Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, in the last general elections, Mr. Peter Obi, the Presidency, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, disagreed on the Supreme Court ruling which upheld the September 6 verdict of the Presidential Election Petition Court, PEPC, and affirmed President Bola Tinubu as the winner of the February 25 poll.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, Obi said Nigeria’s democracy was the victim of the October 26 Supreme Court judgment, lamenting that the court ignored evidence of identity theft and rigging against Tinubu, vowing that opposition to bad policies has started, he said: “This is just the beginning of the struggle.”
In a quick counter, the Presidency asked the former Anambra State governor, who got to power in Anambra via the apex court, to look for a better vocation and stop casting aspersions on the Judiciary, adding that courts don’t base their rulings on public opinion.
Also, the APC faulted what it called Obi’s ‘haughty sense of entitlement’, saying cases are won on evidence and law
I’ll continue to speak forthrightly
Obi said as a person who had previously benefited from the rulings of the Supreme Court on electoral matters, he would continue to speak forthrightly.
His words: “As students, young lads at CKC, Onitsha, we were taught values and admonished to always ‘choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.’
“Setting legal issues aside, the Supreme Court exhibited a disturbing aversion to public opinion just as it abandoned its responsibility as a court of law and policy.
“It is, therefore, with great dismay that I observe that the court’s decision contradicts the overwhelming evidence of election rigging, false claim of a technical glitch, substantial non-compliance with rules set by INEC itself as well as matters of perjury, identity theft, and forgery that have been brought to light in the course of this election matter. These were hefty allegations that should not be treated with levity.
“More appalling, the Supreme Court judgment wilfully condoned breaches of the Constitution relative to established qualifications and parameters for candidates in presidential elections.
“With this counter-intuitive judgment, the Supreme Court has transferred a heavy moral burden from the courtrooms to our national conscience. Our young democracy is ultimately the main victim and casualty of the courtroom drama.
Breaching people’s confidence in Judiciary
“Without equivocation, this judgment amounts to a total breach of the confidence the Nigerian people have in our judiciary.
“To that extent, it is a show of unreasonable force against the very Nigerian people from whom the power of the Constitution derives. This Supreme Court ruling may represent the state of the law in 2023 but not the present demand for substantive justice.
“The judgment mixed principles and precepts. Indeed, the rationale and premise of the Supreme Court judgment have become clearer in the light of the deep revealing and troubling valedictory remarks by Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, (JSC) on Friday 27th October 2023.
“In disagreeing very strongly with the ruling of both the Presidential Election Petitions Court, PEPC, and the Supreme Court on the outcome of the 25th February 2023 Presidential election as declared by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as democrats who believe in the rule of law, we recognize that the Supreme Court is the end stage of the quest for legal closure to the matter.
“As a party and as candidates, Datti and I have now exhausted all legal and constitutional remedies available to us.”
This is just the beginning of our struggle
“However, this end is only another beginning in our quest for the vindication of the hope of the common man for a better country.
“After all, sovereignty belongs to the people! If only for historical purposes, it behoves us to place our disagreement with and deep reservations about this judgment on public record.
“We have long been aware of how weak national institutions have negatively affected our democracy. This year 2023 has been quite remarkable and revealing. INEC has displayed incompetence in the conduct of its statutory duty.
“The judiciary has largely acted in defiance of constitutional tenets, precedents, and established ground rules. Political expediency has preceded judicial responsibility.
“A mechanical application of technicalities has superseded the pursuit of justice and fairness. Both INEC and the Supreme Court as the referees, respectively shifted the goalposts in the middle of the game.
“Where the value and import of the recent Supreme Court ruling ends is where our commitment to a New Nigeria begins. Our mission and mandate remain unchanged.
“From the very onset, our mission has been more about enthroning a new Nigeria. It is a new nation where things work, where the country is led from its present waste and consumption orientation to a production-driven economy.”
The future of the struggle
Obi further said: “Going forward, we in the Labour Party and the Obidient Movement are now effectively in opposition. We are glad that the nation has heard us loud and clear.
“We shall now expand the confines of our message of hope to the rest of the country. We shall meet the people in the places where they feel pain and answer their needs for hope.
“As stakeholders and elected Labour Party officials, we shall remain loyal to our manifesto. We will continue to canvass for good governance and focus on issues that promote national interest, unity, and cohesion.
Our opposition to bad policies starts now
“We will offer the checks and balances required in a functional democracy and vie robustly in forthcoming elections to elect those who share our vision of a new Nigeria.
“Given our present national circumstances, there is a compelling need for a strong political opposition.
We shall, therefore, remain in opposition, especially because of the policies and the governance modalities that we in the Labour Party campaigned for, especially reducing the cost of governance, moving the nation from consumption to production, reducing inflation, ending insecurity, promoting the rule of law, guaranteeing the responsibility to protect, and stabilizing the Nigerian currency; are clearly not the priorities of the present administration or is it interested in achieving Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.”
