polling areas being contested by Chijioke Edeoga.

Considering that the elections were conducted on the same day, March 18, 2023, it was only logical to expect a similar outcome in both cases. But these experts, like the doctor in in the analogy presented earlier, prescribed different remedies for patients manifesting similar symptoms. While the court ruled that Chijioke Edeoga could not prove that there was overvoting in the identified voting centres in Nkanu East, Okwudiri Nnaji was adjudged to have proved there was overvoting and was able to get the court to order a fresh election within 90 days.

These cases went on appeal, and while, on November 10, 2023, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos upheld the decision of the Enugu Tribunal in the case between Chijioke Edeoga and Peter Mbah, it curiously also upheld the judgement in the case between Okwudiri Nnaji and Okey Mbah in a judgement it delivered on November 26, 2023.

Remember that these two elections were conducted on the same day. Remember that in addition to the two other claims by Chijioke Edeoga, the grounds for the petitions of the two Labour Party candidates were the same – that there was substantial overvoting in the identified polling units to affect the outcome of the election. Remember that the polling units in dispute were basically the same, meaning that the same issue of overvoting that was alleged in the governorship election also happened in the House of Assembly election.

So how come the same court(s) have been prescribing different remedies to the same ailment affecting two different people?

There are two fundamental problems in the matter we have at hand, and if they are not handled carefully and expeditiously, the universe of the Nigerian justice system stands the risk of existential jeopardy. It means that two people can walk into a bank, steal the same amount of money and possibly spend the proceeds on the same prostitutes in a hotel, only for one to be declared guilty on account of his complexion while the other is sentenced to life in prison because he is a dwarf and should not be seen stealing big sums of money. How can one explain to anybody the ridiculous discrepancies in the decisions by these courts that have an almost Siamese similarity?

It is justice that is on trial in Nigeria, and we are seeing the custodians of justice themselves manifesting preposterous inconsistencies right inside the temple where everyone was, in principle supposed to come in and feel safe under the protection of the law.

In the uproarious contemplation that I found myself following the two incongruous decisions of the courts on the Enugu elections matter, I reflected on the “Blind Lady” logo and symbol of Justice and wondered if the underlying symbolism has been altered in any material way or form. This statue, present in every courtroom, is a common representation of the concept of justice. Typically depicted as a blindfolded woman holding a scale and a sword. The blindfold represents the impartiality and objectivity of justice, while the scale she holds in one hand represents the balance of evidence. The sword in the other hand of hers represents the authority of the law. This visually depicts the importance of fair and impartial justice.

In some of my readings of recent, I came across a piece of literature authored by one Pakistani lawyer, Amjad Ali, where he discussed the importance of Case Laws in any justice system, and among the compelling arguments of this writer was the issue of shaping the legal landscape of any jurisdiction.

Amjad writes that “Case law, also known as legal precedent, plays a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape of any jurisdiction. It encompasses decisions made by courts in past cases, and these decisions often serve as a foundation for future legal judgments. Studying case laws holds immense significance for legal practitioners, scholars, and even the general public, as it provides a deeper understanding of the principles that underpin the legal system. Here, we explore the reasons why studying case laws is of paramount importance. They provide a framework for consistency and predictability within the legal system. When new cases arise, courts often look to past decisions to ensure fair and just outcomes, maintaining a sense of continuity in the law.”

How does any judge in the future make reference to the cases that emanated from Enugu State during the 2023 elections? Would the judge align with the decision of the Court of Appeal on the governorship election which ruled that overvoting was not proved, or would he rely on the case of the House of Assembly election, to establish overvoting?


There is no way any society will survive capricious jurisprudence. Law, as jurists have often said, is both science and art. It is the art that delivers, through intelligent and aesthetically eye-worthy iterations, and it is the science that ensures that logically, one plus one will forever mathematically remain two, especially if and when, as is the case in the contentious Nkanu East election cases, you are using the same base

Nigeria is at the cusp of a new and invidious era where judges render justice capriciously and peremptorily, in complete disregard to established laws and acceptable procedures for fairness. The Pakistani legal practitioner that was referenced earlier provided even stronger arguments in favour of case laws by saying that, “case laws is essential for a well-functioning legal system. It offers a wealth of knowledge that aids legal professionals in their practice, contributes to the development of legal thought, and ensures that the law remains adaptable and responsive to the changing needs of society.”

The question now is, what will be the use of case laws when they are replete with inconsistent cases that confuse, rather than clarify legal positions? The court system is supposed to be one, united by the same body of laws and legal procedures that guide them. But it does seem there is, in evolution, where each court is manifesting its own unique traits and processes of arriving at what it thinks is “just and fair.”

This will not bode well for this country. But I think that judges were smart in handing down the kind of facelessness that other professions do not have. You see, courts are so impersonalized that the judges who preside over cases there are not held responsible for their actions. When a judgement is delivered, it is the “court” rather than the judge that is held responsible.

I had a first-hand experience many years ago when my landlord took me to court for daring to ask him to fix the apartment I was living in back then. Apparently determined to obtain judgement without my knowledge, to surprise me with an eviction order, the landlord, in connivance with the registrar and the magistrate refused to serve me any of the court processes. But I arrived this court after hearing through rumours, what my landlord was planning.

In court, the registrar first refused to accept a motion we had brought for breach of fair hearing. It took the brave lawyer who handled the case to accuse the “court” of bias against me. While the argument was going on between the magistrate and my lawyer, I kept hearing the question, “Are you saying my court is biased against your client?” It was my first time in such a situation, and that was when I appreciated the fact that no matter what they conspire to perpetrate, the judges are insulated from any responsibility, even if their actions lead to miscarriages of justice.

Doctors are not that lucky. Once there is an established case of medical negligence, the professional responsible is put to the sword of justice. But judges do not face such dire consequences, even when it is known that their own negligence can and does lead to longer-term desecration and degradation of the wider society, rather than an isolated ailing individual.

A regime of selective justice bodes ill for our society and the sooner this is arrested, the better for all of us. There has to be a way of ensuring that people whose jobs determine the life or death of people are held responsible for their actions. There is no way any society will survive capricious jurisprudence. Law, as jurists have often said, is both science and art. It is the art that delivers, through intelligent and aesthetically eye-worthy iterations, and it is the science that ensures that logically, one plus one will forever mathematically remain two, especially if and when, as is the case in the contentious Nkanu East election cases, you are using the same base.

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Ikem Okuhu is a journalist, a Public Relations professional, brand strategist and teacher. With a career that traversed Print Media, Oil & Gas, Banking and entrepreneurship, Ikem is the author of wave-making book; PITCH: Debunking Marketing’s Strongest Myths, a dispassionate exposition of the dos and don’ts of successful engagement in the marketplace, especially the Nigerian marketplace. He is the founder/publisher of BRANDish, Nigeria’s first nationally circulating Brands and Marketing magazine. He has also handled the PR and reputation management consultancies for a number of brands, businesses and public figures.

  • Chidibere Francis Ezeh

    This is a master piece . Unfortunately our revered judiciary office holders had since the court of public opinion under the bus. May God save Nigeria.

    November 27, 2023 at 7:05 pm Reply
  • Uche Okafor

    The Nigerian judicial system is a total scam. Not reliable at al. Our judges have become dangerously partisan in their judgements. The entire system need deep cleaning!

    November 28, 2023 at 7:36 am Reply

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