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PEPT:  We lost a battle, not war –Atiku



• Judiciary has strengthened democratic process –APC

From Romanus Ugwu, Ndubuisi Orji, Adanna Nnamani, Abuja, Obinna Odogwu, Awka, Geoffrey Anyanwu and Precious Ali, Enugu

Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has rejected the judgment of the presidential election petition tribunal (PEPT).

At a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, the former vice president claimed that by the verdict, the party has only lost a battle and not the war and urged his supporters to remain calm, noting that they shall prevail eventually.

The PEPT had, on Wednesday, upheld the declaration of President Bola Tinubu by  the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner of the February 25, presidential poll.

But Atiku explained that his decision to challenge the result of the presidential poll was borne out of his conviction that the court is the sanctuary of justice but said the judgment was bereft of substantial justice.

“I am afraid that the judgment of the court as rendered by the court yesterday (Wednesday) has failed to restore confidence in our dreams of free and fair elections devoid of human manipulations.

“Like I did say at the beginning of this legal battle when I instructed my lawyers to file my petition challenging the outcome of the presidential election, my ultimate goal in this pursuit is to ensure that democracy is further strengthened through the principles and processes of fair hearing.

“I take great pains to tell you that the decision of the court of first instance on this matter utterly falls far short of that expectation.

“I am, therefore, here to tell you that, though the judgment of the court yesterday is respected, it is a judgment that I refuse to accept.

“I refuse to accept the judgment because I believe that it is bereft of substantial justice. However, the disappointment in the verdict of the court can never destroy my confidence in the judiciary.

“Consequently, I have asked my lawyers to activate my constitutionally guaranteed rights of appeal to the higher court, which, in the instance, is the Supreme Court.”

The former vice president said it was his conviction that the electoral process in Nigeria should be devoid of untidy manipulations and that the outcome of every election should be a perfect reflection of the wishes of the electorate.

“I believe that such is the only way through which our democracy can have a manifest expression of its true meaning.

“Whether I prevail in this quest or not, the record of my effort in ensuring an order of credible elections in Nigeria shall remain for the future generations to evaluate.”

Atiku, however, urged all his supporters to remain steadfast and loyal to the PDP.

“I urge them to take solace in an immortal lesson I learned from my leader and mentor, the late Shehu Yar’Adua, that losing a battle is less important than losing the war.

“We might have lost a battle yesterday, but the war is well ahead of us. And I believe that with our hopes in God, we shall win the war of restoring confidence in our electoral system,” he said.

Giving hope to the disappointed members of PDP, Atiku said he was one of the founding members of the party and he believed that the PDP remained a strong party and mother of all political parties.

He said that the members have no reason to lose hope in PDP but remain loyal members of the historic party.

“Why would you not want to be proud to be a member of PDP? There is absolutely no reason.

“I, therefore, want our members to remain loyal, to remain dedicated and to foster national unity,” he said.

Earlier in his speech, the PDP acting National Chairman, Alhaji Umar Damagum, said as a law abiding political party, PDP received the PEPC  judgment with shock.

“The judgement of the PEPT which came out yesterday left lovers of democracy in and outside the country, more confused with a lot of questions whether the Nigerian Constitution, Electoral Act and other laws guiding the conduct of credible elections in our country are still functional.

“Close observation from the faces of Nigeria across the country shows hopelessness and despair since the pronouncement of the judgment.

“Lawyers, politicians and other stakeholders from all divides were left confused as both law and facts were visibly thrown overboard,” he said.

Damagum also urged PDP members not to lose focus or be distracted, saying the party National Working Committee (NWC) was working to continue pursuing its mandate, and put the party together to give Nigeria credible opposition.

• I’ll not validate mandate banditry

In a separate statement by his media aide, Atiku dismissed a purported statement congratulating Tinubu as fake news being orchestrated by those desperately looking for validation for the usurpation of the mandate of Nigerians.

He said he would not validate mandate banditry “as it will be tantamount to a rape on the conscience of Nigerians.

 “If their conscience is clear and  they are convinced that their victory is valid, they don’t have to blackmail their political opponents into congratulating them through fake news.

He stated that “to confirm that the purported message is fake and pedestrian, it was addressed to the ‘President-elect.’ Though we know it is a Pyrrhic victory, is it not ridiculous to still address Bola Tinubu as ‘President-elect’ five months after swearing-in?

“This struggle is not about Atiku; it’s about Nigeria and the future of our democracy. By allowing election riggers to get away with their misdeeds, our democracy will be in greater jeopardy. Consent is essential to democratic mandate; ruling people against their will undermines everything democracy stands for.

“The Waziri has nothing personal against President Tinubu. He owes him no ill will. Let me, however, make it very clear that this struggle is about principle and justice. He is not in this struggle because he hates Tinubu. He is in it to ensure that people who rigged elections are not allowed to get away with it. Injustice and rigging promote bitterness and division. No leader should be proud to lead angry and aggrieved citizens.”

•Judiciary has strengthened democratic process  –APC

However, APC commended the judiciary for strengthening Nigeria democratic process through the instrumentality of law with the landmark judgement.

