In a pivotal moment for Nigerian democracy, the Presidential Election Petitions Court (PEPC) in Abuja is on the brink of delivering its verdict on the contested 2023 presidential election. The election marked a significant milestone as four formidable candidates vied for the presidency, with President Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) facing stiff competition from opposition candidates, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
For the first time since the country’s return to democracy in 1999, a quartet of contenders emerged, with a closely contested poll on February 25, 2023. The outcome of this legal battle will not only determine the presidency but also address a critical constitutional question regarding the status of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and its classification under Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution.
As the PEPC prepares to render its decision, the spotlight is on the arguments presented by the petitioners and respondents. Atiku and Obi’s central claim revolves around alleged irregularities and non-compliance with electoral laws by President Tinubu and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They contend that these issues cast doubt on the legitimacy of Tinubu’s victory and call for a re-run or a fresh election excluding Tinubu.
Atiku’s plea, particularly centered on securing victory in 21 states, has raised eyebrows. While INEC officially declared Tinubu as the winner, Atiku’s legal team asserts that he actually won in 21 states based on their interpretation of election returns. However, the core contention remains Tinubu’s purported failure to meet the requirement of securing 25% of the votes in the FCT and 24 out of the 36 states.
The imminent judgment has fueled anticipation and anxiety, especially among the petitioners, as the decision holds the potential to reshape the political landscape. The court’s verdict on the FCT’s significance in determining electoral outcomes and its stance on allegations of irregularities could have far-reaching consequences.
Whether the PEPC’s decision aligns with Atiku and Obi’s calls for a fresh election or the respondents’ defense that the petitions lack merit, the aftermath is bound to be eventful. In the event of dissatisfaction with the outcome, further legal avenues exist, including the possibility of appeals to the Supreme Court.
In the coming days, Nigerians and the international community will be closely watching as the PEPC prepares to make its historic pronouncement, ushering in a period of heightened tension, speculation, and uncertainty in the Nigerian political sphere.
Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria .