BY BRIGHT JACOB
The game of brinkmanship adopted by some opponents of Nigeria’s president, Bola Tinubu, who continue to disregard the latter’s presidency and, other times, refused to acknowledge him as “Mr. President”, has continued to draw the displeasure of concerned Nigerians who believe that politicians must set an example by playing politics with some modicum of respect for those they may not be ideologically in sync with.
Besides this, stakeholders have also knocked politicians who are guilty of this and chided them for not having any ounce of consideration for the rule of law.
This is as the Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission had declared the former Lagos State Governor as the winner of the February 25 presidential election held across Nigeria and, therefore, the validly elected president and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
However, prior to the election, Tinubu had the skewed honour of being the most vilified and discredited candidate.
Political opponents latched onto the alleged discrepancies and ambiguity in aspects of his name, age, education and purported drug links while he was in the United States, to make his journey to Nigeria’s seat of power a harrowing experience.
As a deduction, the President had the most turbulent ride among the four top gladiators who vied for Nigeria’s highest political office.
The other candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party, Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, all had relatively softer landing.
“Well, since INEC has declared someone as president, everyone must respect and give full recognition to that person. This is because INEC is backed by law and the same law recognises the individual as the President and Commander-in-Chief”
Now in office as the President, Tinubu’s travails as the rejected stone continue.
A great number of those in opposition have rejected his leadership, with some even describing his presidency as “illegitimate”. And this, most likely, will continue until the cases pertaining to his election which are before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja are concluded and judgement passed.
To paint an understandable picture of the situation, some of the issues in the voluntary inattention given to Tinubu and his nascent government will be highlighted.
Late last month, Tinubu had arrived in Lagos from the United Kingdom, where he travelled to after an economic summit in France.
His coming to Lagos was his first visit to the state since his inauguration as President on May 29, and a plethora of vehicles had accompanied Tinubu’s car from the airport to his new official residence in the state.
However, former LP candidate, Obi, in an already deleted post on his verified Twitter handle, criticized Tinubu, saying his motorcade was wasteful and that sacrifices for a better Nigeria had to start from the leaders at all levels of government.
In his statement, Obi had mentioned the “120-car convoy of Mr. President.”
However, the former Governor of Anambra State did a retraction and instead substituted the afforested quote with “a trending motorcade video” and conspicuously omitted “Mr. President”.
At that period, too, Charles Oputa, aka Charly Boy, began to mouth Tinubu’s government, calling it a “criminal enterprise,” in a post that was also deleted.
Oputa used the unrest and conflict which sprung up in France over the shooting of a teenager in that country and alluded to “the 9 percent of the population who had brought entire cities down” in France because of the upheaval.
He said like the French, Nigerian youths could also bring down Tinubu’s criminal enterprise.
Even though he deleted the tweet and posted the one he re-edited, where he replaced “to bring down a criminal enterprise” with “to reject a system that let them down”, some supporters of the president had already had enough of the uncharitable perceptions of Tinubu himself and his government.
One of such supporters is Femi Fani-Kayode, who seized the moment to upbraid the Governor of Abia State, Alex Otti, for his alleged “disrespect” in not hanging Tinubu’s official portrait in his (Otti’s) office.
Fani-Kayode in his post had also highlighted the mild drama at an Eid praying ground in Osun State between the governor of the state, Ademola Adeleke, and an APC chieftain, Ajibola Basiru.
Fano-Kayode wrote, “Wonders never cease!
“Firstly the Atikulator Governor of Osun State and his unruly and violent thugs try to do a power show in a place of worship in Osogbo and attempt to shove a leading member of the APC and former Senator out of his seat.
“Secondly the Obidient Governor of Abia State refuses to put the President’s official portrait on his office wall or in his official residence claiming that Tinubu is not his President.
“These are the sort of things that happen when inexperienced neophytes and flippant souls are put in positions of power.
“The opposition in Nigeria, whether Atikulator or Obidient, are not only petty, pitiful, power-crazed, abusive and undisciplined but they also suffer from a low intelligence quotient.
“They lack respect for constituted authority, the Nigerian constitution and Almighty God.
“No wonder we thrashed them in the presidential election. Both God and common sense left them long ago,” Fani-Kayode concluded.
The government of Abia State, however, denied the claim, insisting that the absence of Tinubu’s portraits in some of their offices is not politics-related. They also said their government was new and that portraits of Tinubu had been placed in some offices in the government house and more had been ordered.
Reacting to the absence of Tinubu’s portrait in the Government House in Abia State and the disregard for the man, Tinubu, as well as his presidency, a senior legal practitioner, Fred Aigbadumah, told The Point, “The issue about the portrait of the president in state or public offices…I don’t think it’s strictly a question of law.
