Atiku: I’m Not Quitting, I Will Remain in Politics as Long as I Breathe

Atiku: I’m Not Quitting, I Will Remain in Politics as Long as I Breathe

•Says Supreme Court judgement has eroded trust in electoral system, Nigeria’s democracy  

•Recommends six-year rotational presidency, insists electronic voting, collation of results mandatory

•Tinubu declares former VP self-anarchist for delegitimising institutions

•APC: It’s delusional for Atiku to expect court to upturn Tinubu’s victory based on hearsay

Deji Elumoye, Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Expectations that former vice president and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the February 25 elections would announce his retirement from partisan politics were dashed yesterday, as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar announced that he was not quitting politics.

However, Atiku said the future battle should be in the hands of the younger generation of Nigerians.

Addressing a world press conference on the outcome of the Supreme Court that affirmed the Presidency of Bola Tinubu, Atiku warned of consequences of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the President’s election.

But reacting to Atiku’s statement, Tinubu branded Atiku an anarchist for delegitimising the nation’s institutions because the Supreme Court verdict did not go his way. The President, while responding to the former vice president’s claims that the country was doomed owing to the conduct of the 2023 presidential election by INEC and the courts’ verdicts validating the outcome of the polls, in a statement yesterday, by his Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said it was Atiku’s presidential ambition that was doomed instead.

Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in its reaction, said it was delusional for Atiku to have expect the court to rely on his bogus, flimsy and hearsay evidence to upturn Tinubu’s victory.

Speaking further, Atiku said: “As for me and my party, this phase of our work is done. However, I am not going away. 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 have even more at stake than my generation.”

Commenting on the Supreme Court judgement, Atiku said the consequences of the decisions for the country would not end at the expiration of the current government.

According to Atiku, “They will last for decades. I am absolutely sure that history will vindicate me. We now know what the Supreme Court has decided.”

He said at critical points in his political life, he always ignored the easy but ignoble path and had always chosen the difficult but dignified path, the path of truth, morality, democracy and rule of law.

According to Atiku, “I always chose freedom over servitude, whatever the personal discomforts my choice entails. When I joined politics, the critical challenge was easing the military out of power so that civilian democratic governance could be restored in Nigeria.

“It later became a very defining struggle, and, as one of the leaders of that struggle, I was targeted for elimination.

“In one incident, nine policemen guarding my home in Kaduna were murdered in an attempt to assassinate me. I was also forced into exile for nine months. In addition, my interest in a logistics company that I co-owned was confiscated and given to friends of the military government.

“As vice president in the civilian government that succeeded the military, I, again at great personal cost, chose to oppose the extension of the tenure of the government beyond the two four-year terms enshrined in our constitution.

“In response to the official backlash against me, I instituted several cases in the courts, which led to seven landmark decisions that helped to deepen our democracy and rule of law.”

According to Atiku, at the current historic moment, the easier option for him would have been to fold up and retreat after the outcome of the election.

“But I went to the Nigerian courts to seek redress. I even went to an American court to help with unravelling what our state institutions charged with such responsibilities were unwilling or unable to do, including unravelling the qualifying academic records of the person sworn in as our President and by implication, hopefully who he really is.

“I offered that evidence procured with the assistance of the American Court to our Supreme Court to help it to do justice in this case,” he explained.

Atiku, stressed that his struggle was not a personal battle, but about Nigeria.

“It is about the kind of society we want to leave for the next generation and what kind of example we want to set for our children and their children.

“It is about the reputation of Nigeria and Nigerians in the eyes of the world,” he added.

Atiku said he showed incontrovertible evidence that Tinubu was not qualified to contest the presidential election because according to him, the President forged the qualifying academic certificate, which he submitted to INEC.

“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. Even the rebuke by retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad is a confirmation from within the apex court that all is not well with the Supreme Court.

“The court and indeed the judiciary must never lend itself to politicisation as it is currently the norm with nearly every institution in Nigeria.

“By the way, the strong rebuke of the apex court by the revered Justice, who had meritoriously served for more than four decades, should not be swept under the carpet,” he added.

