Bola Ahmed Tinubu
With the unanimous ruling of the Court of Appeal dismissing the Presidential Election Petition of PDP candidate Abubakar Atiku, the rule of law came to the defense of democracy by affirming the sovereign will of the people. Their will was expressed during the February 23 election when a vast, compelling majority of the electorate cast their ballots for President Buhari to serve a second term as Head of State and Commander-in- Chief of our beloved nation.
Whatever partisan side one might take, all must agree that today was a bright day for the administration of justice. The Court of Appeal rendered a comprehensive judgment of extraordinary thoroughness, reason and breadth on the many issues presented in this important matter. The Court did so in the open air and before the television cameras that gave eyes to the entire nation to watch this fine moment for the Nigerian judiciary. The court did its job by following the law of the land wherever it might lead.
As a Nigerian, I was proud to see both sides of this dispute behave with utmost civility and decorum despite the weight of the matters at stake and the intensity of the legal arguments presented. It is in this spirit that we must always seek to resolve even our most stubborn differences that we may emerge a stronger yet more peaceful nation.
Former Vice President Atiku and his legal team put forth some imaginative, if desperate, arguments as was their right. They fought vigorously for their positions and were allowed to do so without pressure and without fear. No one used the power of the state to intimidate them in court just as no one used the power of the state to intimidate them during the election. As the Court affirmed, the election was free and fair and the final result should stand.
The PDP claimed that President Buhari was unqualified to run for office. To his credit, President Buhari took this assault against his character with customary grace. The court thoroughly vindicated him. Based on his education and the experiences gained through his fine career, the Court determined the evidence presented by Atiku showed that the President was “eminently qualified” and had done nothing untoward in his election filings with INEC.
Atiku also placed unfounded reliance on the assertion of the use of card readers to send election results to an imaginary server. The court found that the operative law did not provide for the alleged electronic transmission of polling booth results. Atiku could not present evidence that such transmissions ever took place. In fact, such transmissions were technologically unfeasible. Card readers were not meant for this task and the purported mystery server was but a phantom in the PDP’s mind.
To their credit, Atiku’s team argued and pressed their case energetically; but in the end their claims were based on things that existed only in their minds. They were arguing what they wanted to have happened not what actually took place. The Court, on the other hand, can only deal with facts at hand not the imaginings of the mind.
Most importantly, the Court found that the election was properly conducted and that President Buhari won by the wide margin counted and recorded by INEC. Atiku was given the chance to prove his case. In the end, he did not produce the requisite evidence. This failure was not from lack of trying; the failure was because such evidence simply does not exist. President Buhari won the election openly and honestly. I congratulate President Buhari for this resounding judicial vindication of his personal character and of his electoral victory. I know Mr. President as a magnanimous person who will reach out his hand in friendship to Atiku in the spirit of reconciliation, national tranquility and progress. We may disagree and argue as brothers but never as enemies who cannot resolve whatever difference that has come between us.
The next step lies with Atiku. He can decide to continue with these claims or he can take the more prudent approach by accepting the express will of the people and placing his ample talents in the service of the nation in his private capacity.
In the meantime, this day shall stand as a proud day for Nigeria, a day when the rule of law stood in full support of democratic elections and of the sovereignty of the Nigerian people to select the leaders of their choice.