Nigeria’s Supreme Court Wednesday, October 30, 2019, upheld President Muhammadu Buhari’s February 23, 2019 presidential election victory and dismissed Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s appeal challenging the election result, for lacking merit.
Alhaji Abubakar had challenged the presidential election tribunal judgment which affirmed the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the February 2019 poll.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, who led six other members of the apex court’s panel, delivered a three-sentence judgement which ended the legal tussle over the February 23 Presidential election once and for all.
CJN, Tanko Mohammed in his judgment said, “We have examined all the briefs and exhibits for over two weeks.
“And we agreed that there is no merit in this appeal. The appeal is dismissed in it’s entirety. Reasons to be given on a date to be announced”.
Abubakar Atiku had approached the Supreme Court shortly after the September 11 tribunal’s ruling with 66 reasons why the Supreme Court should upturn the tribunal’s five-man panel decision.
The Supreme Court, however, convened a seven-man panel to hear PDP and Abubakar’s appeal.
The identity of most of the panel’s justices, which was kept under tight wraps until the sitting commenced, had Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Justice Bode Rhodes -Vivour, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice John Iyang Okoro, Justice Musa Datijo Muhammad, Justice Ejembi Eko and Justice Uwani Abaji.
A brief legal exchange reportedly ensued after the panel, which had apportioned a maximum of 15 minutes to the PDP counsel to argue his appeal, then admonished him to go directly into the main appeal since such matters also formed part of the main appeal.
Atiku’s lead counsel, Levinus Ifeanyichukwu Uzoukwu, told the Court that PDP had furnished enough evidence, both documentary and electronic, to establish its arguments, while INEC counsel, Ustaz Yunus Usman debunked the claim that the Commission’s server was the same as the petitioners had mentioned in their submissions.
The justices then adjourned for about 45 minutes and on resumption of the hearing, Justice Tanko, in consonance with the other six justices of the seven-man Supreme Court panel, unanimously dismissed the appeal of Atiku Abubakar on the ground that it lacked “merit.”
A deafening silence in court room, reportedly greeted the judgement, which was delivered in minutes and brought to an end, the seven months legal battle that had followed the February 23, 2019 presidential election.
Reacting promptly to the judgement of the Supreme Court, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, expressed shocked over the verdict and while its Vice Presidential candidate Mr. Peter Obi maintained that the election was flawed and the judgment was about the future of Nigeria, Party Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus waxed spiritual, saying that the ultimate judgement belongs to God.
In a Press Statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, on October 30, 2019, the PDP, while expressing shock at the judgment of the Supreme Court said that “what we witnessed today was not what majority of Nigerians, who participated and observed the Presidential election expected; and this includes even members of the APC.
According to the statement, “the PDP notes that it indeed made a solid case, with undisputable evidence, showing that Atiku Abubakar won the Presidential election and as such is surprised that the justices of the Supreme Court held otherwise; however, that is the highest court of the land.
“Notwithstanding, the distinction of our case remains for Nigerians, including generations yet unborn, to appreciate.
“The PDP expresses gratitude to millions of Nigerians across board for voting Atiku Abubakar in the election as well as for their unflinching support for our party during the election and throughout the duration of court proceedings.
“Nevertheless, our party, indeed the nation, awaits the justices of the Supreme Court to release their reasons behind their verdict,” the statement concluded.
PDP Chairman Uche Secondus who reacted in a statement by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, said that Nigeria is in such an untidy state that only God can bail her out.
While noting that the commitment of Nigerians to democracy and its tenets, “despite inhibiting factors,” is worthy of emulation and highly commendable, Secondus hailed journalists for their commitment to democracy and good governance in Nigeria, urging them not to relent in their roles of holding politicians accountable to the people.
He said: “We thank you for your support for PDP, for your commitment to democracy.
“Nigerians know that you voted PDP, even APC knows that you rejected them on February 23, 2019.
“International community knows you voted for PDP. If Supreme Court of seven justices says otherwise, leave it to God, the ultimate Judge.”
In his own reaction, PDP Vice Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi who spoke just minutes after the Supreme Court judgement, equally thanked Nigerians for their support, even as he recalled that PDP challenged President Buhari in court in the conviction that the 2019 Presidential election was flawed.
Obi said: “My reaction is first, to most sincerely thank all Nigerians who have followed the election and voted. I again thank them for this court process,” he said.
“Our reason for coming to court is because we believe that the election…the result was not the result of lawful votes cast. But the process has come to the end. I thank all those who were involved – the lawyers, the judges, all of you, the Fourth Estate.
“This election and the judgement are not about President Buhari or His Excellency, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It is about the future of our country and what we are going to bequeath on our children. It is about our country,” Obi remarked ruefully.
In its reaction, the All Progressives Congress, APC, in a statement by its national publicity secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision and hailed the justices for standing firm in the face of PDP and Atiku’s subterfuge.
It further warned the duo not confuse opposition politics for their unpatriotic agenda of confusion which they had wished to achieve and while stressing that proper Democracy cannot be practiced in the state of anarchy and confusion, enjoined the opposition to jettison their destructive and disruptive agenda against Nigeria, which they have made up their minds to pursue for the next four years.
Issa-Onilu wrote: “We congratulate Nigerians, the President; Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; party leaders, members and supporters on the Supreme Court’s verdict.
“Following the earlier judgement of the 2019 Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which dismissed in its entirety the PDP and Atiku’s petition, the apex court was apt in dismissing the appeal for lacking merit.
“The party hails the Judiciary for standing firm in the face of the PDP and Atiku’s subterfuge and for siding with the Nigerian electorate who through their votes decided to do away with PDP’s ignominious past and re-elect the President Buhari-led APC administration which has ushered in a new era of progressive growth for our country.
“With the ruling of the Supreme Court, which has finally affirmed President Buhari’s election victory, we enjoin the PDP and Atiku to jettison their destructive and disruptive agenda against Nigeria, which they have made up their minds to pursue for the next four years.
“The PDP and Atiku should not confuse opposition politics for their unpatriotic agenda. Democratic politics cannot be practiced in the state of anarchy, confusion which the PDP and Atiku wish to achieve. Such diabolic plan will definitely fail.
“Going forward, the President Buhari-led APC government will continue to focus on delivering our Next Level plans for the country,” the statement pledged confidently.
The APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, weighing in with his own reaction, said that with the Supreme Court verdict laying the presidential petition tussle to rest, it was now time to close ranks and support President Buhari move the nation to the next level.
Oshiomhole said: “I think Nigerians have voted, the Supreme Court has upheld the outcome, it’s time to support and close ranks and queue behind President Muhammdu Buhari.
“Give him all the support he needs. I expect PDP to offer constructive criticism as a loyal opposition and offer policy solutions,” he said.
Oshiomhole equally chipped in that he was looking forward to future reforms in the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court to prevent parties from bringing what it referred to as “frivolous matters” and prevent future situations where the precious time of the very busy Supreme Court justices is not wasted on election matters, so they can devote it to their very busy schedule of cases all year long.