The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and President Bola Tinubu are locked in a war of words over an alleged plot to manipulate the ongoing electoral dispute at the Presidential Election Petition Court, Abuja.
Atiku, a former vice president, in a statement on Saturday in Abuja by his media office, alleged that there are threats from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Tinubu’s party, that aim to intimidate the judiciary from ensuring justice in the ongoing presidential electoral dispute.
But Mr Tinubu and the APC have dismissed the allegations.
Dispute in Court
Atiku, who came second in the 25 February presidential election, is urging the Presidential Election Petition Court to overturn Mr Tinubu’s victory on account of alleged electoral fraud.
Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) in their separated suits, are also asking the five-member panel of the court headed by Haruna Tsammani, to nullify the president’s victory at the polls.
They are accusing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of manipulating the entire electoral process in favour of Mr Tinubu.
The petitioners also argued during the court’s hearing that Mr Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima were not eligible to vie for the presidency owing to allegations of criminal forfeiture and double nomination against the duo.
However, Messrs Tinubu, Shettima, the APC and INEC, in their defence before the court, contended that there was substantial compliance with the electoral laws in the conduct of the 25 February presidential election.
‘Sinister plot to undermine Nigeria’s judiciary, democracy’
But in a fresh reaction to the court’s proceedings, Atiku said there is a plot to compromise the judiciary’s independence.
In the statement signed by his media aide, Paul Ibe, the PDP candidate described the last general election as the “the worst in the annals of democratic politics in our country,” a position Mr Tinubu has refuted.
Atiku who was Nigeria’s vice president from 1999 to 2007, said INEC’s “arbitrariness” in declaring Mr Tinubu as winner of the election despite not fulfilling the statutory requirements was why he is challenging the outcome.
“But as proceedings on the controversial February 25 election continue at the court, there have been threats from the ruling party that aim to intimidate the judiciary from serving the duty of justice,” the statement said.
He alleged that the APC and Mr Tinubu’s “agents” “have ceaselessly chosen to stand in the way of justice by making catastrophic threats to anarchy if justice is not served according to their whims.”
Last Wednesday, there were social media reports that Mr Tinubu allegedly had a secret telephone conversation with the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Olukayode Ariwoola, concerning the pending suits against the president
The reports also alleged that Mr Ariwoola had a clandestine phone conversation with the Director General of Nigeria’s spy agency, the State Security Service (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, with a view to asking the presidential election court to give its judgement in favour of Mr Tinubu.
However, the APC and the Supreme Court management denied the allegations, saying there was “no iota of truth” in the claims.
Atiku cautioned that “Nigeria’s democracy should not be undermined by using the judiciary to serve the interest of the ruling party.”
Referencing the social media reports about Messrs Tinubu and Ariwoola’s alleged phone call, Atiku said, “…reports in the media about some heinous plots to harass justices sitting on the petition are ominous to peace and the security of our nation.”
“To compromise the workings of our democracy and seeking to compromise the workings of our judiciary is an open call for anarchy.”
The former vice president expressed his desire to abide by the law “in resisting any attempt to undermine our fragile democracy.”
Drawing the attention of the international community to the allegations, Atiku recalled how a former CJN, Walter Onnoghen, was unlawfully removed from office in 2019 “when it was obvious that he would not bend to their will.”