*You’ve been losing since 1993, he replies Atiku
*Says call for run-off poll baseless
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
The President-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has challenged the competence of a petition the Labour Party, LP, and its candidate, Peter Obi, filed to nullify his election.
He also queried the legal competence of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, petition, filed to nullify his election.
He added that the call for a run-off poll was baseless.
Tinubu, in a preliminary objection he filed alongside his Vice-President-elect, Senator Kashim Shettima, maintained that Obi lacked the locus standing to file a petition to challenge his election victory.
He argued that Obi was not validly nominated to contest the presidential election in line with the mandatory provisions of sections 77(2) and (3) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
He insisted that Obi’s name was not found on the register of members of the LP, noting that he defected to the party from the PDP, less than 30 days before the primary election that produced him as a presidential candidate, was conducted.
On why he won the presidential election, Tinubu, in the preliminary objection he filed through his team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, said it was his consistency and track record of excellence in public service, that endeared him to millions of the electorates across the federation.
He further accused Obi of jumping from one political party to the other, insisting that the LP lacked the structure to win the presidential contest.
On his qualification, Tinubu told the court, that he is a holder of a Degree of Bachelor of Science in Business and Administration from the Chicago State University since 1979, adding that he has vast private and public sector work experience, including working with Mobil Oil Nigeria as an auditor, and later treasurer of the company.
According to him, “The entirety of Obi’s petition is about guesswork, hype, speculation and conjecture, as there is nowhere in the entirety of the petition, where the petitioners have specified in any form howsoever, the number of their votes which have been affected by irregularities which they bandy and what their total number of votes would have been on the one hand, and the number of the respondents’ votes that have been inflated by the much-touted allegations of noncompliance/corrupt practices and what the votes of the respondents would have been on the other hand.
“In terms of national acceptance of the 2nd respondent as a political figure, titan and maestro on the one hand, and that of the 1st petitioner on the other hand, the 2nd respondent is far ahead of the 1st petitioner in every sphere and index, and this is clearly known to Nigerians and also demonstrated by the result of the election.”
While denying the allegation that the election was fraught with irregularities, Tinubu, accused Obi of accepting the outcome of the election in states where he won and denigrating results from states he lost.
“The respondents shall further contend that the petitioners have embarked on a wild goose chase in the presentation of this petition and, in the process, are questioning results of elections where the respondents lost, including where the petitioners were declared winners, as exemplified in paragraph 73 of the petition where petitioners were querying results of Lagos, Imo and Plateau where they won, as well as Taraba, Adamawa, Bauchi and Kaduna where PDP won.
“The respondents contend that the entirety of the petition is about guesswork, hype, speculation and conjecture, as there is nowhere in the entirety of the petition, where the petitioners have specified in any form howsoever, the number of their votes which have been affected by irregularities which they bandy and what their total number of votes would have been on the one hand, and the number of the respondents’ votes that have been inflated by the much-touted allegations of noncompliance/corrupt practices and what the votes of the respondents would have been on the other hand.”
He, therefore, prayed the court to not only dismiss Obi’s petition but to also probe election results from states the LP won.
You’ve been losing since 1993, he replies Atiku
On Atiku Abubakar, Tinubu, in his preliminary objection, described the PDP’s presidential candidate as a consistent serial loser that had since 1993, crisscrossed different political parties, in search of power.
He said he would during the hearing of the petition, lead evidence before the court to show how Atiku’s emergence as a candidate in the presidential election held on February 25, led to the “Balkanisation” of the opposition PDP.
According to him; “The 1st petitioner (Atiku) has been consistently contesting and losing successive presidential elections in Nigeria since 1993, whether at the party primary election level or at the general election, including 1993, when he lost the Social Democratic Party, SDP, primary election to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola; 2007, when he lost the presidential election to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua; 2011, when he lost the PDP presidential primary election to President Goodluck Jonathan; 2015, when he lost the APC primary election to President Muhammadu Buhari; 2019, when he lost the presidential election to President Buhari; and now, 2023, when he has again, lost the presidential election to the respondent.
