President: I’m Eminently Qualified to Contest 2019 Election

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Muhammadu Buhari

•Atiku: We have proved he presented bogus documents

Alex Enumah in Abuja

As the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal resumes this week to consider the final written addresses of the two leading political parties in the February 23 election, President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated that he was more qualified than the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, in the February 23, presidential election.

Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and winner of the election insisted that he did not just possess the requisite academic qualification for the position of President of Nigeria but by both education and training, surpasses Atiku.
Against this backdrop, Buhari has therefore challenged Atiku to also present his educational credentials and certificates that qualified him for same office or made him think he was a better candidate for the office of the president.

But Atiku has insisted that Buhari was not qualified for the office of the president, adding that he had proved the president presented bogus documents, which his own witnesses admitted were not the same as certificates.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on February 27, declared Buhari winner of the February 23 presidential election, having allegedly pulled a total of 15,191,847 votes as against the 11,262,978 of candidate of the PDP, Atiku.

Miffed by this, Atiku and his party approached the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, saddled with the hearing and determination of issues generated during the conduct of the election and asked it to nullify the victory of Buhari over alleged Irregularities, violence and suppression of voters in their stronghold amongst others.

Atiku and the PDP in their petition filed on March 18, 2019, also accused INEC of conniving with Buhari, APC and agents of the federal government, including the military to rig the election in favour of Buhari and the ruling party.
They claimed results obtained from smart card readers and the central server allegedly used by INEC for the collation and transmission of the presidential election results showed that they and not Buhari and the APC won the poll.

They are therefore asking the five-member panel on the presidential election tribunal, headed by Justice Mohammed Garba, to nullify Buhari’s victory, declare them as lawful winners of the presidential election and ordered INEC to forthwith issue Certificate of Return to Atiku.
Besides, the petitioners are asking the tribunal to hold that Buhari was not qualified in the first place to have contested the February 23 poll, having not possessed the mandatory academic certificate needed for the election.

In addition, Atiku and PDP are asking the court to declare Buhari’s election null and void and sack him as president having allegedly presented false information of fundamental nature to INEC in aid of his qualification for the said election.
Before closing their case, it should be noted that the petitioners called in 62 witnesses and tendered plethora of documents, including video evidence to prove their claims.

While Buhari called in only seven witnesses and tendered few documents in defence of his victory, INEC and the APC said they would be relying on the testimonies made by the petitioners’ witnesses during their cross examination.
Consequently, the tribunal on August 1, 2019, adjourned further hearing in the petition till August 21, for all parties to adopt their final written addresses.

But Buhari in his final written address billed for adoption on August 21, insisted that he was far more qualified than Atiku to contest and occupy the position of President, adding that he was, Head and shoulder above Atiku in terms of learning, educational qualifications and acquisition of knowledge”.

In his final written address dated and filed August 7, 2019 by his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, Buhari submitted that, “The first petitioner, who has made and continues to make a mountain out of the molehill of an otherwise irrelevant issue, has failed, refused and neglected to tender or produce any educational certificates of his.

“The form CF001, which he claimed in paragraphs 18&19 of his reply to Buhari’s reply has not been tendered before this honourable court”.
Besides, the president submitted that he met the necessary constitutional requirements to contest for the office of President and as such, the tribunal should dismiss Atiku and PDP’s petition for being incompetent, frivolous and a waste of the precious time of the court.

According to Olanipekun, there are just three major issues for determination by the court, the first which borders on whether the petitioners have been able to make any case that Buhari was not qualified to contest the February 23 presidential election and or submitted false information to INEC in his form CF001.

“Considering the pleadings of the petitioners and the arid evidence preferred by them whether the Petitioners have not woefully failed to prove any of the allegations of non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, corrupt practices and that Buhari was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast at the presidential election held on February 23, 2019.
“Considering the feeble case presented by the petitioners before the court whether the court can decree that Atiku was duly and validly elected as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the presidential election held on February 23, 2019.”

Olanipekun, who noted that the three issues raised for determination covered all the reliefs sought by the petitioners, argued that the 62 witnesses and tendered documents by the petitioners had all failed to prove their case against Buhari’s victory in the February 23 presidential poll.
According to the senior lawyer, the relief sought as regards alleged false information to INEC was meaningless since it did not say what the petitioners want, adding that it is not the business of the court to grant a relief not sought.

He also stressed that failure of the petitioners to call witnesses to support their claims that Buhari submitted false information to INEC to aid his qualification for the presidential poll affected the petition negatively.
According to Olanipekun, the petitioners’ witnesses rather than assist the petitioners, supported the respondent claim that he was qualified to have contested the election.

“What else does one need to establish the fact that the respondent was/is eminently qualify to contest the election, than the evidence of PW1, a former close aide to the respondent, who has confessed falling out with him,” he asked.
In further support of Buhari’s qualification for the presidential poll, Olanipekun submitted that section 131 of the Constitution provides that a person shall be qualified for election into the office of President if, “He has been educated up to at least secondary school level or its equivalent”.

He cited section 318 of the Constitution to explain what it means to be educated up to Secondary School level: A Secondary School Certificate or its equivalent or grade 11 Teacher’s Certificate or its equivalent, the City and Guilds certificate or
(b) education up to Secondary School Certificate level
(c) primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent and
(i) service in the public or private sector in the federation in any capacity acceptable to INEC for a minimum of 10 years and
(ii) attendance at courses and training in such institutions as may be accepted to INEC for periods totaling up to a minimum of one year and
(iii)the ability to read, write, understand and communicate in the English Language to the satisfaction of INEC Any other qualification accepted by INEC.

Olanipekun submitted that apart from Buhari’s witnesses, who all attest to his qualification to contest the poll, the petitioners’ witnesses during cross-examination attested to the fact that Buhari addressed the nation in the English Language, when he was Military Head of State between 1983 and 1985 and when he was Head of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

He therefore urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lacking in merit, substance and bona fide.
“In the annals of election proceedings in Nigeria, this particular petition has been the most starved in terms of evidence, whether oral or documentary. The petitioners also woefully failed to appreciate that this honourable court does not wrought miracles but decides cases according to law and not based on sentiments”, he submitted.

According to Olanipekun, none of the petitioners’ witness was able to identify Buhari’s purported form CF001 said to have contained false information submitted to INEC.

In support of his claim that the petitioners failed to adduce any cognisable evidence in support of their petition, Buhari wondered why the petitioners called just five polling unit agents out of the 119,973 polling units they said were created for the general election.
*Read the two-page analysis on the final addresses by both parties on pages 76 and 77