By Law Mefor
‘Tinubu’s victory stands’ was the declaration of the Presidency as it replied to PDP, LP, and others on 9th March 2023, in a press conference. The Presidency has said despite the alleged shoddy and shady conduct of the presidential election and the harsh criticism against the Independent National Electoral Commission it generated, the result of the February 25 Presidential election stands. This is coming on the heels of President Muhammadu Buhari’s foreign tour where he drummed support for a Tinubu presidency. Both actions seem to put finality to the presidential election and make any court process a mere academic exercise meant to fulfill all righteousness. I pray I am wrong.
From introspection, the posturing of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Presidency appears not to contemplate the possibility of the courts upturning the presidential election and declaration of Tinubu as president-elect. To them, the presidential election is over and done with, and a winner has emerged whereas the fact is: the 2023 presidential election is far from being over until the litigation concludes and the declaration by the Supreme Court. The Presidential Election may be over at this level if there are no petitions before the presidential election tribunal, as happened in 2015 when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (Nigerian President as he then was) refused to contest his defeat.
In other words, it amounts to armstwisting of the Judiciary for the President and Presidency to carry on as if the presidential election petitions before it are frivolous and should be decided on the altar of political expediency rather than on the point of law.
The Presidency cannot force Tinubu on Nigerians if he didn’t win the February 25 presidential election. The two major opposition political parties – the PDP and the Labour Party – are both laying claim to being the authentic winners of the presidential election and claim they have evidence of how the figures were altered and manipulated to arrive at the Tinubu victory. Nigerians must be allowed to know who among the three was the most preferred and indeed chosen by them as Buhari’s successor. They should not be coerced to accept Tinubu or anybody. Buhari needs to see this as his most important legacy – to write his name in gold.
This take-it-or-leave posturing of the President and the Presidency has implications. Since the President is already presenting Tinubu as his successor-in-waiting, he (the President) may be tempted to keep it so by pressuring the judiciary to take a political decision on petitions in the so-called national interest. Or, will the President be eager to take Atiku or Obi to the same international community as his successor after presenting Tinubu as such?
The presidential election is yet to be decided because INEC abdicated its responsibility and transferred it to the Judiciary. For the avoidance of doubt, Form EC8A signed INEC polling presiding officer and given to Party agents at the polling units after the declaration of results are with political parties, particularly PDP and Labour both of which had 100% representations at the 176,606 polling units around the country where the presidential election held. They are doing their independent computations of the polling units’ results and the Tribunal will do the same if it deems it necessary. Are the President and the Presidency saying such hard facts will not count or matter?
Besides, despite the tampering with INEC’s IReV, individual BVAS still managed to upload up to 80% of polling units’ authentic results and those that are mutilated bear the alteration watermarking. Genuine results can be seen and those different from what the BVAS captured can also be seen even by undiscerning minds. Won’t they count?
For emphasis, what to do with results different from what BVAS captured and transmitted directly from polling units is clearly stated in the Electoral Act 2022, Sec 64(4) – cancel such results and repeat elections in the affected areas.
The Presidency also ruled out any possibility of annulling the presidential election as was done on June 12, 1993; advising aggrieved candidates of the opposition parties to pursue redress in court instead. But how sincere is this advice? What is more, June 12 presidential election, which Chief MKO Abiola won but was annulled has no semblance with February 25th presidential election to warrant the uncanny comparison drawn with it. To begin with, the June 12 election was conducted by the military, and the winner was never declared, unlike the present presidential election, in which Bola Ahmed Tibunu has been curiously announced the winner by INEC.
The governing APC and the opposing PDP and LP have all assembled formidable legal teams and legal fireworks have also commenced at the Court of Appeal. Is the Presidency not suggesting that this is an exercise in futility by its acts of omission?
The Presidency says Buhari remained reticent about INEC’s criticisms and dismissed opposition calling for cancellation as “wishful thinkers”. Such partisan statements simply show that the Presidency has taken a definite position despite Buhari’s long decision not to meddle with the electoral process. Nothing can be more meddlesome than the Presidency under his watch declaring the presidential election foreclosed through their actions and utterances within and outside the country. The President, though the leader of the ruling APC, ought to remain neutral as Uhuru Kenyatta was in the election of William Ruto as his successor.
The claim of the Presidency that the babel of criticisms against the charade called the February 25th presidential election was orchestrated attempts to poison public opinion against the presidential election and its conduct by the Independent National Electoral Commission is unfair. To be frank, the so-called vile allegations hurled at INEC for its terrible conduct are justified. Or, is the Presidency unaware of the position of the international community and international observers who collectively and individually wrote off the presidential and national assembly polls as far below irreducible minimums?
How come each time there is a national outrage about any issue gone awry, the President’s minders would spin it as a calculated attempt to bring down the Buhari presidency? Typical of this paranoid mischaracterisation was during the EndSars protests, which soldiers were used to quell, leading to deaths of many youths.
Nobody is demonizing the administration of the President by drawing his attention to what Professor Mahmood Yakubu and the Commission had done. If the mess they made of the presidential election does not worry the President, it creates the impression that the outcome was his expectation, and the process, therefore, doesn’t matter to him.
Buhari appealed to Nigerians in Qatar to support Tinubu’s government “so that Nigeria will continue to be the beacon of hope and prosperity in our continent and an example for other African countries to emulate.” The wish of patriotic Nigerians is indeed a glorious Nigeria. But no Nigerian would want an imposed President in this democratic dispensation even if it would lead to an Eldorado. If it has to be Tinubu he must win and be seen to have won. That’s why the President and the Presidency must allow the Judiciary to do its work without fear or favour.
To President Muhammadu Buhari particularly; please note Mr. President that posterity beckons to you and to you alone. All that Nigerians demand of you is: allow the law of the land to take its course by allowing the Judiciary to do its work. Whatever the outcome of due process, Nigerians will live with it.
Crises of fuel and naira scarcity are horrendous enough. Let’s not add the third: the crisis of an imposed President. The convulsion may be cataclysmic enough to rupture the polity, sir.
* Dr Law Mefor is a senior fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought and can be reached via Twitter @DrLawMefor