The hashtag #Atiku-is-coming had been aggressively bandied round social media and the Atiku camp along with the PDP had embarked on a very rigorous media campaign, calling on the Judges on the panel of The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT); to gauge the pulse of Nigerians and deliver a judgement in favor of Atiku, as the winner of the last concluded presidential elections. They went as far as circulating the names of the Judges on the PEPT, in an attempt to intimidate and blackmail them into pronouncing a result in favor of their candidate. There were paid documentaries notably on AIT, discussing the matters of the case and the issues raised by the petitioner, Alh. Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, in a determined effort to curry public opinion and sympathy, and most importantly the support of the Judges in declaring Atiku winner. More attention and effort were paid towards having a media advantage, than at the substance of the petition at the tribunal. Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa was even made to recuse herself from the tribunal in the midst of claims that she was married to an APC senator – and not too long ago, we have had Justice Mary Odili sit on various judgements at the Supreme court in many election cases and other non election matters; givingjudgements in favor of the PDP and her husband, former Gov. Odili. Finally, after months of court sessions, the PEPT has put to rest the notion or prayer or far fetched hope that Atiku is coming, and has upheld the victory of PMB at the Feb. 28th presidential elections.
The petition of Atiku was knocked out in its entirety when the tribunal delivered its judgement. I had underlined from the get-go that the matters raised by the petitioners were merely frivolous and unsubstantiated issues lacking merit. They did not concentrate on disputing the results and votes counted that amounted to a victory for PMB. They were not contesting the over 15 million votes won by PMB but were rather stuck in a kerfuffle of matters that had nothing to do with the votes amassed. One of the issues raised was about Tradermoni being used by government to influence voters. The tribunal had rightly adjudged that it was not in a position to determine public funds expenditure. Tradermoni and other social investment programmes of the PMB administration had been instituted since the inception of the administration and was not created to influence votes, but to uplift the social well being of its beneficiaries.
Another issue dwelled upon by the petition was the existence of a server as depository for results of the election which was purportedly transmitted electronically from card readers. There was a supreme court judgement in 2015 that had stated that card readers are meant for the authentication of voters cards which allows a voter to carry out his constitutional right to vote. A card reader is in no way a device to be used in the collation and transmission of election results. The petitioner brought in a Kenyan uncertified IT expert to buttress his case on the server evidence. A bogus website was created after the elections which carried the initials of a certain INEC server. Isn’t it common sense to acknowledge that we do not have the requisite and dependable communication infrastructure in place to be able to have electronically controlled elections? Where is the power? Which network? In which remote areas? The server matter was dead on arrival, afterall it wasnt back by law. There is no electoral law amendment that has prescribed card readers as e-collators of results. So the endeavor to make a tribunal rule in favor of a mechanism that is not pronounced by law as the authentic and correct measure in the proclamation of results is certainly dubious and misleading.
The core prayer of the petitioner is stationed at the assumption that PMB has no certificate, or forged a certificate, or committed perjury by swearing to an affidavit falsely. This again does not centre on the results of the election and it is easily discernible that Atiku and his team had truly conceded defeat to PMB because they could not go for the jugular of the election results. They were pacing frantically over non election result issues like PMB’s education. Atiku raised a team to visit Cambridge and verify PMB’s certificate and they came back with a certificate belonging to PMB and could only point to the ‘Muhammadu and Mohammed’ disparity on the name of the certificate. PMB attended primary school in Daura (1948 – 1952), he attended middle school Katsina (1953 – 1956), Katsina Provincial Secondary School (1956 – 1961), Nigerian Military Training School Kaduna then Cadet Officer Course Aldershot UK (1963), Platoon Commander Course Military College Kaduna (1964) Army Transport School, Bordan UK (1965), Defense Service Staff College, Wellington, India (1973 – 1974), US Army War College, (1979 – 1980). An impressive military and administrative career followed this educational background which is in the public domain. PMB has been contesting since 2003 and had tendered that his credentials were with the military establishment. In the wake of the 2015 polls, for the first time ever, for political reasons, the army was arm-twisted into denying the career and the evidences of his educational and military background. President Jonathan’s Attorney general, Bello Adoke, has publicly stated that Jonathan was under severe pressure to disqualify PMB for the 2015 polls. The whole PMB education saga was created by this daft political manoeuvre to stop PMB from contesting. Adoke had advised Jonathan as to the illegality of the move and it was abandoned. That was why Jonathan tagged Adoke a PMB apologist. The Atiku team just borrowed a leaf from that ploy and it has once again failed. The constitution recognises an education as pre-requiste to contesting an election and not a certificate and until that is amended, there is just no case as regards this certificate or no certificate matter. The UK in Nigeria website did a hats-off for officer cadet Linus Ogbole for winning the King Hussain award by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, for the most improved International Cadet of the intake on the regular commissioning course. PMB was an international cadet and had received various laurels and commendations like this in his military career. So do you now turn and say Cadet Linus Ogbole does not have a certificate or an education? If he runs for office right? That will be a Jonathan manoeuvre or an Atiku counter offensive right?
The PEPT ruled that the petitioners have failed to discharge the burden of truth of the allegation of non qualification or submission of false information which is fundamental to their case. The tribunal ruled that PMB is not only qualified, but eminently qualified as he has proven to have had an education, higher than secondary school. He also has a WASC which has been tendered as evidence. His school mates have also given evidence of their primary and secondary school education together.
Atiku continues to remain relevant on political headlines all over the country and some say it is a deliberate tactic to remain so until 2023 and he will give another shot at the presidency. It is estimated that around 2 billion or more was spent on the charade of a petition at the PEPT and ordinary Nigerians are asking him to call it quits. Some time ago, we heard from NPA that his firm had not remitted over 140 million dollars so perhaps the Atiku purse is still heavy and capable of oiling the charade. Some even say the SANs would be unemployed were it to stop so the idea is to keep milking the petition cash cow. Maybe then the issue of the cameroons will be exhumed again in 2023 as the PEPT has ruled that the cameroonian citizenship would have only been an issue, had Atiku won the elections. For now Atiku is not coming, not now not atleast in 4 years time from now.
By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi