The former Vice President of Nigeria and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, has raised the alarm over the alleged plans of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to manipulate the judiciary in order to thwart the petitions challenging the outcome of the election.
Atiku Abubakar, who lost to President Bola Tinubu in the controversial February 25 election, said he decided to seek justice through the courts because the election was marred by irregularities and violations of the electoral laws.
He also urged Nigerians and the international community to be vigilant and alert to the alleged threats to democracy and justice by the APC and its agents.
In a statement issued by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, on Saturday, Atiku Abubakar accused the ruling party of making reckless and inflammatory statements that could incite violence and anarchy if justice is not served according to their whims.
He said, “It is unfortunate that the APC and, indeed, agents of President Bola Tinubu have persistently chosen to undermine justice by making outrageous threats to anarchy if justice is not served according to their wishes.
“We have also received reports in the media about some sinister plots to harass and intimidate justices sitting on the petition. These are grave dangers to peace and security in our nation.”
Atiku Abubakar described the election that produced Tinubu as the President of Nigeria as the worst in recent history, noting that it was marked by widespread rigging, violence, intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters.
He said, “It is needless to say that the election that brought the current government into office is the worst in our democratic journey so far, even though it was promised to be the best ever.
“The outcome of that election and the arbitrariness of the electoral umpire to declare a winner against the requirement of the law have been the reason why I and other parties in the election have chosen the patriotic path to challenge it.
“The judiciary is the only reasonable option in our quest for justice. Our judiciary and their interpretations of our laws have been a major pillar of our democracy so far.
“Our laws are very clear about the separation of powers as a guarantee of an independent judiciary. The idea behind that concept is to protect that branch of government from undue influence or interference by other branches or powerful interests.
“Our democracy gives Nigerians the power to choose their leaders, and our laws demand that our judiciary must be allowed to act independently without harassment or intimidation by anyone or any group.
“To undermine our democracy and seek to compromise our judiciary is an open invitation for anarchy. As a party in the litigation that is currently reviewing the outcome of the last presidential election, we are determined to resist any attempt to subvert our fragile democracy within the ambit of the law.
“We also call on the international community to be alert. Nigeria’s democracy should not be sabotaged by using the judiciary to serve partisan interests. Sadly, this has become the trademark of the All Progressives Congress to intimidate and manipulate the judiciary,” he added.
Atiku Abubakar also cited some examples of what he considered as the APC’s unholy conduct in the past to justify his position on the election petition.
He said, “Remember that in 2019, the APC-led Federal Government removed the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, when it was clear that he would not succumb to their pressure.
“The Department of State Services also raided the residences of judges in 2016 and 2017, all in an attempt to cow the judiciary into submission.
“The APC’s scheme is simple: scare the judiciary, threaten judges with arrest so that they will do their bidding. This is a repeat of what they did in 2019 when they sacked the CJN and then replaced him with Tanko Muhammad, who himself was later accused of corruption by his peers at the Supreme Court and resigned disgracefully.
“However, the APC government never pursued Tanko Muhammad as they did in Onnoghen’s case because it was never about corruption but an election. The APC has, over the years, earned a reputation for judiciary intimidation. They charged about 10 judges with corruption, invaded their homes, and got them suspended and yet could not convict any one of them. Justice Sylvester Ngwuta of the Supreme Court could not recover from the humiliation that he died in office.
“Now, they have hatched a new plot. This time around, they want to frighten the judges into delivering favourable judgments for them at the election tribunal.
“We alert the international community and Nigerians to this fresh plot to rob over 200 million people of their mandate.
“We also urge Nigerians to adhere to the golden rule of eternal vigilance being the price of freedom.
“On this note, we appeal to all security agencies in the country to remain professional in their duties and resist being used as a tool of oppression and intimidation against the judiciary,” the statement further read.