Revisiting The Peter Obi's Judicial Entertainment.

By Michael Chibuzo
Less than 3 months ago, I authored a four-part series where I dissected the petition filed by the Labour Party Presidential Candidate in the last general elections, Mr. Peter Obi challenging the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in February 25th Presidential Election. In that series, I opined that Obi's petition is the most watery Presidential Election Petition ever in our democratic history and went on to dissect the entire petition to prove it.

From the ongoing proceedings at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), it is glaring that my submissions are proving to be correct. Mr. Peter Obi and the Labour Party hinged their petition on three grounds namely: 

1. That the 2nd Respondent (Bola Tinubu) was at the time of election not qualified to contest.

2. That the election of the 2nd Respondent (Bola Tinubu) was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022

3. That the 2nd Respondent (Bola Tinubu) was not duly elected by majority of the lawful votes cast in the election.

For the ground 1, the petitioners contended that President Bola Tinubu was not qualified to contest because his running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima had double nomination - one as Senatorial Candidate for Borno Central and the other as Vice Presidential Candidate. The petitioners also further contended that President Bola Tinubu was not qualified to contest for president due to a fine of $460,000 handed by a US District Court of Illinois on October 4, 1993.

As the hearing of Obi's petition was underway, the Supreme Court delivered judgment in a suit instituted by the PDP seeking the disqualification of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the ground of double nomination of his running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima. In the unanimous judgment of a 5-man panel of the Supreme Justices, the apex court held that apart from the suit being statue barred, the PDP lacked the locus standi to challenge the nomination process of another political party. 

Part of the judgment read:

"the position of the law has always been that no political party can challenge the nomination of a candidate of another political party. The position did not change in section 285(14)(c) of the constitution. No matter how pained or disgruntled a political party is with the way and manner another political party is conducting or has conducted its affairs concerning its nomination of candidates for any position, it must keep mum and remain an onlooker for he lacks locus standi to challenge such nomination in court.

Section 285(14)(c) of the constitution only allows a political party to challenge the decisions and activities of INEC disqualifying its own candidate from participating in an election.”

In addition to the above judgment, Amina Augie JSC affirmed that Shettima did not participate in any Vice Presidential primary and was merely appointed by the Presidential Candidate of the APC pursuant to his powers in Section 142 of the 1999 Constitution as his associate. The Supreme Court by that judgment simply rendered one leg of the ground 1 of Peter Obi's petition useless even before the tribunal had commenced hearing fully.

It was therefore funny that during the hearing, in trying to prove their double nomination case, all Mr. Peter Obi's legal team could do was to bring two new TVs to the court room to play the video of when the then APC Presidential Candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu visited President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura to inform him of his choice of Sen. Kashim Shettima as his running mate. The LP legal team simply wanted to prove that as at that day when Tinubu made the announcement, Shettima was still Borno Central Senatorial Candidate of the APC and therefore according to them amounted to double nomination even if it was for a brief moment! What a logic! 

The other leg of the ground 1 is the issue of $460,000 fine allegedly handed by the US District Court of Illinois on October 4, 1993 to President Bola Tinubu. On this, I still maintain my stand that President Bola Tinubu cannot be disqualified by virtue of Section 137 (1) paragraphs (d) and (e) because whatever fine the US Court handed to President Bola Tinubu, it was not a conviction or fine by a Nigerian Court neither was it registered in Nigeria. Even if we assume without conceding to the fact that the court was in Nigeria or that President Bola Tinubu was indeed guilty of any crime and convicted, Section 137 (1e) barred him from running for office for 10 years only. The said court case Obi is relying on happened 29 years ago. So, in essence, ground 1 of Obi's petition is simply dead and waiting to be buried by the Tribunal in its judgment.

For ground 2 of Peter Obi's petition, the way his legal team has been going about trying to prove that the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act has been hilarious and entertaining to say the least. Like I pointed out in part 2 and 3 of my earlier series on the Obi petition, of all the allegations of rigging and reallocation of votes in his petition, they could only present specific figures for two states (Rivers and Benue) as what they believe were the real scores.

During the pre-hearing, Obi said  he will call 50 witnesses to testify and prove his case including some star witnesses and 'experts'. However, Obi's legal team ended up calling only 13 witnesses before closing their case. The witnesses include:

1. Barr. Lawrence Ukechukwu
2. Anthony Chinwo (JP Morgan Chase Software Engineer).
3. Lucky Ukpewo (Channels TV Senior Reporter).
4. Lummie Edevbie (Arise TV Director of Operations).
5. Ijeoma Osamor (AIT Broadcaster). 
6. Prof. Eric M. Ofoedu (Professor of Mathematics). 
7. Ms Clarita Ogar (a Cloud Engineer). 
8. Mr. Chibuike Ugwuoke (a cyber security expert). 
9. Onoja Sunday (an election observer). 
10. Kefas Iya (an ad-hoc staff of INEC).
11. Emmanuel Edet (Head of Legal Services, NITDA) 
12. Yunusa Tanko (LP Presidential Campaign Spokesperson). 
13. Peter Emmanuel Yari (an INEC adhoc staff from Kaduna).

