· Ex-VP insists ruling has thrown nation into more confusion
· Former Anambra governor vows to exhaust entire legal process
Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha in Abuja and David-Chyddy Eleke in Awka
The presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 25 general election, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, yesterday, expressed dissatisfaction with Wednesday’s judgement by the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT), and indicated their desire to appeal at the Supreme Court.
Atiku, who addressed a world press conference to declare his decision to go to the Supreme Court, said the judgement was fundamentally flawed.
Obi, who also rejected the judgement of the election court, insisted that he would exhaust every legal process available to him.
But Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, advised both Atiku and Obi against appealing the judgement, and alleged that they had no ground to appeal the ruling of the election tribunal.
However, according to Atiku, “My decision to go to court is anchored in my belief that the court is the sanctuary of justice. The journey of my political career, as you know, holds so much to the courage and fearless decisions of our judiciary.
“Indeed, I am no stranger to legal battles, and I can say that I have a fair idea of how the court system works. All through my career as a politician, I have been a fighter, and I must say that I have found the judiciary as a worthy pillar to rest on in the pursuit of justice.
“The last presidential election in our country and the way it was managed by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, leaves behind unenviable precedents, which I believe the courts have a duty to redress.
“Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election, and I am afraid that the judgement of the court, as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, yesterday (Wednesday), failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.
“Like I did say at the beginning of this legal battle, when I instructed my lawyers to file my petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, my ultimate goal in this pursuit is to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.
“I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation. I am, therefore, here to tell you that, though the judgement of the court yesterday (Wednesday) is respected, it is a judgement that I refuse to accept.
“I refuse to accept the judgement because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.”
Atiku said, “Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court.
“It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate. I believe that such is the only way through which our democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning.
“Whether I prevail in this quest or not, the record of my effort in ensuring an order of credible elections in Nigeria shall remain for the future generations to evaluate.”
Similarly, the acting national chairman of PDP, Ambassador Iliya Damagum, said, “The judgement of the PEPT, which came out yesterday, left lovers of democracy in and outside the country, more confused with a lot of questions whether the Nigerian constitution, Electoral Act, and other laws guiding the conduct of credible election in our country are still functional.
“Close observation from the faces of Nigeria across the country show hopelessness and despair since the pronouncement of the judgement. Lawyers, politicians and other stakeholders from all divides were left confused, as both law and facts were visibly thrown overboard.
“As a law abiding political party, we receive the judgement with shock along with other Nigerians. Members should, however, not lose focus or be distracted.”
Damagum announced the reactivation of the national campaign committee of the party in Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states.
Obi, speaking at a press briefing in Onitsha, Anambra State, disagreed with the judgement, but praised the panel for delivering their judgement in the stipulated time frame.
He stated, “In my capacity as a presidential candidate and on behalf of the Labour Party, we will immediately challenge this judgement through the appellate process, as permitted by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The PEPC is not the ultimate authority in this matter, the responsibility now rests with the Supreme Court, which I have confidence in. I urge Nigerians to maintain their focus, steadfastness, and commitment to peaceful processes. This matter has not yet reached its logical conclusion.”
Obi revealed that his legal team had already received firm instructions to file an appeal against PEPC’s decision. He said his pursuit of justice was not only for himself but also for the multitude of supporters across the country, whose electoral mandate was unjustly thwarted by INEC.
Obi underscored the pivotal role of solid national institutions and public confidence in them in a thriving democracy, pointing out that electoral litigations can be significantly reduced if INEC discharges its statutory functions transparently and fairly.
However, when such bodies falter, as he said INEC did in the last presidential election, the judiciary becomes an imperative recourse.
He extended his gratitude to every Nigerian, who had supported the cause and the campaign for a New Nigeria built on principles of fairness, equity, justice, the rule of law, peace, prosperity, inclusiveness, sustainable growth, and development.
Obi thanked his legal team, LP, the “Obidient” Family, and all those who steadfastly attended the court proceedings. He concluded his message with a blessing for all Nigerians and the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said, “I will exhaust the process before I can think otherwise. I respect the process. I’m a process person, and what we are going through is what will unite us. You cannot use a wrong premise to make things.”
Bello Advises Atiku, Obi against Appeal
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State advised Atiku and Obi against appealing the judgement of the presidential election tribunal, saying there is no ground for appeal.
Speaking with newsmen, yesterday, after meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at State House, Abuja, Bello said the justices were very thorough in their ruling delivered for close to 14 hours on Wednesday.
He said the ruling exposed the truth about the election, insisting that Nigerians, home and abroad, are happy with the judgement. He called on the opposition to join hands with the president to move the country forward.
The governor stated, “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think there is any ground for appeal. I will rather appeal to them that they should drop any appeal, going to the higher court, and then save the resources, save the trouble, advise their supporters, admonish them that they should accept yesterday’s judgement. No flaw. I thank God for all that happened yesterday.
“I advise all those that feel aggrieved, we have only one country, Nigeria, they should all come together and support President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ensure that we fix this country. Whatever hardship we are facing today is the effects of the past. Definitely, we have Mr. Fix It who is trying his best travelling around the world to ensure that Nigeria is fixed. So, we are happy the matter is settled.”
Reacting to another election tribunal ruling in Lokoja that invalidated the election of two Kogi senators on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bello said, “This is democracy, and they have right of appeal. I think they will take the appropriate steps to ensure that no violence is orchestrated anywhere.
“We will follow the due process of the law and whatever will be the outcome at the end of the day, we abide by it. But I want to assure you that even judging from the pronouncements yesterday at the appeal court, we are going to have our 3/3 senate in Kogi State. I can assure you.”