Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party (LP) counterpart, Peter Obi, yesterday explained why they rejected the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Court, which upheld the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Atiku described the judgment as bereft of justice.
The former vice president also said the judgment failed to restore the confidence of Nigerians on free and fair elections.
Obi said he rejected the tribunal’s decision because it was devoid of justice.
However, the ruling party hailed the verdict, describing it as a victory for democracy.
Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello urged the two opposition presidential candidates to accept their defeat, warning that their appeals will be an exercise in futility.
A PDP chieftain, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, advised Atiku to accept the judgment in “national interest”.
Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nyesom Wike said “there is no need for Atiku to appeal,” adding that it is counter-productive.
The Court of Appeal justices, sitting at the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC), is the first stage of presidential election petition.
An aggrieved petitioner has a right of appeal to the Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter.
The appellant has 14 days to file his claims before the apex court, which has 60 days from the tribunal judgment to give its verdict.
Atiku, who vowed to appeal the verdict, said his decision was anchored on his belief that the court is the sanctuary of justice.
The presidential candidate, who spoke at a media briefing held at the PDP secretariat in Abuja, was accompanied by the National Chairman, Umar Damagum, and other party leaders.
Atiku said: “The journey of my political career, as you know, holds so much to the courage and fearless decisions of our judiciary.
“Indeed, I am no stranger to legal battles, and I can say that I have a fair idea of how the court system works. All through my career as a politician, I have been a fighter, and I must say that I have found the judiciary as a worthy pillar to rest on in the pursuit of justice.”
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Atiku added: “Our gains in ensuring transparent elections through the deployment of technology was heavily compromised by INEC in the way it managed the last presidential election.
“I am afraid that the judgment of the court, as rendered by the Presidential Election Petition Court yesterday (Wednesday), failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.
“Like I did say at the beginning of this legal battle when I instructed my lawyers to file my petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, my ultimate goal in this pursuit is to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.
“I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation. I am therefore, here to tell you that, though the judgment of the court yesterday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept.
“I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.
“Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court.
“It is my conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate.
“I believe that such is the only way through which our democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning. Whether I prevail in this quest or not, the record of my effort in ensuring an order of credible elections in Nigeria shall remain for the future generations to evaluate.
“On this note, I urge all my supporters to remain steadfast. I urge them to take solace in an immortal lesson I learned from my leader and mentor, the late Shehu Yar’Adua, that losing a battle is less important than losing the war.
“We might have lost a battle yesterday, but the war is well ahead of us. And I believe that with our hopes in God, we shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system”.
Damagum said the verdict did not serve the interest of justice.
He said: “From the faces of Nigerians in all nooks and crannies, you will see hopelessness and despair since the pronouncement of the judgment yesterday.
“Lawyers, politicians and other relevant stakeholders from all walks of life were also more confused as law and facts were visibly thrown over board.
“As a law-abiding political party, we received the judgment with shock along with other Nigerians and friends of Nigeria. What is at stake is beyond personal gains”.
Why I reject verdict, by Obi
Obi said: “This judgment was delivered within the statutory time frame under the extant statutes. We acknowledge the Court’s contributions to due process and the seeming attempt to strengthen our democracy.
“As petitioners in this case, we respect the views and rulings of the Court, but we disagree with the Court’s reasoning and conclusions in the judgment it delivered. It is my intention as a presidential candidate and the intention of the Labour Party to challenge this judgment by way of appeal immediately, as allowed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The PEPC has rendered its judgment, but that esteemed body is not the final arbiter. The responsibility now falls on the Supreme Court. I do know that judgment is not coterminous with justice. I implore Nigerians to remain focused, steadfast, and peaceful; abide by the rule of law, and understand that this matter has not reached its logical conclusion.
“Our legal team has already received our firm instruction to file an appeal against the decision. I shall not relent in the quest for justice, not necessarily for myself but indeed for our teeming supporters all over the country whose mandate to us at the polls was regrettably truncated by INEC.”
Judgment reinforces democracy, says APC
The National Working Committee (NWC) of APC said the judgment has reinforced democracy and underscored the vibrancy and independence of the judiciary.
The National Secretary, Senator Ajibola Basiru, who spoke on behalf of the NWC, hailed the judiciary for meticulously dealing with the petitions brought before it by aggrieved candidates and political parties.
