- Files petition against Buhari’s victory
- Alleges massive rigging, malpractices and non-compliance with electoral laws
- PDP asks Nigerians to be wary of president’s antics
Exactly 19 days after President Muhammadu Buhari was declared winner of the February 23 presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has filed a petition challenging the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the poll.
Atiku and the PDP in the petition filed yesterday asked to be declared the winner of the election. In the alternative, he asked the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to nullify the election and order a fresh one that would be counted in line with the country’s electoral laws.
Speaking with journalists at the Court of Appeal, Abuja premises of the tribunal, where the legal process was instituted, the PDP National Legal Adviser, Mr. Emmanuel Enoidem, said over 400 witnesses have been assembled from all over the country to testify during the hearing of the petition.
Also at the tribunal were the National Secretary, Senator Umaru Ibrahim Tsauri; the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan; other leaders of the opposition and some international observers.
Atiku and his party are challenging the electoral victory of Buhari and the APC on the grounds of alleged massive rigging, malpractices and non-compliance with the electoral laws.
Respondents in the suit are the ruling APC, Buhari and INEC.
Though a copy of the petition was not provided as at the time of filing this report, Enoidem confirmed to journalists that the petition had been filled.
According to him, the PDP and its presidential candidate have already assembled a powerful legal team comprising 20 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and other retinue of lawyers who will establish the facts of the petition.
On the order earlier granted Atiku to inspect materials used in the conduct of the presidential election, he said his party, which will be using the report of polling agents across the country to establish facts of the petition, also have trained personnel to carry out the inspection.
A member of the legal team, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), while confirming the filing of the petition said: “The petition was solid, strong and unassailable,” adding: “The true owner and keeper of the people’s mandate would soon be declared.”
Ozekhome, however, lamented the non-cooperative attitude of INEC with the petitioners.
Speaking on calls on Atiku to drop the legal action in the interest of peace in Nigeria, Tsauri said: “If you are cheated in Nigeria and in the world over, the last resort for the common man is the court. We believe, we are very confident and we are very optimistic that we won the election.
There is always a difference between common sense and legal jurisprudence. In my region, if you have 10 children and they cannot feed themselves and you go and look for food for them and you kill somebody in the process, the law does not say you should not be killed. The law says you should be killed!
“So, simply because people are saying let Nigeria be in peace, it does not mean we should not seek redress and reclaim our mandate. We still stand on our point that we won the election and we are going to claim our mandate.
“We want the tribunal to look at the merit of our litigation approach. Like you know, the court has given us the go ahead to inspect the election materials, which INEC has not given us the go ahead up till now. We want the court to insist on us inspecting the election materials. Then after that we will open the arguments. We have our team of lawyers, who are very conversant with the procedure, very qualified, very fearless and very wise.”
Talking about the chances of his party to get free and fair judgment from the court, he said: “We know that we are dealing with a government that is ruthless and government that does not respect law. We know. But then, that does not mean we should not seek redress from the court because if we don’t do that it means the courts are not useful. So, we are coming to the court.
They should declare us and I believe the court is going to do the right thing because we are very confident; if you start with the Court of Appeal, these are judges that you cannot compromise anytime of the day. Their integrity is guaranteed and we believe in them. They will do the right thing and the right thing is to get our mandate.”
Reacting to suspicion in some quarters that owing to the sudden defection of the Director-General of the PDP presidential candidate’s campaign organisation, Mr. Gbenga Daniel, to the APC, Atiku might have been back-stabbed by members of his party, Tsauri said: “No! No! No! Forget about that!
Even when he was in the campaign organisation we believe and we are confident that he has been a mole in the system. We expected his leaving the party. We don’t have any ill-feeling. He will not add value or subtract value from anything we are doing.”