To start with, I like to say that I do not know the raison d’être behind the stance of the Ex-NBA President, Olisa Agbakoba, advising Alhaji Atiku not to go to court to challenge the outcome of the Presidential election that did hold on the 23rd of February, 2019. He said Atiku should accept the result, moving into the position of a statesman, leaving a legacy by assisting the civil society, the small parties and the PDP in reconstructing Nigeria on the question of a strong legal system.
I opine that everyone—who truly believes in democracy needs to egg on and hearten Atiku to go to court. This is the breed of country we are trying to build—a country where citizens are free to go to court if they feel cheated. On the condition that Atiku can prove before the whole world that he truly won the last Presidential election, then let it be on record that PMB is the first president to be sent home by the tribunal—after winning a presidential election. This is how rock-solid democracy is being built in sane climes!
Backtracking a little, thrice Buhari lost and thrice he went to courts of competent jurisdiction to challenge the outcomes of those presidential polls, because he felt he was cheated by the political party in power in those days. I cannot remember anyone counseling him against going to the tribunal to challenge results of those presidential elections. At the end of the day, he lost those cases, but he was allowed to go to court. If it was good for him then, why is it now wrong for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar now? It is hypocrisy to say that Atiku is going to waste his time going to the tribunal.
Furthermore, we have witnessed Governors—who were defeated at the polls. On the 26th of November, 2010, at around 2: 49pm, the court of Appeal in Ibadan, Oyo State sacked Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, declaring Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) as the Executive Governor of the State of Osun. It was a celebrated day for Rauf Aregbesola, Bola Tinubu and every member of the ACN. If it was good for Rauf Aregbesola and the ACN then, why is it wrong for Atiku and the PDP now?
How about Dr. Kayode Fayemi? After a long tortuous legal battle spanning forty-one (41) months and seven days, Fayemi ultimately emerged as the Executive Governor of Ekiti State. He took over from Engineer Segun Oni—according to a unanimous decision of the Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital. Led by Justice Ayo Salami, the five-man panel declared Fayemi, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN candidate in the April 2007 governorship election, as the duly elected Governor of Ekiti State, having won the majority of lawful votes. If it was good for Fayemi, why is it wrong for Atiku, if he feels cheated?
What of Peter Obi? He replaced Former Governor Chris Ngige, whose 2003 election victory was overturned by the Nigerian Federal Court of Appeal on March 15, 2006. But on the 2nd of November, 2006, Governor Obi was impeached by 16 members of the State House of Assembly after seven (7) months in office. He was replaced the next day by Dame Virginia Etiaba, his deputy, making her the first ever female Governor in Nigeria’s history. Peter Obi was reinstated as the Governor of Anambra State again on February 9, 2007 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu.
Peter Obi felt cheated and went to Court and he won. This is the beauty of democracy. If he hadn’t gone to court, he would have been cheated forever. Also, if Atiku feels cheated, he should be allowed to go to court without maligning his image in the public. What was good for Peter Obi in those days because he felt cheated should also be good for Atiku today because he feels cheated. This is the kind of robust democracy we are trying to build.
Going to the tribunal does not stop Alhaji Atiku from playing the role of a statesman as Olisa Agbakoba did say. Infact, it is better to go to court than to cause political crisis in the nation. Atiku is actually behaving as an elder statesman and he needs to be commended, not condemned. The most civil thing to do when cheated is to go to court, not to foment trouble in the nation and that is what Atiku is planning to do. Instead of lampooning Atiku for planning to go to court, every well meaning Nigeria is supposed to laud the proposed legal step of his.
When the news of Atiku rejecting the outcome of the last presidential election, heading for court, Abdulsalam’s National Peace Committee also advised him against going to court and the propaganda of Atiku giving the National Peace Committee some ridiculous conditions began to fly everywhere on social media. We can never develop a great nation this way. We cannot afford to be changing a goal post in the middle of the game. If we are going to build a nation where the law rules, then let us have it. And if we are going to have a lawless nation, then let us have one! We cannot applaud some folks for going to court when they feel cheated and deride others for going to court when they feel cheated.