He said the judiciary has strengthened the country’s democratic process through the instrumentality of the law.
Basiru, who addressed reporters in Abuja, maintained that PEPC’s decision was a vindication and reaffirmation of the mandate given to President Tinubu by Nigerians during the poll.
Acknowledging that the last election was keenly contested, he said “the outcome remains a wholesale endorsement of our party’s vision, values and commitment to rebuilding and repositioning our country for greatness.”
Basiru stressed: “Our campaign, planked on the unity and prosperity of Nigeria and our message of ‘Renewed Hope’ resonated with Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.”
He applauded the diligence and professionalism of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, local and foreign observers, and other stakeholders in ensuring a credible, free and fair election.
He also commended party leaders, members, supporters and campaigners for their unwavering commitment and resilience throughout the electoral process.
Basiru added: “As we soldier on in the business of governance, the APC will stay focused and resolute in fostering unity and improving the quality of life of all Nigerians as enshrined in the eight-point agenda of this administration.
“We enjoin all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political leanings to join hands with us in this onerous but patriotic task of building a better, more prosperous nation
Bruce to Atiku, Obi: don’t appeal
Bruce advised Atiku and Obi to to accept the judgment, saying that national interest should override personal interest.
In a post on his X page, Bruce said:”Once elections have been held and a winner is announced, we must follow the Jonathan doctrine and accept the people’s verdict in the interest of democracy and the nation.”
He added: “Our elections don’t have to end in the courts. But now that we have found ourselves in this position, and the courts have spoken, let us put national interest above self-interest, accept the verdict, and move on so the nation can advance.
“Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the duly elected and undisputed President of Nigeria, and this judgment should settle all questions and erase all doubts.
“I commend the judges of the presidential election petition court for doing a challenging job exceptionally well. It was democracy that won.”
Bruce advised supporters of all the political parties to be mindful of recent events on the continent and promote the peace of the country.
Bello: no ground for appeal
Governor Bello said Atiku and Obi should not appeal because there is no basis for their rejection of the judgment.
He told State House Correspondents in Abuja after a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima, that the PDP and LP candidates should save their resources.
In his view, the verdict is flawless.
Bello said: “As far as I’m concerned, I dont think there is any ground for appeal. I will rather appeal to them that they should drop any appeal and save the resources, save the trouble, advise their supporters, admonish them that they should accept yesterday’s judgment. No flaw. I thank God for all that happened yesterday.”
Reacting to the loss of two senatorial seats by the APC in Kogi State at the tribunal, Bello expressed optimism that the party will reclaim the seats through lawful means.
Why Atiku should not appeal, by Wike
Wike, who spoke on Channels Television ‘Politics Today’ yesterday evening said, PDP and the Labour Party do not have a case to pursue.
He urged them to close ranks with the President to build the country.
The minister said the judgment has confirmed the wishes of Nigerians, who freely and happily elected Tinubu.
He hailed the judges for being detailed in their verdict, adding the judgment appeared to be the longest in the history of political cases in Nigeria.
Wike said: “From what I saw yesterday, if my confidence in the judiciary was 50 percent, now it has gone up to 70 percent. I say a job well done and well researched.”
He said he was happy with the verdict by the tribunal.
”I believe President Bola Ahmed Tinubu won the presidential election squarely and I expected the judgment of the tribunal the way it went.
“I am very happy; it is a moment of joy. I congratulate Mr. President and his Vice, Kashim Shettima.
“I commend the judiciary. For the first time in my life, I have never seen what I saw yesterday.
“The judgment was like opening the eyes of the public. It took the judges more than 10 hours to deliver that judgment.
“The judges painstakingly took their time to address each issue raised. So, for me, it shows that our judiciary is improving.”
Wike said it was surprising that his party had rejected the result and said it was going to appeal.
“That my party has come out to reject the judgment is because abinitio, I did not support them.
‘I believe that their position was wrong. I believe in equity, fairness and justice.
“I have always told people that election petition is not like any other case. It is a special area.
“It is not done by propaganda and it cannot be won on social media. It is won based on the presentation of evidence and facts.
“The judgment has opened the eyes of the PDP that there is no need to appeal.”