By Nwangwu Uba
Aware that Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, appeared determined to head to the Election Petition Tribunal and subsequently to the Appeal Court and finally to the Supreme Court to challenge the Saturday February 23, Presidential election which gave President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, victory, the later is no longer happy.
Buhari’s major worries , according to a party source , was the source of Atiku ‘s finances to prosecute the Presidential election regarded as one of the expensive electioneering Campaigns in the country since the ban on Politics was lifted by then military Administration headed by Abdulsalami Abubakar, a rtd Army General in 1998.
He knew that it is no longer a laughing matter when the PDP Candidate assembled a team of legal luminaries, who have been waiting on the wings to be given the signal to approach the Court to upturn the election alleged rigged by the APC as claimed by the rival PDP. The legal team, which is headed by Livy Uzochukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, were said to have been given a mandate by Atiku and the PDP, leadership to ask the Tribunal to ”declare the former Vice President and Turakin Adamawa as the winner of the election or order a rerun.
Recall that Atiku, the PDP Candidate had told Abubakar led Peace Committee who had earlier held a closed door with him and Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra state and the Vice Presidential Candidate and the national leadership of the party that he has documentary evidence to prove that the election was massively rigged in favour of the APC Candidate and intimidation of his supporters across the country.
The party source told The value News that the aggrieved PDP Candidate has armed the legal team with the documentary evidence including the video clips of places in some parts of the country where ballot papers were being thumb printed and reports where the ad-hoc staff, who were mostly Youth Corp members were forced to thumb print ballot papers under gun point, particular in the north.
The legal team , according to the source are likely to approach the three-man Tribunal, which had already been set up by Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed, the Bauchi state born acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, next week ,to beat the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, timetable to conclude all election petitions arising from the Presidential election before May29, 2019, when the newly elected President would be sworn in.
Buhari may have read the hand writing on the wall that this is no longer a laughing matter and devised new plot to stop him from getting access to funds to prosecute the legal battle and thus, force him to concede victory to him. , It was not surprising why the Ibrahim Magu led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, operatives, invaded the Maitama residence of Babalele Abdullahi, the son in-law of the PDP Candidate and who incidentally is the Finance Director of his, the day the legal team was inaugurated group of Companies on Saturday, March 2, 2019. That much was confirmed by Paul Ibe, Media Assistant to the Atiku’s family.
Note that Abdullahi’s signature is very crucial for any money to be withdrawn from any of the Companies in the group including INTELS, an oil service company based in the Oil and Gas free trade zone in the oil rich Rivers state .
There are fears that the Commission operatives may grill Abdullahi, the Atiku’s group of Companies Finance Director to divulge certain information that may lead to closure of his account and subsequent arrest of the PDP Candidate to explain the sources of the income used in prosecuting the election described one of the most expensive in the world.
He may have known that the game is up as he remains calm. The only Statement that had volunteered since the arrest of the son In-Lawwas that ”as a law abiding citizen, he recognises the Constitutional role of the EFCC and indeed any other agency of the government to carry out their investigations but will not be cowed by any attempt to blackmail him into mortgaging his mandate”.
Note that the Adamawa state born politician had raised last week over pressures on him from different quarters to make him concede and congratulate Buhari, , who has been given the Certificate of return by INEC. Ibrahim Babangida, a retired Army General, who may believe would not Congratulate him had done so. This may have informed the reason why he urged the former Vice President to close ranks and work with Buhari, the winner of the election in an ”objective and constructive manner”’.
As a retired Army General, popular Maradona, because of the way he dribbles Nigerians as a military President he had praised Atiku’s doggedness despite his loss at the polls. ”I was particularly impressed with the gallant and audacious spirit of Atiku, the APC , Candidate main challenger in the Presidential race. He may have known that there is trouble ahead for Atiku the PDP , Candidate when he advised Buhari to” resist the temptation of seeing those who contested the election as enemies but as fellow Compatriots who merely disagreed with him on how to move the country forward”. the retired Army general, who had been re-elected for another four years in office, may have ignored the advice with the earlier arrest of Buba Galadima, by masked security operatives and Atiku’s political ally and now Abdullahi, his son In-law and Finance Director of his group of Companies.
Last February Buhari had raised alarm that some politicians are flouting the money laundering regulations in their deliberate bid to capture political power. He had expressed surprise at the huge amount of foreign currency flooding the country , which was intended to be used to influence the general elections, particular the Presidential election.
Many believe that he had in mind Atiku, the PDP Presidential Candidate who had visited the United States where he had interactive session with the Business Community and some Congress members during the period. He was also said to have met with some officials of the White House, which gave the Buhari, the Nigeria President the impression that Donald Trump, the US President was in support of the PDP Candidate.
It was learnt that the EFCC, operatives had beamed their searchlight on the PDP Candidate since the day he returned back to the country from the US trip. Note that the Katsina state born Nigerian President at one of the Federal Executive Council meetings had commended the Commission for successfully tracking millions of US dollars intended to be used for the last general elections.
Prior to the Presidential election, one Uyi Giwa Osagie , an alleged business partner of the PDP Candidate was said to have been arrested and detained over alleged laundering of $4 million described by the anti-graft agency as ”suspicious election cash”. it was learnt that the action of the agency followed a suspicious transaction by a Bureau de Change operator.
Many believe that the Commission could have arrested Abdullahi,the Atuku’s group of Companies Finance Director before the election but had to soft-pedal to avoid provoking the PDP Candidate into dropping out of the election process which might create a credibility problem. He had played along with him, signing all the necessary peace accords to show that all is well.
Political watchers fear that the Katsina born Nigerian President, who had already seen Atiku, the PDP Candidate, as a threat to his Presidency would do everything within his powers to bend him using the strategies employed by the likes of Paul Biya, the President of Cameroun to force the opposition parties to submission that he had turned himself to a” life President”.