President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu has urged the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) to dismiss the suit filed against him by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar, for being grossly deficient.
Tinubu faulted the competence of the petition challenging his election, describing it as not only frivolous, but an abuse of the court process.
He argued that the PDP earlier filed a suit at the Supreme Court through some of its governors, demanding the cancellation of the election.
He also argued that the PDP and Atiku cannot maintain two cases on the same issue in different courts at the same time.
Tinubu faulted the competence of the petition on the grounds that Labour Party (LP) candidate Peter Obi and his New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) counterpart, Rabiu Kwankwaso, were not joined as parties.
This, he said, is even though the petitioners were contesting the results from the states won by LP and NNPP
Tinubu said Atiku and the PDP also have issues with states they won, but failed to join themselves as co-respondents in line with the law.
The president-elect’s response was filed on Wednesday night by his team of lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).
He described Atiku as a serial loser, contending that he could not have won the presidential election when his political platform was riddled with crises, with five PDP governors working against him.
‘Not joining Obi, Kwankwaso invalidates petition’
Tinubu faulted the competence of the petition for excluding Obi and Kwankwaso.
He argued: “The petitioners complained about the outcome of the election in Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Kano, Plateau and Lagos states.
“Tinubu was not declared as the overall winner in any of the states aforementioned.
“Mr. Obi was declared the overall winner of the election in Abia, Anambra, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Imo, Plateau and Lagos states, while Kwankwaso was declared winner of the election in Kano State.
“None of LP, Obi, Kwankwaso, and NNPP has been joined as a party to this petition.
“Tinubu cannot be made willy-nilly to defend any infraction allegedly committed in any of the states afore-mentioned.
“The petitioners are querying the result of elections in all the states where they won the election, including but not limited to Adamawa, Bauchi, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Gombe, Yobe, Sokoto, Osun, Kebbi and Katsina states, without making themselves co-respondents to the petition.
“Under Section 133(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022, a party whose election is being challenged shall be made a respondent.”
‘Petition an abuse of court process’
Tinubu noted that on February 28, the PDP, through its governors in Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Sokoto states filed a suit marked: SC/CV/354/2023 at the Supreme Court, demanding among others, that the February 25 election be cancelled.
“The plaintiffs attacked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for not following its Manual and Regulations in the conduct of the election and also complained of glitches, which is also the thrust of their petition.
“While the originating summons (in the suit before the Supreme Court) was filed on 28th February 2023, this petition was filed on 21st March 2023.
“The petitioners herein, through themselves and/or their proxies filed the originating summons at the Supreme Court, before filing this petition.
“The petitioners are maintaining two processes in respect of the same subject and/or complaint of theirs, against the conduct of the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.
“This latter petition is abusive of the originating summons filed at the Supreme Court and is liable to be dismissed in limine,” he said.
‘Voters in FCT not superior’
Tinubu, who insisted that he recorded more than the constitutional required geographical spread at the election, faulted the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 134 of the Constitution concerning the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He said: “The petitioners’ interpretation of the provisions of Section 134 of the Constitution is strange, disingenuous (with respect) and contrary to the clear letters and spirit of the said provisions and the entire constitution as a whole.
“Nigeria’s democracy is not based on an Electoral College jurisprudence, particularly as it relates to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“There is no exclusive obligation that for a valid return from a presidential election in Nigeria, a candidate must score 25 per cent of the votes cast in the FCT, Abuja.
“The voters in Abuja are not superior to voters in any other part of Nigeria such that a candidate is mandated to score 25 per cent in Abuja without such similar status for other states of the federation.
“The constitution does not create special voting rights for voters in Abuja or allocate preferential voting rights, either to them or to the FCT.
“The mathematical variables in Section 134 of the Constitution are two, to wit, one-quarter of votes cast and two-thirds of all the states and the FCT, Abuja. The mathematical indices are conjunctive.
“If the petitioners’ position was correct, both one-quarter and two-thirds will be applied to FCT, Abuja, separately.
“However, because petitioners know that such will result in an absurd situation, they have chosen to apply only the mathematical requirement of one quarter to Abuja to the exclusion of the second mathematical element of two-thirds.
“In terms of the grammatical and syntactic construct of Section 134 of the Constitution, the provision for two-thirds is more proximate to Abuja than one quarter and petitioners’ failure to relate same to Abuja demonstrates their deliberate attempt to misrepresent the constitution.
“The provisions of the constitution are meant to apply to the FCT as if it were one of the states of the federation and not an entity superior to the other states of the Federation.
“The FCT Act further reinforces the respondent’s assertion that the FCT is for all intents and purposes, to be treated as a state and not superior to a state, particularly when construing legislations.
“The variables established by the constitution for the purpose of determining one-quarter of the total number of votes cast in two-thirds of the states of the federation and the FCT is 37 (that is, the 36 states of the federation plus/and/conjunctively with the FCT).
