Can the Supreme Court satisfy Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi?
By Rotimi Fasan
With the commencement of hearings at the Supreme Court on electoral disputes connected to the 2023 presidential election this week, concerned parties and Nigerians at large are getting to the bus terminus as far as that election is concerned.
A few weeks more and we would all know where we stand. Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has told Nigerians he would only stop his investigations of and quest to have Bola Tinubu removed as president after the Supreme Court has spoken on the matter.
Peter Obi of the Labour Party has on the other hand not committed to such a position. But any keen follower of the court processes before now and demands of the opposition parties in the larger court of public opinion on social media and beyond, would know that not even the judgement of the Supreme Court, if it does not order the removal of Tinubu from office, would satisfy his opponents and their supporters.
Some of them are already talking about the release of so-called FBI and CIA files on the president. And this is where the problem lies about the demands of the opposition, the goalpost of which keeps changing at every point. When the opposition bus took off in February, it started with claims that the Independent National Electoral Commission rigged the election in favour of Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress by its failure to transmit the results in real time. Gradually it moved from that to questions about the actual number of votes won by the APC presidential candidate, or if his failure to win 25% of the votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory etc, didn’t undercut his claim to the presidency.
The old issues about Tinubu’s academic background at Chicago State University which later expanded into his Darley College days before pivoting back to his pre-Darley days in Nigeria, didn’t come up until the judgement of the Appeal Court rubbished the opposition claims they won the presidential election for lack of evidence.
Even when CSU has made clear its position about the individual that attended that institution and validated its records on him, the demands keep shifting. Now it is moving gradually in the direction of some FBI and CIA files. The question to ask is this: in what way are the contents of these files connected to the last presidential election in Nigeria?
Whatever are the contents of the files, how would they impact or have impacted the outcome of that election that was held in Nigeria? Would the contents of the files be the basis for the removal from office of someone that was legitimately elected by the Nigerian people, and if the courts in Nigeria affirm it? If this was how important Tinubu was to the American security system, or how established his supposed career in the drug trade was, why did America not bother itself about him beyond the forfeiture of some pocket change in terms of the overall worth of the drug trade in America?
Let us not forget that he was neither tried nor found criminally liable. If he was that important, why would America have to wait for requests by Nigerian politicians before opening the books on him or releasing the dossier on his putative drug career and everything else? Aren’t Tinubu’s traducers fishing for something else here? Is it not clear now that what the opposition is looking for is beyond the demand for accountability?
What they want is the removal of the president from office by any means necessary. Subjected to the same standard, which of Atiku or Peter Obi would survive it? For the brief period the searchlight was turned back on either of these men, what has been revealed to Nigerians about Obi’s and Atiku’s academic records. That one, despite possessing a first degree, parades a School Certificate result that was obtained after a degree said to belong to his late brother because of discrepancies in names? Why the name differences, even if the certificate is actually his? Why did Atiku have a name change just after sitting an exam with another name? These are legitimate questions to ask even if they are not proofs that either of these men committed a crime. But it does show that if you look close enough, there would be a lot to see that could be the basis for a judicial challenge.
This is what Tinubu’s opponents must realise: there would be no end to these series of litigations should anyone choose to challenge everything challengeable about any or all of them.
None of Tinubu’s challengers are honestly out for accountability. They are simply looking for their own way to Aso Villa. Their situation is in fact no way different from that of those law enforcement officers to be found on Nigerian roads and other public places, be they police, VIO or even LASTMA staff. When they insist on the law “taking its course”, is it for reasons of accountability or integrity? You and I know all it takes to soften them is for those so inclined to “settle” the officers. I repeat neither Atiku nor Peter Obi is about integrity or accountability as far as their attack and judicial probe of Tinubu goes. He is the obstacle to their way to Abuja and they want him out – period.
To be clear, there’s a lot about Tinubu’s background that remains unclear, not necessarily for any criminal infraction. Perhaps, he may want to clear the doubts about that someday. But his opponents don’t fare any better as we have seen and as is turning out. If not with their background, then their activities as business persons or politicians. If we must proceed on that basis, then, no Nigerian politician would be clean enough to be in office.
That’s my point. If either of Atiku or Obi are not self-centred, and the rest of us, politicians and others, want to be genuine patriots as opposed to partisan foot soldiers, what we should be demanding is a review of our electoral laws as they pertain to the resolution of electoral disputes.
But for the fait accompli that allows a candidate to be sworn into office before the determination of suits against them, we would not be where we are today. If any of Tinubu’s opponents had won the election, they would have benefitted from this trap of a law. It is not the making of Tinubu that he was sworn in as president before the courts had spoken on his victory. As it is, none of his opponents are asking for the repeal or review of these laws. Rather they are waiting to exploit it. Where is their integrity?