Alhaji Atiku Abubakar A serial Petitioner 2.

By Michael Chibuzo
In the previous part of this brief series, I tried to summarise the adventure of the PDP Presidential Candidate and his legal team in the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal as it concerns ground 1 of their petition challenging the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (GCFR) as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this concluding part, I will take a considered look at the other 3 grounds of the Petition and how the PDP and Atiku fared on those grounds during the hearing of their case before the tribunal.

Ordinarily, this ground 2 of Atiku Abubakar petition should have been merged with ground 1. In this ground, the petitioners are contending that the election of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is invalid by reason of corrupt practices (ground 1 is non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022). Atiku's legal team in this ground are alleging suppression of Atiku's votes, over voting, violent disruptions of voting, intimidation of voters and inflation of President Bola Tinubu's vote tally. Unfortunately for Atiku, in the petition he simply mentioned Sokoto State (cancellation of 241 PU results), Kano State (non-filling of forms such as form EC25B, EC40A and EC40G), Kogi State (disruption of election/violence with 'full knowledge' of President Bola Tinubu and the APC) and Borno State (wrong entries and non-usage of BVAS machines) as states where the corrupt practices occurred. From the just concluded hearing of their case in the Tribunal, it is obvious that Atiku and the PDP could not find convincing evidence to present to back their claims neither were they able to call any witness to substantiate their claims. They were just focused on electronic transmission of results to IREV.

In this ground 3, Atiku's legal team contend that President Bola Tinubu was not elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the election and that INEC deliberately deducted 'massive' votes from Atiku Abubakar's vote tally in order to declare President Bola Tinubu as winner. In the petition, they failed to state exactly where these so-called votes belonging to Atiku were deducted from neither did they present any clear and specific evidence during the hearing of their case to prove where the said deductions were made. They simply pleaded a Statistician's report containing the correct and proper scores of the candidates, which will indicate Atiku won the election. They summarily listed 22 states where they claimed INEC wrongly entered scores/results without stating what should be the correct scores. After closing their case, no one still knows what the so-called correct scores should be. That is clowning in its most professional form! 

Still under this ground 3, Atiku also regurgitated the 25% in the FCT question, which I have dealt with. Atiku also alleged that results from *19,702 polling units* across the 36 states and the FCT contained various forms of infractions. Out of these, results from *4,307 polling units* were not stamped, results from *1,300 polling units* do not have signatures of Presiding Officers, results from *6,418 polling units* indicate zero accreditation while results from *9,463 polling units* showed over voting.

Atiku initially said they will rely on the evidence of Statisticians, forensic examiners and other experts to prove their allegations contained in this ground 3. However at the conclusion of hearing of their case, they called only 27 witnesses out of which ten were INEC adhoc officials they brought in mainly to prove non-transmission of results electronically in real time. Another 10 witnesses served as PDP State Collation Agents, while their three star witnesses were Dino Melaye, Dr. Alex Adum Ter and Mike Enahoro-Eba, the National Collation Agent, DG of PDP National Situation Room and a 'Public Interest Litigator' respectively. They brought two expert witnesses, Hitler Nwala, an IT Consultant on BVAS and Samuel Oduntan, a Statistician.

While Samuel Oduntan the Statistician expert witness told the court that he, alongside 6 team members, analysed the polling units released by INEC and found 'irregular votes' allocated to President and called for the deduction of such 'irregular votes' from President Tinubu's total vote tally, Hitler Nwala on the other hand told the court that he randomly analysed 110 BVAS machines used in the FCT and discovered that INEC had deliberately deleted the data for the Presidential election stored in these BVAS. Nwala alleged that these deletion was to enable INEC manipulate the accreditation figures and the vote tally, he believed that INEC probably carried out the same 'act' across the country. One begins to wonder where Hitler Nwala was when INEC sought the permission of the Appeal Court to reconfigure BVAS used in the Presidential Election and get it ready for the governorship elections. This issue of reconfiguring the BVAS eventually led to the postponement of the governorship elections by one week.

Atiku's legal team just like Obi's legal team are equally hoping to rely on the accreditation data in the INEC database to prove over voting. This is another dead-end for them just like Oyetola found out in the Supreme Court in his petition against Adeleke, where the Supreme Court held that to prove over voting, the petitioner must plead the BVAS or the BVAS report from every single polling unit where the alleged over voting took place and not just a general BVAS record from INEC database which may not contain the true number of accredited voters due to data transmission issues. In essence, BVAS device is the primary evidence to use in proving any over voting. At the close of hearing in the Atiku Abubakar petition, they did not tender any such exhibits. So, in essence, that leg of the case is dead.

