Atiku Abubakar, opposition candidate in Nigeria’s February 23 presidential election has assembled a team of legal experts to challenge the electoral commission’s declaration of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as winner.
“I have just inaugurated my legal team and charged them with the responsibility of ensuring that our stolen mandate is retrieved.
“The judiciary which had in the past discharged itself ably is once again being called upon to deliver judgement on this matter that will be untainted by lucre and uncowed by the threat of immoral power.” Abubakar said in a statement in the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Saturday.
Abubakar, who is popularly known by his first name, Atiku is the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is also a former Vice president of Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had in the early hours of Wednesday declared President Buhari re-elected after he polled 15,191,847 votes, winning in 19 states, to defeat other 72 candidates including Abubakar, who scored 11, 255,978 votes.
But Abubakar, a day after the declaration, rejected the results on Thursday citing several malpractices including the alleged “use of the military to perfect voters’ intimidation and suppression in PDP strongholds, connivance of INEC officials, security agents and the ruling party to manufacture bogus figures and outright falsification of the returns from the polling units.”
He had given notice that he will use all available legitimate means to challenge the result of the election.
There were earlier fears by supporters of the PDP presidential candidate that he may have dropped the threat of a legal action after he met with members of the National Peace Committee headed by a former military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar.
“I will not mortgage the peoples’ mandate”, Atiku said in another statement, Saturday, dismissing such insinuation while accusing the Buhari administration of intimidation tactics, such as the arrest of his campaign finance director, Babalele Abdullahi, all aimed at allegedly blackmailing him to “mortgage my mandate.”
But ruling party officials remain unfazed by Abubakar’s decision to head to the courts despite appeals by notable Nigerians to concede victory. They insist Abubakar was never a major threat to Buhari’s re-election especially in the northern states that often determine who gets the presidency.
“We are looking forward to meet Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in court”, Adams Oshiomole, National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC said at a press conference in Abuja on Thursday.
But with a former military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida joining the ranks of national and international leaders, governments and individuals who have congratulated President Buhari and urged Abubakar to concede, it is left to be seen if the opposition candidate may not drop his ambition, by refusing to file a formal case in court.
The legal team is headed by Livy Uzoukwu, a former attorney general in the southeastern state of Imo. He is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.