Former Nigeria vice president and main opposition’s party, People's Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has gird his lion for an epic legal battle duel with the incumbent president Mohammadu Buhari whose Victory was affirmed in February 23 presidential poll by the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The former Vice President after rejecting the result of the poll citing several malpractices inaugurated his legal team to challenge the result of the presidential election. The team is headed by Dr Livy Uzoukwu, SAN.
Except he changes his mind, Abubakar has less than three weeks to file a petition against President-elect Mohammadu Buhari, his All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for declaring Buhari winner of the February 23 presidential poll.
The urgency, precision and challenges of providing watertight oral, documentary and electronic evidence to upturn election results, lawyers said, makes election petition a Herculean task.
Last Thursday, Abubakar listed the malpractices to include the use of the military to perfect voter intimidation and suppression in PDP strongholds, connivance of INEC officials, security agents and the ruling party to manufacture bogus figures and outright falsification of the returns from the polling units.
Consequent upon all these, he gave notice that he would use all available legitimate means to challenge the result of the election.
His meeting with members of the National Peace Committee Thursday night prompted concerns in some quarters that he may have been prevailed upon to abandon litigation.
But all that came to nought after he declared yesterday: “I have just inaugurated my legal team and charged them with the responsibility of ensuring that our stolen mandate is retrieved.”
“I am encouraged by the presence of fearless men and women of the Bench. The judiciary, which had in the past discharged itself ably is once again being called upon to deliver judgment on this matter that will be untainted by lucre and unbowed by the threat of immoral power,” he added
Abubakar assured Nigerians that sooner than later, these noble dispensers of justice will give a judgment that will represent a historic denunciation of electoral fraud and mandate.
Meanwhile, the Forum of Nigerian Leaders and Elders has picked holes in the outcome of the February 23 presidential election, insisting that President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory is illegitimate.
While it reviewed major developments leading to the election, the management of the electoral process, the conduct and announced outcome of the election, the Forum said the poll was fraught with irregularities.
The Forum had, in the run-up to the general elections, endorsed the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, “on account of his understanding of the critical needs of the country at this time”.
“ In a communiqué issued at the end of a summit in Abuja on February 4, three weeks before the presidential and National Assembly elections, and read by the spokesman for Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, the group emphasised that it adopted Atiku as consensus candidate for President “as he has demonstrated the deep understanding of the critical needs of the country at this time and possesses the capacity to proffer clear solutions in that respect.”
But presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a statement at that time, dismissed the position of the Forum, saying that the PDP was only hiding in the “bunker of ethnicity” to avoid its inevitable defeat. In a post-presidential election statement, yesterday, by the Forum, endorsed by Chief E K Clark (PANDEF leader); Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere leader); Prof Ango Abdullahi (Northern Elders Forum); Chief John Nwodo (President General Ohanaeze, and Dr Pogu Bitrus (Middle Belt Forum), it urged Atiku to “exhaust the entire democratic process by challenging the results in the courts as provided for in the Constitution.”
“The Forum commends the statesmanship and commitment to the democratic process of the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, GCON, Wazirin Adamawa, to exhaust the entire democratic process by challenging the results in the courts as provided for in the constitution.
We see his decision as patriotic, responsible and ultimately the highest contribution to the democratic system. Some other person would by now be soaking ‘baboons and dogs in blood”, the statement said.
It observed that the elections revealed massive irregularities and outright abuse of the electoral laws, the rules and regulations of INEC as well as the failure of security forces to remain neutral and operate within the highest standards of their calling. “The Peace Accord was ridiculed by deliberate and open abuse of organs of the state, the denial of rights of many citizens to vote and blatant abuse of all the commitments made by the administration.
To decline to challenge obviously fictional figures, failures to respect key elements of the electoral process such as the use of Smart Card Readers and preventing agents and observers access to all processes is to condone the massive setback which this election represents for the country”, the statement said.
“The outcome of the elections was clearly premeditated in the refusal of the President to sign the Electoral Act and the orchestrated suspension of Justice Walter Onoghen as the CJN shortly before the composition of Electoral Tribunals.
“The Forum calls on the judiciary to uphold the highest standards of integrity and commitment to its hallowed role by doing justice to the appeals that will come before it knowing that the eyes of the world would be on them.
We are aware that attempts are being made to demoralize and intimidate the judiciary to remove a conducive context for litigations.
We remind the judiciary that it is the last defence of our democratic process. “We appeal to all Nigerians to continue to show faith in the democratic process and remain law-abiding as we await the decisions of the judiciary on a matter that will ultimately determine the quality of our democratic process and the nature of the nation we all call our own.
“We recall that in endorsing the candidature of Atiku for the election, we did anchor our support on identifying a candidate among many good candidates we interacted with who can retool Nigeria to move on the path of development as a true federal entity, the pattern of voting in areas where there were semi-free elections showed an overwhelming endorsements of our position by popular votes. And the poll's results have shown further a badly divided polity that needs a unifier and not a divisive person as a leader.