ANALYSIS: Does Peter Obi stand a chance against Tinubu in court?

 ANALYSIS: Does Peter Obi stand a chance against Tinubu in court?

Peter Obi

For many Nigerians, it is a hard spill to swallow that Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was sworn in as President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.

This year’s election was considered the most competitive presidential poll in the history of the country since 1999. 

According to results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Tinubu won the controversial election held on February 25, 2023 with a total of 8,794,726 votes.

He defeated Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) who polled 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.

However, controversies have continued to trail the election. The PDP and the LP, among other opposition parties, are currently challenging the outcome of the election in the court, citing irregularities in the process that produced Tinubu as the winner. 

Many Nigerians anticipated an improved electoral process due to the amendment of the  the 2022 electoral act and repeated assurances from INEC that results of the election would transmitted live from the polling units to its Results Viewing Portal (IREV).

But the presidential election suffered several issues ranging from failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and delayed arrival of election officials. These developments denied several registered voters the opportunity to vote. 

The bone of contention across the country is whether or not the Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC) can upturn Tinubu’s victory based on allegations of opposition parties. 

A major figure challenging Tinubu’s victory at the PEPC is Obi. The former governor of Anambra state was a force during the election and was tipped to win by several people. 

His supporter, known as Obidients, consider him as a shift from the status quo and see him as someone with  the leadership acumen to inspire the country to greater heights.

Apart of his personality, he has huge support because many see him as the best chance to actualise the quest for Igbo presidency.

For long, the south-east has alleged marginalisation of the region in the country’s political landscape. Proponents often base their argument on the fact that the south-east has not produced president since 1999.

During the election, Obi won across all the five south-eastern states by a landslide. In the south-east and among many of his followers in other regions, there is optimism that the former governor can still turn things around.

‘History favours Obi, he did it in Anambra — analyst’

Weighing into the conversation, Okeke Chibueze, a political analyst, said Obi stands a chance at the court, citing his past experience in Anambra. 

About 20 years ago, Obi contested the 19 April, 2003 governorship election in Anambra on the crest of newly registered All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). After Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner in the race by INEC, Obi rejected the result and went to court for redress where he recorded a historic success.

After two years and 11 months of judicial fireworks, the tenure of Ngige as Anambra State Governor ended on a dramatic note on 15 March 2003 when, by a unanimous ruling, a five-member panel of the Court of Appeal upturned his victory and affirmed Obi as the winner of the April 2003 gubernatorial election in the state.

In its ruling, the appeal court upheld the decision of the lower tribunal that Obi ought to have been declared the winner and sworn in as the validly elected governor of Anambra State on 29 May 2003. The verdict was the product of Obi’s pursuit of his mandate through the judicial process notwithstanding daunting odds.

Obi’s swearing-in as governor on 17 March 2006 made Anambra the first state to alter the governorship transition calendar in the country as he became the first candidate to unseat a sitting governor through the judicial process.

Many therefore argued that based on his antecedents in court, he can win his petition against Tinubu and become the country’s pesident. 

“Well, I’m one of those that still hold on to such hope. This is for a number of reasons. Peter Obi is known for achieving that which is impossible, looking at his records from years past. When we all believed Tribunals can never upturn any election, he emerged as one who pursued his course to a logical conclusion. So we believe this will not be different,” Chibueze said. 

“Also, Buhari may have abused everything known as due process and rule of law in Nigeria, and it seems everyone has a price, but I still believe there are men and women of conscience in the judiciary who will not taint their names no matter what, just like we saw with some RECs during the last election.

“I am also a strong believer in miracles, so even if men fail, God will not fail. I believe in prophecies, and we’ve had a lot of them, even years before the elections telling us in details how it will all play out, and it’s been happening in that sequence. So if the others happened, this too will happen.”

‘I’m confident in the judiciary’ — Obi, LP line up 50 witnesses against Tinubu

The Labour Party recently said it would call 50 witnesses to testify at the presidential election petition tribunal.

The development comes as Obi said he he is confident in the judiciary to deliver the right judgement in his suit against Tinubu.

In a recent interview, he said: “I am confident in the judiciary. I am because I have stayed in court for three years when people said it was impossible for you to become a governor through the court and I became the first (to reclaim a stolen mandate). Remember I was impeached and again the court brought me back. And I went for interpretation where I said, ‘My tenure is not complete’. People said it’s impossible because somebody else had been elected but I changed it.

“So, having gone through courts, several of them, I have not had any cause to doubt the court. I believe Nigeria has one of the best judiciary globally, but it is we, the politicians, because of our transactional nature, that are trying to ensure that everywhere is corrupted. 

