A Nigerian court is expected to rule Tuesday (26 Feb) on whether or not President Umaru Yar’Adua was duly elected at the 21 April 2007 presidential polls, widely described as the worst in the country’s history by local and international observers.
Ahead of the ruling, which is expected around mid-day, security is tight in the capital city of Abuja, base of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, and at hot spots across the country, including the restive, oil producing Niger Delta region.
”Intelligence report at my disposal revealed that some disgruntled and unscrupulous politicians have concluded plans to mobilise their supporters for massive and violent demonstration if the judgement of the presidential tribunal…does not favour them,” said the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro.
Report of the impending ruling dominated local newspapers Tuesday.
The private Guardian newspaper dubbed it ”Super Tuesday” while the Sun newspaper reported; ”D-Day for Yar’Adua”.
The tribunal will rule on the petitions of two opposition presidential candidates, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Action Congress (AC).
During six months of trial, both contended the 21 April 2007 presidential polls were manipulated and rigged in favour of President Yar’Adua of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and called for its cancellation and the holding of fresh polls.
Yar’Adua, through his lawyers, disputed the claim, saying the elections were generally free and fair, and were organised in accordance with the country’s electoral law.
That stand conflicts with the admission by the President, at his inauguration, that the 2007 general elections were flawed to some extent.
If the tribunal sides with the opposition, it will mark the first time in Nigeria’s 47-year, post-independence history that the result of a presidential election will be cancelled.
Political and legal analysts said such a judgement would have a tremendous impact on Nigeria’s democratic process, which has been punctuated several times by military intervention.
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s ruling, both parties still have a chance to appeal to the country’s highest court – the Supreme Court.
One of the opposition presidential candidates, Abubakar, assured Monday he will accept the verdict and urged the others involved to do so too to avoid a repeat of the post-election crisis in Kenya.