Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria (1999-2007) and the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 Election, addressed a World Press Conference at the PDP Headquarters in Abuja, following the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Presidential Election Petition. Here is the complete transcript of his address:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to share with you the text of a press conference that I delivered on October 30, 2023, in Abuja in response to the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Presidential Election Petition. During this press conference, I discussed the implications of the court’s decision, the state of democracy in Nigeria, and proposed reforms for the electoral system. My goal was to emphasize the need for transparency, fairness, and accountability in our electoral processes.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press,
Someone recently asked me what I would do if I lost my election petition appeal at the Supreme Court. I responded by saying that as long as Nigeria wins, the struggle would have been worth it. By this, I meant that the greater loss would not be mine, but Nigeria’s if the Supreme Court legitimizes illegality, including forgery, identity theft, and perjury.
If the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, implies through its judgment that crime is acceptable and should be rewarded, then Nigeria has lost, and the country is in grave danger, regardless of who occupies the Presidential seat. If the Supreme Court decides that the Electoral umpire, INEC, can provide one version to the public and then act differently to achieve a corruptly predetermined outcome, it spells a grim future for the country’s democracy and electoral politics.
The consequences of these decisions will not end with the current government’s term but will linger for decades. I firmly believe that history will vindicate me. We now know the Supreme Court’s verdict.
At significant junctures in my political life, I have consistently chosen the path of truth, morality, democracy, and the rule of law, even when it was the more challenging route. When I joined politics, my primary aim was to facilitate the transition from military to civilian rule in Nigeria. This effort became a defining struggle, during which I faced numerous threats and even assassination attempts.
As Vice President in the civilian government that followed, I opposed extending the government’s tenure beyond the constitutionally mandated two four-year terms, despite personal costs and backlash. I initiated legal actions that led to seven landmark decisions, strengthening our democracy and the rule of law.
Today, faced with the recent electoral malpractices and challenges, I could have chosen the easier path of disengagement, following the electoral misconduct by the APC and INEC. However, I sought redress through Nigerian and American courts to address these issues.
I emphasize that what we are dealing with transcends individual elections; it is not about me but about Nigeria. It concerns the kind of society we want to leave for the next generation and the example we wish to set for our children.
Our legal efforts presented compelling evidence that Bola A. Tinubu did not meet the educational requirements to run for the Presidential Election due to the forgery of academic certificates. We also highlighted gross irregularities, violence, and manipulation during the elections, including INEC’s violation of the Electoral Act. However, the Supreme Court’s decision, while final, leaves many questions unanswered.
Retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammad’s criticism of the apex court confirms that all is not well with the Supreme Court. The judiciary should remain independent and free from political interference, as is common in many institutions in Nigeria.
Justice Muhammad’s concerns, along with recent statements by former INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, shed light on the erosion of trust in the electoral and judicial systems.
The judiciary should not be influenced by politics and nepotism. Electoral officials’ appointments must be based on merit rather than party affiliations.
In a nation where both the judiciary and the electoral commission are politically manipulated, democracy struggles to thrive. As a stakeholder in the February 25 presidential election, I, alongside other concerned Nigerians, have done our part to expose the deficiencies in the current political leadership.
However, the younger generation of Nigerians, who will be most affected by these issues, should now lead the way. My generation has done its best to ensure transparency and accountability in our democratic processes. As long as I live, I will continue to advocate for democracy, the rule of law, and political and economic reforms to help Nigeria reach its full potential.
I propose several constitutional amendments to strengthen our electoral system:
- Mandate electronic voting and results collation as a requirement.
- Ensure that all election-related litigations conclude before the winner’s inauguration.
- Implement a Two-Round System to ensure that the Presidential candidate earns at least 50% +1 of the valid votes cast or faces a run-off.
- Introduce a single six-year term for the President, rotated among the six geopolitical zones.
- Mandate INEC to verify candidates’ submitted credentials and make public any inconsistencies.
Additionally, the Electoral Act should be amended to treat the electoral umpire’s rules and procedures as sacrosanct by the courts unless they explicitly violate the Constitution and other laws.
Our electoral processes must be transparent, and the judiciary should focus on affirming the voters’ choice rather than getting caught in technicalities. Reforms in the appointment of judges and the introduction of an automated case assignment system are crucial steps to reduce election petitions and corruption in the judiciary.
In conclusion, I want to express my gratitude to you, the press, for your attention and dedication to the important issues facing our democracy. May God bless you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.