“Secondly, to a large extent, one will not say that those who refuse to hang it are right in doing that. This is because after any election, it is the duty of INEC to declare a winner.
“Now, the declaration may be questioned or challenged, but that does not suffice to say that somebody has not emerged as the president or has not been declared. That’s why the matter is before the court.
“The court is either ratifying or confirming what INEC had stated. But in the interim, Tinubu is the president….he has been sworn-in, he is the president and is legally so before the law.
“Thus, to a large extent, they (opponents) may not be right.
“But even this issue about how you address a president … .Remember that at one point, a newspaper, shortly before the second term of Muhammadu Buhari, preferred referring to him as Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and not using the title of president for him.
“So, all these things are just conventional or ceremonial. They’re not rigidly provisions of the law. Even the constitution does not say that you must address the president as Mr. President or Commander-in-Chief, but we all know under the law and constitution, the position declared as president by INEC or any electoral body or institution will be considered and is considered as President, except until otherwise declared by the court,” Aigbadumah said.
Continuing, he said, “So, Peter Obi, for instance, may have his own personal idiosyncrasies and reasons for doing what he did which can also not be questioned by anybody because it’s a personal view.
“It’s a personal opinion which we are all entitled to under the constitution,” Aigbadumah added.
Asked to properly clarify whether refusing to acknowledge Tinubu as President is part of the constitutional right of opponents, Aigbadumah replied, “I have not said it’s their constitutional right. I am saying it’s their personal approach and idiosyncrasies to the situation at hand.
“But constitutionally, the person declared and having been sworn-in by the Chief Justice of Nigeria as the president, not just president-elect, under the constitution, is the president until so nullified or declared otherwise by the Election Petition Tribunal or the Supreme Court.
“So, what the opponents are doing is not unlawful but you may say it is immoral or improper…but it’s not against the law.
“There’s no law that says that once somebody has emerged as president, you must address that person as Mr. or Madam President. What anyone chooses to be called is a question of choice or semantics,” he concluded.
On his part, political analyst, Kizito Opara, said that respect and full recognition had to be given to whoever was declared as president by INEC because the law recognises such individuals as the President and Commander-in-Chief.
He said Obi and Atiku who have refused to address Tinubu as president could be doing so because they may be of the view that it could negatively influence against them the judgment the tribunal would deliver.
Opara also said that it would have been great if laws were made that compelled Nigerians to recognise a president who was in office even though petitions were before the tribunal. According to him, such laws would be “almost impossible” to enact because the National Assembly was “disunited.”
He said, “Well, since INEC has declared someone as president, everyone must respect and give full recognition to that person. This is because INEC is backed by law and the same law recognises the individual as the President and Commander-in-Chief.
“As for Obi and Atiku who have refused to address Tinubu as president, it’s possible they don’t want to be viewed by the court to be acknowledging a man whose presidency they have qualms about. But we’ll see about that.
“It would have been great to have the National Assembly coming up with laws that will compel Nigerians to recognise any man or woman occupying the presidential seat even while there’s a petition against that election.
“But laws like that will be almost impossible to enact. This is simply because the National Assembly is not united and there are also many lawmakers there who believe that their own election is legitimate while those of others are not.
“So, I don’t see this NASS coming up with such a law because it’s not all the lawmakers that agree. There will always be that clash of interests among them,” Opara submitted.
A lawyer and a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Jesutega Onokpasa, condemned Governor Otti for refusing to place President Tinubu’s portrait on his office wall.
“That Mr. Otti has refused to place President Bola Tinubu’s portrait on his office wall is, of course, not at all a simple matter of a Governor having a choice whether to do so or not.
“It is a different kettle of fish altogether if someone like vote wasting phenomenon, Sarah Omakwu, keeps pouting nonstop never to “recognize” President Tinubu as her President – she is, at the end of the day, just another private citizen, just as entitled to her rights as to her delusions.
“Mr. Otti, on the other hand, is the Governor of a state comprising one of the federating units of this country and he is most certainly not at liberty to ventilate his political grievances as some schizophrenic bigot or hysterical tribalist might be inclined to.
“What he has done by thus undermining the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Federal Republic of Nigeria, is not even merely condonement of REBELLION (or, in this context, SECESSION) but outright approval, promotion and sponsorship of the same.
“This is a very serious matter and must be taken just as seriously, for in seeking to undermine constituted authority in this most visible and crucially symbolic manner, Otti has made himself into an active participant in rebellion.
“Perhaps, some might want to shrug off what Governor Otti has done as ultimately inconsequential and just some infantile excess better ignored.
“Indeed, “what is the importance of a presidential portrait on a wall, anyway?” they might wonder.
“Well, by that token, we might as well ask what is the importance of referring to a President as “Mr President” and maybe not as “hey you there, how far?”
