“One man, one woman, one youth, one vote, should be the only way to make gains in a democracy. And when that is thwarted, the clock starts to tick. Two and a half millennia ago, Sophocles said, ‘If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ Nigeria will do well to observe this warning.
“This is not a time for too many words. It will suffice for me to remind Nigeria of this – we are an independent nation and we are the architects of our fate. If we do not build a free Nigeria, we may end up destroying her, and God forbid that that should be the case.”
With the above words, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday reacted to his final defeat at the Supreme Court to President Muhammadu Buhari .
Atiku warned that the nation might implode unless it embraces the principles of freedom. In a statement, he regretted: “The Nigerian judiciary, just like every estate of our realm, has been sabotaged and undermined by an overreaching and dictatorial cabal, who have undone almost all the democratic progress the Peoples Democratic Party and its administrations nurtured for 16 years, up until 2015.”He said: “To those who think they have broken my spirit, I am sorry to disappoint you. I am too focused on Nigeria to think about myself. I gave up that luxury 20 years ago. The question is not if I am broken. The question is if Nigeria is whole.
“It is said that the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but that it is infallible because it is final. While I believe that only God is infallible everywhere, and only Nigerians are infallible in our democracy, I must accept that the judicial route I chose to take, as a democrat, has come to a conclusion.”
But Buhari welcomed the Supreme Court ruling in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. He also stressed: “It is time the country is afforded the right to move on in the interest of all Nigerians regardless of how they voted.”The apex court yesterday dismissed the appeal filed by Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), against the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), ending the legal tussle that began shortly after the February 23 election.
The panel, led by Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, also featured Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice John Iyang Okoro, Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad Justice Ejembi Eko and Justice Uwani Abaji.The PEPT panel had on September 11 dismissed the petitions filed by PDP and Atiku. Not satisfied, the applicants had approached the apex court with a 62-ground appeal challenging the judgment.
The PDP reacted with shock at the judgment, saying it made “a solid case with undisputable evidence showing that Atiku Abubakar won the presidential election and as such surprised that the justices of the Supreme Court held otherwise. However, that is the highest court of the land.”In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the party regretted: “What we witnessed today (Wednesday) was not what the majority of Nigerians, who participated in and observed the presidential election expected, and this includes even members of the APC.”
He added: “Our party, indeed the nation, awaits the justices of the Supreme Court to release their reasons behind their verdict.”Also, reacting via a statement from his media office, PDP National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus said: “We thank you for your support for PDP, for your commitment to democracy. Nigerians know that you voted PDP. Even APC knows that you rejected them on February 23, 2019. The international community knows you voted for PDP. If the Supreme Court of seven justices says otherwise, leave it to God, the ultimate Judge.”
A staunch critic of Buhari and a PDP stalwart, Buba Galadima, described the judgment as premeditated. According to him, the decision by the apex court to conceal the list of justices on the panel till the last hour showed that something was afoot. He described the ruling as a black market judgment because the justices are yet to explain the grounds on which they based their declaration. He warned that the culpability of the judiciary is a sign that there would be more days of tears under the APC administration.
On his part, the spokesman for the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, said: “We do not believe that the desperation to affirm President Buhari can get to this level. This is ridiculous. This is a joke. The Supreme Court has murdered the hope of Nigerians for a better life and betrayed the nation with the hurried affirmation of Buhari’s election today.”
Rights body, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) expressed disappointment at the judgment. “HURIWA believes that Justice Muhammad and the other six members of the panel failed to dispense justice in line with global best practices and ended up creating further problems which include the total loss of faith in the judiciary. What it shows is that there is no integrity or independence in the nation’s judicial system,” the group said in a statement by its national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko.
But the APC, in a statement by its spokesman, Lanre Issa-Onilu, praised the judiciary “for standing firm in the face of the PDP and Atiku’s subterfuge and for siding with the Nigerian electorate who through their votes decided to do away with the PDP’s ignominious past and re-elected the President Buhari-led APC administration, which has ushered in a new era of progressive growth for our country.”
Human rights activist, Barrister Adebiyi Toluwani, told The Guardian: “The PDP-Atiku petition was so watery. Out of the 62 witnesses in court, none was an eyewitness, not even one of their polling agents. The law is all about facts and evidence. Pitiful badly done homework!“Nevertheless, the Supreme Court failed to give the reason for such a decision. Just saying it lacks merit is not enough and sounds very strange. The reason is supposed to be given simultaneously. How can the court arrive at such a decision on such a sensitive national matter and seemingly toy with the reason?
“Should everything be politicised? Should anyone be taken for granted? No matter what, Nigerians deserve to know the reason. There could be one or two things our politicians and the nation can learn from it.”A Lagos-based lawyer, Okechukwu Nna, said: “We cannot say much until they give reasons for their judgment.” Also, Owerri-based lawyer, Augustine Ike, said: “It is better we wait to get the reason for the judgment so that we can make an informed opinion on it.”
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), meanwhile, commended Atiku for challenging the outcome of the election to its logical conclusion at the Supreme Court. It urged him to henceforth join hands with Buhari in nation building.It disclosed this in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Mohammad Ibrahim Biu.