By Uche Mbah
Despite all entreaties from different quarters to shelve his plan of challenging the 2019 presidential election results in court, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, flag bearer, Atiku Abubakar, finally went to court to challenge that result, putting to an end endless speculations on whether he will succumb to pressures from powerful quarters.
Though Atiku himself was not initially in court, he was represented by a team of Lawyers led by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chukwuma Ume. He has unexpectedly filed the case to beat the deadline, which, according to relevant laws, every one that feels aggrieved on election matters must file his case within twenty one days of the said election. The court must, however, deliver judgment within six months of filing the case.
In a last minute consultation, Atiku had met with former President Obasanjo last Thursday, in a closed door meeting that one of Obasanjo’s Aids described simply as “Personal”. There has been pressures on him to jettison his quest for what he perceived as Justice. Prominent clerics, statesmen and others were not lacking at his Abuja home trying to persuade him to drop the idea. “Some cite e fact that he is a Muslim, and Muslims are not meant to take other Muslims to court. One prominent traditional ruler told him to accept the situation as the will of Allah”, a source told this Magazine.
It was gathered that Atiku delayed the court case to monitor the progress of the governorship elections to determine the extent of his real support base. “He was not interested in the results declared by INEC but the results from the polling boots which PDP agents are in possession of. He was pleasantly surprised with the level of support particularly in Kano”, the Magazine was told.
Kano has always been regarded as a major stronghold of Buhari.
According to Mike Ozhekome, one of the twenty odd senior lawyers that will face the legal battle, the petitioners had encountered serious frustrations with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, who has refused to allow them inspect election materials. But this magazine had reported that INEC itself is in a quandary, as one of the commissioners claimed that they are still collating the results of the election almost three weeks after the winner has been announced. According to him, that was why the result was not on their website.
The INEC website was conveniently down during the collation period of the 2019 presidential election.
Recall that on March 6, the tribunal has ordered INEC to grant Atiku, the Presidential candidate, and PDP access to electoral materials for the sake of the prosecution of their case. Incidentally, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC also approached the tribunal to grant them access to the same materials.
At the current case file, PDP and Atiku are praying the court to either declare Atiku winner of the election or to cancel the election out-rightly to order for a rerun.
The 2019 presidential elections has been acknowledged by the INEC chairman as consisting of inconsistencies, as he noted that the figures did not tally. For example, in 34 states of the federation, the number of void votes were higher than the number of valid votes, but INEC did not cancel the elections in those states. The current reruns in state governorship elections were based on the number of invalid votes exceeding the number the winning margin, a situation that was totally ignored in the presidential elections. According to the INEC chairman, those discrepancies are inconsequential.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of United political Parties has alleged that the Tribunal Judges are all working for President Buhari. This was contained in a statement last week by the group spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere. He said that the five man panel is approved by President Buhari. He gave the names of the members as Zainab Adamu-Bulkachuwa, president of the court of appeal; Abdul Aboki; Peter Ige; J. S. Ikyegh and S. C. Oseji.
The presidency is yet to react to the allegation.
In a release, Ugochinyere insisted the list is compromised.
“The approved list which was intercepted by our credible insider informant during conveyance from the Villa back to the Court of Appeal was drawn from a list of eight justices submitted to the Villa for approval,” he said.
“Nigerians will recall that we had earlier raised the alarm over the donation of a Senatorial ticket to the husband of the President of the Court of Appeal by the APC. We had questioned the rationale behind such donation when he did not participate in the primaries if not to secure the assurance of his wife, the President of the Court, to constitute with the approval of the Presidency the Panel that will hear any petition challenging the outcome of the elections.
“It was also a failure to secure similar assurances from the Chief Justice of the Federation that led to the onslaught on him by the Federal Government as the Honourable Chief Justice had insisted on doing only justice and nothing else.
“The list is drafted in such a way that without any matter properly being before the Justices, the Panel has been rigged and skewed with three of the Justices on the list having been approached and commitments secured from them that no matter the evidence put before them, they were going to rule in favour of the President.
“They are now agents and officers of the President and not officers in the temple of justice,”