“For those who might be ignorant as to the significance of a mere photograph, there is a compelling reason why all over the world presidential portraits and those of other categories of heads of state are conspicuously placed in such places as post offices, train stations, banks and government buildings where they are most likely to be seen by the greatest number of citizens.
“The practice is a device for asserting the authority of the state and legitimacy of the government.
“It is taken so seriously, even in those jurisdictions with ceremonial heads of state, that the moment Queen Elizabeth II demises, the entire machinery of the British state immediately proceeded about replacing her portrait with that of her son who had thereupon ascended to the throne and become King of England!
“Alex Otti is not the first Governor with an axe to grind with a President in this country and is not entitled to challenge our constitutional order because his tribesman lost an election.
“At the height of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s wickedness against then Governor Bola Tinubu and the people of Lagos State, Asiwaju Tinubu still kept his portrait on his office wall and in all public buildings across Lagos throughout his tenure.
“Former Governors Nyesom Wike and Samuel Ortom, easily former President Muhammadu Buhari’s most implacable adversaries, never once took down his portrait from their offices or government buildings.
“If Alex Otti says he is waiting for the courts to deliver their verdicts before recognizing President Tinubu as President of this country, then his own portrait ought not to be on his office wall, as well, since his mandate is similarly being challenged in court.
“But, all of that is really beside the point; the offices of President and Governor are creations and creatures of law and the protocols pertaining thereto are not up to the whims, caprices or mere preferences of anyone, not even the occupants of those offices.
“What is really happening is the latest manifestation of a poisonous dimension Peter Obi and his ulta-bigoted and rabidly ethnicist rabble are insistent on foisting on Nigerian politics.
“It must be fiercely rejected and the legitimacy of state power, authoritatively asserted.
“There can be no question of allowing a governor “to do what he likes with his office”, for by that standard, we might as well allow Mr Otti to use his office as the staging post for high treason contrary to the Constitution of the Federal Republic.
“It is clear what Otti and his co-travellers are up to in Abia; they are testing the waters and will keep escalating their excesses in geometric proportions to the extent to which the Nigerian state proves itself to be so weak as to allow them to get away with them.
“I cannot imagine what Alex Otti and his cohorts might have been thinking – if, indeed, he was thinking at all – when he decided upon what might seem, at face value, a most sawdust-headed stunt but is actually a clear and unambiguous challenge to the authority of the President of Nigeria.”
The legal team of President Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima opened its defence on Wednesday, tendering 18 duly certified documents to defend Tinubu and Shettima victory in the 2023 presidential election.
“Obi and Atiku who have refused to address Tinubu as president could be doing so because they may be of the view that it could negatively influence against them the judgment the tribunal would deliver”
Wole Olanipekun, the duo’s lead counsel listed as the second and third respondents in the petition filed by the Labour Party and Peter Obi challenging the outcome of the election tendered the documents during proceedings at the Presidential Election Petitions Court.
Two of the documents tendered by Tinubu’s lawyer were Certified True Copies Peter Obi’s forwarding letter for the submission of membership registration dated April 25, 2022 as well as his Register of Membership for Anambra State to prove their claim that Obi is not a registered member of the Labour party and not qualified to contest in the election.
The respondents had in their response to Obi’s petition, said that the petitioner was not a member of the party as of the time of the 2023 presidential election, making him unqualified to contest in the last election on the platform of the Labour Party.
Other documents tendered by Olanipekun include: Letter from Nigeria Police to the United States Embassy dated February 3, 2003 asking for some information about Tinubu’s criminal record, the reply from US Embassy to the Nigeria Police, same year, 12 documents relating to the educational record of Tinubu from Chicago State University duly certified by Jamaal Cor, Associate General Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs, Chicago State University, data page of Tinubu’s Nigerian passport issued on February 2, 2011 and November 20, 2019, duly certified by Nigerian Immigration Service.
Also presented were Tinubu’s visas to the United States issued between February 4, 2011 and November 18, 2021, duly certified by Nigerian Immigration Service; Copy of Reports of the Commission on the location of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, obtained from the FCT Archives and Historical Bureau, dated 1975, copy of Form EC8D(A)( The single sheet from which INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu announced winner of the presidential election) and Form Form EC8D for Kano State state in respect of the presidential election.
Acknowledgement copy of Shettima’s notice of voluntary withdrawal of candidacy from Borno Central Senatorial District election, dated July 6, 2023, judgement of the Supreme Court in SC/CV/501/2023 between Peoples Democratic party and Independent National Electoral Commission and three others delivered on May 26, 2023 and Copies of page 27, 28, of Nigerian Tribune Newspaper of February 23, 2023.
The five-man panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani admitted the documents and marked them as exhibits, despite objections raised by Livy Uzoukwu, counsel