Supreme Court Ruling: Why PDP, Governors are at variance with Atiku
When the Supreme Court, on Thursday, October 26, 2023, upheld the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and dismissed the opposition’s challenges of fraud and electoral law breaches during the election, it brought to an end a 171-day legal tussle and attempt to nullify Tinubu’s election by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
In the aftermath, while addressing a Press Conference, Atiku carpeted the Supreme Court, alleging that it rewarded illegalities by upholding the victory of President Tinubu in the February 25 presidential poll.
He expressed his disappointment in the turn of events, but declared that Nigeria was the biggest loser, stressing that regardless of his disappointment, he felt accomplished to have shown Nigerians the kind of President they had.
He said, “Someone asked me what I would do if I lost my election petition appeal at the Supreme Court. In response, I said that as long as Nigeria won, the struggle would have been worth the while.
By that, I meant that the bigger loss would not be mine but Nigeria’s if the Supreme Court legitimises illegality, including forgery, identity theft, and perjury.”
Atiku stated that instead of walking away after the “mandate banditry” allegedly perpetrated by the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), he went to the Nigerian courts to seek redress and the American court to help with unravelling what state institutions charged with such responsibilities were unwilling or unable to do.
“We showed irrefutable evidence of gross irregularities, violence, and manipulations during the elections. We showed incontrovertible evidence that INEC violated the Electoral Act and deliberately sabotaged its own publicly announced processes and procedures in order to illegally declare Tinubu elected. The position of the Supreme Court, even though final, leaves so much unanswered,” he said.
Atiku therefore called for constitutional amendments to allow, among others, for a six-year single term for the Presidency and to ensure the completion of the litigation on elections before the inauguration of the winner.
“As for me and my party, this phase of our work is done. However, I am not going away. For as long as I breathe, I will continue to struggle, with other Nigerians, to deepen our democracy and rule of law and for the political and economic restructuring the country needs to reach its true potential. That struggle should now be led by the younger generation of Nigerians who have even more at stake than my generation.
“We must provide that all litigation arising from a disputed election must be concluded before the inauguration of a winner. This was the case in 1979. The current time frame between elections and inauguration of winners is inadequate to dispense with election litigation.”
In contrast to the stance of Atiku, who was the Presidential candidate of the PDP in the disputed election, the party’s governor’s forum, under the leadership of Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, restated their faith and confidence in the judiciary, which Atiku had cast aspersions on.
Rising from a meeting in Abuja, which also had members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) including the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, in attendance, the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Mohammed, noted that the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the 2023 presidential election brings an end to the presidential election cycle and indeed, an end to litigation.
The governors in attendance included Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke; Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, Delta State Governor, Sheriff Oborevwori, Zamfara State Governor; Dauda Lawal and Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri. Others were Taraba State Governor, Kefas Agbu, Adamawa State Governor, Amadu Fintiri, Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah and Plateau State Governor, Caleb Mutfwang.
Members of the party’s National Working Committee that attended were the National Organising Secretary, Umar Bature, National Vice Chairman, South East, Ali Odefa and National Vice Chairman, South West, Amb. Taofeek Arapaja.
“As a forum, we believe and restate our faith and confidence in the judiciary to do justice in political and other cases before the courts… We remain vigilant in the struggle for democracy and good governance in the country,” the Forum said.
Mohammed said the PDP governors “vowed to reposition and strengthen the PDP as a viable opposition political party ready and willing to play its role as the vanguard of the Nigerian people for democracy, good governance and accountability.”
The PDP governors’ forum called for urgent intervention of the Federal Government on the national economy, urging it to stabilise the naira, control inflation, stem unemployment crises and bring more succour to Nigerians.
Weighing in on the conversation, a former national legal adviser of the PDP, Mark Jacob, also faulted Atiku for casting aspersions on the judiciary, noting that based on the provisions of the law, the judges should be commended for their verdict.
Jacob advised that rather than fault the judges, Atiku and, indeed, other Nigerians who are not at peace with the Supreme Court judgment should transfer their anger at the National Assembly that passed an electoral act that provided room for rigging and producing of results that petitioners cannot void, rather than the judges.
“Don’t transfer anger on the justices of the court. People are refusing to follow what is stated in section 25 of the electoral act 2022 which has a provision for manual collation in all the process,” Jacob said.
