By Suleiman Umaru
After several months of legal battle between Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 23, Presidential election and Muhammadu Buhari , of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, the later and the party Chieftains can now heave a sigh of relief.
This is because Ibrahim Mohammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, based on the documentary and oral evidence presented by the legal teams of the parties had ruled that Buhari, the APC Candidate was eminently qualified to contest the last Presidential election, which he had won. The Supreme Court had on October 30, 2019, dismissed the appeal by the PDP Candidate that that the Katsina state born Nigerian President was not educated up to secondary school level which disqualifies him to contest for the election .
In giving the judgment on October 30, 2019,the CJN , had announced that the Court will give reasons for dismissing the PDP’s Candidate petition on a later date. At the hearing were all the Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs who had led the legal team of the APC Candidate and the INEC Lawyers who were said to be seated at the Court but without the PDP Lawyers.
It may have dawned on Atiku and the PDP Lawyers that the game is over going by the direction of the judgment which had begun to unfold over the months. It was not surprising why the 20 SANs and 30 Lawyers engaged by Atku for the legal battle to prove that Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, made a mistake by declaring Buhari, the APC, Candidate as the winner of the February 23, Presidential election on Friday, November 15, 2019.
Eyewitness account said there were many SANs and Lawyers who were in Court to listen to the reasons that may be adduced by the CJN, for dismissing Atiku and PDP’s appeal. The Value News learnt that there was absolute silence in the Court room as John Okoro, a Justice of the Supreme Court , read the submissions of the CJN.
According to him , the failure of the appellants to call credible witnesses was a fatal mistake on their part . The petitioners had presented five witnesses including a star witness , who were said to have relied on’’ hearsay evidence’’., thus making Atiku’s case worse. Buhari and APC lawyers may have cashed on it to make nonsense of Atiku’s legal Team arguments.
Note that in unanimous summary judgment that was given by the CJN, on October 30, 2019, the apex Court had dismissed Atiku and the PDP’s petition , on grounds that the petitioners had failed to substantiate the allegations made against the APC Candidate and his party, APC .
Okoro, a Supreme Court Justice, who was mandated to read out the CJN, submission on Friday, November 15, 2019, repeated the claims of the CJN, that the petitioners also ‘’ failed to prove the issues of over voting as they could not produce the authentic voters register to validate their claim. TNote that the authentic voters register could only be obtained from the INEC office on the approval of Yakubu, the INEC Chairman which may be difficult to get. This is because Atiku had included INEC Chairman and the Commission in the petition against Buhari, the APC Candidate at The Tribunal. Atiku’s Lawyers were said to have applied for it through the INEC Chairman’s office but that was how far they could go. They never got it, thus making it impossible to substantiate their clients allegation in Court.
Political analysts believe that if Yakubu, the INEC, boss, had given out the authentic voters register of the various states of the Federation to Atiku and the PDP Lawyers, the case could have assumed a new dimension which may go either way. This may have informed why the Commission refused to bow to pressure from both official and unofficial quarters to release such classified information to them. Moreso, Yaku could not have presided over his own fall as it would amount to betrayal of trust to Buhari who appointed him to Head the electoral umpire.
Okoro may have gladdened Buhari and the INEC legal team when he declared that the Supreme Court judgment delivered by the CJN, on October 30, was in total agreement with the lower Court which ‘’upheld and confirmed’’ the election of Buhari, the Katsina state born politician and the APC Candidate on the February 23, 2019 election as the elected President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Recall that the Tribunal had rejected all the three of Atiku’s claims that the,’’ Presidential election was marred by irregularities , that he, received more votes than Buhari and that the President did not have a secondary school Certificate, a basic requirement needed to contest the election’’.
Mohammed Garba, a Justice of the Supreme Court , who presided over the Presidential election Tribunal , who was said to have delivered the judgment had ‘’dismissed Atiku and PDP’s petition in its entirety’’. The Supreme Court Judgment may have finally sealed the hope of Atiku, the Adamawa state born politician hope of recovering what he had described as his ‘’stolen mandate by Buhari and the APC’’.
He may have rejected the Tribunal and the Supreme Court judgment but that was how far he could go. But for the victorious Buhari and his Camp, ‘’it is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body , putting behind all bickering and potential distractions over an election which Nigerians spoke clearly and esoundingly’’.
Recall that International observers did not dispute APC Candidate victory in the February 23, 2019, election, but however, gave a verdict that the conduct of the election was widely flawed, which was an indictment on Yakubu, the INEC boss and his officials both at the state and the Federal level. This may have informed why the European Union, EU, Observer Mission, at the last Presidential election had said that ‘’ the country’s election s needed reforms after being marred by violence , systematic failings and low turnout of voters ‘’.