“The second respondent (Tinubu) scored, at least, 25 per cent in not less than 29 states of the federation, which is far above two-thirds of the states and the FCT and is thus not inhibited by any constitutional provision from assuming office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Arithmetically, two-thirds of 37 is 24.6, which is below the number of states wherein the second respondent scored, at least, one-quarter of the total number of votes cast at the election.”
‘There was substantial compliance with laws’
As against the non-compliance claim by the petitioners, Tinubu said his election was valid and was conducted in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
He added that his election and return were valid and in compliance with the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
Tinubu stated that INEC substantially complied with all the procedures highlighted in the Electoral Act, as well as its Manual and Regulations for the conduct of the election.
“The first respondent (INEC) rightly declared the second respondent as the winner of the presidential election of 25th February 2023, having won a majority of lawful votes cast at the election and meeting all constitutional requirements to be returned as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Tinubu said.
In faulting the petitioners’ claim of election process manipulation, the president-elect argued that since he had agents in all the polling units nationwide, “they had all opportunities to raise any complaint, but they could not raise any such complaint because there was none”.
He said the petitioners “only began to fabricate and manufacture complaints when it became obvious that they had woefully lost the election”.
Tinubu added: “Blaming the inability to immediately transmit the result electronically is totally an afterthought and devoid of any substance at all.”
‘Atiku could not have won with PDP crises’
Tinubu reminded Atiku that he had always lost in his bid to lead the country since 1993.
He asked the PDP flagbearer not to see his loss at the last election as strange, arguing that it would have been a miracle for the PDP and its candidate to win in view of the balkanization of the party before and during the election.
Tinubu said: “The first petitioner (Atiku) has been consistently contesting and losing successive presidential elections in Nigeria since 1993, whether at the party primary or at the general; including 1993, when he lost the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primary election to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola; 2007, when he lost the presidential election to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua; 2011, when he lost the PDP presidential primary election to President Goodluck Jonathan; 2015, when he lost the APC primary election to President Muhammadu Buhari; 2019, when he lost the presidential election to President Muhammadu Buhari; and now, 2023, when he has again lost the presidential election to the 2nd respondent (Tinubu).
“It was/is not a surprise and/or not by accident that the electorate rejected the 1st petitioner at the polls of the presidential election held on 25th February 2023.”
He noted that Atiku was without a stable political platform and had lost a majority of his key supporters, given his habit of jumping from one political party to another.
Tinubu noted that Atiku’s emergence as PDP’s candidate fueled the crisis in the party, resulting in five of its sitting governors resolving to work against him and ensure he lost.
“The emergence of Atiku as the presidential candidate of the PDP led to irreconcilable hostilities within the ranks of the PDP, causing the emergence of a group of governors, known all over the country as the G-5 Governors – Rivers, Oyo, Enugu, Abia and Benue— who opposed Atiku and vowed to mobilise their people against him.
“While Atiku contested the presidential election of 2019 with President Buhari under a fairly cohesive PDP with Obi as his running mate
Kwankwaso as one of his supporters, the same Obi broke away from the PDP to join the LP to contest the presidential election of 25th February 2023, while Kwankwaso also broke away from PDP to contest the presidential election on the ticket of the NNPP.
“While Obi polled a total number of 6,101,533, Kwankwaso polled 1,496,687.
“Before the balkanisation of the PDP, the South-Eastern states of Enugu, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Anambra used to be controlled by the PDP, but at the presidential election of 25th February 2023, they all went the way of the LP.
“At a press conference addressed by Atiku on or about 2nd March 2023, he admitted the negative impact of the balkanisation of the PDP on the fortune of his election, particularly, the exit of Obi from the party,” he said.
Tinubu referred to a news report, where Atiku was quoted as saying: “It is a fact that Obi took our votes from the Southeast and Southsouth, but that wouldn’t make him the President. You need votes from everywhere.”
Uphold my election, Tinubu tells PEPC
Urging the court to reject the reliefs being sought in the petition by Atiku and his party, Tinubu said he was elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the poll.
He urged the court to hold that his election is lawful, legitimate, legal, and constitutional, and evinces the wishes of the Nigerian electorate, as demonstrated through the ballot box.
Tinubu stated that he was qualified to contest the election and even far more qualified than Atiku.
“Atiku did not score the majority of lawful votes cast and did not also meet the constitutional threshold under and by virtue of Section 134(2) of the Constitution, as he could only muster 25 per cent of the votes in 21 states.
“The order seeking a runoff election is misplaced and misguided, as Tinubu has satisfied all the requirements of the law and the constitution, and has been rightfully returned as the winner of the presidential election of 25th February 2023, by INEC.
“Shorn of all hype, hyperbole, grandstanding and frivolities, the petition has no substance in fact, logic and law, as well as disclosing no reasonable cause of action.
“It deserves to be summarily dismissed, as same constitutes a crass abuse of the judicial process,” Tinubu said.