Nigerians are reportedly waiting with baited breath for Thursday's Supreme Court decision on the validity of the election which led to President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's victory. Both local and international observers describe last April's election as flawed and failing to meet international standards.
Nigeria's Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) declared presidential candidate Umaru Yar'Adua of the incumbent People's Democratic Party (PDP) winner of the controversial vote with a landslide win of more than 70 percent of the vote. But opposition parties dismissed the election as a sham and called for a rerun.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and ex-head of state Mohammadu Buhari petitioned the Court, effectively challenging President Yar'Adua's victory. University of Abuja political science professor Kabiru Mato tells reporter Peter Clottey from Nigeria's capital that today's Supreme Court's decision could determine the judiciary's independence.
"I think Nigerians today are expecting a very important decision to be taken by judiciary, which is seen as the last man in defense. The decision of the Supreme Court today would go a long way in determining the direction, which future Nigeria elections are going to be like. It is high time that somebody high up there is able to really stand firm and tell those people who hold state power to their selfish advantage that, look, you cannot continue to have it the way you want it to be," Mato pointed out.
He said both local and international observers of last April's general elections condemned it as hugely flawed.
"The election of course has been very, very contested, and Nigerians are still saying it was below standard and also that is the record that is in the international community. So for us to regain our respect as citizens, it would be paramount the judiciary is able to give a ruling that would convince millions of Nigerians that after all we have an impartial umpire," he said.
Mato said there would be mixed reaction, whichever way the decision of the Supreme Court goes.
"The reaction would be of different varieties and different degrees. But what I'm saying in essence is that I think it has gone far beyond that. If the court would finally affirm the election, it must be able to advance very cogent and convincing reasons why Nigerians should accept such a ruling against of course popular will," Mato noted.
He said there seems to be a downside to the western judicial way of doing things.
"The tragedy of the western legal system is that it doesn't necessarily carry along the truth of the matter. But you have what is referred to as the burden of proof. So this burden of proof really puts down a lot of disadvantaged individuals, groups and nations and the principles of perhaps our political doom. So it is not necessarily the best there is out there," he said.
Mato said there is need to ensure that the tenets of democracy are entrenched into the body politic in Nigeria's internal political dynamics.
"One of the things I think we as Nigerians and Africans and members of the global community should try to do is that we ensure that we build very cogent political structures. Cogent political structures that would be able to outlive us as individuals. And that is the only way we can live sufficient positive legacies for our children. When we lay an enabling environment that would ensure a free political environment, I think would help us a lot," Mato pointed out.
He said although Nigeria could be plunged into a possible instability if the court annuls the presidential elections today, the country would still move on.
"Yes, we are going to be in a political turmoil because there would be a lot of opposing candidates who would come out wanting to change the president even within his own ruling PDP. Now, one of the greatest actions is actually the public opinion court," he said.
Ironically, Nigerians may have to wait longer for a judicial resolution, as the Supreme Court has not a given specific indication whether it would pronounce a judgment today or merely assign a new date for a judgment.