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What you need to know about Atiku’s bid to reclaim “stolen mandate” at the tribunal

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What you need to know about Atiku’s bid to reclaim “stolen mandate” at the tribunal

Nigeria’s main opposition candidate in the 2019 general elections, Atiku Abubakar is bidding to overturn his electoral defeat at the courts. Atiku insists that he won the polls and has vowed to reclaim his stolen mandate.

Atiku is yet to concede to his rival, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and has instituted his case at the election petitions tribunal. In spite of the relatively low profile of the case (many Nigerians have moved on), it is not without its twists and turns. From the hacked INEC servers to allegations of collusion between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to questions about Atiku’s citizenship, the February election is one that has refused to go away.

Quick Timeline:

  • INEC announced on February 27 Muhammadu Buhari winner of the presidential election. The PDP and its candidate rejected the result, with Atiku in his statement on February 28, describing it as a “sham”.
  • A Legal Team is Set-Up: The PDP candidate officially announced on March 3, that a legal team headed by Dr. Livy Uzuokwu, had been set up to challenge the results presented by INEC, before the Election Tribunal. This he did, right after a meeting with the National Peace Accord and its members. (Go Deeper: The lawyer representing Onnoghen against Buhari is also representing Buhari against Atiku.)
  • Tribunal grants Atiku access to inspect INEC materials: The court ordered INEC to make electoral documents and materials available for inspection by the PDP. However, the court in a unanimous ruling declined the prayers of the opposition party to allow for forensic analysis of the materials, citing section 151 of the electoral act 2010.
  • No access to materials: The PDP said INEC has been frustrating the court order and not allowing the party access to inspect the electoral materials. It accused the electoral agency of attempts to manipulate the process. INEC responded with a statement saying it had not received the court order.
  • PDP and Atiku File Petition: The PDP legal team, March 19, filed a five-ground petition before the tribunal, with INEC, President Buhari and APC, as the first to third respondents. The petition insisted Atiku won the polls and offered ‘evidence’ purportedly from INEC’s servers that their client won the elections. They prayed the tribunal to either declare the PDP as winner of the election, or compel INEC to conduct a rerun. It also asked the court to order INEC, to submit all materials used during the election process such as Smart Card Readers, voter register and ballot papers for inspection.

INEC, APC and the Presidency evade the main questions: The three major respondents in the case before the election tribunal have failed to address the main questions. Central to this case is the issue of the card reader and electronic transmission of results, which form the crux of Atiku’s evidence.

  • INEC has questions to answer on the issue of electronic transmission of results. Atiku’s team claims INEC electronically transmitted results which the commission denied. The commission also maintained in its response that it followed through with all the requirements of the 2010 amended electoral act. Ending its defense at that point, would have been the best option for the electoral body; however, it put its foot in its mouth with its outlandish counter allegations. The commission made a ridiculous allegation against Atiku’s lead counsel – saying that he was not qualified to practice law in Nigeria, because he had abbreviated his name from “Livinus” to “Livy”.
  • Further Information Comes to Light: A recent viral video which the PDP candidate had submitted as evidence before the tribunal, showed a top INEC official confirming the existence of a central election results transmission server, the same one the Commission denied existed.
  • This also goes in line with a statement by 13 presiding officers from Borno and Yobe, who explicitly told the tribunal, that they had transmitted the results of their wards to the INEC server per instruction from the Commission.
  • The APC, through its spokesman Festus Keyamo took to twitter in a bid to trivialise the new evidence. Meanwhile, the PDP claimed in a statement, that the presidency and the ruling party have been thrown into frenzy due to the new information released.
  • APC claimed that Atiku is “suffering from severe depression and post-defeat hallucination”, when he stated that he had evidence showing he had won the elections with 1.6 million votes ahead of Buhari.
  • Likewise, the APC told the tribunal that Atiku, a former vice-president was not qualified to run as he was not really of Nigerian descent. The party’s spokesman Festus Keyamo, also had to defend the party’s counter petition on National television. He also argued that a basic secondary school leaving certificate, was not required to run for presidency.
  • President Buhari says he had won every election that involved himself and Atiku, both on intra and inter party levels. He also challenged the PDP candidate to a certificate duel, to prove that he is more qualified to be president.

Bottom Line: Every day seems to unleash a brand episode of the ongoing drama that is the election petitions tribunal. A lot has been said and more will probably suffice soon. However, all we can do is wait to see which direction the Tribunal will swing when it makes its final decision.

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