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The courts must declare Atiku Abubakar President of Nigeria – Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala

When the APC discovered that Atiku had the authentic votes of the 2019 presidential election, retrieved from the INEC back server, the party went into panic mode. Their first reaction was to demand that Atiku be prosecuted for hacking into the INEC computer. But this position was self-defeating. If indeed Atiku was guilty of this infraction, that would, in effect, authenticate the figures he released.

APC spokesman, Festus Keyamo, then insisted Atiku must have posted fake results in the INEC server. To lend weight to this far-fetched line of defense, he petitioned the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) to prosecute Atiku for this alleged illegality.

But INEC itself threw a spanner into the works by insisting that Atiku’s figures are fabricated and not from its website. This risposte was quickly debunked. Atiku’s lawyers demonstrated conclusively that the INEC back server from which their figures were obtained has a footprint unique to INEC.

They even published its serial numbers. According to them, the results were first transmitted to INEC’s presidential Results Server 1, and thereafter aggregated in INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019, whose unique Macintosh address is 94-57-A5-DC-64-B9, with Microsoft Product ID 00252-7000000000-AA535.

They also promise to bring the manufacturers of the INEC computer to testify that the server from which their results were tabulated bear the INEC copyright and can only come from INEC. In short, INEC is the only organization in the world with those serial numbers on its back server.

Checkmate

At every juncture, Atiku’s lawyers checkmated INEC. INEC says it only engaged in manual collation of results and did not transmit any results electronically. However, Atiku has several bona fide INEC officials willing to testify that INEC did, indeed, engage in electronic collation.

Smart Card Readers, deployed by INEC, were employed not only for voter accreditation, but also for electronic transmission of the results from the polling units directly to the INEC server. An official video presentation used to educate Nigerians on the conduct of the 2019 elections indicated INEC’s intention to deploy Smart Card Readers for the authentication of the voter accreditation and for the transmission of results.

INEC’s position that it also could not have engaged in electronic collation of results because the Electoral Act intended to validate the process was not signed into law by the president is also hogwash. INEC does not need the president’s permission, or any legislative act for that matter, in order to engage in electronic collation of election results.

Banking Code

Section 160 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution states categorically that: “any of the bodies may with the approval of the president, by rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure or confer powers and impose duties on any officer or authority for the purpose of discharging its function; provided that in the case of the Independent National Electoral Commission, its powers to make its own rules or otherwise regulate its own procedure shall not be subject to the approval or control of the president”.

Going by this, INEC required and obtained billions of naira from the government for the express purpose of transmitting results electronically. Before the election, INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said that: “(INEC) will deploy a new platform for electronic collation and transmission of results.” During the election itself, INEC had two officers at every ward collation center, one for the manual recording of the votes and the other for the electronic transmission of the results.

Therefore, INEC cannot be believed if it now insists it did not transmit the election results electronically. The evidence is overwhelming that the results of the election were transmitted electronically to the INEC server, giving the lie to INEC’s denials and confirming that the Commission subsequently changed the votes manually in favour of Buhari after the fact.

It is not surprising therefore that two months after the courts directed INEC to furnish Atiku and the PDP all the documents and materials used in the 2019 presidential election, INEC has yet to do so, despite being served with the order and after several follow-ups. Clearly, INEC has something to hide.

Knock-out punch

In spite of the heated debate generated by the discrepancy in the figures posted in INEC’s server and those it declared to the public, Atiku’s most damning case was provided by the simple claim that Buhari gave false information about his school certificate in the Form CF001 that he submitted to INEC. He also alleges that Buhari does not possess the requisite secondary school certificate he laid claim to in the form.

This is where Atiku clearly produces an outright knock-out punch against Buhari. Buhari gave in 2019 the same lame excuse he gave in 2015 that his academic qualification documents are currently with the Secretary of the Military Board. This means even in the intervening four years, Buhari has still has not been able to retrieve them.

This is not surprising because the military deposed in 2015 that it did not have Buhari’s educational credentials. Instead, the army released the following statement which quickly gave the lie to Buhari’s affidavit:

“It is a practice in the Nigerian Army that before candidates are shortlisted for commissioning into the officers’ cadre of the Service; the Selection Board verifies the original copies of credentials that are presented. However, there is no available record to show that this process was followed in the 1960s. Neither the original copy, Certified True Copy (CTC); nor statement of result of Major General M Buhari’s WASC result, is in his personal file.”

