The Labour Party said it had engaged the services of at least 20 senior advocates of Nigeria to challenge the outcome of the February 25 presidential election on behalf of its presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
According to sources within the party, the lawyers drawn from different chambers were being furnished with materials that would be used as evidence in court.
The president-elect and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, was announced the winner of the keenly contested election last Wednesday.
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Tinubu polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and the LP flag bearer, who got 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.
But Atiku and Obi rejected the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, with each claiming at separate press conferences that the election was fraught with violence and massive rigging.
The drama took a twist last Friday when the two major opposition candidates were reported to have approached the court to seek permission for the inspection of election materials used during the poll.
At least six states – Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Sokoto – had dragged the Federal Government before the Supreme Court over the conduct of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections before withdrawing the case last Friday.
But the National Secretary of the Labour Party, Umar Farouk, disclosed some SANs expressed their interest in joining the legal battle to prove Obi’s case.
While disclosing that INEC had lost its independence through its alleged collusion with the ruling APC by giving victory to Tinubu, Farouk said the LP’s hope was vested in the judiciary to do the needful.
“We have more than 20 SANs that are willing to participate and offer their services for the renewal and emergence of a new Nigeria. As I am talking to you, our lawyers are working on it.
“But this is not something we can discuss on the pages of a newspaper. All I can tell you is that we have started ‘trekking’ to the court,” he said,
Asked if the leadership of the party and the candidate had been able to garner concrete evidence other than the alleged isolated incidents the APC claimed the Labour Party was dangling to get public sympathy, Farouk said, “The court is not a polling box that they can smash and put in what they want.
“If the APC thinks they can pre-empt the court, let them do it. They had earlier pre-empted the election that they were going to win by hook or crook and they had claimed they won. Let’s wait and see. Unlike INEC, the judiciary is a different thing.
“We have seen how independent the commission is. But we need to also examine how independent the judiciary also is in a matter of this magnitude. Let’s see the solace it can offer the masses. Let’s see if the judiciary has also shattered the hope of Nigerians just as INEC did.”
Farouk, however, couldn’t give a definite date when the case would be filed.
“We are saying Obi is the winner from the record we have before us. But INEC did something else. They hurriedly carried out the plan of their paymaster.
“Therefore we have every reason to claim victory if it is being denied.
On the part of Atiku and the PDP, they have the right and data to claim that their mandate was stolen. The only arbiter now is the court.
So many people can claim one thing. It is the judiciary that gives a verdict based on the evidence before it.”
PDP lawyers studying results
Similarly, the PDP said it has commenced a preliminary study of the results of the presidential election to challenge Tinubu’s victory.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a staff member of the publicity division of the party said lawyers with strong affiliation to the PDP were studying the pages of the reports of the elections before them.
“Why the hurry (in putting together a legal team)? Like his excellency, Atiku Abubakar, said yesterday (Thursday), our lawyers are studying the results to advise accordingly but definitely, the party is challenging the election. We can’t continue like this and expect to become a great nation.
“Some lawyers whose names I don’t want to reveal yet actually approached the party, offering pro bono services. They are angry like every other well-meaning Nigerian. These eggheads are currently reviewing the entire process, particularly the flagrant breach of the Electoral Act. This is all I can say for now,” the source said.
Tinubu camp reacts
But the chief spokesman of the Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Festus Keyamo, said that the president-elect and his camp were not intimidated by the legal threat of the opposition.
He also confirmed that the legal directorate of the PCC was putting together more than 12 SANs to defend his principal in the alleged case of rigging and stolen mandate.
Although he did not reveal the names of members of the legal team, the legal directorate of the Tinubu Campaign Organisation is led by Babatunde Ogala, who could not be reached for comments.
But Keyamo said, “The number of our advocates is around that figure (12). But I can’t confirm the exact figures at the moment. However, it doesn’t matter the number of SANs the Labour Party is parading. It is not a competition.
“I am a lawyer and can tell you specifically that the numbers don’t matter. It is all about the quality of evidence. But I can tell you that we have enough to nullify more of their votes than theirs to nullify our own.”
Meanwhile, the Young Progressives Party said it would make its position known as soon as it was done going through the reports on the election.
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, the National Publicity Secretary of YPP, Egbeola Wale-Martins, said, “We are still studying the outcome of the election and would make our stance of whether or not to proceed to the tribunal known after our findings.”
But Wale-Martins’ position contradicted that of the party’s National Secretary, Vidiyeno Bamaiyi, who told our correspondent that the party would not approach the tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election.
“Our presidential candidate did not campaign anywhere. On what basis are we going to challenge the results? We didn’t go out to tell Nigerians our dreams for the country,” Bamaiyi added.
The leadership of the Social Democratic Party and Zenith Labour Party on Friday said they would not challenge the outcome of the poll while the African Action Alliance said it had yet to make up its mind on the way forward.
The spokesperson for the African Action Congress, Adeyeye Olorunfemi, while reacting to the outcome of the election, said, “The National Working Committee of our party will sit and come up with a clarification but for now, there is no update in that regard.”
The National Chairman of the Action Alliance, Dr Kenneth Udeze, told one of our correspondents that the party would make known its decision after the conclusion of its ongoing investigation of the alleged irregularities during the election.
On his part, the National Chairman and presidential candidate of the Action Democratic Party, Yabaji Sani, said the ACP was studying the process.
But a leader in the Accord Party who did not mention his name said the presidential candidate of the party had already congratulated the presidential-elect, Bola Tinubu.
Similarly, the National Chairman of the National Rescue Movement, Amb. Isaac Udeh, and the National Secretary of the Allied Peoples Movement, Oyadeyi Ayodele, said their parties would not challenge the result of the election.