February 25 2023 presidential election: Atiku’s legal team faces Tinubu in battle of 32 SANs

Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar

All appears set for what can be described as a titanic battle at the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) sitting in Abuja, as the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, announced a legal team comprising 19 Senior Advocates of Nigeria.

The team, led by J.K Gadzama, is to prove the illegality of the outcome of the February 25 Presidential election, which Atiku described as “my stolen mandate.”

On the team with Gadzama, a tested litigation and commercial legal expert, are Chief Chris Uche, Mr. Paul Usoro, Tayo Jegede , Ken Mozia, Chief Mike Ozekhome, Mahmood Magaji , Joe Abraham , Mr. Chukwuma Umeh , Dr. Garba Tetengi  and Chief Emeka Etiaba.

Others are Chief Goddy Uche, Prof. Maxwell Gidado,  PDP  National Legal Adviser   Kamaldeen  Ajibade, Mr. O. M. Atoyebi,  Mrs. Nella Rabana, Paul Ogbole, Nuremi Jimoh, and Abdul Ibrahim.

They will trade tackles with yet another all-SAN team of 19 lawyers led by Lateef Fagbemi, who will be defending President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

With 8,794, 726 of the 24,025,940 valid votes cast, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Tinubu winner of the contest.

While Atiku polled a total of 6,984,520 votes, Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes, and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) came fourth polling 1,496,687 votes.

The duo of Atiku and Obi are in the court to contest the legitimacy of Tinubu’s victory, even as the president-elect promised to meet them in court to clear any doubts over his victory at the poll.

Atiku’s legal team

Inaugurating his legal team Wednesday at his campaign Headquarters in Abuja, Atiku challenged them to “establish the claim of illegality in the election and reclaim the mandate of the Nigerian people.”

In a statement personally signed by him, the ex-VP told the team that “apart from reclaiming the mandate from those who undertook the electoral heist that was not a reflection of the will of Nigerians, the legal team should also use the opportunity of the trial to strengthen constitutional democracy in the country.”

He told the Gadzama-led team that it was imperative “they work assiduously in reclaiming the mandate not necessarily because of him and the PDP, but to strengthen democracy and the electoral process and for generations unborn.”

Ex-VP urges support for PDP gibers

Also in a statement Wednesday in Abuja, the former VP charged his supporters to vote the party’s governorship candidate in Adamawa state Saturday.

The Waziri Adamawa also thanked Nigerians immensely for their high sense of patriotism in bracing the odds to perform their civic duty during the February 25 presidential election.

Atiku described as indeed heart-warming that they have faith in rescuing and rebuilding country, as envisioned by the PDP.

The former vice president insisted that as attested to by both local and international observers, the result of the February 25 presidential election as announced by INEC was grossly tainted and did not reflect the will of the electorates. 

“Indeed, what the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) did in announcing the manipulated result was a clear breach of not only the 2022 Electoral Act but also of its own guidelines which the electoral commission had repeatedly claimed would uphold the standards we had seen in the Osun and Ekiti elections. Curiously, the INEC Chairman further ignored calls for a review of the process in line with the amended law.

“But all hope is not lost. As citizens desirous of a better Nigeria, we must never give in to apathy. The electoral fraud perpetrated by INEC will be reversed in due course as we step up the cause to reclaim our mandate.

“We must continue to show resilience in the defence of our democracy and in the exercise of our rights to vote.

“Consequently, I urge all our supporters to turn out in large numbers on March 11 to cast their votes for the PDP in the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly election.

“There is no better way to demonstrate against the sham of an election of February 25 than for patriotic citizens like you to turn out en masse this Saturday to vote for a greater and prosperous Nigeria as envisioned by the PDP.

“I urge you to cast your votes peacefully and in strict compliance with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines. And having cast your votes, be vigilant and protect those votes,” he said.

…Tinubu also gets court order

In a related development, the tribunal also granted leave to President-elect  Tinubu to access sensitive materials used by INEC during the polls.

The panel granted Tinubu’s prayers 1-4 but turned down the fifth and sixth prayers for lacking in substance.

Tinubu, had through his lawyer, Mr. Akintola Makinde, prayed the court Tuesday to grant him leave of the court to allow him inspect and obtain election materials for his defence.