Atiku also claims the Middle School Katsina and Katsina Provincial Secondary School which Buhari claimed to have attended in his CV between 1953-1956 and 1956-1961 respectively were actually non-existent at the material time he indicated. In effect, President Buhari committed perjury on his INEC form.

If true, this is certainly more than enough to disqualify Buhari from running for president. As a matter of fact, it lays him open to criminal prosecution. Section 118 of the Nigerian criminal code reads: “Any person who commits perjury is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.” Also INEC cannot claim to be satisfied with Buhari’s eligibility without indicating how he complied with the requirements.

Red Herrings

The fact that Buhari was stumped by the certificate issue is evident in the bankruptcy of his response. He described Atiku as a serial loser, boasting that he has always defeated him in elections. This is completely irrelevant to the case. Buhari himself was also a serial loser. He lost in the presidential elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011. But this did not prevent him from winning in 2015.

Instead of shutting Atiku up by producing his “missing” school certificate, Buhari merely claimed he was eminently qualified to contest the election having obtained the minimum qualification of reading up to secondary school level. However, he failed to provide the necessary evidence to validate this claim.

Buhari then launched into the red herring of claiming he has more educational qualifications than Atiku; a completely irrelevant matter even if it were true. In any case, this does not explain why he gave false information to INEC.

Literally stomped on the question of his educational credentials, Buhari sought refuge in another red herring. His party, the APC, alleged that Atiku is a Cameroonian and not to a Nigerian by birth, and is therefore, ineligible to contest the presidential election in Nigeria. According to the APC, Atiku was born in Jada, Adamawa in 1946. At that time, Adamawa was part of Northern Cameroon. It was not until 1961 that Adamawa was integrated by plebiscite into Nigeria.

This position has turned Buhari’s legal team into a national laughing stock. On this basis, perhaps all the votes of Adamawa should be disqualified because, according to the president’s legal luminaries, Adamawa is in Cameroon and not in Nigeria. Perhaps the votes of the people of Nigeria should all be nullified because Nigeria is not a country but was once a British colony.

Adamawa is now in Nigeria. Atiku was born in Adamawa. Therefore, he is Nigerian. A Nigerian does not even have to be born in Nigeria to be Nigerian. If he is of Nigerian parentage, then he is a Nigerian. Atiku’s parents are Nigerians. One was from Sokoto; the other from Jigawa. Therefore, Atiku is a Nigerian.

Atiku was born in Nigeria. He grew up in Nigeria. He holds a Nigerian passport. He works in Nigeria and has businesses in Nigeria. He was a Deputy Director of Customs in Nigeria. He was elected Governor of Adamawa State in Nigeria. He was twice elected Vice-President of Nigeria. This is the third or fourth time he is running for president of Nigeria.

If after all this, Atiku is still not a Nigerian, then one wonders who can be a Nigerian. Maybe the only true Nigerians are those born in Daura.

Last Resort

The courts have become the last resort for the safeguarding of democracy in Nigeria. Everything now depends on them. From the onset of his administration, President Buhari has shown a single-minded determination to bring the judiciary under executive control. This is contrary to the principle of separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary enshrined in the Nigeria Constitution.

In the APC battle for Rivers and Akwa-Ibom especially in 2015, the judicial officers and members of the election tribunals were juggled by the presidency. The tribunals themselves were transferred mischievously out of state to APC-controlled Abuja. However, the Supreme Court provided the last resort and became a bulwark against the president’s executive overreach.

It is not surprising, therefore that, on the eve of the 2019 presidential election, and in an act of outright constitutional illegality and rascality, Buhari suspended the chief justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen and replaced him with Justice Tanko Mohammed.

Nevertheless, things might still not go according to plan for Mr. President. Of the three arms of government in Nigeria, the judiciary has shown the greatest integrity. It has overturned several rigged elections in the past at the gubernatorial level. It also nearly did so at the presidential level in 2007, when Yar’adua’s flawed election was upheld by the slimmest margin of 4 votes to 3 in the Supreme Court.

Nigeria is in a new season of political firsts. In 2015, for the first time, a sitting government was defeated at the polls. In 2019, for the first time, a sitting president should be removed by the courts. This is a cry for help. This blatant rape on Nigerian democracy must not be allowed to stand.

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