Apart from the fines slammed against them, there is a pressing need for review of the petitions filed before courts by the two frontline presidential candidates in the 2023 general election in Nigeria: former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party LP. Such a move, if made, is expected to be targeted at establishing their deliberate attempt or not to deceive the public, incite people and cause restiveness in the country. In fact, there should be a deeper search and thorough check on the large-scale and full blown frauds and naked misconduct that featured in the presidential election. And if found culpable, the erring candidates and their political parties should be heavily sanctioned, not for any other reasons than to: stop politicians from placing personal interest above the national; ensuring that election petitions are filed before the court with high sense of responsibility and ultimately to put stop to filling of mischievous and frivolous petitions.
This move should be made by focused groups after the country is through with the legal battle at the Supreme Court.
Given the peaceful manner the last presidential poll was conducted, if at all there was anything to contest in the exercise, it should be the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission to upload results on its Viewing Portal – IReV – in real-time. Of course, Abubakar and Obi included this in their petition grounds. However, the five-man panel of jurists headed by Justice Haruna Tsamani on the matter held that according to Sections 52 and 65 of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC was at “liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results were transmitted during the poll”.
Apart from the PEPC ruling on the electronic transmission of results, it’s certain that Abubakar and Obi knew that in the states where they were declared winners, uploading of results into IReV suffered similar fate, just like in the states the overall winner, President Bola Tinubu, won. So, the question is: are the entire results in the South East, where Obi strangely polled not less than 95 percent of the total valid votes cast, making the zone authentic or not? Were the results from the South South zone where Obi also got more votes valid or not? The same question goes to Abubakar. The fact is: if the two candidates savour joy where they won, yet kicked and queried the authenticity of the results based on failure to transmit results electronically where they lost, then we make bold to say such posture amounts to double standard!
Abubakar and Obi’s grounds of their petitions were conflicting and funny. Both candidates are contending that the Independent National Electoral Commission failed to comply with its rules, therefore, the presidential election was fraught with irregularities, yet claimed they won and, therefore, the court should declare them as the winner! It’s very obvious that the two are attempting the impossible. In other words, they want to eat their cakes and still want to have it.
Right after Tinubu was declared as the winner and both began to make claims of manipulation and mandate stolen, Abubakar in his first public address and interaction with the media made daring and challenging statements. Then, he asserted that Obi couldn’t have won the election, just as the gamut of his votes, in particular from the South East and South South zones, naturally belonged to the PDP. Abubakar justified Obi’s loss and why he couldn’t attain victory, accusing him of being impatient, frightened and intimidated by the actions of some party (PDP) stalwarts – who were bent on frustrating everyone who did not belong to their caucus out of the presidential race.
Imagine, Abubakar, who was not pronounced the winner, making allegations of being shortchanged and at the same time has the audacity to adduce reasons why a fellow contestant lost and why he shouldn’t complain of being robbed abi initio! He believed by losing, Obi was served right! In other words, to Abubakar, Obi is being mischievous by claiming victory. The fact of the matter is that the two were not just honest to their followers and the public in general.
That said. Still, it must be stressed that the most fraudulent and scandalous petition was that from Obi. The LP candidate who against all expectations won in Lagos State saw nothing wrong in being declared as the winner in the former Nigeria’s capital city. The candidate claiming victory, ahead of filling his weightless petition, was confronted with the viral videos on how the aged in the South East zone were aided to thumbprint their ballot papers. This open manipulation earned Obi over 90 percent of votes from the South Eastern part of the country. To Obi and his supporters, nothing was wrong in this.
Obi went ahead to make a frivolous claim. He had demanded that having won in FCT Abuja, his South East, but very poor showing in the North and South West, be declared as the winner! How? Obi knows that for a candidate to be declared winner for the office of president, such must poll the highest total valid votes. Apart from this, the LP candidate is aware that a winning candidate should also poll 25 percent of votes in not less than two-third of the entire states in the country, including the FCT. Surprisingly, the LP presidential flagbearer, who is claiming victory, failed in this respect. Still, he mischievously held to his FCT winning and prayed the court to declare him the winner! A win with a slight margin in Nasarawa and Plateau states plus Abuja didn’t translate to the required spread popularity. And on the FCT as well as its peculiarity, the PEPC ruled that it does not have a more special status than other states.
