…’I’ll not validate electoral banditry’
…Both candidates knock INEC
…Anarchy looms if…,says Obi’s counsel
By Tunde Opalana, Andrew Orolua, Tom Okpe, Abuja
There will be no congratulatory messages from both Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr. Peter Obi to President Bola Tinubu, whose election on February 25 this year, was validated on Wednesday by the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC).
Abubakar and Obi, presidential candidates, respectively, of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP), who ran against Tinubu in the election, had their petitions challenging his victory thrown out on Wednesday by the PEPC.
Yesterday, the day after the judgment, and apparently reeling from the effect of the Court’s pronouncements, both candidates declared that they will head for the Supreme Court, the nation’s apex arbiter, to seek redress on their electoral matter.
They waved off any suggestions of congratulating Tinubu, with the camp of Abubakar, popularly known as Atiku, saying he cannot endorse what was described as electoral banditry.
About the time Atiku and Obi spoke, at separate locations in the country, the PDP presidential candidate’s Media Adviser, Paul Ibe, had issued a statement debunking trending online reports that Atiku had congratulated Tinubu. Ibe dismissed such thought outright, saying Atiku will not give legal stamp to ”electoral heist.”
He said Atiku ”did not validate 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?”
On his part, Obi’s lead counsel, Levy Uzoukwu (SAN) angrily warned of anarchy should obstacles continue to be placed on the path of litigants contesting election results in court. He said this may make politicians and their supporters to take law into their hands in future elections.
Rejecting the PEPC judgment at a press conference he personally addressed at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja, Atiku said he respects the judiciary, stressing that what he just lost was a battle not the war itself.
Atiku said he approached the court in the first instance because of his belief that the court is the sanctuary of justice.
He said: “The journey of my political career, as you know, holds so much to the courage and fearless decisions of our judiciary.
“Indeed, I am no stranger to legal battles, and I can say that I have a fair idea of how the court system works. All through my career as a politician, I have been a fighter, and I must say that I have found the judiciary as a worthy pillar to rest on in the pursuit of justice.”
However, expressing his disappointment at the judgment, Atiku said: “The last presidential election in our country and the way it was managed by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, leaves behind unenviable precedents, which I believe the courts have a duty to redress.
“Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election, and I am afraid that the judgment of the court as rendered by the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal yesterday (Wednesday), failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.”
The former Vice President said that he instructed his lawyers to file the petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election because his ultimate goal was to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.
Berating the PEPC and labelling its judgment as unjust, he said: “I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation. I am therefore here to tell you that, though the judgment of the court yesterday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept.
”I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.”
Disclosing his resolve to challenge the judgment, the PDP candidate said: “Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court.
“It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate. I believe that such is the only way through which our democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning.”
Atiku put it on record that “whether I prevail in this quest or not, the record of my effort in ensuring an order of credible elections in Nigeria shall remain for the future generations to evaluate.”
He urged his supporters and party members not to despair, but to remain steadfast.
“I urge them to take solace in an immortal lesson I learned from my leader and mentor, the late Shehu Yar’Adua, that losing a battle is less important than losing the war. We might have lost a battle yesterday, but the war is well ahead of us. And I believe that with our hopes in God, we shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system,” he said.
Speaking earlier, acting National Chairman of the party, Ambassador Umar Damagum said Wednesday’s judgment made Nigerians more confused as law and facts were thrown overboard by the court.
He said: ”The judgment of the PEPT which came out yesterday left lovers of democracy in and outside the country, more confused with a lot of questions whether the Nigerian Constitution, Electoral Act and other laws guiding the conduct of credible election in our country, are still functional.
“Lawyers, politicians and other other stakeholders from all divides were left confused as both law and facts were visibly thrown overboard.”
He, however, urged party members not to lose focus or be distracted.as the party approaches the apex court.
Party chieftains at the press briefing included former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; former Aviation Minister, Dr. Osita Chidoka; Senator Dino Melaye; Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman, Senator Adolphus Wabara; former National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former Imo State governor, Achike Udenwa; former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau; former Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu; and Mr. Segun Showunmi.
As Atiku spoke, Obi, in Onitsha, Anambra State, also announced that he has instructed his lawyers to immediately challenge the judgment at the apex court.
At a press conference in the commercial city of Onitsha, he acknowledged the PEPC’s contributions to due process and seeming attempt to strengthen the nation’s democracy.
According to LP National Publicity Secretary, Obiora Ifo, in a statement emanating from the conference and made available to The Daily Times in Abuja, yesterday too, Obi said: “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.
“Our legal team has already received our firm instruction to file an appeal against the decision.
“I shall not relent in the quest for justice, not necessarily for myself but indeed for our teeming supporters all over the country and beyond whose mandate to us at the polls, regrettably truncated by Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).”
The Presidential candidate noted that while the PEPC has rendered its judgment, it is not the final arbiter as the responsibility now falls on the Supreme Court.
He acknowledged the fact that judgment is not coterminous with justice, and implored Nigerians to remain focused, steadfast, and peaceful; and to abide by the rule of law and understand that the matter has not reached its logical conclusion.
The LP standard bearer remarked that “the strength and value of our democracy reside in solid national institutions and our confidence in them”, noting that electoral litigations will be almost unnecessary and non-existent if INEC discharges its statutory functions creditably, transparently and with discernible fairness.
“It’s when that body fails, as it did recently, thus subverting the will of Nigerian voters, that the recourse to the judiciary becomes imperative, as it’s now the case,” Obi noted.
The former Anambra State Governor thanked every Nigerian who has supported the cause and campaign for a new Nigeria that is characterized by fairness, equity, justice, rule of law, peace, prosperity, inclusiveness, sustainable growth, and development.
Obi also thanked his legal team and assured his numerous supporters across the country and beyond, the LP, the Obidient Family, and all those who showed up daily during the court trials not to despair, saying “a new Nigeria is possible and achievable.”
However, reviewing all that transpired during the PEPC’s proceedings, Obi’s lead counsel, Uzoukwu declared that anarchy is a real possibility, if institutions like INEC continue to pose hindrances to fair litigation in election cases.
Warning of the dire consequences of blocking sound electoral jurisprudence, Uzoukwu, who, during the Court proceedings, severally complained of INEC’s refusal to make available materials used in the conduct of the Presidential election, insisted that sound electoral jurisprudence may disappear from Nigeria.
He said that a situation where an electoral empire blatantly refused litigants, who challenged its decision and conduct, access to materials including results sheets, spoke volumes of the hindrance facing electoral jurisprudence in the country.
According to him, when INEC reluctantly accepted access to materials, under subpoena, its officials provided “blur copies that are unreadable.”
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The legal luminary added: “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 that contested election continue to find it very difficult to establish their case due to obstacles in the way, starting by INEC, certainly they may resort to some other means of trying to get justice, which may not be lawful.”