The Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal last week put paid to Atiku Abubakar’s claim that he won the February 23 presidential poll. As widely touted long before the tribunal issued its verdict, the panel of judges found no merit in the argument by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that President Muhammadu Buhari was wrongly declared the winner of the election.
Expectedly, the decision of the tribunal has drawn much ire from Atiku and other PDP stalwarts, who described it as a “rape of justice”, while Buhari and his supporters within and without the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), have lauded the judgment. The challenge to Buhari’s victory is, however, now headed to the Supreme Court where the justices will go through the petition with a fine toothcomb and make their pronouncement, to make it manifest that justice has been served in the high profile case.
At the heart of Atiku’s petition is his claim of the existence of a server to which the election results were allegedly electronically sent, which showed that he won the election with over 18 million votes, contrary to the claim by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that he got just over 12 million votes. The five-man panel of judges at the tribunal — Peter Ige, Samuel Oseji, Joseph Ikyegh, Abdul Aboki and Muhammad Garba — however, averred that the laws guiding elections in Nigeria do not provide for electronic transmission of election results using the card reader. The evidence before them, they said, showed that the results were collated manually, and the results showed Buhari to have won the election.
The tribunal also ruled on an aspect of the petition that has never failed to amaze many Nigerians. This is the issue of Buhari’s controversial WAEC certificate. It is interesting that this issue of the certificate issued over fifty years ago and which had been thoroughly discussed and ruled on before the 2015 presidential election also still came up in a supposed serious election petition.
The pleading of this certificate issue, just like Buhari’s pleading on Atiku’s non-Nigerian origin –suggests a lack of more serious claims on which to hinge both the petition and its defence. These are issues that should rightly have been thorough thrashed out before the election, and not after, as they suggest a lack of serious issues or complaints to back up their submissions. Many Nigerians had expected a very robust and incontrovertible challenge of Buhari’s victory, which the tribunal would have had no choice but agree with, to overturn the president’s victory. There is no doubt that elections are not really what they should be in Nigeria.
There are so many infractions of the electoral process that question the essence of the entire exercise. And, the infractions are not limited to any particular party, whether the ruling party, or the opposition. Virtually all political parties and politicians are involved in the process.
The tragedy, however, is that aggrieved parties hardly ever demonstrate the strong presence of mind or sense of purpose required to faithfully collate, document and present the infractions before the tribunals and the courts in a way that they could get justice. Now that Atiku and the PDP have elected to approach the Supreme Court for justice, let us forget the claim of the APC that Buhari would win even if PDP takes its case to the World Court. We should also forget the supreme confidence of the PDP and the fears expressed in some quarters that the party would not get justice because of the muscling out of Onnoghen, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria. I believe there are many reasons for the removal of Onnoghen which both the government and Onnoghen, himself, have not told Nigerians. Let the appeal to the Supreme Court begin in earnest so that the case can be rested once and for all.
Now that the case at the tribunal has been dispensed with, the president and the APC will do well to put the petition behind them for now and seriously face the task of governance. There are so many issues begging for serious attention. From the economy, to health, power supply, education and security, the president has enough on his hands to move fast and change the situation of things in the country for the better. He should put the distraction of the petition aside and concentrate on discharging the functions of his office.
Good enough, the government has appointed a new economic management team to tackle the nation’s economic challenges. Let the team get to work speedily to get the economy roaring. Let the initiatives on security be consolidated to provide a stable and secure environment for the people to live and work in.
Good news from Osun
OSUN state has continued its streak for good project implementation which saw it adjudged as the state with the second lowest poverty level in the country by the World Bank in 2018, which was during the Rauf Aregbesola regime. Along that same line, the state was also last week named the best performing state in Nigeria by the World Bank Project Implementation Programme.
The state emerged the best performing state among the states involved in the World Bank Rural Access and Mobility Project 2 (RAMP2). Country Director of the World Bank for African Region, Rachid Banmessaoud, said in a “commendable performance letter” that the World Bank Task Team has recognised Osun as a strong performer in Project Implementation and commended the state government’s diligence and commitment to the scheme.
The Osun Rural Access and Mobility Project is a World Bank and French Development Agency-Assisted Project which became effective in Osun in 2013. Its objectives are to improve transport conditions and bring sustained access to the rural population through rehabilitating and maintaining key rural transport infrastructure in a sustained manner.
Transportation and accessibility to markets are critical to rural development. Rural roads in all parts of the country are in a deplorable state, thereby hampering mobility and access of local farmers to markets. It is important for state governments to demonstrate strong commitment to the maintenance of such rural roads to continue to enjoy the support of multilateral institutions for their rehabilitation.
Governor Gboyega Oyetola deserves commendation for keeping up the legacy of the Aregbesola years in project implementation to win this recognition. Let the governor keep the focus on the opening up of rural areas with motorable roads to boost the rural economy of the state. This award does not mean all Osun rural roads are good, but it sure indicates that the state is moving in the right direction and may get more support for its projects. That is a good first step.