The same Obi who claimed the election was flawed, yet wanted the court to declare him the winner, failed to bring his party agents to court to testify on the claim relating to non compliance to the Electoral Act. Still, he wanted the judiciary, which had been put under watch of “all eyes”, to validate his claims.
Obi’s tricks and trading in religion and tribal sentiments in the last presidential election have been exposed to all. His infamous “Thank you Daddy” video said it all – that he rode on the two mentioned biases, plus lording himself over Nigerian youths who are digitisation “natives”, thus were easily reached, cajoled, mobilised and manipulated on social media to shift support for him. Obviously, the LP candidate was “gullibly” deceived – positioned by various online rankings as the winner of the poll. It’s a pity that Obi fooled himself and based his hope on an unreliable process. No mercy for the Obidient Movement Leader as he failed to face the reality before the poll and it was the same weak footing he headed to court. No wonder his poor performance in court and outcome of the proceedings. This is like computer language: “Baggage in, baggage out.”
It’s therefore not surprising to hear the PEPC slamming Obi with the highest fine out of the three harmonised petitioners.
Again, to justify that both Abubakar and Obi are far from seeking justice, rather, desperate to grab political power, the former Vice President and other parties have dragged Tinubu to courts before the election, praying he should be disqualified on account of inconsistency and limited information on his academic records. Similarly, the opposition had before the poll approached courts, challenging their opponent on whether he attended Chicago State University or not. Also, while the electioneering reached its crescendo, the same set of Tinubu’s opponents leaked his $460,000 forfeiture saga in a US Court. On all of the mentioned cases, the courts had at one time or the other adjudicated – dismissed the suits and cleared the respondent before conduct of the poll.
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Still, it was amazing to see the two main contenders, in particular Abubakar, including the already legally resolved matters in his grounds for the court to nullify his opponent’s election victory. Even after all parties had adopted their final addresses, Atiku still went ahead to the US, demanding CSU to confirm whether Tinubu ever passed through the institution or not. Atiku’s first suit in this regard failed. In its ruling, PEPC hurled a heavy blow at him when it held that all issues relating to qualifications or eligibility to contest were pre-election matters, ruling that the ground ought to have been determined ahead of elections. If the opposition are not gambling or desperate for power, why bring up the matters again? We therefore posit that the action was nothing, but a clear abuse of Court process.
It’s very disappointing that despite the noise and boasting, Abubakar and Obi, as well as their lawyers lacked real facts, but only relied on guess work. And despite the lapses, the petitioners still expected victory from the court.
Having observed the deficiency in the petitions and desperation of the petitioners, a member of the PEPC panel, Justice Mistura Bolaji-Yusuf in her ruling held that the court is not Father Christmas, that would surf the internet for evidence to help the petitioners prove their case, stressing that what is not brought to the court could not receive its judicious notice.
The jurist held further: “It is obvious that the petitioners were fixated on the belief that they won the election, without any cogent and credible evidence. And they did not even bother to place any such credible evidence before the Court. Were (the lawyers of Atiku and Obi) expecting the Court to go and gather evidence from the street or the market? Or to be persuaded or intimidated by threats on social media. That is not the way of the court!”
Before this Editorial is taken home, it’s important we point out the extreme desperation for power, disregard to law and display of ignorance by some OBIdient apostles. Leading the packs here is Peter Obi’s running mate, Yusuf Baba-Ahmed. The Kaduna State-born former Senator, whose brother just took a political appointment from Vice President Kashim Shettima, after the swearing-in ceremony of the President, in a sweeping outburst exploded, saying Tinubu was not recognised as the president. If he’s not, who then? Is it Abubakar who failed to win in the South East, the known stronghold of the PDP? Or who could not also make a satisfactory inroads in his Northern part, which he was over confident would do the magic?
