By Emmanuel Ogodo
Opposition parties, their supporters as well as many concerned Nigerians have continually expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of the February 25 presidential election, which produced Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as president-elect.
Consequently, some frontline contestants and their political parties, including Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have filed petitions to the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal against Tinubu, APC and INEC, citing irregularities in the polls and other issues.
These petitions and expressions have met matched criticisms from different quarters, mostly from APC party loyalists, Tinubu’s supporters and government institutions. Some of the accusations against those challenging the outcome of the election include mischief making, incitement and insurrection as well as treason.
However, aside the criticisms, which one may describe as being judgemental and sentimental, some people have insisted that there is urgent need for the tribunal to look into the cases before it, the evidences therewith as well as their legal and political implications for Nigeria.
Although the constitution stipulates that a person returned elected shall remain in office, pending the determination of the suit before a tribunal, some Nigerians say there is need to put what now seems to be a constitutional crisis to rest, even before the swearing-in holds.
According to the Archbishop of the Abuja Catholic Archdiocese, John Onaiyekan, it “makes no sense”, to swear in president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu before the hearing of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal is concluded.
In an interview with Channels Television recently, the clergyman said, “There are cases in court that have not been disposed of. That is why we are in an anomalous situation. We have a president-elect whose election is being challenged and the court is handling it.
“I’m still waiting for the court to tell me who won the election. It doesn’t make much sense to be swearing in people when they are still in court. I know it has happened with governors, but the outcome has not been the best of all cases.
In his own argument, the vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, said during an interview with Channels Television as well, that swearing in Tinubu, with the cases in court, “is as good as swearing in the military”.
He said, “I am telling you that on the 29th of May 2023, swear in Tinubu as this result is, you have ended democracy whoever you are.
“You cannot swear in people who have not met constitutional requirements. If you do that, you have done something unlawful, something unconstitutional. And I am repeating it, whoever does not meet the constitutional requirement must not, must never be sworn in.”
In contrast, a faction of the Labour Party led by Lamidi Apapa, said it does not support the calls for an interim government and the agitations that the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, should not be sworn in on May 29, pending the determination of the petitions before the Presidential Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja.
In a recent statement by the faction’s spokesman, Abayomi Arabambi, he posited that the Electoral Act and the Constitution of Nigeria did not give room for a vacuum, noting that the swearing-in of Tinubu “may not have any impact on the ongoing legal tussle on the presidential election involving our party (LP), APC and INEC.”
Also, Inibehe Effiong, a public interest lawyer, said there was no controversy on Tinubu’s inauguration or any impediment against it from the perspective of the law.
He said, “Even if the tribunal’s decision is appealed, he will remain in office until the Supreme Court determines the appeal. And that is not only applicable to the office of the president. It also applies to all elective positions.”
Some of the issues in contention include the eligibility of the President-elect to contest for the election in the first place, given his alleged conviction and forfeiture of over $400,000 to a US court vis-a-vis a drug trafficking case, and of recent, the Guinean passport saga.
Others include the dual nomination of Tinubu’s running mate, Kashim Shettima during the 2023 general election, the issue of scoring 25 per cent in the FCT as well as INEC’s non-compliance to the provisions of electoral guidelines in the course of the election.
In the opinion of some people, all these are issues that need to be addressed before the swearing-in, so as to save the country from the possible luxury of two presidential inaugurations within one electoral cycle.
History they say, is full of first times. Nigeria appears to be at the crossroads. All eyes are on the judiciary.
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