From the electoral field to the judicial turf, President Muhammmadu Buhari, yesterday, recorded another win against former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who contested his victory at the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal upheld Buhari’s re-election as president in the contest where Nigerians gave him over 15 million votes to Atiku’s 11 million.
The tribunal, which sat in Abuja, held that Atiku and his political platform, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed to discharge the burden of proof of the allegation of the non-qualification of the president to contest the disputed election.
Atiku had pleaded with the tribunal to nullify Buhari’s election and declare him the authentic winner of the poll because the president was unqualified to participate in the race
Delivering judgment, the tribunal’s chairman, Justice Mohammed Garba, held that the evidence before the court showed that Buhari obtained Cambridge West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate.
Garba held that it had been established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act 2010 to attach his certificate to his Form CF001 before he or she is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election.
Justice Garba said: “I have no doubt in my mind that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent does not possess the qualification to contest the election into the office of the president as stipulated in Sections 131, 137, 138 of the Constitution.
”I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification to contest the election into the office of the president as prescribed in Section 35(1) of the Evidence Act, 2011.”
“The onus rests squarely on the petitioners to prove their assertion that the 2nd respondent does not possess the educational qualification to contest the election or that he submitted false information which is fundamental in nature to aid his qualification.
”This I have mentioned that the petitioners failed to prove. The petitioners cannot, therefore, rely on any failure in the case,” he said.
The tribunal also held that technological facilities like card reader, transmission of election results via server were strange to Nigeria’s laws.
The judgement was however trailed by mixed reactions from Nigerians across the political divide.
I Was Unperturbed All Along – PMB
The first reaction came from Buhari who declared that the tribunal ruling was victory for all Nigerians who trooped out to overwhelmingly elect him for a second term in office.
“Good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along, because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated,” he said in a statement by issued his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina.
Buhari dedicated the victory to God and to Nigerians, and commended the judiciary for “dispensing justice without fear or favour.”
He extended his hand of fellowship to those who had felt aggrieved over the outcome of the election, and went to court, noting that it was within their democratic rights.
The president said that with the pronouncement of the judiciary, “it is time for the country to move forward as one cohesive body, putting behind us all bickering and potential distractions over an election in which Nigerians spoke clearly and resoundingly.”
It’s victory for rule of law – APC
The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) praised the tribunal for its dismissal in of the petition filed by the PDP and Atiku.
The party stated that it was never shaken by the petitions of the PDP and Atiku because it was never predicted on merit.
In a statement signed by the party’s national publicity secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC congratulated the judiciary for not succumbing to blackmail, stressing that its decision had served as a confirmation of the votes of Nigerians in the last presidential election.
“With today’s legal affirmation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s election victory, the APC congratulates the president; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, all members of our great party and, indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians on this landmark judgment.
“The APC congratulates the judiciary for refusing to succumb to the opposition party’s subterfuge. We note the painstaking efforts and thoroughness of the justices of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in arriving at their decision. Today’s judgment, no doubt, would go down in the annals of our nation as the longest and detailed, spanning almost 10 hours.
“The Judgement by the five-member validates the decision of most Nigerians to do away with the past as expressed in their overwhelming votes in the 2019 elections.
“The PDP and Atiku’s petition was largely hinged on the educational qualification of President Muhammadu Buhari and tales of an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) server and allegations of electronic transmission of election results. This was rightly dismissed by the tribunal for lacking in merit.
“From the outset, our party was not perturbed over the PDP and Atiku’s petition, which will go down in Nigeria’s history as the most frivolous in the history of election petition. In fact, our position has now been justified that the PDP and Atiku’s petition was a complete waste of time. In their puerile efforts, they insisted on taking the country on a circus and wild goose chase,” the party said.
PDP Heads To Supreme Court
The PDP, which instantly rejected the judgment, described it as “provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the integrity of our nation’s justice system.” It announced its readiness to pursue the matter to the Supreme Court.
