As far back as March, the former vice president and PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 presidential election had announced the legal team to challenge his defeat at the last general elections. Dr. Livy Uzoukwu SAN was appointed and announced as the lead counsel.
But as the tribunal proceedings began on Thursday, a day in which Atiku was expected to begin calling his witnesses, it was 88-year old renowned constitutional lawyer, Ben Nwabueze – not Uzoukwu – who appeared as Atiku’s lead counsel.
It was an interesting development. At his age and with the health issues he currently faces, the Atiku team must know, of course, that Nwabueze is not in any serious position to lead his challenge.
- He was wheeled into the courtroom.
- Requested the Justice Mohammed Garba-led tribunal to permit him to seat while addressing them. The request was granted.
- He announced himself as the lead counsel and began announcing the names of other lawyers in the team, but his voice was so inaudible that he had to hand over that responsibility to Uzoukwu.
- After all the counsels for the different parties had announced their presence, Nwabueze gave a brief remark, after which he took permission of the tribunal to leave the courtroom. The request was granted and he was wheeled away.
So what does Nwabueze bring? As much as we frequently argue that the law is blind, court rulings are still meted by human beings with emotions. Nwabueze is one of Nigeria’s foremost constitutional lawyers. Some of the tribunal judges may have even studied his texts in school. His voice carries weight – despite his recent overt partisanship.
- “Notwithstanding of my age and attendant health challenges, I chose to attend today’s proceedings to underscore the importance of the case,” Nwabueze said during his remarks. “The determination of the petition will certainly impact on future elections and constitutionalism in the country.”