Former Nigeria Vice President and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has told the Presidential Election Petitions Court that heavens would not fall if the court resolves that Bola Tinubu was unlawfully declared president and subsequently removes him from office.
Atiku declared this in his final written address in support of his petition challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Atuku said the fact that a presidential election had never been nullified before in Nigeria was not good enough reason for the tribunal to avoid doing the right thing.
Arguing against the submission of Tinubu that nullifying the February 25 presidential election on account of interpretation of the 25 per cent of votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) could lead to chaos in the country, Atiku said nothing like that would happen if the tribunal reached such verdict.
He said, “At this stage, it is pertinent to observe from the outset that the Second Respondent’s Final Written Address, with respect, reflects a complete misconception and unfortunate misunderstanding of the case of the Petitioners.”
Lead counsel to Atiku and PDP, Chief Chris Uche, SAN, said in the final address, “A subtle threat of apocalyptic catastrophe of national chaos and anarchy if a judgement is not given in a particular manner cannot deter a court of law from doing justice.
“The court must do justice, rather ‘let the heavens fall’ but as courageously stated by the Supreme Court per Oguntade JSC, in the epic case of AMAECHI vs. INEC & ORS (2008) LPELR-446(SC) (Pp. 67-68 paras. D): ‘I must do justice even if the heavens fall.’ The truth, of course, is that when justice has been done, the heavens stay in place.”
Uche urged PREPEC to adopt a proactive approach to its interpretation of the new laws and application of the new technologies in order not to stifle the principles of transparency and integrity, being the bedrock of constitutional democracy.
He pointed out that the Electoral Act 2022 was intended by the parliament to bring about a new regime in election management and dispute resolution, in response to the yearnings for an end to the perennial flawed election cycles, with each cycle getting worse than its predecessor.
Uche urged the panel, “A fortiori, this Honourable Court will be urged to dispense with the archaic and analogue methods of proof, and embrace the progress made by technology in this new paradigm shift, improving and pushing the traditional boundaries of burden of proof in the quest to attain substantial justice.”
The senior lawyer pointed out that given the role of technology in the conduct of the presidential election, “there was a departure from the need to call physical witnesses from polling units.”
He added that the intendment of the present technological improvements was to “discontinue with the past impossibility to call witnesses from over half or more of the 176,846 polling units nationwide, being the import of section 137 of the Electoral Act 2022 and paragraph 46(4) of the 1st Schedule thereto.”
It was also Atiku’s submission that the final written address of the Second respondent was filed in flagrant defiance of, and non-compliance with, the mandatory provisions of Paragraph 5(c) and (d) of the ELECTION JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS PRACTICE DIRECTIONS, 2023 rendering same invalid.
“We urge your Lordships to discountenance as well as strike out the said Final Written Address for gross non-compliance,” Uche urged the tribunal.
Atiku concluded his final address by calling on the five-member panel led by Justice Haruna Tsammani to uphold the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) at a time like this.
He stated, “As was stated by the Supreme Court, per Oguntade JSC in GOVERNOR OF KWARA STATE V OJIBARA (2007) All FWLR (Pt. 348) 864 at 877 para D:- I have said this much in the hope that all players in the field of politics will imbibe the culture of paying due reverence and regard to the provisions of the constitution.
“This has become necessary because in these times there is unrestrained inclination to disregard the constitution and treat its terms with irreverence and disrespect. The constitution is the very foundation and structure upon which the existence of all organs of governance is hinged. It must be held inviolable.
“We, therefore, submit with all sense of responsibility that this nation and its judiciary stand at the threshold of history. We submit that the fact that a presidential election has never been nullified by the Courts in Nigeria before now, is not a good reason not to do so now, as it is just to nullify the return of the Second Respondent and grant appropriate orders. As was eloquently put by the celebrated Law Lord, Denning MR in the case of PACKER vs. PACKER (1954) AC P.15 @ 22:-
“What is the argument on the other side? Only this that no case has been found in which it had been done before. That argument does not appeal to me in the least. If we never do anything which has not been done before, we shall never get anywhere. The law will stand still whilst the rest of the world goes on and that will be bad for both.
“May our law and our country not stand still, while the rest of the world goes on. As has been said, let justice be done, the heavens will not fall.”