Renowned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Robert Clarke, has blamed the lawyers of Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party, respectively, in the 2023 presidential election for their defeat in their attempt to upturn the victory of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
While not accusing them of mishandling the case, Clarke noted a lack of professionalism in their legal approach.
This criticism from the SAN comes on the heels of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which upheld President Tinubu’s victory in the February 25 presidential election.
“Where the law is not allowed to put its heads up in a proceeding, it means that there is another law which prohibits their lawyers from bringing such. They know it, but they still decided—either to please their supporters or allow such a matter to come before the Supreme Court,” Clarke’s said when he appeared as a guest on the Channels Television Politics Today programme on Thursday.
In its ruling, a seven-judge panel at the Supreme Court rejected the appeals made by the opposition, which included claims of fraud, electoral law violations, and questions about Tinubu’s eligibility to run for the presidency.
The court effectively rejected all the grounds of appeal, addressing issues related to qualification, compliance with the Electoral Act, the requirement for 25 percent of votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and allegations of electoral malpractices.
Clarke’s response to the need for a more robust and diligent legal strategy by Atiku and Obi’s legal teams.
He contended that the due diligence in the appeals could have been better, suggesting that the legal representation fell short of the expected standards.
In a striking statement, Clarke emphasised the professional standards he holds in his own legal practice, noting that he would not allow a junior member of his legal chamber to present such a brief before the Supreme Court.
“I will not allow any junior in my chambers, even one or two years old, to carry such a brief to go and argue in court when I have looked into all the facts and the facts are very clear. There is a limitation of time in election matters. You cannot do certain things.”
Clarke said Obi and Atiku’s lawyers had the chance to present their evidence at a lower court, but they did not.
“They had the opportunity as a pre-election matter, but they never brought it out. They had the opportunity as a matter within a tribunal’s case, but they never brought it. They are now coming and bringing matters that should have been argued in the lower tribunal, and the Supreme Court will now be reviewing such evidence as an appellate matter and not as an original jurisdictional matter.”
“I am not blaming the lawyers; that is the last thing I would do, but I am sorry to say that the lawyers, with due respect to them, should have done a better job in this regard.
“As the Supreme Court said, if you have facts that were available before the trial started and you did not bring them into the trial court… Therefore, if you intend to use any evidence in the Supreme Court, you must have ensured that such evidence must have passed through the original jurisdiction of the lower court,” he said.