Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 election, has criticised the verdict of the Supreme Court, highlighting the urgent need for transparency and electoral reform to preserve Nigeria’s democracy.
His remarks came few days after the apex court affirmed the victory of Bola Tinubu in the February 25 election.
Atiku, at a press conference on Monday in Abuja, said: “If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies by its judgement that crime is good and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost and the country is doomed irrespective of who occupies the presidential seat.
“If the Supreme Court decides that the electoral umpire, INEC, can tell the public one thing and then do something else in order to reach a corruptly predetermined outcome, then there is really no hope for the country’s democracy and electoral politics.”
The former vice-president said: “Obviously, the consequences of those decisions for the country will not end at the expiration of the current government. They will last for decades. I am absolutely sure that history will vindicate me. We now know what the Supreme Court has decided.
“We can urgently make constitutional amendments that will prevent any court or tribunal from hiding behind technicalities and legal sophistry to affirm electoral heists and undermine the will of the people. Our democracy must mean something; it must be substantive. Above all, it must be expressed through free, fair and transparent elections that respect the will of the people.”
He said the country must make electronic voting and collation of results mandatory, adding: “This is the 21st century and countries less advanced than Nigeria are doing so already. It is only bold initiatives that transform societies.”
Atiku said: “Secondly, we must provide that all litigation arising from a disputed election must be concluded before the inauguration of a winner. This was the case in 1979. The current time frame between elections and inauguration of winners is inadequate to dispense with election litigations.
“Thirdly, in order to ensure popular mandate and real representation, we must move to require a candidate for President to earn 50 percent +1 of the valid votes cast, failing which a run-off between the top two candidates will be held. Most countries that elect their presidents use this Two-Round System (with slight variations) rather than our current First-Past-the-Post system.”
He recommended reduction in the “desperation of incumbents and distractions from governing and also to promote equity and national unity”.
He said: “We need to move to a single six-year term for the President to be rotated among the six geo-political zones. This will prevent the ganging up of two or more geo-political zones to alternate the presidency among themselves to the exclusion of other zones.
“INEC should be mandated to verify the credentials submitted to it by candidates and their parties and where it is unable to do so – perhaps because the institutions involved did not respond in time – it must publicly state so and have it on record.”
According to Atiku, a situation where a candidate submits contradictory credentials to INEC in different election cycles and the electoral umpire accepts them without question points to gross negligence, at best, or collusion to break the law by the leadership of the INEC.
“The submission of contradictory qualifying documents by a candidate as well as those found to be forged or falsified should disqualify a candidate even if the falsification or forgery is discovered after the person had been sworn into office,” he said.
He said the judgments of the election tribunal and the Supreme Court have very far-reaching grave implications.
He said: “When people lose trust and confidence in elections, democracy is practically on life support. And by affirming and legitimizing the continued lack of transparency in our electoral system the courts are continuing to usurp the rights of voters to elect their leaders.
“The other grave implication is that contestants in Nigeria’s elections should do whatever is necessary to be declared the winner. That includes identity theft, impersonation, forging of educational and other documents, perjury, and violence.
“As they do so, they should ignore whatever the law says and whatever assurances from the leadership of the electoral umpire about what the law says and what they would do in compliance. And they would do so knowing that our courts would approve of their behaviour or at best pretend not to take any notice of it.”