The testimony of almost all the 13 witnesses called by Obi's legal team revolves around electronic transmission of results and the IREV portal. They are trying hard to prove that the Presidential Election was not credible as a result of the inability of INEC, due to technical glitches, to carry out 'live transmission' of the results from the polling units to the IREV portal. They started by issuing subpoenas on TV channel personnel from Channels, AIT and Arise TV to come and testify that they reported where INEC Chairman promised electronic transmission of election results.

They also brought a cloud Engineer allegedly working with Amazon Web Services who was also a Labour Party House of Reps Aspirant to testify that Amazon Web Services that hosted INEC servers did not suffer any glitches on the day of the Presidential election. Only two INEC adhoc workers were subpoenaed by Obi's legal team and they didn't come to testify that the results they declared at the polling unit were changed but to testify that they couldn't transmit the picture of result sheet to the IREV portal in real time.

The star witness called by Obi's legal team, Professor of Mathematics, Eric M. Ofoedu to analyse the results declared by INEC and eventually uploaded in the IREV portal presented calculations in only TWO states (Rivers and Benue), to prove that Obi won the election. During cross examination, he was asked why present only the two states to which he responded that he simply picked the two states randomly and would have analysed more states if he had more time. The professor further stated that 18,088 polling unit results uploaded into the IREV portal were blurred.

The LP House of Rep Aspirant, Ms Clarita Ogar that claims to be a Cloud Engineer with Amazon Web Services in her testimony made a mess of Obi's case as she effectively admitted during cross-examination that she was not sent by Amazon Web Services to represent it and therefore not speaking for them. She was also presented with facts publicly available showing that Amazon Web Services have experienced multiple worldwide glitches in the past including in December 2022 to which she admitted.

She was also reminded by Wole Olanipekun SAN that she sued INEC for omitting her name from the register after complaining that she made several efforts to upload her particulars on INEC portal but it failed due to a network glitch and stated in her affidavit then that the INEC site crashed. She agreed. So in essence she believes INEC site crashed during her own upload last year but did not experience any glitch on the day of the Presidential election without any proof outside the publicly available health status of Amazon Web Services which according to her did not indicate AWS experienced any network glitch on February 25th.

Perhaps the most entertaining witness of the Labour Party Presidential Candidate in the petition is Yunusa Tanko who was their Campaign Spokesperson. LP built their case around electronic transmission of results and Yunusa while being led in evidence stated that LP filed a suit against INEC seeking the court to compel INEC to transmit results electronically and that the court in a judgement delivered on January 23rd, 2023 refused all the reliefs that were sought by the party as the court held that nothing in the Electoral Act stipulated how INEC should transmit election results and that the high court, while dismissing the suit, further held that INEC was at liberty to prescribe the manner the election results should be transmitted.

During cross-examination, Mr. Yunusa was reminded that he did not state any figure to indicate the number of unlawful votes that were credited to President Tinubu and the APC as he alleged in the affidavit he deposed in his statement on oath. He insisted that votes were simply allocated to all Presidential Candidates by INEC and that If the results were uploaded as required by the law, his party would have gotten more votes than what was allocated to it. He went further to tell the court that his wish was for the entire result of the election to be voided, including the votes “allocated” to the presidential candidate of his party, Mr. Peter Obi!

When asked to confirm that Obi scored about 95.07 percent of votes in Anambra state, Mr. Yunusa Tanko said: “I have not seen it.” He went further to say: "We are not satisfied with the outcome of election, that is why we are here in court. How do we know the actual votes we got when the results are yet to be uploaded on the IReV portal, four months after the election held?" He was further asked to tell the court the total figure of votes that were unlawfully allocated to President Tinubu, to which he replied: “Our expert witness has already presented the figures in his evidence before this court. I am not a mathematician and I am not good in calculations.” Mind you, the expert witness he was referring to was Prof. Ofoedu who had earlier said he did calculations for only Rivers and Benue states due to lack of time. 

Finally, when Yunusa was asked what he wanted the court to do with results that were scored by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, who came second in the election, he said: “We are challenging the entire results of the election and if they are cancelled, it affects results that were allocated to all the candidates, including votes scored by Atiku. What an entertaining witness! If what you want is for the entire election to be cancelled (due to an unsubstantiated allocation of votes), why then the noise about recovering a 'stolen mandate'?

