As the curtain draws near on the momentous proceedings at the presidential election petition tribunal, the entire nation, both within its borders and across the globe, holds its collective breath. The tribunal’s five justices, who diligently examined the grievances presented by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), as they contested the outcome of the February 25 presidential election against President Bola Tinubu, are poised to deliver their decisive verdict. With the verdict imminent, the hopes of Nigerians are firmly rooted in a ruling that rests firmly on the bedrock of evidentiary merits rather than procedural intricacies or other considerations.
The backdrop of this legal clash lies in the aftermath of the February 25 presidential election, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, representing the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the victor and president-elect. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, announced Tinubu’s triumph with 8,794,726 votes, surpassing Atiku Abubakar’s 6,984,520 and Peter Obi’s 6,101,533 votes, respectively. However, the declaration sparked controversy as it was perceived by many as having sidestepped a constitutional requirement—the necessity to secure 25 percent of the votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Dissatisfaction and legal action ensued, culminating in Obi and Atiku’s petitions lodged at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT). Obi’s assertions ranged from irregularities to constitutional ineligibilities of Tinubu’s candidacy, while Atiku’s petition sought his declaration as the winner or the nullification of the election for a rerun.
After several months of rigorous legal proceedings, the petitioners and the respondents—INEC, APC, Tinubu, and Shettima—concluded their cases in early August. Awaiting the tribunal’s verdict, the nation brims with anxiety, fervently hoping for a ruling that upholds justice and contributes to the strengthening of democracy.
While some Nigerians apprehensively anticipate the tribunal’s decision, there are also those who advise the justices to remain resolute, unbiased, and focused on the evidence at hand.
This includes voices like Hon Yusuf Shehu, an APC leader, who stresses the importance of the judiciary’s responsibility to uphold justice, even under the scrutiny of a watching world. Shehu believes that the judges possess the capability to deliver a verdict that aligns with the nation’s expectations and principles.
Similar sentiments echo from Dr. Pogu Bitrus, president of the Middle Belt Forum, who believes the judges will uphold the law and expose any perceived transgressions committed by INEC. He emphasizes that Nigerians have turned to the tribunal with hopes that justice will be served and democracy protected.
Amidst a backdrop of deepening public skepticism about the judiciary, Mr. Marcellus Onah, a legal expert, emphasizes the tribunal’s opportunity to dispel doubts and reaffirm the judiciary’s credibility. He suggests that the judges will carefully consider the nation’s socio-political climate and the need to preserve national harmony while delivering their verdict.
As the nation awaits this pivotal decision, its trajectory hinges on the tribunal’s ability to sift through the complexities and render a judgment that honors the law, the constitution, and the people’s democratic aspirations.