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Importance of Atiku’s election petition

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FORMER Vice-President and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the February 23 Presidential election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, defied entreaties and filed an ex-parte motion at the Court of Appeal, Abuja on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 challenging the result of the election.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had announced the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, as winner with 15,191,847, defeating 72 other candidates, while Atiku scored 11,262,978 votes.

Atiku and his party rejected, and refused to sign the result. They repudiated pleas to concede, call and congratulate Buhari, claiming they had abundant evidence to show that the mandate was “stolen.” According to them, there were voter suppressions in PDP strongholds while areas that traditionally favoured Buhari such as Borno and Yobe states generated dramatically higher volume of votes even though they were attacked by Boko Haram terrorists on the Election Day.

According to them, the elections were unduly militarised in their favoured areas, while thugs were sponsored to chase away voters, snatch ballot boxes and burn already thumb-printed votes. Atiku said: “If I had lost in a free and fair election, I would have called the victor within a few seconds of my being aware of his victory.”

It would have been ideal for the elections to end uneventfully as in 2015 when former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded even before the final results were announced. Although many of his party leaders loudly grumbled about “irregularities” and urged him to challenge INEC’s result, Jonathan peacefully gave up power and saved the nation from unforeseeable adverse post-election situations.

Atiku’s petition is a blessing in disguise as it will afford all of us the opportunity to, through the courts, see the truth or otherwise of the PDP’s allegations. The APC and PDP should meet in court, offer whatever evidence they have and leave the Judiciary to make its pronouncements on the matter in line with its constitutional role.

One of President Buhari’s cardinal programmes is the anti-graft war. As a leader widely identified with integrity, Buhari should actually be at the forefront to validate his mandate and personal reputation through removal of any doubts through the courts.

It is fortuitous that the APC has openly undertaken to defend its victory at the Election Petition Tribunal instead of piling pressure on their opponents to drop the case. The Constitution gives the Judiciary a role to play in the case of disputed elections, and they should be given the opportunity to do so in this case.

It is in the nation’s interest.

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