The party said that it was particularly shocked that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, showing that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election but did not score the majority of the valid votes at the poll.
In a statement issued by the PDP national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said that it “finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.”
Ologbondiyan said that it was “rudely shocked that the court took over the roles of the respondents’ lawyers who clearly abandoned their pleadings by refusing to call evidence in defence of the petition. The court raked up all manner of excuses to make up for the yawning gaps occasioned by the total absence of any evidence from the respondents.
“Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one need not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification,” the party said.
He described as strange that the court even went ahead to “provide rationalisation in favour of President Buhari, even when all hard facts before it show that he did not possess the claimed educational certificate and that the Nigerian Army was not in possession of his WAEC certificate as claimed in the affidavit he deposed to in his presidential nomination form.”
The PDP further “described as shocking that the court approved the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians.
“Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgement has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.”
The PDP, however, encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, as its lawyers were upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court.
“This is more so as the tribunal admitted that there are several errors in the judgment,” the party said.
CUPP, Others Say It’s Ratification Of Electoral Fraud
Meanwhile, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has described the judgment of the tribunal as law turned upside down and insult and provocation to Nigerians.
The opposition coalition spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, said that judgement was a “manipulation of the law and the brazen use of technicality to stamp injustice, rob the people of justice and deny the nation the chance to have a leader that they truly elected.”
He said that from the totality of the judgement, the Court of Appeal panel had lost the rare opportunity to put an end to electoral fraud, leadership incompetence and the imposition of an unfit leader on the people.
The CUPP said that “by their judgment today, majority of Nigerians who had believed, though erroneously, that the judiciary was indeed independent have been brazenly awakened to the fact and correct belief that the presidency had successfully hijacked the judiciary and Nigerians can only expect judgements and not justice.
“All credible observer groups both local and international were unanimous in their verdict that the election was below the standard of the 2015 and was massively rigged in favour of the president, the Court of Appeal wasted the opportunity and have by so doing endorsed the insecurity in the land, mismanagement of national resources, electoral fraud, forgery of documents and certificates submitted to INEC and indeed threatened the very foundations of our democracy,” he said.
Wike,Others Congratulate Buhari
Governors from both the APC and the PDP yesterday congratulated Buhari for winning again at the tribunal.
Contrary to expectations, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike (PDP) sent a congratulatory message to Buhari on the validation of his election by the tribunal.
Wike, in a statement he issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, urged Buhari to use his victory to work for all Nigerians, irrespective of their political leanings
The governor also called on the president to work towards the unity of the country.
Similarly, Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, described the verdict as well-deserved by the president.
In a statement he issued in Benin, Obaseki said: “I heartily congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari on his well-deserved victory at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal, which is a resounding affirmation of the choice of Nigerians on February 23 for a second term for the president.
“The tribunal confirms our stance that President Buhari remains the preferred leader at this time to reset our country on the path of greatness.
“On behalf of the government and people of Edo State, I once again, congratulate the president and our great party, the (APC, on this landmark victory. Obaseki said.
His Lagos State counterpart, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu,also congratulated Buhari on his victory at the tribunal.
In a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, the governor described the victory as a final lap of a relay race where the real victor is evidently seen at the finishing line.
Sanwo-Olu said: ‘’Although millions of Nigerians were not in doubt as regards the mandate freely given to President Buhari to steer the ship of the country for another term of four years, the opposition politicians were also not wrong to have approached the court to seek redress, they were free to test the country’s judicial system.
“With this pronouncement, it is clear to everyone that contrary to misinformation being spread against our party during the electioneering by the opposition, the APC under President Buhari performed to the satisfaction of Nigerians in his first term in office,’’ he said.
Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State also congratulated Buhari on his victory at the tribunal.
In a statement signed by his chief press secretary, Ismail Omipidan, the governor said that the judgement had no doubt been laid to rest the tussle over who truly won the February 2019 presidential election.