No court gives judgment based on public opinion – Presidency
Responding, the Presidency told Obi that no court in the country gives judgment based on public opinion.
It also said that having admitted that the Supreme Court ruling brought an end to litigation and any challenge to the victory of President Tinubu, Obi should have congratulated the President and pledged his support, in the spirit of statesmanship.
The Presidency, in a statement by Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to the President on Information & Strategy, said it welcomed the pledge by Obi and his party to play the role of opposition and urged him to start preparing for another shot at the presidency in 2027.
The statement, titled “Peter Obi should find better vocation instead of casting aspersions on the judiciary,’’ read: “Labour Party Presidential candidate in the last election, Mr. Peter Obi, addressed a press conference, just like Atiku Abubakar, where he cast aspersions on the Supreme Court and the Independent National Electoral Commission for not declaring him the winner of the February 25, 2023 election.
“We are at a loss as to how the copy-cat Obi and his faction of the Labour Party convinced themselves they won an election in which they came a distant third.
“The grand delusion that made Mr. Obi believe he could have won a national election where he ran the most hateful, divisive and polarising campaign that pitched Christians against Muslims and one ethnic group against the other in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria should be a matter for deeper examination.
“At the press conference where he tried, in vain, to gaslight Nigerians with false claims and innuendos, Mr. Obi contradicted himself. Here was a beneficiary of judicial pronouncements in the past now castigating the same court because its judgment did not go his way.
“Mr. Obi claimed the Supreme Court justices didn’t consider public opinion in delivering what has been applauded as a most profound judgment in an election appeal where the Labour Party candidate presented the most watery and unreasonable petition before any court in the history of electoral cases in Nigeria.
“He made false allegations of rigging and other electoral malpractices yet could not produce any evidence to back up his claims at both the court of first instance and at the apex court.
“In a failed effort to mobilise and retain the support of his supporters, Obi gave them a forlorn hope that he won the election and would prove it before the courts.
‘’Throughout the trial, his lawyers didn’t present any alternative results different from the results INEC uploaded on the IReV portal and the ones signed by all party agents from the 176,000 polling units.
“We wonder how the Labour Party candidate expected the courts to do justice on the basis of rumours, lies and false narratives by sponsored partisans and fanatical members of his Obidient Movement.
“We expected the Labour Party candidate to know that the Supreme Court or any other court does not give judgment based on public opinion and mob sentiments. Judicial pronouncements are based on evidence, precedents and the rule of law.
“Having admitted that the Supreme Court ruling brought an end to litigation and any challenge to the bonafide of President Bola Tinubu as the validly elected leader of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Obi should have congratulated President Tinubu for his victory and pledged his support, in the spirit of statesmanship.
“But instead, he brought up extraneous matters that he thought the apex court should have considered to declare him the winner. In our view, the drowning Obi, just like Atiku, was merely attempting to hold on to a straw in raking up new allegations, which exist only in his imagination and that of his hordes of supporters.
“Our admonition to Mr. Peter Obi is to find another worthwhile vocation to engage his time henceforth, having been rejected by the majority of Nigerians who didn’t consider him qualified to lead our country.
“Nigerians rejected Peter Obi and his demagoguery at the poll because he posed present and future danger to the peace, progress and stability of our country.”
Cases are won on evidence, law, APC mocks Obi
On its part, the APC, in a statement by its spokesman, Felix Morka, said everything in Nigeria could not be all about Obi who he said had been a beneficiary of the courts in the past.
The statement read: “In his belated and grouchy reaction to the judgment of the Supreme Court dismissing his appeal against the electoral victory of President Tinubu, Obi stated that ‘the Supreme Court exhibited a disturbing aversion to public opinion just as it abandoned its responsibility as a court of law and policy.’
“At his press conference earlier today, November 6, 2023, Obi, again blamed our democratic institutions, particularly the courts, for not awarding him victory — not because he won the election, not because he proved his case in court as required by law but because he is Peter Obi. That haughty sense of entitlement seems to pervade his vitriolic attack on our institutions.
Warped public opinion
“Mr Obi’s gross inability to distinguish between his warped version of public opinion and reality has been his greatest undoing throughout the electioneering season. Taken by the mass hysteria of his vociferous netizens and fringe supporters, Mr Obi ensconced himself in alternate reality, a parallel political universe of self delusion.
“As ‘someone who has previously benefited from the rulings of the Supreme Court on electoral matters’, Obi’s acerbic attack on the judiciary only belies his arrogance and vainness. When the same courts previously decided in his favour, the courts were beacons of democracy.
“Now that the decisions are against him, all of a sudden, the courts have betrayed democracy. Mr Obi, it cannot always be about you; it must always be about our country.
“Cases are not won on public opinion, they are won on evidence and the law. You failed on both counts.
We welcome Mr Obi’s decision to engage in opposition politics going forward.
‘’We urge Obi and his Labour Party to do so maturely and constructively, and contribute to the important task of building a safer, stronger and more prosperous country for us all.”