Atiku will Face Uphill Task at Tribunal, Agbakoba Insists

Olisa Agbakoba

Davidson Iriekpen

Less than 24 hours after a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, said the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, would face insurmountable legal obstacles at the Presidential Election Tribunal, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and National Intervention Movement Co-chairman, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has predicted that the former vice president will face an uphill battle in his bid to overturn Presidential Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the tribunal.

According to Agbakoba, it has to be proven that there were electoral irregularities and that they affected the election results.

Agbakoba, a Life Bencher who chairs the Peoples Trust Party (PTP) and the “third force political parties,” said he was misquoted in his earlier statement to say that Atiku would lose at the tribunal.

“That is far from the truth. I meant the former vice president will face an uphill task, given the circumstances of challenging the election results.

“My initial decision to charge the former vice president not to go to court is based on the fact that President Buhari has subverted the Supreme Court by the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the appointment of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria.

“My perception is that we need to resolve the status of the Supreme Court. I wonder what is taking the National Judicial Council so long.

“I am also worried about the historical precedent, as no petition on presidential election result has ever succeeded.

“As one of Nigeria’s experienced election petition lawyers, I know that the burden of proof to succeed in an election petition is unfairly huge.

“We first have to prove that there are electoral irregularities and in my view, once you prove this, you should succeed.

“Unfortunately, even if you prove electoral irregularities you will have to show how that affected the results of the election.

“Remember that the gap between Atiku and Buhari is about four million votes,” Agbakoba said.

The former NBA president believes the presidential election results were “manifestly riddled” with electoral irregularities.

He, however, emphasised that Atiku is constitutionally entitled to approach the tribunal.

“My personal advice has become irrelevant. I fully support and wish Atiku every success,” Agbakoba.

In the earlier statement urging Atiku not to challenge Buhari’s victory, Agbakoba said: “I understand the PDP is aggrieved about the outcome of the election and alleged massive irregularities. But, I urged Atiku not to approach the Election Petition Tribunal.

“He might have moved backwards by his loss but he should not lose sight of the legacy and greatness that lies in front of him. He is in a strong position to take up the mantle of a statesman.

“He can build a new Nigeria movement from the motley of small parties, third force actors, change actors and millions who are desperate for a strong, united Nigeria.