If not Abubakar, would it have been his boss, Obi, who in his own and followers’ thoughts and calculations have concluded that with the maximum manipulation of voting in the South East, part of South South; winning in FCT and handful of Northern States would earn his desirable winning and determine his declaration as the winner and swearing-in as the Commander-in-Chief?
For the election, which was keenly contested and could be described as one of the best presidential elections in the country, the only candidate that polled the highest number of votes as well as recorded spread and popular votes was Tinubu. Obi and Abubakar failed to scale this Electoral Act hurdle. And one wonders where the theory of likely run-off was coming from before the PEPC ruling. In any case, what moral right does a Vice Presidential candidate who couldn’t deliver his ward, local government, not to talk about his state have, to contest the legitimacy of a sitting president, whose declaration complied with the Electoral Act?
Baba-Ahmed reckless outburst was a seditious declaration, therefore, calls for investigation, prosecution and sanctions! These are parts of the issues to deal with after the so-called next Presidential Election legal battle.
In all, there is no mercy or sympathy for Abubakar and Obi for their poor showing and woeful performance of their lawyers at PEPC. From the outset, it was clear that only the “Atikulates” and “Obidients” expected wonders and miracles to happen. As said, the lawyers of the two leading petitioners knew the accounts before them were hard nuts – difficult to crack. Yet, they are in business and have bills to pay and settle. However, those we are concerned about and certain that they need guidance and reorientation are the Nigerian youths. They have been deceived that their political ‘lord’ was robbed and rigged out. We reiterate, election into the office of Nigeria’s President is beyond winning in a zone out of six. The OBIdients should be reasonable. If rigging was the issue, why did Obi win in Lagos, the state of incumbent President? Where is common sense in OBIdients’ theory?
As we write, Abubakar has approached the US District Court for the Northern District to enforce CSU to authenticate Tinubu’s result, as well as his status as its product. Note, this was despite PEPC ruling that issues of this nature are pre-election matters. In the same court, Tinubu’s lawyer has responded, arguing that Abubakar was on “fishing expedition” as the events have overtaken his prayer.
However, on the side of President Tinubu, we see nothing big in providing the required information, if indeed there is nothing to hide. Certificates are simply what they are: Certificates. It is either you have earned it and they exist, or you have not and just seeking ways of holding the public to ransom. Nothing can be worse than running from court to court over a certificate you claim to have.
Also, in line with their responses – that PEPC only delivered judgement, but justice was not done, both Abubakar and Obi have filed their appeals at the Supreme Court. Surely, it would be very interesting to see their counsels coming out better and stronger this time. We want to see what they want to do differently, especially now that the CSU has authenticated Tinubu’s student’s status.
In their rulings, the PEPC for the first time in the history of Nigeria judiciary and democratic practice spent well over 12 hours to read over 700 pages of harmonised ruling! This time, in the real sense of justice, if it were the wishes of the apex Court judges, they could go ahead and spend 24 hours or more to deliver the next judgement. And if the volume of the ruling this time would be double of that of PEPC, it’s okay. But beyond these, after the ruling, we strongly propose that those who have deceived, confused and incited the Nigerian public should be fined heavily than the PEPC has done. Such fines on individuals and their political parties must be paid, otherwise, they should be barred from contesting in future elections.
Not only this, those who are caught in this web should be prosecuted and sanctioned according to the extant law. Most importantly, the government should carefully and objectively begin the move to caution and moderate politicians in the way and manner they execute their electoral grievances. In doing this, stiff punishments should be awarded against those who are involved in anarchy, or make inciting statements. The same right which the politicians who are presently aspiring to access power by all means possible but claiming to seek justice are enjoying should also be exercised by the authorities – executive and judiciary in presenting a bill to the National Assembly in upscaling the country’s electoral disputes, and rulings, ultimately, to encourage discipline and sanity in our political space.