“That I wish can start reversing, even with this case. They are seeing globally what is happening, Africans are surprised that the giant of Africa can no longer deliver. Even Ghana will soon have elections and they will do all without the BVAS and it will go smoothly.

“I don’t go anywhere referring to how others were treated. Irrespective of their judgements recently, I have confidence that they know the country is collapsing, they know they have to help to build a better place for their children.”

With current judiciary, Obi can’t reclaim his mandate’

While some observed that Obi stands a chance against Tinubu in the court, others argued otherwise.

According to Chidi Okoye, a social commentator, the Nigerian judiciary cannot be trusted to deliver justice in a case of this magnitude. 

“Yes, a lot of persons here in the south east and also many youth believe his (Obi’s) mandate was stolen. Now in the case of  Obi as a governor, he has this history of always getting his stolen mandate through the court. You can see that in his case with Ngige, the labour minster. So, is it based on this that he (Obi) thinks that he will reclaim his mandate,” he said. 

“But judging the process our supreme court justices gets into office and who their pay master is, I don’t think this judgement will go his (Obi’s) way. We have seen the way the justice system in done and how those close the president can disobey court judgments in Nigeria. We can see in the case of Dasuki where he was granted bail but Nigeria government refused to comply with court order. We can also see court order been disobeyed in the case of El-Zakzaky and his wife and so many other cases. 

“So, for me, I feel with our current justice system in Nigeria, he (Obi) will not get justice. It is only when we have a completely independent judiciary system that is free of corruption that people like obi and ordinary citizens like you and I can start believing in our justice process with a full confidence.”

Corroborating him, Sunday Elom, a public affairs analyst, said: “Well, considering the atmosphere around Peter Obi’s followership and quest for a working new Nigeria, one can easily be compelled to say without mincing words that Obi would be favoured by the election petition tribunal judgment. 

“Others are also hanging their hope that Obi would “regain his mandate” based on his track records of victory at election petition tribunal up to Supreme Court as Anambra State Governor.

“However, I must be honest, bearing in mind all the antecedents of the realities we have witnessed in Nigeria in election petition judgments, including the recent Osun governorship election petition judgment where the Supreme Court held that to prove that there was election manipulation, the petitioner must produce each BVAS used in all the affected polling units in court, as a realistic I analyst, I cannot tell you that Peter Obi will win the case and be declared winner of the 2023 presidential election.

“Our judicial system is still far from the hope for actualisation of Nigerians’ ultimate true desire.”

’How in-fighting within opposition parties aaffected bi’s chances’

Tinubu was a major force in the presidential race. His strong political network and wealth of experience in the country’s political landscape was considered his major strength by many of his supporters.

The former governor of Lagos, however, faced many odds.

The first was the growing resentment towards the APC-led government. Many Nigerians craved a change, a different party from the APC. The fuel scarcity and hardships caused by the naira redesign policy — few weeks to the election — heightened the anger of many for the ruling party.

The second was the reservations about APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. Tinubu and his running mate are both Muslims.

For a country like Nigeria with a large population of Christians, a Muslim-Muslim ticket is not the best idea for many. This is due to the fact that there have been allegations of attempts to Islamise Nigeria in the past.

Tinubu’s personality also posed a challenge for his presidential bid. The controversies around his age, health, education, wealth, and drug allegations against him were a threat to his chances at the polls.

But the former governor emerged winner against the odds due to various factors.

The first was the crisis that rocked the major opposition party, the PDP. The PDP came under heavy criticism over its failure to zone its presidential ticket to the south like the APC.

That eventually degenerated into more crisis and led to the departure of key figures like Obi, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, among others from the party.

There was further internal cracks within the party when five governors — Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Seyi Makinde (Oyo State), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu State), Samuel Ortom (Benue State), and Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia State) — known as the G-5 governors refused to support Atiku, its presidential candidate.

The five governors had demanded the resignation of Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the PDP, for zoning the party’s presidential ticket to the north.

The division in the opposition camp facilitated Tinubu’s victory at the polls. For instance, the total votes garnered by the various factions of the PDP surpassed that of Tinubu.

Pundits argued that Obi would have stand a better chance if he worked with Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). The pair were initially on course for an alliance but fell out after failure to reach a compromise.

Therefore, the refusal of the opposition parties to form a strong alliance and work together was a major boost for Tinubu and ultimately aided his victory at the polls.

Time will tell if Tinubu’s victory will stand or be reversed by the court.

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