In a bid to challenge the outcome of the fiercely contested 2023 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has taken his fight against President Bola Tinubu’s victory to a court in the United States.
The move comes as the nation awaits the verdict of the Presidential Elections Petitions Court on the matter. Legal experts and Nigerian citizens have expressed varying views on this move.
The 2023 presidential election, which took place on February 25, marked a historic event in Nigeria’s democratic journey. Bola Tinubu was declared the winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), securing a total of 8,794,726 votes.
Following behind were Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party respectively, with 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes. Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party, trailed behind with 1,496,687 votes.
Expressing their dissatisfaction with the election process, Atiku and Obi lodged petitions challenging Tinubu’s victory. They raised concerns about INEC’s failure to adhere to the Electoral Act of 2022 during the polls.
Both Atiku and Obi questioned Tinubu’s eligibility to run for the presidency. Obi’s argument revolved around Tinubu’s alleged forfeiture of $460,000 due to a drug-related case in the United States and his inability to secure 25 percent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory.
On July 11, Atiku escalated the battle by filing a petition to obtain information about Tinubu’s academic records at Chicago State University. Atiku’s attorney, Angela Liu, requested documents pertaining to Tinubu’s admission, attendance, degrees, awards, and honors obtained during his time at the university. Atiku’s petition stressed that the subpoena aimed to verify the authenticity of his claims and establish the truth amidst ongoing disputes about his election and academic history.
Responding to Atiku’s move, President Tinubu’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss the subpoena in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chicago, USA. Victor Henderson, counsel to President Tinubu, argued that the petition lacked the necessary court authorization and provided inadequate time for compliance, violating the Illinois Supreme Court Rules.
Legal experts and commentators have voiced their opinions on Atiku’s pursuit of justice abroad. Mike Ozekhome, a human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, viewed Atiku’s actions positively, stating that the international nature of the matter warranted seeking legal assistance outside Nigeria.
Kennedy Khanoba, a Constitutional lawyer, however, maintained that unless President Tinubu is convicted in the US court, Atiku’s efforts might yield little results. He emphasized that only a conviction would have a significant impact on Tinubu’s presidential position, as convictions result in a prohibition from holding public office for a specified period.
Jackson Ojo, a political analyst, told Punch Newspaper that the sovereignty of Nigeria as an independent state could limit the influence of foreign court rulings on Nigerian affairs. He expressed skepticism about the direct impact of an American court ruling on the outcome of Nigerian elections and judicial proceedings.
As the legal battle unfolds, Nigerians remain divided on the efficacy of seeking justice abroad. Atiku’s pursuit of evidence through the US court system has ignited debates about the integrity of Nigeria’s legal system and its potential impact on the country’s political landscape. The final verdict and its implications for the Nigerian presidency remain uncertain as legal proceedings continue.