By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Buhari vs Atiku – Hearing continued before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday, as a former Ambassador, Mabien Samaki, gave evidence to debunk the allegation that the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar was originally from Cameroon.
Samaki who appeared as the 41st witness, said he was a one time ambassador of Nigeria to Romania.
He told the tribunal that Atiku was his classmate and childhood friend.
He said they both attended Provisional Secondary School in Yola, Adamawa State, in 1961.
“I know as a fact that the 1st petitioner was born on 25 November 1948 in Jada, present day Adamawa state by Nigerian parents and he is therefore a Nigerian by birth”, he maintained.
It will be recalled that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, had urged the Court of Appeal which is sitting as the presidential tribunal, to dismiss the joint petition that Atiku and PDP lodged to challenge President Buhari’s re-election.
Aside challenging the legal competence of the petition dated March 18, the APC which is the 3rd respondent, alleged that Atiku was a Cameroonian, saying he lacked the locus standi to institute the action against Buhari.
However, fielding questions under cross-examination, the ex-Ambassador told the tribunal that he met Atiku’s mother, Aisha Tande, in 1965, while he was in secondary school.
Asked by counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Yunus Usman, SAN, if he was there when Atiku’s mother gave birth to him, the witness said: “I was not in Jada when she gave birth to Atiku”.
Asked if he has any evidence to support his claim that he was Atiku’s classmate, the witness said: “All I know is based the records that are in the school. It has been there for over 65 years ago”.
He acknowledged that President Buhari had while in position as Military Head of State between 1983 and 1985, made nationwide broadcasts in English language.
The witness equally admitted that President Buhari had in 2014, defeated Atiku in primary election the was conducted by the APC and also won the 2015 presidential election.
Answering questions from President Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Akinolu Olujimi, SAN, the witness who said he had a fair knowledge of Nigeria, said he could not remember if Jada was part of Cameroon as at 1946.
“To the best of my knowledge and what I know, Jada town was in Northern Nigeria in Adamawa Province even before 1946”.
He said he could not remember if prior to 1919, Germany administered Cameroon before it was defeated in the first World War.
Asked if he was aware that Cameroon was subsequently split into French Cameroon and British Cameroon, the witness said: “I have to confirm from history”.
Though he acknowledged that a plebiscite was held in 1961 to determine if Northern Cameroon wanted to align with Nigeria, the witness insisted that Jada was not part of Cameroon.
“I am not aware that Northern Nigeria was part of Northern Cameroon in any history. I was not taught that in school”, he added.
Another witness, Mohammed Hayatu, corroborated Samaki’s testimony, stressing that he was born in Jada in February 1956.
Hayatu said his parents told him that Atiku is from the town.
“Based on historical facts, the 1st petitioner was born in 1646 in Jada”, he stated.
He insisted that that the part of Adamawa Province where Atiku was born had never been part of Cameroon.
The witness said he was told of the 1961 plebiscite through which British Cameroon became part of Nigeria.
He said that Atiku, being the present head of his family and much older than himself, was in a better position to talk about his birth.
The duo mounted the witness box, shortly after the Justice Mohammed Garba-led five-member panel tribunal, admitted into evidence, a video recording President Buhari tendered to disprove claim by the petitioners that results of the February 23 presidential election was electronically transmitted.
In the counter video that was played in the open court, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was seen in an interview on Channels Television, lamenting that the electoral body had challenges regarding its plan to electronically transmit results of the election.
In the interview that held on February 6, the INEC boss identified communication problems that ranged from poor network coverage in the country, to issues of cyber security, as factors that could affect the electronic transmission of results of the election.
He said the commission was discussing with network providers, saying: “We still need to do a lot more before we can use the technology of transmitting the results of election”.
Though the petitioners challenged the admissibility of the video exhibit which was tendered through Atiku’s media aide, Segun Showunmi who appeared as the 40th witness, the tribunal, said it was minded to admit it in evidence.
The video clip, as well as the Certificate of Compliance, were marked as exhibits P 85 and P-86.
The petitioners had shortly after they tendered 48 video exhibits on Monday, declined to allow President Buhari to use their equipment to play the video clip, a situation that led Buhari to produce his own television set in court on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Ward Collation Agent, Likita Ali, who testified as the 43rd witness, alleged that an official of INEC, collected $10, 000 to change result of the presidential election in favour of President Buhari and the APC in Nasarawa State.
Ali told the tribunal that the INEC officer whose name he gave as Abubakar Kaura, was arrested and handed over to the police.
While being cross-examined by INEC’s lawyer, the witness said: “The matter was later referred to the State CID. I was there when the official was caught. The incident happened at the Lafia Local Government collation center.
“It was when we collected our result from the Unit, down to the Ward and to the Collation Center that this happened”.
Asked if the INEC officer is still alive and if he was prosecuted, the witness said he was not aware.
He said his attention was drawn to one polling unit where he went and confirmed that the Smart Card Reader Machine was missing and the INEC official resorted to Manual accreditation and collection of phone numbers and details of voters.
The witness further alleged that INEC officials refused to receive result of the Local Government where Atiku won.
On his part, the 44th witness, Kemoko Sunday who was the local government collation agent for the PDP in Nasarawa State, told the tribunal that results that were collated from about seven Wards where Atiku had clear lead, were turned down by INEC Ward Collation Officer.
He said he refused to sign a copy of the result sheet owing to irregularities he observed in the electoral process, adding that he equally ordered some agents not to sign.
The 45th witness, Abubakar Abdullahi who was also an LG collation agent for the PDP, alleged that total number of votes in his area did not tally with the number of accredited voters.
He alleged that in one of the polling units, INEC connived with APC agents to change President Buhari’s result from 105 to 115.
“I objected to the change of votes to INEC returning officer who ignored me. The result announced by INEC did not tally with result I collated from my Ward agents”.
He told the tribunal that contrary to whereas Atiku polled 817 votes from records he got from PDP agents, INEC credited him with only 612 votes.
The 46th witness, Mohammed Obalua who was a polling unit agent in Karu, Nasarawa State, maintained that while Atiku got 2513 votes, Buhari got 340 votes.
He said the results were given to him “by those that voted”.
However, the witness said he could neither remember the total number of voters that were accredited for the affected polling units, no the total number of those that eventually voted.
The 47th witness, Arri Gunade who also an agent of the PDP in Karu, alleged that INEC voided Atiku’s votes on the premise that it noticed over-voting.
Two other witnesses that testified before the tribunal on Tuesday were Jonathan Masara and Sunday John, who were both agents of the PDP in Nasarawa State.
John told the tribunal that some men who were dressed in black and “masqueraded” themselves as APC agents, stormed his polling unit and destroyed all the electoral materials.
He said he was assaulted in the process, saying “there was no election talk more of a result being declared”.
The Justice Garba-led panel adjourned till Wednesday to continue further hearing on the petition.
The petitioners who have so far called a total of 49 witness, have two more days to close their case, after which the respondents would take six days each to enter their defence.
Cited as respondents in the petition are the INEC, President Buhari and APC.