The presidency and the Labour Party (LP) president candidate, Peter Obi, yesterday engaged in a media war over the Supreme Court judgement that affirmed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s victory in the 2023 presidential election.
Obi cast the first stone when he accused the highest court in the land of averting the wish of the people by abandoning its responsibility as a court of law and policy.
Speaking at a press conference on the judgment delivered on October 26, 2023, Obi noted that the apex court verdict contradicted the evidence of election rigging and false claim of a technical glitch.
He said, “Because we are confronted with very weighty issues of national interest, I will speak forthrightly. As students and young lads at CKC, Onitsha, we were taught values and admonished to always; “choose the harder right, instead of the easier wrong.”
“Setting legal issues aside, the Supreme Court exhibited a disturbing aversion to public opinion just as it abandoned its responsibility as a court of law and policy.
“It is, therefore, with great dismay that I observe that the court’s decision contradicts the overwhelming evidence of election rigging, false claim of a technical glitch, substantial non-compliance with rules set by INEC itself”.
Obi declared however that the journey had just begun signaling that he will contest the 2027 presidential election again, just as he thanked Nigerians for their support, said the journey has just begun.
Obi, who was flanked by his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, said as someone who had previously benefited from the rulings of the Supreme Court on electoral matters he decided to personally and formally react to the recent judgment as most Nigerians have.
Obi said with what he described as counter-intuitive judgment, the Supreme Court has transferred a heavy moral burden from the courtrooms to national conscience.
“Our young democracy is ultimately the main victim and casualty of the courtroom drama,” Obi said, adding that without equivocation, the judgment amounts to a total breach of the confidence the Nigerian people have in our judiciary.
“To that extent, it is a show of unreasonable force against the very Nigerian people from whom the power of the Constitution derives. This Supreme Court ruling may represent the state of the law in 2023 but not the present demand for substantive justice. The judgment mixed principles and precepts. Indeed, the rationale and premise of the Supreme Court judgment have become clearer in the light of the deep revealing and troubling valedictory remarks by Hon. Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad, (JSC) on Friday 27th October 2023,” Obi said during the conference.
In disagreeing with the ruling of both the Presidential Petitions Court (PEPC) and the Supreme Court on the outcome of the 25th February 2023 Presidential election as declared by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Obi said as democrats who believe in the rule of law, they recognize that the Supreme Court is the end stage of the quest for legal closure to the matter.
“As a party and as candidates, Datti and I have now exhausted all legal and constitutional remedies available to us. However, this end is only another beginning in our quest for the vindication of the hope of the common man for a better country. After all, sovereignty belongs to the people! If only for historical purposes, it behooves us to place our disagreement with and deep reservations about this judgment on public record,” he said.
But in a swift reaction, the presidency urged Obi to accept his election defeat and consider finding a new vocation instead of criticizing the judiciary.
In a statement by the special adviser, Information and Strategy, to the president, Bayo Onanuga, the presidency admonished Obi for holding a press conference to make “false allegations” against the Supreme Court and the electoral commission for not declaring him winner.
He expressed bewilderment that Obi believed he could have won the election in which he came a “distant third.”
Onanuga accused Obi of running a divisive campaign that pitched religious and ethnic groups against each other.
The presidency said Obi contradicted himself by complaining about the Supreme Court when he had benefitted from its judgments in the past.
Onanuga added that the apex court does not give judgments based on public opinion or mob sentiments.
He further described Obi’s post-election litigation as the “most watery and unreasonable petition” which provided no evidence of rigging despite his claims.
Noting that throughout the trial, Obi’s lawyers provided no alternative results, he said, “Labour Party Presidential candidate in the last election, Peter Obi, addressed a press conference, just like Atiku Abubakar, where he cast aspersions on the Supreme Court and the Independent National Electoral Commission for not declaring him the winner of the February 25, 2023 election.
“We are at a loss as to how the copy-cat Obi and his faction of Labour Party convinced themselves they won an election in which they came a distant third.
“The grand delusion that made Mr. Obi believe he could have won a national election where he ran the most hateful, divisive and polarising campaign that pitched Christians against Muslims and one ethnic group against the other in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria should be a matter for deeper examination”.
The presidency noted further that Obi tried to gaslight Nigerians with false claims and innuendos but ended up contradicting himself.
It regretted that a beneficiary of judicial pronouncements in the past was now castigating the same court because its judgment did not go his way.
“Mr. Obi claimed the Supreme Court justices didn’t consider public opinion in delivering what has been applauded as a most profound judgement in an election appeal where the Labour Party candidate presented the most watery and unreasonable petition before any court in the history of electoral cases in Nigeria.
“He made false allegations of rigging and other electoral malpractices yet could not produce any evidence to back up his claims at both the court of first instance and at the apex court. In a failed effort to mobilise and retain the support of his supporters, Obi gave them a forlorn hope that he won the election and would prove it before the courts.
“Throughout the trial, his lawyers didn’t present any alternative results different from the results INEC uploaded on the IReV portal and the ones signed by all party agents from the 176,000 polling units,” he said.