He said that all lovers of democracy must salute the resilience of the judiciary in deepening the country’s democracy through sound and lucid judgements.
“On behalf of the people and government of Osun State, I congratulate our president, Muhammadu Buhari, on his victory at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
“With this judgement, Mr. President will remain focused on the delivery of good governance to Nigerians. It is my hope that the verdict will put an end to the needless bickering, distractions and provocation that greeted the election,” the governor said.
Commenting on the tribunal verdict, Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State expressed joy over the affirmation of the re-election of the president.
The governor in a statement issued in Abeokuta by Mr. Kunle Somorin, his chief press secretary urged Atiku to consider the verdict as the voice of the people.
He stressed that the development was victory for Nigerians and democracy.
“It is victory for Nigerians and democracy. It shows that while the minority would always have their say, the majority would always have their way. I am very proud of the judiciary. It has again for the umpteenth time demonstrated exemplary candour, courage and integrity on which modern democracies thrive,” he said.
It’s Democracy In Action, Says Peter Obi
The PDP’s vice presidential candidate in the election, Peter Obi, yesterday said that the judgement of the tribunal was about the practice of democracy in Nigeria.
Obi, in his reaction to the ruling, said: “The judgement of today is not about President Buhari or Atiku Abubakar, not at all. It is about the practice of democracy in Nigeria, the rule of law. It’s about the future of our country. It’s about the suffering masses whose future is being toyed with.”
Senate President Urges Support For PMB
The Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, who praised Buhari and the APC on the judicial feat, said that “the judgment of the tribunal has again put a judicial seal on the mandate freely given to the president by the Nigerian people in the February 23 presidential election.”
Lawan urged the president to accept the affirmation of his election as a reminder of the confidence of citizens in his capacity to continue to lead Nigeria towards its manifest destiny of greatness.
He said that the Nigerian people had great expectations from the “Next Level Agenda” of the president and pledged the cooperation of the National Assembly with the executive arm of government in the pursuit of the best interest of Nigerians.
Lawan commended the petitioners for using the judicial window prescribed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to seek redress for their grievances and urged them to join hands with the government and Nigerians in the important task of nation-building.
Gbajabiamila congratulates Buhari, APC
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, also extended his felicitation to Buhari on his victory at the tribunal.
Gbajabiamila congratulated the national leadership of the APC on the victory.
He applauded the judiciary, especially members of the tribunal, for carrying out their responsibility without fear or favour.
In a statement he personally signed, Gbajabiamila also felicitated with Nigerians and the entire members of the APC family nationwide for the victory.
He said: “I am elated to congratulate the president on his victory at the tribunal. Ab initio, I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the president would come out victorious, considering the massive support Nigerians gave him before and during the February 23 presidential election.
“May I also congratulate the Nigerian judiciary for living up to expectations by doing the right thing. With this judgement, a precedent has been set for electoral matters in the country,” he said.
PMB’s Victory Validation Of Second Term Mandate – Ambode
Former governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has congratulated Buhari on his victory at the court, saying it was a validation of his second term mandate by Nigerians.
Ambode, in a statement issued by his media aide, Habib Aruna, said that the ruling was a validation of the second term mandate of the people given to Buhari to continue the strides of development and to take Nigeria to the next level.
“I join millions of Nigerians, the leadership of our great party and all members of our party across the nation to congratulate President Buhari on this well-deserved victory at the tribunal.
“This victory is a validation of the confidence in the president’s re-election and a testament to the fact that the people are happy with the progress made by his administration and are keen to see four more years of progressive governance,” he said.
The chairman of the Abeokuta branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Emmanuel Olu-Alade, also commended “the industry of the judges.
”The judges have ruled based on the laid down rules of the law of evidence and have not allowed extraneous factors to influence them,” he said.
He commended Atiku for the boldness he had exhibited in presenting his case.
“At least, Atiku has satisfied his conscience and those of his party and supporters who might have exercised doubts over the re-election of Buhari,” he said.
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