Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate (APC), was announced the winner of the February 25, 2023, presidential elections and Nigeria’s new president-elect on March 1, 2023, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). 

However, with 19 days left until the presidential inauguration on May 29, 2023, Tinubu still has many opps standing in the way of his dream to become Nigeria’s next president. 

On March 21, 2023, four presidential candidates, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Solomon Okangbuan of Action Alliance (AA) and Chichi Ojei of Allied People’s Movement (APM) took the almighty legal steps. They filed petitions at the Presidential Elections Tribunal in Abuja, seeking to nullify INEC’s declaration of Bola Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential elections.

The petitions claim that the elections should be voided for the following reasons:

  • At the time of the elections, Tinubu wasn’t qualified to contest, which would infer that he received “wasted votes”.
  • Kasim Shettima had a double nomination, one as APC’s vice-presidential candidate and the other for a senatorial seat in the National Assembly, contrary to Section 35 of the Electoral Act.
  • Tinubu failed to get 25% of the votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and engaged in corrupt practices which are in non-compliance with the Electoral Act.

The Presidential Election Petitions Court, led by Justice Haruna Tsamanni, began proceedings on May 7, 2023, and the Action Alliance (AA) party withdrew its petitions against Tinubu’s victory. 

While we’ll continue to observe the tribunal, ZikokoCitizen reached out to some lawyers and political analysts to hear their thoughts on the tribunal and predict possible outcomes. Here’s what they had to say:

“Our democracy is maturing.”

Titilope Anifowoshe is a legal practitioner passionate about charity and good governance; she’s also the founder of the Eagles Foundation for Humanity. And she’s happy that our politics is evolving into a multidimensional one not necessarily dominated by two political parties.  

According to Titi, “I have mixed feelings about the tribunal because some of the petitions are issues that should have been brought before the court pre-election. I hope some of the trivial and technical issues will not stall justice. But regardless, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will do the needful. Let’s not forget that Lady Justice is blindfolded and a respecter of no one but the Law. I am really optimistic that justice will be done. 

On how likely it is for the tribunal to nullify Tinubu’s win, I can’t assertively say that this will happen because the whole situation is dicey. If you look at some of the grounds of the petition from Peter Obi and the Labour Party against Tinubu, while the 1999 constitution in Section 137 makes it clear that being charged and fined is grounds for disqualification, the Law also speaks about a 10-year gap. We should also remember the maxim that says that a man cannot be punished twice for the same offence. 

If we also look at the grounds of the double nomination of Kasim Shettima, while it contradicts the Electoral Act, Section 35 of the Act uses the word “knowingly”, and Shettima can claim ignorance in the situation. But in the same vein, when we look at Section 60(5) of the Electoral Act, we can see that INEC violates its rules. So, considering these factors, it’s difficult to state clearly if the election will be nullified. However, we should never forget that judicial decisions must be accepted as correct, and I trust the tribunal’s decision.  

But regardless, the tribunal and judiciary are governed by legal precedents and established rules, and justice won’t be denied. Although the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines are obviously imperfect, we’re gradually getting there. We hope the panel will reflect the yearning of the majority of Nigerians and they will be fair and honest.”

“Electoral injustice takes away the dignity of human persons.”

Festus Ogun, also a legal practitioner, hopes that the tribunal’s decisions reflect the people’s wishes and aspirations. 

He said, “While it’s unprofessional to preempt or predict the outcome of the court in cases such as this, I honestly believe that a lot of our people feel cheated and violated. I also believe that electoral injustice takes away from the dignity of human persons. 

Given this, many young Nigerians yearn for true justice at the tribunal. But unfortunately, as we’ve experienced in the past, when matters get to the court like this, lawyers and litigants tend to focus on technicalities. But I am hopeful that this time, Nigerians will pay more attention to the substance of the case.”

“There is a political question mark on Tinubu’s mandate.”

Demola Olarenwaju is a Public Affairs analyst, political commentator and the Special Assistant in Digital Media and Strategy to Atiku Abubakar. He thinks that regardless of the tribunal’s outcome, he doesn’t expect it to lead to an explosive situation in the country. 

“The courts have made it clear that they don’t want to spend time on unnecessary litigation and technicalities, but instead, the case will be decided on merit. We hope this will be adhered to and the Presidential Elections Petitions Court will be concluded shortly. The petitions from the different political parties are very interesting. Peter Obi comes from the angle of legalities, which questions the legitimacy of Tinubu and Shettim as candidates in the general elections. On the other hand, Atiku Abubakar is coming from the angle of what happened on election day, which is the non-adherence of INEC to the Electoral Law. Also, in Atiku’s petition, we see the margin of lead principle, which says that where the margin of lead between the declared winner and the runner-up is less than the number of cancelled votes, then the elections should be considered inconclusive and makeup elections should be conducted. So, from all this, it’s clearly a two-pronged attack.

On the likelihood of the court nullifying the election, given the history of Peter Obi and Atiku with electoral litigation, it could happen again in this case. Also, the advent of BVAS makes it easier to point out areas where over-voting or electoral malpractice occurred. Also, the fact that there were four major candidates in this election and Bola Tinubu could only get 30% of the votes shows that he isn’t the choice of most Nigerian voters. There’s a political question mark on his election mandate as declared by INEC that has to be resolved in court. 

Everyone will move on if the elections are nullified, or supplementary polls are held. I don’t think it will be an explosive situation, and despite what the ruling party says, Nigeria will continue to be Nigeria, and heaven won’t fall. It’s clear that many Nigerians believe that the elections were compromised, and the tribunal should be firm in adjudicating the case. I also expect the tribunal and judiciary to open their doors to the media to show that there’s nothing to hide. 

However, my prediction for the worst possible outcome of the presidential tribunal will be supplementary elections between Atiku and Tinubu or Atiku and Peter Obi if Tinubu is disqualified. But in any way it plays out, Atiku Abubakar will be involved in the second round of elections”. 

Also read: Five Popular Election Tribunal Judgements in Nigeria.

Rest assured, Zikoko Citizen will continue to keep a close watch as the drama unfolds and keep you updated on the post-election drama!



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