The All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate in the last presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari, have raised so much dust on the issue of nationality of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was a former Vice President of Nigeria, in the ongoing hearing at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) in Abuja. President Buhari and the APC, as respondents to the suit instituted by Atiku, are questioning the eligibility of Atiku for contesting the last presidential election alleging that Atiku was not a Nigerian, having originated from a part of Adamawa State they claimed belonged to Cameroon.
For the sake of argument, assuming the area of Adamawa State Atiku comes from belonged to Cameroon, was he the only person that originated from that place? Did the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct election in that part of Nigeria as constitutionally delineated electoral ward(s)? Did Atiku alone make up an electoral ward? Were there other human beings who voted alongside Atiku in the part of Nigeria that APC and President Buhari have ‘ceded’ to Cameroon?
According to the results announced by INEC for the presidential election, Buhari was said to have defeated Atiku in his own ward in that part of Adamawa State, which is now Cameroon. If that were true, does that not invalidate or void the entire result of the presidential election? How could Cameroonians have participated and voted in a Nigerian election in which President Buhari and the APC won? Again, was Atiku’s single vote the only invalid or illegal vote in that Nigerian presidential election, since he came from Cameroon?
Prior to Atiku’s venture into politics, he was born in Nigeria, schooled in Nigeria, worked in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), before he voluntarily retired. As a Customs officer, he carried out functions and duties on behalf of the Nigerian state. After retirement, he entered politics and was one of the presidential aspirants in the aborted Third Republic political dispensation. He was a member of the 1995 Constitutional Conference that drafted the 1999 Constitution, which ushered in the Fourth Republic in 1999. Could a Cameroonian have participated in the drafting of Nigeria’s most important document, the Constitution of Nigeria? For being a signatory to the conference, which eventually culminated in the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, is his Cameroonian background not harmful to the entire Constitution? Does that not make the Constitution an illegal document, since Atiku (a supposed Cameroonian) was a signatory to it?
As elected Vice President of Nigeria, Atiku had taken the Oath of Office and sworn by the Constitution of Nigeria, two times, 1999 and 2003. Being a Cameroonian, as they claim, he was elected the Vice President of Nigeria twice and even paired with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Nigerian. Does the allegation of his Cameroonian origin void and invalidate Obasanjo’s presidency of Nigeria for eight years? Does the fact that Chief Obasanjo paired with a Cameroonian as President-Vice President make his administration an illegal and unconstitutional one and, therefore, to be expunged from being accorded their rights as former President and former Vice President, respectively?
Again, assuming without conceding that Atiku is actually not a Nigerian and as such should not have contested the presidential election, but for the fact that he has been in Nigeria for over 70 years as a Customs officer and Vice President, by reason of association and longevity, he had long become a Nigerian and was actually qualified for the presidential election. How long does it take for a non-citizen of Nigeria to naturalise and become an indigene or citizen of the country, going by the Constitution of Nigeria?
President Buhari and the APC are just clawing at straws because they have a serious issue in the form of Buhari’s educational qualification to contend with at the tribunal. Buhari’s obvious educational non-qualification and Atiku’s so-called non-citizenship are not the same and cannot be the same.
• Maduako writes from Owerri