In the final ground on which their petition was built, Atiku Abubakar and the PDP stated in paragraph 146 that as at the time of the election, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not qualified to contest the election, not having the constitutional threshold. They did not provide further particulars to back up this ground seeking to disqualify President Bola Tinubu neither did they state the exact Constitutional threshold that President Bola Tinubu failed to meet. Atiku Abubakar only listed four documents in his List of Documents to be relied upon in the petition that had any information pertaining to President Bola Tinubu's qualification to contest in the election and they include:

1. President Bola Tinubu's INEC form CF0001 for Lagos State Governorship election 1999.
2. An Investigative report by Lagos State House of Assembly on allegations of Perjury and Forgery levelled against then Governor Bola Tinubu.
3. President Bola Tinubu's Affidavit in Respect of Lost Certificate dated 29th December, 1998
4. President Bola Tinubu's INEC Form EC9 for the 2023 Presidential Election.

However during hearing of the case, Atiku's legal team sought to tender additional documents that were not pleaded in their petition such as President Bola Tinubu's certificate from Chicago State University, a purported Guinean citizenship passport, transcript from Chicago South West College, a 'notarised judgment of criminal forfeiture' of President Bola Tinubu's assets over alleged drug trafficking in the US, and an NYSC Discharge Certificate of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The legal team of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu objected to these documents being admitted as evidence. Many Atiku and Obi supporters made and continue to make so much noise about the legal teams of the Respondents including INEC objecting to documents being tendered by the petitioners. It is clear these set of people do not understand court procedures and probably think it is a TV show with no rules.

The counsel to a petitioner or Respondent has the right to object to the admissibility of an evidence in a case due to many reasons, which may not necessarily be about the genuity or correctness of the document. During the filing of a petition or in the course of pre-hearing or pre-trial conference, every document to be relied on in evidence by the two sides must be indicated. If during the trial a need arises to tender additional documents as evidence, there are procedures to be followed including the application for leave of the court to tender further evidence.

Failure to observe these rules are valid grounds for the opposing counsels to raise objection against the further evidence being admitted as evidence. Meanwhile, that the court admitted an evidence in court should not elicit any form of celebration from supporters because most of these admissions are subject to hearing the reason for objection raised by the opposing Council, which will be outlined in their Written Address. The judges of course reserves the right to rule on whether to strike out those exhibits they initially admitted as evidences and this comes as part of their judgment to avoid unnecessary delays.

Before closing its case, Atiku's legal team called their 27th witness, Mike Enahoro-Eba who is their 3rd Star Witness to give evidence why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not qualified to contest for president in the first place. The witness just like Peter Obi's legal team went to regurgitate a civil forfeiture case involving President Bola Tinubu in Chicago as one of the grounds for the President to be disqualified. I treated that extensively while dissecting the Obi petition and let me repeat here that President Bola Tinubu cannot be disqualified by virtue of Section 137(1)(d) and (e) on account of the $460,000 fine imposed on the President by a Chicago Court in  1993 because, it was never a criminal conviction and even if it were, the judgment was not registered in Nigeria and also even if it was registered in Nigeria, it happened 29 years ago. Section 137(1e) only bars an individual convicted of a crime of fraud, dishonesty etc from running for office for only ten (10) years. So, it is strange for Atiku Abubakar to be relying on something they know is dead on arrival.

Even their star witness, Mike Enahoro-Eba during cross-examination admitted that the case were the fine of $460,000 was imposed on President Bola Tinubu was a civil forfeiture case and not a criminal conviction and forfeiture case because the Defendant never appear before the court for his plea to be taken, face trial and convicted as required by criminal trial procedure. Mike Enahoro-Eba also admitted that the judgement copy was not registered in Nigeria as required by law when delivered to make it effective in the country. The so-called star witness was equally led in evidence down the territory of the President's academic qualification and records with documents from Chicago State University, South West College, Chicago and NYSC tendered. I have to state that this expedition they are taking will lead them nowhere since it is incontrovertible that the President attended CSU as confirmed by the institution severally. I even wrote to the institution last year and got a letter confirming that President Bola Tinubu graduated from the University with honours.