“It was/is not a surprise and/or not by accident that the electorate rejected the 1st petitioner at the presidential election held on February 25, 2023.”
Insisting that he was validly returned as winner of the presidential election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Tinubu told the court that unlike Atiku, he has been “A most consistent politician, who has not shifted political tendency and alignment.”
Tinubu argued that his party, the APC, is a national party, popular amongst Nigerians, cutting across all divides.
He said the PDP, on the other hand, had in recent years, “been engrossed in intra-party irreconcilable feuds and infighting, both in relation to its national offices and officers, as well as the convention which produced the 1st petitioner as its presidential candidate.
“This is asides from the misfortune and calamities that have befallen the 2nd petitioner in recent years, even till after the election, where they had to sack their National Chairman. The respondent shall find and rely on documents and newspaper reports of the various squabbles in the 2nd petitioner.
“In reaction to paragraphs 3 and 4 of the petition, the respondent asserts that the 2nd petitioner has lost its relevance and popularity within its own ranks and amongst Nigerians leading to abysmal electoral performance.
“Therefore, at the National Assembly election conducted on the same day as the 2023 presidential election, the 2nd petitioner only won 33 out of the 109 Senatorial seats and about 100 out of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives.
“Further, the fortune of the 2nd petitioner has also dwindled with regard to the number of governors produced by it.
“In the 2023 election cycle, the said 2nd petitioner was only able to win nine governorship seats. The 2nd petitioner’s electoral reputation is contrary to that of the 3rd respondent which has, in the past three election cycles in Nigeria, apart from winning the presidential elections also maintained an emphatic majority in both chambers of the National Assembly as well as a majority of states across Nigeria,” he added.
Besides, the Tinubu told the court that though Atiku raised allegations against election results from states that we’re won by both Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, he, however. failed to join them as necessary and desirable parties in the petition.
“Without prejudice, Atiku and PDP are also querying the result of elections in all the states where they won the election, including but not limited to Adamawa, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Gombe, Yobe, Sokoto, Osun, Kebbi and Katsina States, without making themselves co-respondents to the petition; whereas, under section 133(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022, a party whose election is being challenged shall be made a respondent,” Tinubu stated.
He argued that the petition constituted a gross abuse of the judicial process, noting that six PDP-controlled states had three days after the presidential election, filed a suit before the Supreme Court to nullify the outcome.
On the claim that he did not secure the statutory vote from the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Tinubu, argued that it was not a mandatory requirement of the law that he must win the FCT before he would be declared as the President-elect.
He said Atiku’s call for his election to be nullified on the ground that he was mandatorily required to score one-quarter of the lawful votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the states and the FCT, “becomes suspect and abusive, when considered vis-à-vis relief 150(d), where the petitioners pray that the 1st petitioner, who did not score one-quarter of the votes cast in more than 21 states and the FCT, Abuja, be declared the winner of the election and sworn in as the duly elected President of Nigeria.”
Call for a run-off poll baseless
Tinubu, also described as ungrantable, Atiku’s alternative prayer for the INEC to be directed to conduct a second election (run-off) between two of them, noting that the request was not premised on any predicate declaratory relief.
“The further alternative relief 150 (f), which reads thus: ‘that the election to the office of President of Nigeria held on February 25, 2023, be nullified and a fresh (re-run) ordered’ is ungrantable, as:
“This court has no jurisdiction, whether under the Constitution or the Electoral Act.
“The court can only order a run-off election, between the candidate declared as winner and the first runner-up, in appropriate cases (not in a case like the election of February 25, 2023, as provided for under section 134 (3) of the Constitution. The said relief is at large.”
Consequently, he prayed the court to not only strike out paragraphs 19 to 150 of the petition for being “nebulous, inchoate, imprecise, incompetent, generic and vague,” but to dismiss the entire case for failure of the petitioners to establish a reasonable cause of action against his election victory.