BY SEHINDE OMONIYI
The on-going Presidential Election Petition Tribunal to observers of the events since the 2019 elections and its fall-out, has not in any way come short of the dramatics that has now become an integral part of the country’s democracy. The intrigues are as varied as the different dramatis personae involved in the matter.
Keeping to the schedule of the Tribunal has been quite commendable as the Chairman of the five-man trial team, Justice Mohammed Garba has with the deft of a tried and tested judge steered the affairs of the court in a manner that has left no one in doubt that about its fairness to all sides in the case.
However well-intentioned, the Court of Appeal justices, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari have also not disappointed Nigerians as they have supplied the intrigues in trying to water down some critical issues contained in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)/AtikuAbubakar petition.
Majorhigh points in the 10 days of the PDP/AtikuAbubakar and Obi fireworks was the appearances of PDP witnesses who were predominantly party agents during the February 23, 2019 presidential polls.
One such interrogation which provided a substantial comic relief to the numerous tense atmospheres during the proceeding was that involving a certain Salisu Yusuf Majidu who served as collation officer for the PDP in Katsina state and President Buhari’s counsel, Chief WoleOlanipekun, SAN.
Upon realisation that Majidu is from President Buhari’s home state, Chief Olanipekun engaged him in a quite dramatic line of interrogation.
Majidu informed the Senior Advocate that he was actually in secondary class 3 when the President served as Nigeria’s military head of state in 1983. Chief Olanipekun sought an opportunityupon this revelation to establish the argument that President Buhari is educated enough to be President of Nigeria.
It was however an uncommon customer that Chief Olanipekun got in SalisuMajidu. His response must have deflated the points that the President’s lead counsel expected to score.
According to Majidu, while he had come of age when the President was head of a military dictatorship that ruled Nigerian with an iron fist, he was minding his education in his village and therefore never had an opportunity to hear the President read and speak in English language.
In another effort to side track the witness, Chief Olanipekun made anothermove. And this time, it was about late General SanniAbacha. At least, if Majidu has an aversion to Buhari because of their different political affinity, he is not likely to exhibit the same for the late maximum ruler; but here too, he met another dead end.
According to Majidu, while he was full aware of General Abacha’s reign, he never saw him speak and read physically, he has video tapes of the late military head of state.
To the onlooker, the line of questioning appears absurd, it however is an attempt by the President Buhari legal teamto puncturethe two most critical grounds of the PDP/Atiku and Obi petitions against the re-election of Mr Buhari.
In summary of both grounds four and five of the petition filed by the PDP and its candidate, the second respondent, MuhammaduBuhari wasat the time of the 2019 election not qualified to contest the election and consequent upon that, that the second respondent submitted to the first respondent (INEC) an affidavit containing false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the said election.
After the failed attempt by Chief Olanipekun to lure witness Majidu into acknowledging that President Buhari possesses adequate and sound spoken ability and is fluent in the national language, it seem the two grounds of non-qualification and perjury will be ascertained by the judges confronted with what the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended 2015) says, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the several pages of documented evidence submitted by the PDP/Atiku team.
As the curtains fell last Friday for the PDP/Atiku and Obi submissions, it set in quick motion an anti-climax as the trio of the APC, INEC and MuhammaduBuhari take another 18 days (six days each) to set their table and allow the petitioners to interrogate their own witnesses.
The crescendo is obviously risen and the chaff are gradually being separated from the wheat.
Sehinde Omoniyi is a Socio-political writer based in Abuja