By tendering the academic transcript of the President from the South West College as well as his NYSC discharge letter bearing the name Bola Tinubu Adekunle, it means that Atiku is trying hard and furtively to establish that President Bola Tinubu is not the owner of these qualifications/certificates. Let me point out here that for them establish that the certificates does not belong to President Bola Tinubu, they are mandated by law to either provide the person who is the supposed owner of the qualifications or subpoena the authorities that issued the certificates President Bola Tinubu is using to come and testify that they are fake and did not emanate from them. So, far, the petitioners have not shown any seriousness to follow this path. It is therefore clear that they just want to use every narrative possible to paint the President bad and create an impression of fraud around his qualifications even though they know it will not sail through in court.

The final angle of testimony, which has been giving many Atiku and Obi supporters some 'colos' is the issue of Guinean citizenship, which they claim disqualifies President Bola Tinubu from contesting and holding office. To be clear, Section 137(1a) of the Constitution states:

_137. (1) A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if -_

_(a) subject to the provisions of section 28 of this Constitution, he has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a country other than Nigeria or, except in such cases as may be prescribed by the National Assembly, he has made a declaration of allegiance to such other country;_

Section 28 of the Constitution on the other hand states as follows:
_28. (1) Subject to the other provisions of this section, a person shall forfeit forthwith his Nigerian citizenship if, *not being a citizen of Nigeria by birth*, he acquires or retains the citizenship or nationality of a country, other than Nigeria, of which he is not a citizen by birth._

_(2) Any registration of a person as a citizen of Nigeria or the grant of a certificate of naturalisation to a person who is a citizen of a country other than Nigeria at the time of such registration or grant shall, if he is not a citizen by birth of that other country, be conditional upon effective renunciation of the citizenship or nationality of that other country within a period of not more than five months from the date of such registration or grant._

So, taking section 137(1a) of the Constitution together with Section 28(1) and even (2) of the Constitution, it is very clear that dual citizenship becomes a criteria for disqualification ONLY if you are not a citizen of Nigeria by Birth and then went ahead to acquire another country's citizenship. This is not hard to understand and if not to waste court's time I wonder why Atiku's legal team will be bringing such forward as a ground to disqualify President Bola Tinubu. The main issue is that the petitioners did not include the dual citizenship issue as part of their particulars to prove Ground 4 of their petition when they first filed their petition.

They did not equally include it by way of amendment of their petition within the 22 days allowed by the Court for the petitioners to amend their petition. They just woke up during hearing and remembered to include dual citizenship in their petition and tender a purported Guinean passport belonging to President Bola Tinubu that expired in 2020. This was why counsels to President Tinubu and the APC objected to it and I am confident the issue will be thrown out by the Tribunal judges before delivering judgment on the valid issues for determination.

Having carried out a reasonably detailed analysis of the Petition filed by Atiku Abubakar and the hearing of their case before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting at the Court of Appeal, it is obvious that the former Vice President, who is now holding the record of filing the highest number of Presidential election petitions in Nigeria is finding it hard to come to the realisation that his lifetime dream of becoming the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is almost next to impossible after clearly losing the 2023 Presidential Election, which was his best ever chance of becoming the President.

The dynamics of the 2023 Presidential Election always pointed to a victory for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC considering the dog fight and intractable crisis in the PDP as well as the annihilation of the PDP hitherto loyal and impregnable support base in many parts of the South East and South South courtesy of his breakaway former running mate who calls him elder brother, Mr. Peter Obi. This meant that the only place where Atiku Abubakar had hopes of garnering bulk votes was in the North, especially the Muslim-dominated parts considering the role religion played in the Presidential Election.

However his foray into the North was largely neutralised thanks to the political capital and sagacity of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who won North West zone despite winning outrightly in only two states of Zamfara and Jigawa. In North East being the zone of Atiku Abubakar, President Bola Tinubu came a close second to Atiku Abubakar. In the North Central, President Bola Tinubu won the zone as well as in the South West. Even in the South East, with the poor performance of APC, President Bola Tinubu still came second. So, there was no pathway for an Atiku victory. President Bola Tinubu got the required geographical spread of 25% in 29 states while Atiku could not even meet the threshold of 25% of the votes cast in 24 states. That's how bad an outing, the 2023 Presidential Election was for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Atiku Abubakar should just accept that the game is over and retire to being a statesman or even a letter writer like the man in Ota. By August, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal will definitely strike their petition out for lacking merit and its inability to prove substantial non-compliance/ corrupt practices in the conduct of the 2023 Presidential election. The Supreme Court will certainly put a final lid on their expected appeal so that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will finally get closure and perhaps start thinking of building a Vice Presidential Library in Jada.

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts with ANN..

Previous Post Next Post