TRIBUNAL JUDGEMENT: Atiku, Peter Obi head to Supreme Court to challenge the outcome

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The 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party, LP, counterpart, Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday, vowed to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the dismissal of their petitions against President Bola Tinubu’s election by the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC.

While Atiku said he was heading to the apex court because he had lost a battle and would confront the war ahead and not “validate mandate banditry” Obi said he would not relent in his quest for electoral justice because the PEPC ruling “is not coterminous with justice.”

Atiku and Obi spoke as mixed views welcomed the PEPC’s Wednesday judgment that affirmed Tinubu’s election and struck out the petitions of the PDP, LP, and Allied Peoples Movement, APM.

Atiku fumes

Vowing to pursue his legal challenge against Tinubu’s victory till the very end, Atiku described his loss at the PEPC, which is the court of first instance as a battle, noting that the war was still ahead.

Speaking at a press conference at PDP National Secretariat, Abuja, yesterday, the former vice president said: “I urge all my supporters to remain steadfast. I urge them to take solace in an immortal lesson I learned from my leader and mentor, the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, that losing a battle is less important than losing the war.

“We might have lost a battle yesterday (Wednesday) 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.”

He explained that while he respected the court judgment, he respectfully rejected it because it fell short of justice.

His words: “As you already know, I approached the court following the declaration by INEC that the APC and its candidate are the winners of the February 25, presidential election.

“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, INEC, 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 judgment of the court as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, 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 judgment of the court yesterday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept. I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe 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.

“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.”

I won’t validate mandate banditry

Atiku also distanced himself from a statement purporting that he had congratulated President Tinubu, over the outcome of the election petition tribunal in Abuja.

Reacting to a purported statement issued by his Media Adviser Mr. Paul Ibe, Atiku said the statement was fake and part of an orchestrated plot by those desperately looking for validation for the usurpation of the mandate of Nigerians.

“Atiku couldn’t have validated electoral banditry because doing so would have amounted to a rape on the conscience of Nigerians who have struggled for years to entrench electoral integrity.

“If their conscience is clear and they are convinced that their victory is valid, they don’t have to blackmail their political opponents into congratulating them through fake news.

“Why should a man be desperate for validation? Does truth require validation? Why should you issue a congratulatory statement and attribute it to Atiku if your conscience is not troubled by the electoral heist you have perpetrated,” he queried.

We’re ready for credible opposition in interim – PDP

Earlier, the Acting National Chairman of the PDP, Umar Damagum, in his remarks, said the party was prepared to play the role of a credible opposition while pursuing justice at the Supreme Court.

He said: “I call on our members not to lose focus, the NWC is doing everything possible to give this government a credible opposition and we will continue to pursue our mandate and seek redress where we are expecting to give them the opportunity to give us a policy direction. This will determine the future of this country.”

*Judgment not coterminous with justice* — *Obi*

On his part, Obi totally rejected the PEPC verdict and said he would challenge the verdict at the apex court.

Obi, who spoke at his home in Onitsha and acknowledged the PEPC’s adherence to statutory time frame, expressed respect for the court’s views and rulings but openly disagreed with the judgment’s rationale and final conclusions.

He said: “Yesterday, September 6, 2023, the PEPC finally delivered its long-awaited judgments on the petitions challenging the outcome of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023. This judgment was delivered within the statutory time frame under the extant statutes.

‘’We acknowledge the court’s contributions to due process and the seeming attempt to strengthen our democracy.

“As petitioners in this case, we respect the views and rulings of the court but we disagree with the court’s reasoning and conclusions in the judgment it delivered. It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgment by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Final responsibility falls on the Supreme Court

“The PEPC has rendered its judgment but that esteemed body is not the final arbiter. The responsibility now falls on the Supreme Court. I do know that judgment is not coterminous with justice. I implore Nigerians to remain focused, steadfast, and peaceful; abide by the rule of law, and understand that this matter has not reached its logical conclusion.

“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 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. Electoral litigation will be almost unnecessary and nonexistent if the INEC discharges its statutory functions creditably, transparently, and with discernible fairness.

‘’When that body fails, as it did recently, thus subverting the will of Nigerian voters, the recourse to the judiciary becomes imperative, as is now the case.”

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