The former vice president said the alarm raised by Justice Muhammad and recently, by former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, offered Nigerians an explanation into why the electoral and judicial system have become the lost hope of the common man.

He said, “Judges are no longer appointed based on merit but are products of the interplay of politics and nepotism. Worse still, the appointment of electoral officials has also been hijacked by the ruling party as seen in the latest nomination of Resident Electoral Commissioners where card carrying members of the ruling party and aides to politicians in the APC are being appointed into INEC.

“When two critical institutions like the court and the electoral commission are trapped in an evil web of political machination, it becomes next to impossible for democracy to thrive.

“As a stakeholder in the presidential election of February 25, I, along with 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.

Implications of PEPC and Supreme Court judgments

“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.

“One is the erosion of trust in the electoral system and our democracy. Nigerians witnessed as the National Assembly changed the electoral law to improve transparency in the process. Of particular importance was the introduction of modern technology to help eliminate the recurring incidents of electoral manipulation, particularly during the collation of results.”

Atiku added: “When people lose trust and confidence in elections, democracy is practically on life support. And by affirming and legitimising the continued lack of transparency in our electoral system the courts are continuing to usurp the rights of voters to elect their leaders.

“The other grave implication is that contestants in Nigeria’s elections should do whatever is necessary to be declared the winner. That includes identity theft, impersonation, forging of educational and other documents, perjury, and violence.

“And, as they do so, they should ignore whatever the law says and whatever assurances from the leadership of the electoral umpire about what the law says and what they would do in compliance. And they would do so knowing that our courts would approve of their behaviour or at best pretend not to take any notice of it.

“The third is that if you are robbed of victory, do not bother going to court for redress because your glaring evidence of the robbery will be ignored in favour of the mandate bandit.

“Also, your lawyers, however distinguished and accomplished, may be ridiculed by the judges who may also go out of their way to make even a stronger case for the so-called “winner” than even their own lawyers were able to do,” he added.

“Nigerians know more about the person sitting in office as their President and how he got there, and the dangers that it portends for them and the country. “It is for them, especially the younger generation whose futures are to be shaped by that man, to decide what they want to do with the knowledge”, he exclaimed.

However, the former vice president made some recommendations, which according to him, would help improve democracy in Nigeria.

He explained: “Let me make a few proposals that I believe will help. We can urgently make constitutional amendments that will prevent any court or tribunal from hiding behind technicalities and legal sophistry to affirm electoral heists and undermine the will of the people.

“Our democracy must mean something; it must be substantive. Above all, it must be expressed through free, fair and transparent elections that respect the will of the people.”

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

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

He said further, “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 discourages it. Thirdly, in order to ensure popular mandate and real representation, we must move to require a candidate for President to earn 50 per cen +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.

“Examples include France, Finland, Austria, Bulgaria, Portugal, Poland, Turkey and Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Mozambique, Madagascar and even Liberia where a run-off is expected to hold in the coming days.

“Fourthly, in order to reduce the desperation of incumbents and distractions from governing and also to promote equity and national unity, we need to move to a single six-year term for President to be rotated among the six geo-political zones.

“This will prevent the ganging up of two or more geo-political zones to alternate the presidency among themselves to the exclusion of other zones,” he said.

Furthermore, the former vice president said INEC should be mandated to verify credentials submitted to it by candidates and their parties and where it was unable to do so – perhaps because the institutions involved did not respond in time – it must publicly state so and have it on record.

Atiku said a situation where a candidate submits contradictory credentials to INEC in different election cycles and the electoral umpire accepts them without question points to gross negligence, at best, or collusion to break the law by the leadership of the INEC, at worst.

According to the former vice president, “The submission of contradictory qualifying documents by a candidate as well as those found to be forged or falsified should disqualify a candidate even if the falsification or forgery is discovered after the person had been sworn into office.

“The burden of proving that a document submitted to INEC is forged should not be on the opposing candidates in the election. It is never the responsibility of an applicant for a job to prove that the person who eventually got the job did so with forged documents.

