The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, have instructed their lawyers to appeal the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) at the Supreme Court.
The duo spoke Thursday on different occasions.
A five-member panel of justices presided over by Justice Haruna Tsammani on Wednesday dismissed the petitions of Atiku, Obi and Chichi Ojei of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) challenging the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the February 25 election.
Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima, were the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election.
Ruling bereft of justice – Atiku
Addressing a press conference at the PDP National Headquarters in Abuja on Thursday, Atiku said his decision to approach the apex court became necessary because the judgement was “bereft of substantial justice.”
The former vice president, flanked by leaders of the party, also said the judgement failed to restore confidence in the dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations in the country.
Saying that the PDP may have lost the battle, he said the war was still on and he believed that, “We shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system.”
Atiku said his decision to go to court was anchored on the belief that the judiciary is the sanctuary of justice.
He said, “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 must continue to fight. 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 were 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 failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.
“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 judgment of the court on Wednesday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept. I refuse to accept the judgment 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.
“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.”
Atiku urged his supporters to remain calm and steadfast, urging them to know that losing a battle is less important than losing the war.
“We might have lost a battle yesterday, but the war is well ahead of us. And I believe that with our hopes in God, we shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system.”
In his remarks, the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, said they received the pronouncement of the judgement with shock.
He said the judgement left lovers of democracy in and outside the country more confused with a lot of questions of whether the Nigerian Constitution, Electoral Act and other laws guiding the conduct of credible elections in our country were still functional.
“Close observation from the faces of Nigeria across the country shows hopelessness and despair since the pronouncement of the judgement,” he added.
No going back in quest for justice – Obi
Also, Obi who spoke on Thursday in Onitsha, Anambra State, vowed to challenge the judgement, describing it as unjust.
While stating his respect for the tribunal’s views and rulings, the former Anambra State governor disagreed with the “reasoning and conclusions in the judgement.”
He said, “It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgement by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Our legal team has already received our firm instruction to file an appeal against the decision. I shall not relent in the quest for justice, not necessarily for myself but indeed for our teeming supporters all over the country and beyond whose mandate to us at the polls was regrettably truncated by INEC.
“The strength and value of our democracy reside in solid national institutions and our confidence in them noting that Electoral litigations will be almost unnecessary and nonexistent if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) discharges its statutory functions creditably, transparently and with discernible fairness.”
You will face another round of defeat – APC
But reacting to Atiku’s appeal threat, the APC said the PDP candidate would face another round of defeat at the Supreme Court.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, told Daily Trust yesterday in a telephone chat that though Atiku had the democratic right to appeal the judgement, he had no cogent evidence to prove that he was cheated at the February 25 poll.
“Atiku Abubakar is exercising his democratic right to appeal, but we are not concerned about that. The tribunal has delivered a judgement on the matter and the judgement was clear, it was absolutely magnificent; it was meticulous.
“They went through every motion, every argument, every testimony that was presented and reached a conclusion that the PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, did not produce any evidence to justify that they were cheated in that election.
“So if he wants to appeal, let him file the appeal, he doesn’t need to tell anybody, and we will meet at the Supreme Court,” Morka said.
The APC was yet to say anything on Obi as the statement of his next line of action came much later.
INEC mum, CSOs speak
When contacted, some INEC officials said the commission had resolved not to comment on the PEPC ruling, since some parties in the case had resolved to go to the Supreme Court.
The Executive Director, Yiaga Africa, Mr Samson Itodo, who is also a lawyer, said that all the actors must be commended for resorting to the court to ventilate their grievances with the elections.
“It is a sign of political maturity and respect for constitutional order. The ruling of the tribunal has grave implications for elections and as a country, we must rise up to fix the ambiguities, inadequacies and complexities in the 2022 Electoral Act as revealed in the ruling,” Itodo said.
However, the Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said that though judgement had been given, it was apparent that justice had not been served.
“From what we saw, the tribunal relied more on legal technicalities than addressing the core substance of the contentious issues. This judgement has failed to resolve some of the knotty issues in our electoral jurisprudence,” he said.
On her part, the Director, Initiative for Research, Innovation and Advocacy in Development (IRIAD) of the Electoral Hub, Princess Hamman-Obels, said that the process of proving an election petition is too cumbersome and stringent for petitioner and should be reviewed to make it simpler in the interest of justice.
Join Tinubu to develop Nigeria – Akpabio
Meanwhile, Senate President Godswill Akpabio has urged the opposition to accept the judgement.
Akpabio, in a statement released by his media office on Thursday, described the court verdict as an affirmation of the popular mandate of the Nigerian people for the Tinubu/Shettima ticket as delivered at the polls in February.
He noted that the court painstakingly evaluated all the issues raised by the petitioners and delivered a clear verdict on the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral process.
He urged Atiku, Obi and all Nigerians to support the Tinubu government in its drive to deliver the Renewed Hope Agenda of the ruling APC.
Drop your appeal to save resources – Yahaya Bello
Meanwhile, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has advised the presidential candidates to appeal to their supporters to accept the verdict instead of going for an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Answering questions from State House reporters after a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Bello said there was no ground for any appeal as the truth had been exposed.
He said, “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, and admonish them that they should accept yesterday’s judgement. No flaw. I thank God for all that happened yesterday (Wednesday).”
By Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh, Saawua Terzungwe, Abdullateef Salau, Baba Martins (Abuja) & Titus Eleweke (Awka)