December 6, 2023

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Supreme Court Verdict: Nigeria Biggest Loser-Atiku

Former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has said the country is the biggest loser in the Supreme Court’s judgment that affirmed President Bola Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential poll.

Atiku, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, had challenged President Tinubu’s declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC) as winner of the last presidential poll. However, he lost at both the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) and the Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, Atiku said at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, that history would vindicate him for his role in challenging the outcome of the  poll.  The opposition leader, who recounted his efforts to prove his case before the court said the struggle was about the country and not about him.

He said: “If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implied 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. If the Supreme Court decides that the electoral umpire, INEC, can tell the public one thing, and then do something else in order to reach a corruptly predetermined outcome, then there is really no hope for the country’s democracy and electoral politics.

“Obviously, the consequences of those decisions for the country will not end at the expiration of the current government; they will last for decades. I am absolutely sure that history will vindicate me. We now know what the Supreme Court has decided.

“In fact, a simple check of Tinubu’s past records in its possession would have shown INEC that Tinubu broke the law and should not have been allowed to contest the election. 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.”

While noting that his work and that of the PDP, as far as this phase was concerned, was done, Atiku said he would not go away. He vowed to continue the struggle to deepen the country’s democracy and rule of law.

“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 kind of 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 even have more at stake than my generation,” he said.

The former vice president also called for a constitutional amendment that would prevent any court or tribunal from hiding behind technicalities and legal sophistry to affirm electoral heists and undermine the will of the people.

 “Firstly, we must make electronic voting and collation of results mandatory. This is the 21st Century, and countries less advanced than Nigeria are already doing so. It is only bold initiatives that transform societies.

“Secondly, we must provide that all litigations arising from a disputed election must be concluded before the inauguration of a winner. This was the case in 1979. The current timeframe between elections and inauguration of winners is inadequate to dispense with the election litigations.

“What we have currently is akin to asking thieves to keep their loot and use the same to defend themselves, while the case of their robbery is being decided. It only encourages mandate banditry rather than discouraging it.

“Thirdly, in order to ensure popular mandate and real representation, we must move to require a candidate for President to earn 50 percent +1 of the valid votes cast,failing which a run-off between the top two candidates will be held. Most countries that elect their presidents use this Two-Round System (with slight variations) rather than our current first-past-the-post system.”

He also called for a rotational presidency of a six-year single term, where the office of the president would be rotated among the six geo-political zones, so as to prevent two or more geo-political zones from ganging up to rotate the presidency among themselves to the exclusion of others. He stated that this is imperative to reduce the desperation of incumbents and distractions from governing and also to promote equity and national unity.

The PDP leader also stated that INEC should be mandated to verify the credentials submitted to it by candidates for elective offices and their political parties. He posited that when the electoral body is unable to discharge its responsibility, it must publicly say so.

Besides, Atiku equally canvassed that the Electoral Act should be amended to provide that the rules and procedures laid down by the electoral body and made public, should be sacrosanct by the courts in deciding election petitions, except where they explicitly violate the Constitution and other laws.

“As a stakeholder in the presidential election of February 25, I, alongside other well-meaning Nigerians, have done my bit in ensuring that our democratic process enjoys the privilege of full disclosure of the character deficiencies of the current political leadership.

“I also believe that even if the Supreme Court believes otherwise, the purpose of technology in our electoral system is to enhance transparency and not merely as a viewing centre. We have to move with the world and not be stuck in time.”

On the implications of the PEPC and Supreme Court judgments, he said: “I leave Nigerians and the world to decide what to make of the Supreme Court’s unfortunate decision. But, here’s my take, the judgments of the PEPC and the Supreme Court have very far-reaching grave implications, including the following the erosion of trust in the electoral system and our democracy.”