By Emmanuel Ekwueme
Since the candidate of the PDP in the 2019 Presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, submitted his petition in which he contested the results and the conduct of the exercise, there has been all sorts of comments especially from the respondents, INEC and the APC.
Judging from their comments, including those contained in their (INEC) response to Atiku’s petition, one can only thank God for the existence of the institution called Judiciary as an arm of government globally. The world and life would have been a jungle without the institution which has been described as the last hope of the common man and I add “the uncommon man”. It would have been a scenario where the weak preys on the strong at will.
It is so shocking that responses from INEC and APC have been described as evasive, inconsistent, digressive, a distraction such that they are laced with denials and impunity which has brought to the fore the argument that the 2019 Presidential election was deliberately rigged based the belief that the losers will keep quiet after results have been announced and that nothing will happen if they go to court since the judiciary is under the control of the government of the day.
If those who hatched and implemented what has been described as the most massive rigging ever recorded in the history of elections in Nigeria knew what they were doing and understood the strong character of their opponents in the election, they would have thought twice knowing full well that some of them, including Atiku, will seek redress in court.
From replies submitted from INEC and APC, it is obvious that the two respondents are not really prepared for the battle ahead in respect of the allegations raised by Atiku/PDP in their petition, otherwise how would an allegation that President Muhammadu Buhari did not qualify for the 2019 Presidential election because he does to have a WAEC certificate and that he swore to an oath that he has the document attract a response that Atiku Abubakar also did not qualify to occupy such position because he is not a Nigerian and that the Senior Advocate leading his legal team is not licensed to practice law.
This embarrassing response which is the handiwork of senior advocates and other senior lawyers assembled by the two respondents sounds like the response from Adam when God asked him in the Garden of Eden to identify his location and he responded saying he was naked. There is no correlation between the question and the answer. It turned out that Adam was so guilty that he never knew when he gave a response that was off-the-point.
If not for comic relief, how can Atiku Abubakar whose ancestry took root in Sokoto be described as a foreigner? Those who made this allegation seem to forget that Atiku enjoyed the scholarship of Northern Nigeria; except they are saying that the Northern Nigeria government also trained children of foreigners. It is also amazing that a man who has invested so much in the development of the country can be described as such by the so-called free-born who have contributed little or nothing to the development of Nigeria. Atiku was a Deputy Director in Nigeria Customs Service before he retired, elected governor of Adamawa State and Vice President for 8 years. His classmates, childhood friends and kinsmen in Jada and Ganye communities in Adamawa State are very much alive and around.
By the way and in real terms who is originally a Nigerian? The name Nigeria was a contraption and a name given to the geographical entity in the Niger Area by the colonial masters who sowed the seed of discord among ethnic nationalities that made up the entity before granting it independence in 1960. Nigeria is still suffering from its mischief caused by the mismatch.
Anyway, dwelling on this allegation is mere dissipation of energy after spokesman of the APC, Festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate and one of the crafters of the allegation, said on national TV that APC wants to try the allegation in court based on what he described as security information which may have not been seen all these years even by former President Olusegun Obasanjo when he wanted to dispense of Atiku by all means for denying him the opportunity of a third term in office as President. This allegation leads to a conclusion that APC is not even sure of what it wants and what it is doing and that the party has already shot itself on the foot even before proceedings commence at the election tribunal.
As serial comedians and in an effort to score even with Atiku, INEC Lawyers claim that Atiku’s lead counsel, Dr Livy Uzoukwu, a Senior Advocate of 20 years standing, is not licensed to practice in Nigeria. That allegation is, to say the least idiotic.
However, an interesting post on social media about a Supreme Court ruling may have settled the issue: “For saying that Dr Uzoukwu, SAN, OON, LLB, LLM, LLD FCIArb, former Attorney General is not licensed to practice law in Nigeria because his name in the role of lawyers which is Livinus Uzoukwu is not the same as Livy Uzoukwu shows that INEC and APC lawyers are grossly ignorant of the law.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in a similar situation in the case of DANKWANBO v ABUBARKAR (2015) LPELR-25716(SC) in a unanimous judgment comprising of a full court of 7 Justices ( normally the number is 5) held:
“Whether an abbreviated name of counsel is permissible for endorsement on court processes I must say clearly, that an abbreviated name is legal and permissible. It does not cease to be a person’s name or render it to lose its juristic personality. In other words, an abbreviation of the first name of any person whose name is on the Roll of Legal Practitioners does not render the abbreviated name to become unregistered or unknown to the law as argued by the appellant.
“This is a different situation from the use of two names that are on the role as a Legal Practitioner’s name to ?le processes in court. There is no doubt that two persons or personalities cannot become, except in marriage when the statutory law of marriage treats husband and wife of two di?erent personalities as one as far as the relationship exists.
“There are many Senior Legal Practitioners and Judicial O?cers whose? the first name as it appears on the role of legal Practitioners of the Supreme Court of Nigeria has been abbreviated as it stands today, yet that abbreviation has not robbed and could not rob them of their status as legal practitioners nor can it be said that they have contravened the Legal Practitioners Act.
“Many ?first names such as Oluwole, Olukayode, Akinlolu, Christian, Okechukwu, Joseph, Samuel, Emmanuel, Omotayo, Olajide, Oladele, Olabode appear in the Roll but today stand abbreviated as ? the first name of legal practitioners as Wole, Olu, Akin, Chris, Okey, Joe, Sam, Emma, Tayo, Jide, Dele, Bode. Until the contrary is proved, abbreviated? first name or initials before family name used on documents for? ling processes in court or announced as appearing for litigants remain valid and prosper forever.” Per ARIWOOLA, J.S.C. (Pp. 66-70, Paras. E-A)’’.
It is on record that in his confirmation document as a SAN, the name Dr Livy Uzoukwu was used.
On the card reader, INEC said in its response that the equipment was only for “authentication of voters”. This is quite revealing in the sense that INEC Spokesman Festus Okoye and the Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu confirmed at several fora that “the Smart Card Reader has become an integral part of the electoral process and will be deployed for the conduct of the 2019 general elections” and that “the upgraded Smart Card Reader is faster, more robust and has new features that enable it to store additional data and transmit results”. The billion Naira question is why to make the government to spend whopping N27 billion of taxpayers’ money improving the technologies for the 2019 election when the commission knew that it will not use the features embedded in the equipment. Why did the commission change its mind not to use the reader to transmit results? What then is at the back end?
On President Muhammadu Buhari’s qualification, INEC in its response said in one sentence that it “is satisfied with the educational qualification presented to contest for office”. There was no attachment of any sort to show what was presented.
Going by the rule of engagements for petitions of this nature, the respondent must mandatorily front load supportive documents especially when INEC as a regulatory body is the custodian of all election materials. This evasive style was also adopted by APC in its reply.
Compounding matters, Festus Keyamo had said one does not need WAEC certificate to become President or governor. According to him, occupying a public office for a reasonable length of time can qualify one for President. Perhaps NEPA bill would also have been appropriate as was canvassed in the 2015 Presidential election
On INEC’s denial that results were not transmitted to its server and that all results were collated manually and were never transmitted electronically, Atiku’s reply stated as follows: “The servers from which the said figures were derived belong to INEC, The figures and votes were transmitted to INEC’s Presidential result’s Server 1 and thereafter aggregated in INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019 whose physical address or unique Mac address as 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-70000-0000-AA535. The descriptions are unique to INEC’s server”.
For now, all eyes and ears are on the judiciary and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria Tanko Ibrahim Mohammed.
Ekwueme, a public affairs analyst wrote from Lagos