Unfortunately for the petitioners, this their obsession with 'live transmission' of election results and their relentless attempt to make transmission of results the sole determining factor that confers legitimacy on the results declared has met a solid brick wall even before the conclusion of the hearing of their petition. The Supreme Court while delivering in the  Oyetola vs Adeleke case declared in page 14 of the judgment that "the evidence required to prove non-accreditation, improper accreditation and over voting under under the Electoral Act 2022 are the BVAS, the Register of Voters and the Polling Unit result in INEC Form EC8A by virtue of S.47(1)(2) and 51(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, Regulations 14, 18, 19(b)(i-iv), (e)(i-iii) and 48(a) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of Elections 2022."*

In fact, the Supreme Court in that judgment further stated that the result viewing portal IREV is just to the public at large the opportunity to view the polling unit results on the election day. It even alluded to the fact that INEC electronic database and by extension the IREV portal CANNOT be a COMPLETE and ACCURATE of the number of voters accredited and of the number of votes cast on an election day because it is not the direct record of these numbers and contains only the numbers transmitted to it from the BVAS. So that if the BVAS malfunctions and is unable to INSTANTLY TRANSMIT as it was recording because of lack of internet connectivity, failure of INEC officials to press the submit button properly and loss of power in the battery, what is recorded in the BVAS will not be in the database and consequently the IREV (for the scanned form EC8A).

So, Mr. Peter Obi and LP should understand that the physical form EC8A from the 176,846 polling units in Nigeria and the accompanying 176,846 BVAS machines OUGHT TO BE their primary evidence for proving any corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. Obi's legal team did not tender the form EC8A they got from their agents from 176,846 polling units in the country neither did they tender the BVAS accreditation certificate for each of the 176,846 polling units in the country to prove their allegations of over voting in some places and wrong allocation of votes to President Tinubu. What they brought before the Tribunal was 18,088 blurred results they downloaded from the IREV portal, which is simply useless in determining any electoral fraud without the corresponding physical form EC8As and BVAS record of each of the polling units.

The funny thing is that at each juncture when they tendered these useless exhibits (boxes of blurred IREV printout, videos of Tinubu's visit to Buhari and INEC Chairman's press conference assuring of electronic transmission of results) before the tribunal, and the tribunal naturally admits them in evidence as is the standard practice in litigations, their supporters will erupt in jubilation with a Renewed Hope that they're closer to 'retrieving their stolen mandate'. You will see many ignorant supporters boasting that Obi was more prepared for the Tribunal case than the elections and that APC did not see Obi coming. Hilarious. 

Finally, in their Ground 3 as outlined in paragraph 81 of their petition, Peter Obi and the LP were contending that the interpretation of Section 134(2)b of the constitution is such that a candidate with the highest number of votes MUST score at least 25% of the votes in the FCT in addition to 24 other states of the federation to be declared winner. They therefore stated that since the 2nd Respondent, President Bola Tinubu did not score up to 25% of the votes cast in the FCT, he is not duly elected. On this same subject matter, five individuals that described themselves as residents of the FCT instituted a suit at the Federal High Court Abuja seeking to stop the inauguration of the President, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu on May 29th, 2023 since he did not score up to 25% of the votes cast in the FCT. The Presiding judge, Inyang Ekwo rightly dismissed the suit and fined the lawyer representing the plaintiffs the sum of N10 million.

Even though Justice Inyang Ekwo did not rule on the issue of 25% in the FCT itself, it is very clear that it is a non-issue to start with as I extensively dissected in part 3 of my earlier series on the Obi petition. However let me reiterate here that the essence of Section 134(2)b of the Constitution is simply to ensure national spread and prevent one section of the country being dominant. It will therefore negate the essence of the provision if getting at least 25% of the votes cast in the FCT is a compulsory criteria to be declared winner. This in effect means FCT voters will now be more important than voters from the entire 36 states since a candidate can secure 25% of the votes in the 36 states but may fail to reach that threshold in the FCT and going by that flawed logic, such candidate will not be declared a winner because FCT voters are holding him hostage. This is definitely not the intention of the Constitution.

Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution on its own conferred the status of a state to the FCT and provided that it be treated as if it were a state wherever it is mentioned in the Constitution. Therefore the judicial voyage of Obi on the 25% in the FCT question will definitely end up fruitless. The other judicial fishing expeditions of Obi's legal team especially as it relates to alleged dual citizenship of the President and their obsession with his certificates equally shows how shallow the Obi petition is. It is simply a clever way to remain in the news and keep his Obidients engaged ahead of the next time he will contest for president. Well, the circus will soon come to an end.

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