In an address read by the National Secretary, Ajibola Basiru, on behalf of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), it maintained that the judgement has reinforced democracy in Nigeria and underscored the vibrancy and independence of the judiciary.

The ruling party also applauded the diligence and professionalism of INEC, security agencies, local and foreign observers and other stakeholders in ensuring a credible, free and fair election.

“This epochal judgement has reinforced our democracy and underscored the vibrancy and independence of the judiciary. No doubt, the 2023 presidential election was keenly contested. The outcome remains a wholesale endorsement of our party’s vision, values and commitment to rebuilding and repositioning our country for greatness.

“Our campaign, planked on the unity and prosperity of Nigeria and our message of Renewed Hope obviously resonated with Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora. We acknowledge and applaud the diligence and professionalism of INEC, security agencies, local and foreign observers and other stakeholders in ensuring a credible, free and fair election.

 “We also commend our party leaders, members, supporters and campaigners for their unwavering commitment and resilience throughout the electoral process.”

“As we soldier on in the business of governance, the APC will stay focused and resolute in fostering unity and improving the quality of life of all Nigerians as enshrined in the eight-point agenda of this administration.

“We enjoin all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or political leanings to join hands with us in this onerous but patriotic task of building a better, more prosperous nation. Again, we commend the judiciary for strengthening our democratic process through the instrumentality of the law.”

•Obi says case hasn’t reached logical conclusion, heads to S’Court

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, also rejected the judgement, describing it as not conterminous with justice.

Obi, who spoke  in Onitsha, Anambra State, acknowledged the PEPC’s adherence to statutory time frames and expressed respect for the Court’s views and rulings but faulted the judgment’s rationale and final conclusions.

He announced his intention, in his capacity as a presidential candidate and on behalf of the party, to immediately challenge this judgment through the appellate process, as permitted by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Highlighting the fact that the PEPC is not the ultimate authority in this matter, Obi emphasised that the responsibility now rests with the Supreme Court, which he expressed confidence in.

He urged Nigerians to maintain their focus, steadfastness, and commitment to peaceful processes while emphasising the importance of adhering to the rule of law. He made it clear that the matter has not yet reached its logical conclusion.

Obi revealed that his legal team has already received firm instructions to file an appeal against the PEPC’s decision. He expressed unwavering determination in his pursuit of justice, not only for himself but also for the multitude of supporters across the nation whose electoral mandate he said was unjustly thwarted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Obi underscored the pivotal role of solid national institutions and the public’s confidence in them for a thriving democracy, pointing out that electoral litigations could be significantly reduced if INEC discharged its statutory functions transparently and fairly. However, when such bodies falter, as he said INEC did in this case, the judiciary becomes an imperative recourse.

Obi thanked every Nigerian who has supported their cause and the campaign for a new Nigeria built on principles of fairness, equity, justice, the rule of law, peace, prosperity, inclusiveness, sustainable growth, and development.

He specifically thanked his legal team, the LP, the Obidient Family, and all those who steadfastly attended the court proceedings.

•Don’t push Nigerians to the wall –Archbishop Chukwuma

Archbishop, Province of Enugu and Bishop, Enugu Anglican Diocese, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, described the judgment as a rape of justice, adding that the judiciary has again failed Nigerians.

He urged the parties that lost not to waste their time and resources in going for appeal, as he feels the Nigerian judiciary was not yet ready to dispense justice based on facts.

The cleric said he had been inundated with calls from all parts of the country since Wednesday night over the judgment, and all expressing disappointment with the judiciary, hoped to have been the saving grace for democracy and rule of law in the country.

Wondering how the court could say that what was enshrined in the Nigeria Constitution (the 25 per cent vote in FCT) does not matter, and “all the substantial evidence of malpractices and INEC failure to adhere to their own rules, which are well known to Nigerians,” were no issues, the Archbishop said Nigeria was indeed in serious trouble.

He expressed the fear that Nigeria was being thrown into a nation ruled in the dark, questioning why both the announcement of the presidential result in February and election petition judgment delivery on Wednesday, September 6, were all done in the night.

“As far as I am concerned, many of us are not happy with the judgment, and it seems this judgment is favouring a government that is coming to rule Nigeria in darkness. When this result that was petitioned against was announced it was in darkness, when the judgment on the petitions was being made, it was in darkness. This is a sign of darkened governance that we are facing right now and one is not happy about it and that is why I feel it is a time for us to intensify our prayers and be very much careful about what may happen later. Things may be somehow quiet now but Nigeria is on gunpowder.”

Chukwuma urged Nigerians to intensify their prayers for God’s own judgment to prevail in Nigeria cautioning the judiciary and executive not to throw Nigeria into similar situations as in some African countries.

“We don’t want the situation whereby there will be an eruption of which what is happening in Gabon and Niger will happen in Nigeria. This is because of corruption and bad governance. Nigerians are tired of corruption and bad governance and that is exactly what has repeated in the judgment.

“We just pray that Nigerians will come to pray to God for God’s own judgment to prevail at His own right time, because this judgment on Wednesday is not satisfactory, it is unacceptable, and it is not at all favourable to the Nigerian populace. So let us watch it and be careful.”

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