- Lawyers disagree on tribunal verdict
- Nigeria not practising democracy – Mike Ozekhome
- Other SANs hail judges’ painstaking handling of petitions’
- Accept verdict in good faith, Bello, Wike, Bruce, others advise PDP, LP candidates
- I won’t validate electoral banditry – Atiku
BY NSEOBONG OKON-EKONG, BRIGHT JACOB
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, have rejected the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Trihunal.
The duo, in separate statements on the judgement, vowed to head to the Supreme Court to challenge the dismissal of their petitions against the election of President Bola Tinubu by the Tribunal.
Former Vice President Atiku said he would not “validate mandate banditry” and that he was going to the Supreme Court because he had lost a battle but would confront the war ahead.
Atiku has also said that he is not going into political retirement yet.
Apparently replying to Vice President Kashim Shettima who said he would buy goats and sheep for him to go into political retirement, the PDP Presidential candidate vowed to continue contributing his quota in deepening democracy.
Atiku spoke through his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe.
Ibe’s statement also described as false, reports that Atiku had congratulated President Bola Tinubu over the outcome of the election petition tribunal.
“It is fake news being orchestrated by those desperately looking for validation for the usurpation of the mandate of Nigerians,” he said.
According to Ibe, Atiku couldn’t have validated electoral banditry because doing so would have amounted to a rape on the conscience of Nigerians who have struggled for years to entrench electoral integrity.
“If their conscience is clear and they are convinced that their victory is valid, they don’t have to blackmail their political opponents into congratulating them through fake news.
“Why should a man be desperate for validation? Does truth require validation? Why should you issue a congratulatory statement and attribute it to Atiku if your conscience is not troubled by the electoral heist you have perpetrated.
“The Waziri has nothing personal against President Tinubu. He owes him no ill will. Let me, however, make it very clear that this struggle is about principle and justice. He is not in this struggle because he hates Tinubu. He is in it to ensure that people who rigged elections are not allowed to get away with it. Injustice and rigging promote bitterness and division. No leader should be proud to lead angry and aggrieved citizens,” he said.
On his part, the LP candidate, Obi, said he would not relent in his quest for electoral justice because the PEPC ruling was not “coterminous with justice.”
“As petitioners in this case, we respect the views and rulings of the court but we disagree with the court’s reasoning and conclusions in the judgment it delivered. It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgment by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he stated.
However, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, PDP chieftain, Ben Bruce and other leaders have urged both the LP and PDP Presidential candidates to accept the verdict of the PEPT and join hands with the President to build the country.
While Governor Bello predicted that going to the Supreme Court would be an exercise in futility, Bruce advised the duo to accept verdict in national interest. Wike, on his part, said such actions would be counter-productive.
Some of Nigeria’s leading lawyers have also volunteered their opinions on the judgement delivered by the five judges at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
Expectedly, their interpretations of the pronouncement of the judges differ.
However, all of them are mindful of the window of opportunity open to the litigants – Atiku Abubakar and the People’s Democratic Party, and Peter Obi and the Labour Party – to take the next logical step by approaching the Supreme Court.
Mike Ozekhome (SAN):
Nigeria not truly practising democracy
Constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), on Thursday said Nigeria was not truly practising democracy, adding that elections in the country do not reflect the wishes of the electorate.
He introduced two words into the political lexicon of Nigeria: ‘Judocracy’ and ‘Selectocracy’.
He described the latter as a ploy used by politicians to arm thugs who snatch ballot boxes to select leaders, while the former paints the picture of close allies who betray their political principal.
Ozekhome’s summation of the PEPT judgement took place at the 2023 and 22nd edition of the annual Bishop Mike Okonkwo lecture at the Shell Zenith Bank Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos tagged: “Nigerianisation Of Nigerians: A Look Inward.”
The Bishop Mike Okonkwo annual lecture forms part of activities to mark the birthday of the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission.
Livy Uzoukwu (SAN): Dissatisfied litigants may resort to self-help
A prominent member of the legal team of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi said, “If we are not careful, our electoral jurisprudence will eventually disappear. I am saying this with every amount of sincerity because when the litigant, when those who contested the election continue to find it very difficult to establish their case due to obstacles on the way, starting with INEC, certainly they may resort to some other means of trying to get justice, which may not be lawful.”
Can election results be transferred manually?
Rights activist and lawyer, Inibehe Effiong took the PEPT judges to task on the decision that transfer of election results electronically was optional.
He wrote on X, “If INEC is not bound to electronically transmit election results to the IREV, how then will results be transferred directly from the polling unit as mandated by the Electoral Act? Can results be transferred manually directly from the polling unit? Note that delivery of physical copies of Form EC8A to the collation centre together with agents of political parties and security agencies is a separate requirement.”
PEPT absolved electoral commission of blame, rather chastised petitioners
Another legal practitioner, Eze Onyekpere frowned at the apparent chastisement of the petitioners by the PEPT judges, who made it look like the petitioners should not have complained about irregularities in the election at all.
He said, ”It took almost three weeks before they (petitioners) could have access and they didn’t have more than a couple of days before INEC came here with an application that they wanted to wipe off because they had to use the machine for an election.
“In so many states of the federation, the INEC put obstacles in the way of the petitioners to access the materials and information they needed. And you put the blame on them. Hearing the judgment yesterday, the recurring decimal was that the petitioner failed, at some point it was sounding like a rebuke to the petitioner for coming to court in the first place.”
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN):
INEC can frustrate petitioners
Senior lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa posited that allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission custody of electoral documents and equipment, can frustrate a petition when it turns partisan.
He said, “The principles of presumption of regularity of elections and that of substantial conformity make it extremely difficult to prosecute elections successfully. In this particular case, the burden placed upon the petitioners in order to overturn the election was practically insurmountable. To make matters worse, INEC practically fought the petitioners to a standstill, as if it was an interested party in the whole process.”
Meanwhile, many other lawyers who spoke to our correspondents hailed what they described as the tribunal judges’ “painstaking handling of the different petitions”.