Atiku, Obi vs Tinubu: Second round of battle rages in Abuja



The stage is set for the second round of the battle for the presidency between Asiwaju Ahmed Bola, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 25 election (now president-elect), and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the one hand, and between Tinubu and Mr Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), on the other.


The first round was fought at the polling booths across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and won by Tinubu.


The result as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) showed that Tinubu won the contest with 8,794,726 votes.

Atiku secured 6,984,520 votes while Obi polled 6,101,533 votes.


Atiku and Obi expectedly rejected the outcome of the contest, vowing to challenge the result in court.


They filed separate ex-parte applications in court on Friday.


The two candidates accused INEC of reneging on its promise to deliver transparent, free, fair and credible elections.


Sunday Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that they and their parties were shopping for highly rated lawyers to handle their cases in court.


Tinubu, on his part, is relying on volunteer senior advocates.


Many members of the voting public, observers as well as concerned citizens had complained about the disenfranchisement of voters, alleged rigging, violence and intimidation, manipulation, under-supply of voting materials, over-voting and ballot box stuffing, among others.


Despite these alleged irregularities, it is assumed that once INEC announced the result of an election, anyone who feels otherwise has an obligation to prove that the results are incorrect by approaching the relevant courts.


Lawyers list grounds upon which the conduct/outcome of an election may be challenged to include: Section 134 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which provides as follows:


(1) An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds –


(a) A person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election;


(b) The election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of this Act; or


(c) The respondent was not duly elected by the majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.


A Jos, Plateau State based Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who spoke anonymously to Sunday Vanguard, explained that an election can also be queried on the grounds that it was invalid by reason of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.


“Accordingly, INEC, which is charged with responsibility of conducting elections, is itself regulated, by provisions of the Electoral Act and its Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of Elections”, he said.


“Both the Electoral Act and the Guidelines are meant to be obeyed. INEC has a compelling duty to ensure that the Act and Guidelines are complied with in the conduct of free, fair and credible elections. Any breach is considered as an infringement and can form the basis for an action.”

Lawful votes


Sunday Vanguard’s finding indicate that although Atiku and Obi have filed ex-parte applications in court which gave them leave to inspect the ballot papers used for the election, both candidates are seeking the nullification of the presidential election and their declaration as winners of the polls, arguing that they won the majority of lawfully cast votes.


Sources in both teams confirmed to Sunday Vanguard that they’ll be basing a substantial part of their arguments on INEC’s substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act and Guidelines, voter intimidation, violence, manipulation of results, over-voting, ballot box stuffing and corruption among others.


A source in one of the parties said, “We have gathered our evidence and I can tell you that Nigerians will see the kind of malfeasance which INEC is trying to force upon them as an election.


“It is clear that for reasons only INEC can tell the world, it failed to use BVAS to upload election results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) after collecting and spending billions to acquire the device despite assurances.


“Many Nigerians not only saw but also experienced the level of disenfranchisement of voters, rigging, violence and intimidation, manipulation of election results, under-supply of voting materials, over-voting, ballot box stuffing and others which are issues of corrupt practices and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act – all of which have given us solid grounds to challenge the outcome of this election.


“We are aware of the task ahead and we are prepared for the journey and, with God on our side, we will see a light at the end of the tunnel.”


Vice presidential candidates of the PDP and LP, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa and Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed respectively, had, at a joint press conference hours after the penultimate Saturday polls, passed a vote of no confidence on the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and his team.


Okowa said, “There is no doubt that INEC is under a statutory obligation to transmit election results electronically.


“Paragraph 38 of the INEC manual made pursuant to Section 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 Constitution as amended provides for this.


“That paragraph, which deals with the transmission of results at the polling units, is crucial, and it imposes statutory obligations on the part of INEC to upload polling units’ results on its portal.


“There is no doubt that polling units’ results are the pyramid upon which other results are built. Therefore, it is required that the moment polls come to a close and the results are declared, the results must be uploaded on INEC server or portal.


“Paragraph 38 of INEC Manual 2022 made pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended and Section 149 of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that: ‘On completion of all the Polling Unit voting and results procedures, the Presiding Officer shall:


(i) Electronically transmit or transfer the result of the Polling Unit, direct to the collation system as prescribed by the Commission.


(ii) Use the BVAS to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV), as prescribed by the Commission.


(iii) Take the BVAS and the original copy of each of the forms in tamper evident envelope to the Registration Area/Ward Collation Officer, in the company of Security Agents. The Polling Agents may accompany the Presiding Officer to the RA/Ward Collation Centre.”


He further said, “It is mandatory and compulsory. INEC has no option. So, the failure to upload results and follow the procedures set out in paragraph 38 of the manual, made pursuant to the Electoral Act 2022, is a fundamental breach that has the potential of rendering the election results that did not follow those procedures null and void.”

Shopping for SANs


Although it is not yet clear which legal firm will take the lead in both cases, it was gathered that Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Emeka Etiaba, SAN as well as Mr Yusuf Alli, SAN chambers are being considered because of their vast experience and track record of performance in electoral litigation matters.


While Obi, in his ex-parte application that was moved by his team of lawyers led by Mr. Alex Ejesieme, SAN, had sought six principal reliefs at the Court of Appeal, which will sit as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, on Friday, Atiku’s lawyer, Mr. Adedamola Faloku, sought seven prayers from the tribunal.

Volunteer senior advocates


Meanwhile, Tinubu, at the weekend, said he had constituted his legal team to take on Atiku and Obi at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.


The president-elect also said he would file a cross petition against Obi, saying the LP candidate invented a political rigging machine which gave him huge votes.


Chief spokesperson for the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, Mr Festus Keyamo, SAN, who spoke on behalf of his principal in Abuja, said: “We have constituted our legal team and I am part of it. We have volunteers who are SANs. We are going to file a cross petition to cancel the votes of LP in virtually all the South-East states. We are going to court too.


“If you look at results from the South-East, there was one incident where the results from a whole ward was filled using one hand writing. What it means is that they accredited people and asked them to go home and then thumbprinted for them. He imported his rigging machine into Lagos State. Go and look at the results from Festac”.

Suit withdrawn


In a related development, six states which approached the Supreme Court to nullify the election victory of the president-elect, at the weekend, withdrew their suit.


The states – Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Taraba and Sokoto – through their team of lawyers, led by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, filed a notice of discontinuance of the case.


The plaintiffs had gone before the apex court to challenge the outcome of Presidential and National Assembly elections, insisting that INEC acted in breach of the Electoral Act, 2022.


The plaintiffs maintained that election results from the 36 states of the federation and the FCT were not properly transmitted and collated by INEC, as prescribed by the Electoral Act.


The six states, which are under the control of the PDP, in the suit marked: SC/CV/354/2023, further alleged that INEC pulled down its portal harbouring the Regulations and Guidelines it earlier set for the elections.


They had, prior to the notice of discontinuance, applied for accelerated hearing of the case.



Also at the weekend, Dr Kayode Ajulo, a constitutional lawyer, advised LP not to partner the PDP in seeking legal redress in the presidential election.


“I find it strange that LP is parleying with the PDP, whereas when the PDP was supposed to negotiate with the LP it did not; LP should be wary of this alliance”, Ajulo told News Agency of Nigeria


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