The Court of Appeal where the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal was delivered yesterday, was agog with activity—celebration (albeit contained) for those with President Buhari and disappointment for those with Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

Meanwhile, at 8:46 a.m, the time when the first plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center eighteen years ago, there was a moment of silence. The first of six marking the strikes at the trade center and the Pentagon.

For a bit of back story, in the Presidential election of February 23, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress had 15,191,847 votes and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party had 11,262,978 votes in what was mostly a two-man affair.

On February 27, 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Buhari of the APC the winner

In the case instituted by the People’s Democratic Party challenging the outcome of the election yesterday, we had a five-man bench led by Justice Mohammed Garba unanimously dismissing the case for lacking in merit after resolving all the five issues raised in the case against the petitioners. Since then, the reaction amongst the hoi polloi has been varied. While some ardent buharists have applauded, others have strongly disagreed and sworn to support the PDP even to the Supreme Court.

There are some who have even compared the whole thing to a terrorist attack on our sensibilities, seeing as the World Trade Center date coincides.

When Justice Garba, who read the lead judgment, resolved all the five broad issues raised by the petitioners in favour of the respondents, he likened Atiku’s evidence to a drop in the ocean.

He said, “In the final result, I have come to the conclusion, which is inevitable and unavoidable, that the petitioners have not discharged the burden of proof required of any of the grounds of the petition in paragraph 15 of the petition. This petition is accordingly and hereby dismissed in its entirety.”

The tribunal held that Buhari had the educational qualification to contest the presidential election.

This came as a shock to many as the inability to produce the president’s WAEC certificate has been heavily publicized.

The court held that Atiku and co failed to provide any proof that Buhari did not attend the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina and obtained his West African School Certificate from there in 1961.

Quoting Justice Garba: “It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to Form CF001 before the candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election,”

Citing a previous Supreme Court judgment, the tribunal said, “Submission of educational certificate is not a requirement to contest election.

“In effect, the 2nd defendant (Buhari) went through secondary education and then proceeded to military school. The military school is higher than secondary education.”

Watching proceedings live, it bordered on the ridiculous when I heard Justice Garba say “The 2nd defendant (that is, Buhari) is not only qualified, but also eminently qualified to contest the February 23, 2019 presidential election,” he went on to say, “The fact that he did not attach his certificate cannot lead to the conclusion that he is not educated up to secondary education.”

But the word that kept reverberating in my eardrums was the word ‘eminently’. How is someone with a secondary school certificate considered EMINENTLY qualified to lead a Nation? In what planet? In what dimension?

Even amongst the lower tier corporations in any major city in Nigeria, a secondary school leaving certificate can only get you a job as a gateman or a cleaner!

In a nutshell, Atiku and the PDP fell our collective hands when they brought evidence that wasn’t as impressive as all the claims they had made in the media. The documents and evidence that they produced were underwhelming and I found that depressing, personally.

As for the President, one would expect that since he rode into office on the fame of his Integrity, he would come out to put an end to this farce by presenting his certificate. That would at least silence everyone. Temporarily maybe, seeing as INEC the APC still have questions to answer about the falsification of votes and the server into which the results of the election were transmitted.

On this, the tribunal ruled that the election manual distributed by INEC for the conduct of the 2019 presidential election did not arrange for electronic transmission of results of the election. It further said that the petitioners failed to prove that election results were transmitted electronically.

Atiku’s best witness– Witness 59, David Njorga from Kenya, did not qualify to be referred to as an expert witness, as he only relied on third party information to make a case for the existence of a server. Observing all these, one is forced to wonder how bad it is to be for Atiku’s team to present a (lone) Kenyan as a witness for matters of this significance.

The tribunal held that Njorga relied on hearsay (and rightly so) since his whistleblower was anonymous.

The saga of a judgment lasted over eight hours and when it finally ended, there was no celebration in the courtroom. The solemnity spread to Buharists outside also and even among the top loyalists, government officials and politicians—no chants of “Sai baba!” or anything like that, all you had were handshakes and warm smiles.

I found this interesting because it points to something else I have always known, many a Buharist would want to see the back of this president, but because supporting him and his political party is a job, they have to keep up appearances. Like Seun Kuti says Country hard for effribody.

It has been 18 years since terrorists commandeered airplanes and the twin towers of the World Trade Center were brought down.

It has been 7 months since Buhari was announced President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for his second term.

The memorial at ground zero in America follows a familiar, somber script. Bagpipers play “America the Beautiful.”

In Nigeria, there is a different kind of grief.


(c) Hannu Afere 2019