Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Opposition parties and their presidential candidates, namely, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and former Anambra state governor, Peter Obi, have indicated their intentions to, within the 14 day period allowed, appeal last week’s presidential tribunal court which affirmed Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s election as President. Labour party’s supporters in particular are hoping and ‘’believing’’ that a miracle would happen at the Supreme court, to upturn Tinubu’s election of Febuary 25, 2023 and declare him ‘’winner’’ of the presidential poll. Indeed, Obi’s presidential bid was dubbed, ‘Divine mandate’ by his supporters. His campaign posters flashed it all over. By the ordinary man/woman interpretation and Nigerians’ general understanding of this, it means that no Jupiter can stop his ascension to the presidential seat, that it is a fait accompli, sanctioned by the heavens. However, so far, Labour party, its supporters and Obi are yet to get their hearts’ desire. This is food for thought and calls for some deep introspection as to whether we are not misusing words.
Nevertheless, the PDP and LP presidential candidates as well as their teeming supporters have the right to continue to hope against seeming hope that a miracle may yet happen for them at the Supreme court which is the final arbiter here.
On the other hand miracle upon miracle has continued to happen for Tinubu. For, he has continued to surmount seemingly insurmountable mountains on his way to the Presidential Villa and steadying himself on the prized seat. Never in the history of Nigeria’s democracy has a presidential candidate been faced with such odds in depth and quantum as did Asiwaju. His path to Aso Rock Villa was strewn with hot flaming thorns before, during and after the elections. And yet he trod through them, seemingly effortlessly, confounding critics and opponents.
The latest of his amazing victories was at the Presidential Election Court. To be honest, given the way proceedings in the tribunal were reported in the social media, you would be tempted to think that there would be a minority judgement. So much noise was made in the social media about Jagaban’s dual citizenship; copies of his alleged Guinean passport splashed all over; the admission of one of his witnesses that he indeed forfeited some $450,000 allegedly linked to drugs, and so on and so forth. In the intervening period before the judgement, chairman of an opposition party said rather authoritatively, that the ruling party was preparing for a rerun; the narrative was peddled that that was part of the reason for appointing Nyesssome Wike as FCT minister, ‘to repeat his Rivers magic in the FCT’. Going by the social media, one was tempted to believe that the judges would concur with at least one of the tribunals five grounds of petitions against Tinubu’s election.
Alas, all five judges unanimously concurred in throwing out the petitions and upholding Asiwaju’s election. There was not a single dissenting voice and the several objections to Tinubu’s election were dismissed. Is it not miraculous? On the much touted 25 per cent requirement of total FCT votes, the judges ruled that a vote by any FCT resident is same as that of anyone in any part of the country, that votes by Abuja residents do not carry any special weight above those of other states. On the alleged forfeited drug money, the Tribunal judges held that there was no record anywhere in the United states that Tinubu was arrested, prosecuted and convicted on the matter, clarifying further that it was a civil not criminal case. They affirmed that Asiwaju was qualified to contest as a candidate for the elections. Regarding irregularities during the election for which the petitioners called for its cancellation, the judges averred that the elections conformed ‘’substantially’’ with the extant electoral act. They did not say that there were no infractions nor did they say that the election was perfect. Their point was that the number of infractions in comparison to the total number of voting centres was insignificant to nullify the election in its totality. Other grounds of the petitioners’ were waved off for lack of (credible) evidence.
This is the first time that winner of a presidential election is being challenged by three parties and their candidates. Over the years it had always been one opposition party and its candidate. As I stated earlier Jagaban’s road to victory had been dogged by mountainous hurdles every step of the way. Spears had been thrown at him left, right and centre but he deflected them all to-date. During the APC’s primary in 2022, he contested against some 13 aspirants including one thrown up by the party itself. The incumbent President, Mohammadu Buhari did not endorse him per se. Yet, he won that primary election with a wide margin. Then just weeks to the election proper, the ruling party allowed a debilitating fuel scarcity and a strangulating cash scarcity to persist, policies that would ordinarily make the masses dislike the ruling party and any candidate connected with it. Yet, he emerged victorious. He has now flunked his opponents at the tribunal, triumphing over them. Still determined to oust Asiwaju from his presidential seat, the PDP’s Atiku Abubakar has taken its case to a US court regarding his academic records while both he and Obi are heading to the Supreme Court on appeal. Will Asiwaju triumph for the umpteenth time? Time will tell.