In the wake of the 2019 Nigerian presidential election, the legal battleground was ablaze with petitions, counter-petitions, and a plethora of legal arguments. Among the most notable cases was the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT) hearing that involved petitions against the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari, his running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
While several opposition figures filed petitions, this blog post delves into the specifics of why the petitions against APC stalwart, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, notably filed by Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), ultimately faltered before the tribunal.
Lack of Concrete Evidence: One of the fundamental reasons behind the failure of these petitions was the lack of concrete evidence to support their claims. While allegations of electoral irregularities and voter suppression were rampant, the petitioners struggled to produce substantial proof to substantiate their claims. Without solid evidence, it became challenging for the tribunal to rule in their favor.
Procedural Errors: The legal process in Nigeria, particularly regarding election petitions, is rigorous and highly procedural. Any misstep or failure to adhere to these procedures can be detrimental to a case. Unfortunately, the petitioners and their legal teams faced challenges in navigating these complex procedures, leading to the dismissal of some crucial elements of their petitions.
Burden of Proof: In election petitions, the burden of proof falls squarely on the petitioner. This means that it is their responsibility to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged irregularities significantly affected the election’s outcome. Failing to meet this burden can result in the tribunal dismissing the case, as it did in this instance.
Witness Credibility: The credibility of witnesses plays a pivotal role in any legal proceeding. During the PEPT hearing, there were instances where the witnesses called by the petitioners faced intense cross-examination, which exposed inconsistencies and undermined their testimonies. This further weakened the overall case.
Political Considerations: It’s important to acknowledge the influence of political factors in legal proceedings involving high-profile politicians. Some argue that the tribunal may have been influenced by political considerations, although these claims lack concrete evidence.
Legal Technicalities: The Nigerian legal system is known for its technicalities, and election petitions are no exception. The petitions against Tinubu were challenged on various legal technicalities, and these challenges often resulted in certain aspects of the petitions being struck down.
Timing and Resources: Election petitions require significant financial and human resources. The petitioners, despite their political prominence, may have faced challenges in mobilizing the necessary resources and preparing a robust legal strategy within the limited timeframe allowed by the law.
In conclusion, while the petitions against Bola Ahmed Tinubu brought to light some concerns about the Nigerian electoral process, they ultimately failed before the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal due to a combination of factors, including the lack of concrete evidence, procedural errors, challenges with witness credibility, the burden of proof, legal technicalities, and the influence of political considerations.
These cases serve as a reminder of the complexity and rigor of the Nigerian legal system, particularly in matters as critical as presidential elections, where the stakes are exceedingly high.