In a few hours, the victor and the vanquished will be declared. Who will draw the first blood in this legal battle that is likely to be protracted?
Today’s ruling by the presidential election petitions tribunal will likely be the beginning of the end either for the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar or his All Progressives Congress’ counterpart, President Muhammadu Buhari as they wait with bated breath to hear the pronouncement of the court.
In Nigeria, elections into political offices are often a matter of ‘fire and fury’ sometimes resulting in large-scale violence, wanton destruction of both public and private properties.
Both Atiku and Buhari were former allies in the same political party.
However, they squared off in the last presidential election that threw up plenty contentions.
Those contentions are expected to be laid to rest today by the tribunal which will render judgment between the duo in a ‘duel’.
The tribunal sitting in Abuja on Tuesday fixed today (September 11) to deliver judgment in the petition filed by Atiku Abubakar challenging President Buhari’s victory in the February 23 general election.
The president was declared the winner of the election after scoring 15,191,847 votes as against Atiku’s 11,262,978 votes.
The tribunal on August 21 reserved judgment on the appeal after parties adopted their addresses.
Justice Mohammed Garba, Chairman of the five-man panel of justices had stated that the judgment date would be communicated to parties.
Buhari’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun, while adopting his address had described Atiku’s petition as a sham as it lacked substance and merit.
“I have handled a few electoral petition cases, this is one petition that yarns for help, for assistance and for evidence but could not get any.
“Apart from the hype the matter has generated, there is nothing in law to support the allegations before the tribunal.
“I make bold to say that the Constitution and case laws had not compelled the candidates of the election to tendered certificates or attached same to INEC form before submission.
“The laws only mandate any person contesting election in the country to have gone to school up to Secondary School level.
“The allegation on the management of server by INEC is vague. Where is the server? This is a million dollar question that the petitioners could not substantiate.
“My Lords, this petition was not properly diagnosed, the action was ill-advised, I, therefore, urge the tribunal not to bow to sentiment or public opinion that does not represent the law.
“This petition is liable to be dismissed with a considerable cost,” he said.
But Atiku’s counsel, Livy Uzoukwu, had said: “My Lords, we pray the panel to judiciously and judicially evaluate our evidence in the context of whether we have justified our allegation against Buhari’s certificate or not.”