Ahead of Tuesday’s expected ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal on Nigeria’s disputed presidential elections, one of the petitioners, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, has assured he will respect the court’s verdict, even if it is against him.
However, Abubakar, who contested on the platform of the opposition Action Congress (AC), said the government of President Umaru Yar’Adua of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) must also respect the ruling if the tribunal declares invalid the election, held 21 April 2007.
”It is imperative that all of us have confidence that the court will make the right decision, and I certainly have decided to place my trust there,” he said in a local newspaper advertorial Monday.
But the former Vice President warned: “Nigeria is a sovereign nation, but the democracies of the world must urge the current leaders to abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling. If not, the unfolding tradegy in Kenya (where 1,000 people have been killed and more than 300,000 displaced following post-election violence) and the violence in that neighbouring country could well repeat itself.”
Abubakar’s reference to the Supreme Court meant he had decided to appeal to the country’s apex court if the tribunal validates the election on Tuesday.
The Court of Appeal constitutes the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, meaning whoever loses can still appeal to the apex court.
In case the tribunal annuls the election of President Yar’Adua and orders a fresh election, Abubakar said he would seek international help to ensure the new election is free and fair.
”I will ask the other presidential candidates to join me to invite a group of world leaders to help us fashion a new Electoral Commission and a new Electoral Law that would permit us to adhere to the Constitution and prepare for Nigeria’s first genuinely free and fair election,” he said.
On his part, the other opposition candidate whose petition will also be determined Tuesday, former military leader Muhammadu Buhari, urged the tribunal not to succumb to any inducement or pressure that might be coming from the presidency.
The statement, made by Buhari’s spokesman Yau’ Shehu Darazo, was an apparent reference to the decision to elevate the Chairman of the tribunal, Justice James Ogebe, to the Supreme Court, even while he has yet to complete his assignment.
Critics have charged the elevation is aimed at bribing Justice Ogebe to favour the President.
“Our expectation is the same with right-thinking Nigerians, who aspire and believe in justice. We are expecting that justice will be done. Almost everybody in this country acknowledges that the 2007 elections were flawed. Both international and domestic monitors and certain section of the so-called government have both agreed that the election was messed up.
”We are expecting that the court, being the last place where the common man, will take his case, would do justice and pronounce the election annulled,” said Buhari, candidate of the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
After a six-month trial, the tribunal last week fixed ruling for Tuesday in the consolidated petitions by the two opposition presidential candidates.
Both candidates contended the presidential poll was rigged by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) in favour of President Yar’Adua.
They have therefore asked the tribunal to nullify the election and order fresh polls.
If the presidential election is indeed annulled, it will be the first of its kind in Nigeria’s 47-year, post independence history.