By Our REPORTER
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, yesterday rekindled their media tirade over allegations by the former vice president that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was planning to compromise Nigeria’s democracy by cowing the judiciary into delivering judgement in favour of the governing in the ongoing case at the presidential election petitions court.
Casting the first stone, Atiku warned against an alleged recent threat from the governing party aimed at intimidating the judiciary from serving the duty of justice.
But President Tinubu fired back at the PDP candidate, saying he is yet to recover from the shock of defeat, even as he noted that the bid by Atiku and the opposition to blackmail the judiciary will fail.
Atiku and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, are currently challenging the February 25 presidential poll that produced Tinubu as president.
The parties in the recent presidential election dispute have made their presentations to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which is expected to deliver judgement in the coming weeks.
However, in their final defence statement to the court, Tinubu’s legal team led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said, “Any other interpretation different from this will lead to absurdity, chaos, anarchy and alteration of the very intention of the legislature.”
Also there have been reports in the media about alleged plots to harass justices sitting on the petition.
Reacting to the claims, Atiku said it was regrettable that the APC and agents of President Tinubu 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.
In a statement signed by his media aide, Paul Ibe, the former vice president said, “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.
“It is regrettable that the APC and, indeed, agents of President Bola Tinubu 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.
“These and 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.
“Our democracy gives the people of Nigeria the powers to choose their leaders, and our laws demand that our judiciary must be allowed to act independently without harassment and intimidation by the government or powerful interests.
“To compromise the workings of our democracy and seeking to compromise the workings of our judiciary is an open call for anarchy.
“As a party in the litigation that is currently reviewing the outcome of the last presidential election, we wish to express our intentions to do all that is within the law in resisting any attempt to undermine our fragile democracy. Indeed, we are using this channel to call on the international community to be alerted.
“Nigeria’s democracy should not be undermined by using the judiciary to serve the interest of the ruling party. Sadly, this has become the stock in trade of the All Progressives Congress to intimidate the judiciary.”
Atiku recalled that in 2019, the APC-led federal government similarly removed then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, when it was obvious that he would not bend to their will, adding that the Department of State Services (DSS) similarly stormed the homes of judges in 2016 and 2017, all in a bid to beat the judiciary into submission.
He continued: “The plot of the APC is simple: intimidate the judiciary, threaten judges with arrest so that they will bow to their will. This is a playbook from 2019 when they removed the CJN and then replaced him with Tanko Muhammad, who himself was later accused of corruption by his colleagues at the Supreme Court and resigned shamefully.
“However, the APC government never went after Tanko Muhammad as they did in Onnoghen’s case because it was never about corruption but election. The APC has, over the years, built a reputation of judiciary intimidation. They accused about 10 judges of corruption, stormed their homes, and got them suspended and yet could not convict a single one of them. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court could not recover from the embarrassment that he ended up dying in office.
“Now, they have initiated a new plot. This time around, they want to intimidate the judges into delivering favourable judgments for them at the election tribunal. We draw the attention of the international community and, indeed, Nigerians to this fresh plot to steal the mandate of over 200 million people.”
He however urged Nigerians to abide by the golden rule of eternal vigilance being the price of liberty.
“On this note, we appeal to all security agencies in the country to remain professional in the discharge of their duties and resist being used vas an instrument of oppression and intimidation against the judiciary,” he stated.
Atiku said since the conclusion of the presidential election in February this year and the attendant controversies in its trail, there had been unfortunate developments that are saddening to many Nigerians.
He added that the election that brought the current government into office is the worst in the annals of democratic politics in our country, even though it was promised to be the best ever.
“Consequently, the outcome of that election and the arbitrariness of the electoral umpire to declare a winner against the requirement of the law has been the reason Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and other parties in the election have chosen the patriotic path to challenge the outcome of that election.
“It is a truism that the judiciary is the only reasonable option in the quest for justice. As a matter of fact, our judiciary and the interpretations that they have given to our laws have been a major building block in our democratic journey so far.
“Our laws are very clear about the prerequisite of separation of powers as a guarantee of an independent judiciary.
“The idea behind that concept of an independent judiciary is to insulate that branch of government from unholy fraternity between its hallowed members and the rest of the society – especially the political actors,” he said.
Hitting back at the PDP candidate, President Tinubu described Atiku’s claims as “laughable and jejune”, noting that the former VP’s bid to blackmail the judiciary will fail.
He noted that having lost in the last election to him as the APC candidate in the poll, the former vice president is now attempting to cast aspersions on the current administration without providing any evidence.
Speaking through his special adviser on Special Duties, Communications and Strategy, Dele Alake, the president characterized Atiku’s allegations as containing “innuendos, insinuations, and outright lies,” while lacking any substantial argument.
In a statement he issued last night, Alake said, “If the former Vice President believes in democracy and the sanctity of the Judiciary, as claimed, he would not engage in making spurious and wild allegations aimed at disparaging and discrediting an important arm of government that should serve as the bulwark for our democracy.”
Alake further accused Atiku of attempting to intimidate and blackmail the Judiciary, despite being involved in a case before the presidential election petition court.
He recalled Tinubu’s role in championing the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary during his tenure as governor of Lagos State.
The presidential spokesman noted that President Tinubu had successfully challenged decisions of the previous PDP-led federal government in defense of the rights of states as federating units.
Refuting any intent to undermine the judiciary, President Tinubu said he won a free, fair, and credible election, which was the most transparent election conducted in Nigeria since 1999, adding that his legal team, along with that of the APC, presented a strong defense of the election results.
Expressing confidence in the judiciary’s impartiality, Tinubu urged Atiku to refrain from discrediting the important institution of the state and to allow the judiciary to perform its sacred duty without interference.
The president branded the ex-VP actions as “disingenuous, shameful, and unbecoming” of a former Vice President of Nigeria and urged him to put an end to this “desperation.”
Alake continued: “It is on record and to his eternal credit that President Tinubu, through the instrumentality of the law and Judiciary, successfully challenged many of the draconian and obnoxious decisions of the PDP-led Federal Government that trampled on the rights of the States as federating units. Lagos State under the leadership of the then Governor Tinubu won over 13 cases up to the Supreme Court against the hydra-headed PDP administration at the centre.
“No leader with such a sterling and enviable credential as a champion of rule of law, independence of judiciary like President Tinubu will ever contemplate undermining the Judiciary as alleged by Alhaji Atiku.
“President Tinubu won a free, fair and credible election. The February 25, 2023 Presidential election that produced him is the most transparent election ever conducted in Nigeria since 1999. President Tinubu and the APC absolutely have no reason to undermine the judiciary in the hope of any favourable judgement.
“His lawyers and that of APC have presented very solid defence of the result of the election and we are sure the judiciary will impartially deliver its ruling on the basis of points of law and evidence before it, not based on presumptuous speculations and unfounded accusations.
“Atiku Abubakar should be honourable enough as a statesman to allow the Judiciary perform its sacred duty without harassment and this resort to self-help. Attempting to discredit an important institution of State for selfish political end is disingenuous, shameful and unbecoming of a former Vice President of Nigeria. This desperation must stop”.