“In addition to these proposed constitutional amendments, the Electoral Act should be amended to provide that, except where they explicitly violate the Constitution and other laws, the rules and procedures laid down by the electoral umpire and made public for the benefit of the contestants and the voters will be treated as sacrosanct by the courts in deciding on election disputes.

“A referee cannot be allowed to set the rules for the game only to change or ignore them when one side has scored a goal or is about to win the match. We must restore confidence in our electoral system which the current leadership of INEC has completely eroded and undermined.

 “Also, we need well-thought out provisions in the legislation and regulations to reform the judiciary, including the introduction of an automated case assignment system; transparency in the appointment of judges; a practice directory that stresses that the goal of judges in election cases should be to discover and affirm voters’ choice rather than disregarding voters’ choice for the sake of technicalities.

“There should also be publicly available annual evaluation of the performance of judges using agreed criteria. By improving the transparency of the electoral process and reducing the incentives to cheat, in addition to transparency in the appointment of judges and other judicial reforms, the number of election petitions as well as corruption in the judiciary will be significantly reduced,” he stressed.

Tinubu to Atiku: You Are Self-anarchist By Delegitimising Institutions

The President, while responding to the former Vice President’s claims that the country was doomed owing to the conduct of the 2023 Presidential election by INEC and the courts’ verdicts validating the outcome of the polls, in a statement by Onanuga, said it was Atiku’s presidential ambition that was doomed instead.

Tinubu, maintained that the apex court’s verdict which validated his election showed that democracy was thriving and blossoming in the country.

The President in the release by his Media aide stated inter alia: “We were wrong to expect that Atiku at 77 would play the statesman and sportsman and accept, with equanimity, the verdict of the highest court and the people of Nigeria.

“Instead, he unashamedly constituted himself into a demagogue and anarchist in the way and manner he sought to pull down and delegitimise all the institutions of State, all in a futile bid to achieve what he could not get via the ballot box.

“At his press conference where he laboured, in vain, to once again manipulate public opinion and blame the judiciary for his self-inflicted defeat in the 25 February Presidential election, Alhaji Atiku launched a diatribe against the INEC and judiciary, particularly our apex court, for not bending the law and the constitution to satisfy his whims and caprices.

“Atiku tried very hard to perfect his act of misinformation by seeking to lay claim to faux morality and higher ideals when in actual fact his entire life is antithetical to any higher ideals.

“For instance, Atiku claimed he worked along with others to end military rule in Nigeria when he was known to be in bed with the same junta who held democracy hostage and incarcerated his mentor, Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd), till death.

“He distanced himself from him while in detention to keep alive his governorship ambition on the platform of one of those inglorious Abacha political parties.

“Atiku’s brand of politics is such that once an electoral process or election does not go his way or pave the way for his victory, democracy becomes dysfunctional and must therefore be imperiled. For him, democracy should either go his way or the highway.

“The PDP candidate was uncharitable and pugnacious in his choice of words and his view about Nigeria. We can only imagine the level of frustration that could make a former Vice President of Nigeria to hold such pessimistic view of a country where he once occupied the second highest position. “The PDP candidate said Nigeria is doomed just because he failed to achieve his personal ambition.

“We want to tell Alhaji Atiku this: Nigeria is not doomed. It is only Atiku’s inordinate ambition to be President that is doomed. Nigeria is moving forward and set to achieve its manifest destiny as one of the most respected and successful nations of the world under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

He added: “Contrary to Atiku’s gloomy submission on our democracy, we are excited to tell the world that our democracy is thriving and blossoming.

“It is the reason, for the first time, since 1999 the character of our National Assembly and its outlook reflect the diversity and plurality of the choices and preferences of voters as a rainbow coalition of different parties as opposed to the practice in the past where just two parties dominated the national parliament.

“In today’s Nigeria, votes count. No amount of deliberate distortions of facts about our recent election by Alhaji Atiku and his partner, Peter Obi can vitiate the continuous improvement of our electoral process which local and international observers have hailed. As declared by the Supreme Court, IReV was not designed as an online collation centre. It was simply a public viewing centre for results.

