By Akanimo Sampson
The battle for the soul of the Presidency of Nigeria between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not likely to end so soon in order to help calm the turbulent waters of the dangerously polarised country.
Analysts fear that the lingering political dispute between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s deputy, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, all prominent Fulani leaders, could have a negative impact on the economy of the country.
At the moment, the unemployment rate in the country appears to be on the rise. Some data indicate that it increased to 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 percent in the second quarter of 2018.
Before now, unemployment rate in the country averaged 12.31 percent from 2006 until 2018, zooming to an all time high of 23.10 percent in the third quarter of 2018 and a record low of 5.10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.
Disturbingly, it is estimated that by 2030, the percentage of the citizenry living in extreme poverty will increase from 44.2 percent to 45.5 percent, representing a total of some 120 million people living under $1.90 per day.
In the mean time, the World Poverty Clock has revealed that 91,885,874 people in Nigeria are living in extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, a person can be said to be living in extreme poverty if they live below the poverty line of $1.90 which translates to N693.5 per day.
This represents 46.5 percent of the country’s population which is approximated at 197,686,877, but sometimes rounded up to 200 million.
While this tends to mean that more than half of Nigeria’s population live on less than N360 a day, in June 2018, the World Poverty Clock had named Nigeria the poverty capital of the world with statistics showing 87 million people live in poverty.
The obvious implication is that since June 2018, four million Nigerians have joined the poverty club occasioned by factors such as unemployment, insecurity, among others.
The Buhari administration had rejected the June 2018 statistics which solidified Nigeria’s position as the world poverty capital of the world despite world leaders such as former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, quoting the statistics to talk about poverty in Nigeria.
Already, the PDP has completely rejected the ruling of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal describing it as provocative, barefaced subversion of justice and direct assault on the
integrity of the country’s justice system.
The tribunal has dismissed the petition filed by the PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in a statement said the main opposition party was particularly shocked that the tribunal failed to point to justice despite the flawless evidence laid before it, which allegedly showed that President Buhari was not only unqualified to contest the election but also did not score the majority of valid votes at the polls.
According to him, ‘’the PDP finds as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. The party is also rudely shocked that the Court took over the roles of the Respondents’ lawyers who clearly abandoned their pleadings by refusing to call evidence in defense of the petition. The court raked up all manner of excuses to make up for the yawning gaps occasioned by the total absence of any evidence from the Respondents.
‘’Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one need not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification. The party notes as strange that the court even went ahead to provide rationalisations in favour of President Buhari, even when all hard facts before it shows that he did not possess the claimed educational
certificate and that the Army was not in possession of his WAEC certificate as claimed in the affidavit he deposed to in his Presidential nomination form.
‘’The PDP also described as shocking that the court approved the flawed declaration of President Buhari as the winner of the election despite evidence to show the perpetration of illegalities, manipulations, alterations and subtraction of valid votes freely given to Atiku Abubakar by Nigerians. Indeed, the pervading melancholic atmosphere across our nation since the verdict is a direct indication that the judgment has not fulfilled the desires and expectations of Nigerians.
‘’The PDP however encouraged Nigerians to remain calm and not to lose hope or surrender to despondency or self-help, as our lawyers are upbeat in obtaining justice at the Supreme Court. This is more so as the tribunal itself admitted that there are several errors in the judgment.’’
The tribunal however held, in the lead judgment by Justice Mohammed Garba, the head of the appeal court panel which has been supported by three of the five Justices of the tribunal so far, held that the petitioners failed to prove their case, and that the petition failed in its entirety.
The tribunal therefore held that Buhari was duly elected, saying that the petitioners failed to either prove that the President was not qualified to contest the election or that he did not win the votes validly cast on February 23, 2019
Delivering its ruling on Wednesday, the tribunal ruled that President Buhari is qualified to contest the presidential election and that the evidence tendered by the PDP shows that Buhari was qualified to run for president.
‘’The CV contains impressive credentials that enables the second respondent (Buhari) to contest for the presidential election’’, Garba held, adding, ‘’the second respondent has more than secondary school certificate. There is no doubt he is not only qualified but also eminently qualified to contest the election as shown by the evidence presented by the petitioners themselves.’’
PDP Presidential candidate, Atiku, had filed a petition at the tribunal challenging the victory of Buhari who contested under the APC. Among the grounds of his petition is that Buhari did not possess the necessary academic qualification to contest the election. He also alleged that Buhari submitted false documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
But while delivering the ruling, Garba said there was no evidence before the court to show that Buhari lied in his submission to INEC, adding that nothing shows he joined the army without the secondary educational qualifications.
On whether he studied up to secondary school certificate level, the prerequisite for running for president, the lead judge referenced some documentation from the army which said it was in possession of Buhari’s secondary school results where he passed a number of subjects including English Language.
He also quoted a previous ruling of the court of appeal which defines “school certificate level” or its equivalent as education up to secondary school certificate examination level.
On the purported error in Buhari’s Cambridge certificate, the judge said the second respondent is not the maker of his certificate, and that there is nothing to show that the errors in the names of Buhari as indicated on the certificate from Cambridge and WAEC implied that they do not belong to him.
‘’I am of the strong view that the petitioners did not prove that the second respondent does not possess the necessary qualification to contest for president. I am also of the firm view that the petitioners have failed to prove that the second respondent (Buhari) submitted false information’’, the lead judge said.