By Ckukwudi Nweje
Dr Tanko Yunusa, 2019 presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and national spokesman of the Peter Obi / Labour Party (LP), 2023 Presidential Campaign Committee has said the verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) is a heavy blow and rape of democracy, a damage he urged the Supreme Court to remedy in order to restore the battered image of the judiciary. He said President Bola Tinubu has plunged the country into more hardship and described the 100 days of the administration as that of pain, pang and hunger. He spoke on other national issues.
Last Wednesday’s unanimous verdict of the five-man panel of Judges of the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) that President Bola Tinubu won the February 25, 2023 election is generating reactions, what do you make of it?
There are different views and opinions on the judgement of the PEPC but the most important thing is that the verdict of the Justices is a classical rape on Nigeria’s democracy and that did not go down well on many Nigerians.
Were you surprised with the outcome of the PEPC? Your principal, Peter Obi appeared very confident when he approached the Tribunal that the verdict will go his way?
Many Nigerians expected that the judiciary would be courageous enough to upturn the election considering the humongous evidences that were presented before the court. Our principal, Peter Obi had so much faith in the PEPC and the judiciary, and so also did we in the labour Party but when we see them skin off basic fundamental truths, it is important for the people to air their views on the matter.
Before the PEPC started sitting, there was a huge debate on whether the proceedings of the court should be broadcast live for Nigerians to follow in real time but many senior lawyers objected to the idea yet the judgement was televised and nobody objected, why the change of position?
Well, I guess the difference is that they wanted the people to hear the voices of the judges in order to lend credence to whatever position that the judges had taken. For us, we are saying that the judges merely justified illegality to be legality using the constitution as a cover up; that of course makes it very difficult.
If you recall, some of us had gone to court to argue that the proceedings of the PEPC should be televised live but they refused. Strangely, the Lead Judge of the PEPC had told Nigerians that the court would look at the substance of the petitions and not technicalities. I was there when he made the promise. If the proceedings had been televised live, Nigerians would have also heard him speak and they would know that the positions the judges took are adverse to the interest of Nigeria. The truth is that whether the proceedings of the PEPC was televised live or not, or whether the judges allowed their faces to be seen on television while they read their judgement, Nigerians know them.
Some Nigerians see the judgement as an enthronement of technicalities over justice, what do you say?
I expected that in the very least the judges would caution the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for flouting the Electoral Act. The judges let INEC to believe that what they did is right and that sends a wrong signal. They have buried whatever chances we have of conducting credible elections in Nigeria because everybody is now free to go into the streets and do whatever they like to win election. The judges of the PEPC have put a lot of questions on our democracy, the politicians played their role but the judiciary just buried it.
According to PEPC, Abuja is not a prerequisite to be declared winner of the election, and that 25 per cent is part of the pillars of the Labour Party, what do you say about that position?
Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pronounces Abuja as having the same status as any of the other 36 states in the country and recognises the president as the governor of Abuja because it says “all the legislative powers, the executive powers and the judicial powers vested in the House of Assembly, the governor of a atate and in the courts of a state shall, respectively, vest in the National Assembly, the President of the Federation and in the courts which by virtue of the foregoing provisions are courts established for the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.” If this is the case, then Abuja is a state and should be treated so. Probably an opportunity would be given where the Supreme court would correct the position of the PEPC. I feel they acted in error of the constitution, what they simply did was to give credence to all their judgements; if you look at the petitions, there was no single area where the judges said what the petitioners presented made sense, that is absurd and surprising.
Your principal and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar have rejected the judgement of the PEPC and have headed to the Supreme Court, do you see the apex court upturning the PEPC?
It is on record that we are not satisfied with the pronouncement of the PEPC and so the judiciary has an opportunity in the Supreme Court to redeem their image. As it is the perception out there is that the judiciary is being sold and bought. It is the perception of the people whether rightly or wrongly but this perception has to change and changing it means that certain things that are so nakedly open to the eyes that we all saw, that are very unsatisfactory to Nigerians.
President Bola Tinubu just marked 100 days in office, how do you assess the administration?
There is nothing to assess in this administration, it is still all the same same, they were not ready for power, so they were not prepared. You can see some of the decisions they made and upturned, even in ministerial appointments they withdrew some. They still don’t know how to deal with the issue of subsidy removal, look at the palliative they said they are providing, nobody has felt the impact. Nigerians are terribly suffering. Nigerians are facing hunger and pain at the moment. If we thought the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari almost killed every Nigerian, this particular Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration has murdered them. What we bought at N1 before has now gone up to more than N5, that is the kind of pain Nigerians are facing, so this 100 days of Tinubu is 100 days of pain, pang and hunger.
From Niger Republic in West Africa, now Gabon in Central Africa, it seems the coup virus is spreading, what do you think is responsible? Is it external manipulation or a case of bad leadership and sit-tight syndrome?
The concerns for Nigeria’s democracy is that the military has first hand information on some of the things that happened during the election and they begin to wonder whether democracy is really the best thing for us. We fought for democracy and we love democracy. We will not let democracy die but as we are doing that, we must also carry along the people. If we let injustice prevail in the country, what we will have is anarchy and disrespect for the rule of law, that is exactly what has happened. My fear is that Nigerians may wake up one day and become unruly because they are not sure of who will fight for their rights and give them justice as at when due.
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