“All this anger on the Judiciary will not solve the problem. Nigerians were deceived, not by the judges, but by the lawmakers. If INEC should decide what to do on the day of election as provided by law, that provision rubbishes the entire process.
“The law is what the judges are expected to interpret and execute. The people who made the law, the National Assembly, don’t want to change the process, and they ensured that nothing was changed during the electoral act amendment.
“We are busy expressing anger at the judges. Some of them are difficult to buy. They are respected. If you make allegations, you must come to defend it; show how the malpractices affected the outcome of the election; is your allegation enough to cancel the election results or do the malpractices or lack of conformity by the electoral officers affect the final outcome of the election?
“I am a member of the PDP, but attacking the judiciary or rubbishing the judiciary will not help. It is the people at the National Assembly we should be looking at. The law as it exists is the problem. The electoral act is the problem. There are terrible provisions in the electoral act; even the judges cannot help,” Jacob said.
According to him, no court will give a litigant what is not contained in the law. “I was shocked that the judges took this time to do this work. We should commend the judges for doing a good job. It could be palatable and it could be unpalatable once you are in court. All those who contested the election have benefited from the judiciary before. I was national legal adviser of the PDP and I know how people have benefitted from the court. So, the law is the problem,” Jacob added.
In similar vein, former minority leader of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, who also served as commissioner of education, Prof. Usman Modibbo, observed that the electoral act, which was used to conduct the last general elections, was drafted to give escape routes for people who can manipulate the electoral process.
However, the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have condemned the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku, over his allegation that the Supreme Court rewarded illegalities by upholding the victory of President Tinubu.
In its reaction to Atiku’s attack on the President and the apex court, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, stated that it was “time for Atiku Abubakar to finally end his ambition to be President.”
Onanuga noted that, “there was no way Atiku and the PDP could have won the election with the party platform under which he contested broken into four parts.”
He berated Atiku for practicing a brand of politics such that once an electoral process or election does not pave the way for his victory, democracy becomes dysfunctional and must, therefore, be imperilled.
“For him, democracy should either go his way or the highway. The PDP candidate said Nigeria is doomed just because he failed to achieve his ambition. We want to tell Atiku that it is only his inordinate ambition to be President that is doomed.”
The Presidency added, “Our institutions must also ensure that corrupt, desperate, self-serving serial losers should not have a space in our democracy. Because if they don’t win the battle, they might burn the nation. We want to advise Atiku that after over three decades of elusive bid for the Presidency of Nigeria, he must now end his unprofitable bid and go away from any venture that will further pollute the political atmosphere and national harmony.”
Echoing Onanuga’s submission, the National Secretary of the APC, Senator Ajibola Basiru, also chided Atiku, describing him as desperate.
Basiru said, “Atiku’s attack on the judiciary because he lost an election showed he did not have regard for the same institution he approached for redress.
“What he said in the statement also showed that he lacked understanding of how the judiciary works and the electoral process in the country. For instance, he said INEC ought to disqualify people when they submit inconsistent credentials. Surprisingly, even as a presidential candidate, Atiku does not know the law has been changed since 2011. INEC does not have the power to disqualify anybody on any ground.”
“The National Assembly had PDP majority members when the law was amended. In the past, INEC had the power to disqualify anybody when they didn’t meet the requirement. But the law has changed since the PDP-led administration and control of the National Assembly. So, Atiku is blaming INEC for what the legislators and his political party had done.
“Again, the fresh evidence he is talking about, it is possible he didn’t listen to what the Supreme Court said. The court said that since you didn’t plead forgery, you cannot bring evidence to discuss it. Paragraph 146 of his petition stated that the second respondent was not qualified. He didn’t mention anyone in particular. Does he want the Supreme Court to accept evidence of a case not pleaded? His lawyer perhaps didn’t tell him that any fact not pleaded amounts to no issue.’’
On another hand, former senators on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have applauded the verdict of the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC), which affirmed the election of Tinubu, saying the pronouncement has reasserted the confidence of Nigerians in the nation’s judiciary.
According to its convener, Senator Basheer Lado, the former federal lawmakers under the auspices of APC Non-Serving Senators’ Group, commended the judges for what they described as “their exemplary dedication and thorough deliberation that led to a landmark ruling.
“The verdict reaffirms the trust and confidence that Nigerians have in the judiciary as the bedrock of our democracy. The commitment to upholding the rule of law and delivering a just decision is commendable and it strengthens our democracy,” they noted.