Presidency and the ruling All Progressives Congress, on Monday, lambasted the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, over his allegation that the Supreme Court rewarded illegalities by upholding the victory of President Bola Tinubu in the February 25 presidential poll.
Atiku had earlier on Monday addressed a press conference in Abuja to formally react to last week’s judgment of the Supreme Court, which dismissed his appeal challenging Tinubu’s electoral victory.
The Presidency in its reaction to Atiku’s attack on Tinubu and the apex court, took a swipe at the PDP presidential flagbearer, saying he went into the February 25, 2023 election with a divided house.
Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, in a statement titled: ‘Time for Atiku Abubakar to finally go away and end his ambition to be President,” said, “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.”
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court delivered judgement on Atiku’s and Peter Obi’s 171-day legal tussle to nullify Tinubu’s election with the rejection of the election appeals filed by the PDP standard bearer and Obi of the Labour Party.
The apex court, in the lead judgment delivered by the Chairman of the seven-man panel, Justice Inyang Okoro, refused to consider the academic records of the President obtained from the Chicago State University, which Atiku sought to tender as fresh evidence to prove his allegation of certificate forgery against the ex-Lagos State governor.
According to Okoro, “It is a settled law that the time fixed by the constitution for the doing of anything cannot be extended, it is immutable, and it is fixed like the rock of Gibraltar, and it cannot be moved, expanded and elongated, or stretched beyond what it states.’’
But Atiku at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, deplored the Supreme Court verdict, describing it as an endorsement of illegality.
The PDP presidential flagbearer expressed his disappointment in the turn of events, declaring that Nigeria was the biggest loser.
But he noted that despite the disappointment, he felt accomplished to have shown Nigerians the kind of President they had, adding that he would remain in politics.
Atiku 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.
“If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies by its judgment that crime is good and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost, and the country is doomed irrespective of who occupies the Presidential seat.”
Atiku said rather than walking away after the “mandate banditry” allegedly perpetrated by the APC and the Independent National Electoral Commission, 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.
He, however, 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.
He stated, “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.”
Atiku also called for a rotational presidency among the six zones of the country, saying, “This will prevent the ganging up of two or more geo-political zones to alternate the presidency among themselves to the exclusion of other zones.
“INEC should be mandated to verify the credentials submitted to it by candidates and their parties, and where it is unable to do so – perhaps because the institutions involved did not respond in time – it must publicly state so and have it on record.
“A situation where a candidate submits contradictory credentials to INEC in different election cycles, and the electoral umpire accepts them without questions points to gross negligence, at best, or collusion to break the law by the leadership of the INEC, at worst.’’
But Onanuga in his defence of President Tinubu, said, “Atiku’s brand of politics is 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 Alhaji Atiku that it is only his inordinate ambition to be President that is doomed.
“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.”
Similarly, APC National Secretary, Senator Ajibola Basiru, deplored Atiku, describing him as desperate.
Basiru said, “First, Nigerians need to sympathise with Atiku Abubakar. It is obvious that he is suffering from post-election trauma, going by the statement he gave. How can you grant two world press conferences in three weeks? He had one preceding his misadventure at the Supreme Court, where he pressed to submit fresh evidence and after his loss at the apex court. This shows that his level of desperation has affected his psychological composition.
Bashiru said Atiku’s attack on the judiciary because he lost an election showed his lack of regard for the same institution he approached for redress.
He added, “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.’’