President Muhammadu Buhari has confessed that it took the grace of God and the distraction of the first Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting of his second term, to keep his emotions in check as the election petition tribunal reeled out judgment on the case brought before it by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Atiku and the PDP had submitted that Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not win the February 23, 2019 election and that the vote was massively rigged in favour of the incumbent president.
The PDP had also sued that Buhari wasn’t qualified to contest the election in the first instance because he possessed no valid secondary school certificate, and that the results of the election transmitted to a server maintained by the electoral commission was remarkably different from the official vote count.
However, in a unanimous decision read by presiding judge, Mohammed Garba, the tribunal struck out all of Atiku’s prayers and dismissed the petitioner’s case in its entirety.
The judgment of the election tribunal lasted 9hours on Wednesday, September 11, 2019; coinciding with a weekly meeting of cabinet members often presided by the nation’s Commander-in-Chief.
Buhari says he was actually disturbed
After the judgment which affirmed his victory at the polls, Buhari had said he was not perturbed while the ruling lasted.
“A good conscience fears no evil report. I was unperturbed all along, because I knew Nigerians freely gave us the mandate. We are now vindicated,” Buhari had said through his media aide Femi Adesina.
However, when governors of the APC paid him a visit at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Friday, September 13, Buhari said the cabinet meeting was a welcome distraction for him on the day. The president confessed that he could have been traumatized otherwise.
“On this judgement, again it was a fabulous coincidence that it came almost the same time the first Federal Executive Council meeting of this government was taking place,” Buhari was reported as saying by TheCable.
“It lasted about the same time with the judgement. I thank God for that because I think I would have gone into trauma or something. So I was busy trying to concentrate on the memo.
“The first memo was on the budget and it took more than five hours. So, while you were doing your thing for nine hours, we were doing ours for about seven hours here.
“It is a very interesting coincidence and I thank God for it because I would have been in trauma or something of that sort. So thank you very much for sharing the glory with us. What I will say to your congratulations, the chairman of the party and the governors is that we must make sure that we really institutionalize the party, so that when we leave the stage, the party will continue to lead", the president said.
The Supreme Court is next
The tribunal had also ruled that technological facilities like smart card readers and transmission of election results via server were strange to the country's laws and Electoral Act; and therefore amounted to a weak foundation upon which Atiku’s case was erected.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared that Muhammadu Buhari of the APC won the election with 15,191,847 of the votes cast.
Atiku polled second with 11,262,978 votes, according to the electoral umpire.
The PDP candidate had declared the election a sham and travesty soon after, however, marching to court before the ink on the president's victory certificate had dried up.
The PDP has since announced that it will be challenging the verdict of the tribunal at the Supreme Court.