Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis and Esther Blankson
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, says since 1993 when he began gunning for the President seat, he has done so without any controversy unlike the All Progressives Congress candidate, Bola Tinubu, who is contending with alleged drugs and identity scandals.
Atiku said this in his response to the preliminary objection filed by Tinubu and APC in reaction to Atiku’s petition, challenging Tinubu’s emergence as the winner of the February 25 presidential election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared that Tinubu polled 8,794,726 votes to win the election.
The commission declared that Atiku came second with 6,984,520 votes, while it announced Labour Party’s Peter Obi as the second runner-up with 6,101,533 votes.
But Atiku, Obi and some other parties rejected the results announced by INEC and heeded for the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja with prayers that the election should be nullified.
In response to Atiku’s petition, Tinubu had described the former Vice President of Nigeria as a serial loser, noting that he had been trying without success to become President since 1993.
But in his reply to Tinubu filed before the tribunal, Atiku said he towers above Tinubu and there was no basis for comparison.
“The comparison of the second respondent (Tinubu) with the first petitioner ( Atiku) who had attained the eminent position of Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for eight years is unfounded,” Atiku said.
The former VP said unlike him, Tinubu is being dogged by many “controversies such as age, state of origin, identity, educational qualifications represented by certificates obtained from universities and colleges, forfeiture in drug-related offences and failure to disclose dual nationality to the 1st respondent (INEC), among others.”
Atiku argued that rather than respond to the issues he raised in his petition, Tinubu went on to dwell on “extraneous facts, contradictory, evasive, speculative and vague assertions.”
Amongst others, Atiku, through his lead counsel, Chris Uche (SAN), argued that Tinubu was unfit to be Nigeria’s President because he allegedly forfeited $460,000 to the US government in a drug-related court case.
The VP added that: “Tinubu holds dual citizenship of Nigeria and Guinea, having voluntarily acquired the citizenship of the Republic of Guinea.”
He maintained that the declaration of Tinubu as the winner of the elections should be annulled, because he did not secure 25 per cent of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory.
Defending the President-elect, however, the APC Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, berated Atiku raising the drugs allegation, adding that “I am happy that he admitted that he is a perpetual loser. If you know that you are proud loser, why stand for an election that you know the outcome even from where you stand? What’s the point?”
Meanwhile, the candidate of Labour Party, Obi, in his own response, accused INEC of bias, describing as embarrasing the insistence of the electoral umpire that Tinubu won the election and that the petitions challenging the declaration should be dismissed.
Obi said it was bizzare that INEC, which ought to be neutral, filed a preliminary objection to the petitions challenging Tinubu’s victory.
“The first respondent, forgetting its role as an electoral umpire, gave a Notice of Preliminary Objection to challenge the alleged incompetence of the petition.
“The global best practice for electoral umpires in national elections is that an electoral body must avoid creating the impression that it has no respect for neutrality in an electoral contest between candidates.
“The appellate courts have repeatedly admonished the first respondent of its need to remain neutral in election proceedings. However, the first respondent, hereof, has remained impervious to change.
“Therefore, it is not only an embarrassment but a repudiation of the duty of the first respondent when it adorns the garb of a contestant in an election it conducted as an umpire to raise preliminary objection against an election petition as in the case hereof.”