“PDP and Atiku, including Peter Obi’s faction of Labour Party cannot continue to insist on their own reality against commonsense, logic and the law.

“Atiku and his army of hirelings knew why they lost the election. The PDP candidate lost because Nigerians preferred Bola Ahmed Tinubu and voted for him to be president. Tinubu, along with his APC, won because he offered a better vision for our country’s future.

“The All Progressives Congress as a united and formidable party which ran a well-coordinated campaign with his rank and file intact.

“Atiku lost because he went into a major election with a fragmented and tattered umbrella that could not hold together. There was no way Atiku and PDP could have won the election with the party platform under which he contested broken into four parts.

“If Atiku was not harboring a delusion of grandeur, we wonder how he could have envisaged any possible pathway to victory with Mr. Peter Obi’s Labour Party, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s NNPP and PDP G-5 Governors who took away possible PDP votes, while the APC went into the election as a strong, viable and unified entity.”

He also accused Atiku of corruption, saying the former VP’s avarice sent congressman William Jefferson to jail after the FBI busted a bribery scandal in which Atiku was involved from head to toe and for which he was marked down by the U.S. agency.

“Now as we get to the proper business of governance after Atiku’s unwarranted distraction, we have picked some clear lessons going forward. One is that our institutions must be strengthened on diligent and sturdy wings, enough to withstand and identify from afar rabble-rousers who masquerade as statesmen.

“Second, our institutions must also ensure that corrupt, desperate, self-serving serial losers should not have a space in our democracy. Because if they don’t win the battle, they might burn the nation.

“We want to advise Atiku that after over three decades of elusive bid for the Presidency of Nigeria, he must now end his unprofitable bid and go away from any venture that will further pollute the political atmosphere and national harmony,” he added.

APC: It’s Delusional for Atiku to Expect Court to Upturn Tinubu’s Victory Based on Hearsay

Meanwhile, the APC has said it was delusional for  Atiku to expect  the court to rely on their bogus, flimsy and hearsay evidence to upturn Tinubu’s victory.

The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Felix Morka, in a statement issued yesterday insisted that the February 25 presidential election was conducted in substantial compliance with the Constitution and electoral laws of the land.

He described the press conference held by Atiku, as a long, windy, incoherent and preposterous speech unbefitting of a former vice president.

The spokesperson stressed that Atiku regurgitated his illusory claim that Tinubu did not win the February 25, 2023 presidential election.

Morka said rather, he soliloquised that they, “showed irrefutable evidence of gross irregularities, violence and manipulations during the elections,” allegations that were roundly dismissed by the Presidential Election Petitions Court and the Supreme Court as unsubstantiated and unproven.

He noted: “It is delusional for Atiku, and his degenerate PDP, to have expected  the courts to rely on their bogus, flimsy, unverifiable, uncorroborated, illogical and hearsay evidence to upturn an election that was conducted in substantial compliance with the Constitution and electoral laws of our land. Thankfully, it does not lie in Atiku’s mouth to declare what constitutes “incontrovertible evidence.”

Morka, added that nowhere in Atiku’s long epistle did he state that he won the election, corroborating the courts’ finding and decision that he did not, in fact, win the election.

He noted: “For a serial election loser whose life ambition is to rule the country, we understand how pained and utterly distraught Atiku must be. 

“However, to continue to deny and disrespect the collective will of Nigerians, disparage the judiciary, incite rage and call our democratic institutions into question is beyond the pale.

“Why is it so hard for Atiku to accept the popular choice of the electorate and the valid decisions of the courts? How is it that a man of his stature can be so befuddled to this disturbing level of election and judicial denialism? Would Atiku vilify the judiciary as he is doing had he won the election and upheld by the courts as winner?

“Atiku, you are right that this is not and cannot be all about you. Yes, it is about country Nigeria. Nigeria is greater than your unrealized ambition to be president. Nigeria must move and has moved on.”

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