INEC warns against blackmail, grandstanding on Supreme Court verdict

The Independent National Electoral Commission has warned politicians against using the courts and tribunals for what it described as “political grandstanding” and “electoral blackmail.”

The warning came barely 24 hours after the judgment of the Supreme Court which dismissed the appeal filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.

INEC National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, issued the warning on Thursday at a dialogue session with Resident Electoral Commissioners ahead of the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states.

Although journalists were not invited, a copy of the speech was made available.

Okoye said, “The courts and the tribunals are only democratic mechanisms of electoral conflict resolution. The courts and the tribunals are handmaids of the electoral process and exist to correct mistakes and allow genuinely aggrieved litigants and petitioners have their day in court.  The courts and tribunals are not suited for electoral blackmail or extortionist settlement or political grandstanding.

“It is important to take genuine and serious matters to court while professional litigants and other meddlesome interlopers should find alternative mechanisms and avenues of ventilating whatever grievance they have.”

The INEC national commissioner said 570 petitions against the commission by aggrieved parties and candidates in the aftermath of the 2019 elections had been dismissed by the courts.

According to him, out of 807 petitions, as of  October 25, 2019,  “petitioners withdrew 190 petitions while 570 were dismissed, four are still pending, while 42 of the petitions were determined in favour of the petitioners.”

APC govs asks Atiku to accept defeat

Meanwhile, state governors elected on the platform of the APC have asked the opposition PDP and its presidential candidate, Atiku, to take the Supreme Court’s judgment in good fate.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues of the Progressives Governors’ Forum at a peer review meeting on Thursday in Abuja, said it was time for the nation to forge ahead as one.

He congratulated the President, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, and leaders of the party on the victory in the election.

He said, “We want to congratulate Mr President and the leader of our party on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold his election.

“The other parties should also understand that elections must come and go, somebody will win, somebody will not. This is the time to move forward and all come together as Nigerians and continue to build our country.”

Sanwo-Olu was represented at the PGF Peer Review Committee on Communication by his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat, as the chairman of the committee.

The meeting was attended by the APC National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, and commissioners of Information from states, among others.

The governor faulted the PDP’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s justices because the judgement did not go its way.

Sanwo-Olu said, “Why did they go to the court if they don’t believe in it? They went to court to file a case, why did they go there to file the case when they believe the courts don’t have what it takes to deliver justice.”

The governor said the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, was right in his call for social media regulation.

Sanwo-Olu said, “The reality of what the minister said is how do we make sure that it’s the truth that goes out and not just anything that comes from anybody’s feeling.”

Fayemi, APC hail Buhari’s victory

Also, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on Thursday congratulated Buhari on the Supreme Court‘s judgment poll, describing it as a victory for democracy.

The governor, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, said the Supreme Court’s decision had put an end to the legal battle over the 2019 presidential election, by reaffirming that Buhari was validly elected.

Fayemi stated, “This is good for our democracy. This victory is not for the All Progressives Congress alone. It is a victory for all well-meaning Nigerians. The people have spoken in clear tone and the judiciary has re-affirmed the will of the people.”

Also, the APC in Ekiti State, which hailed the verdict, described it as “confirmation that Nigeria and Nigerians love and appreciate the good work that the President is doing to alleviate the sufferings of the people and the development of the country.”

The party in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Ade Ajayi, urged Atiku and the PDP to support Buhari.

Yahaya says Buhari vindicated

Similarly, the Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity, Ismaila Misilli, said the apex court had laid to rest all the legal tussles and paved the way for the President to continue to face the task of building the nation without any distraction.

Yahaya said, “The ruling is an affirmation of President Buhari’s overwhelming victory and the vindication of the people’s massive support for the President and the APC at the February 23, 2019 Presidential election.”

Matter laid to rest –Obaseki

In his own reaction, Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, in a statement on Thursday, said it was refreshing that the apex court had stamped the last and final seal on the President’s victory, noting that the matter had been laid to rest and the APC could fully concentrate on the business of governance.

Obaseki stated, “The verdict is as refreshing as it is instructive in closing the chapter on the matter.

“The government and people of Edo State heartily congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, on their well-deserved victory. We are gladdened that all doubts have been put to rest.”

PDP to embark on reform

However, Peoples Democratic Party, on Thursday, said it would begin its reform.

The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, in an interview with journalists in Abuja, also stated that the PDP would soon become stronger.

Ologbondiyan stated that the party would respond more to the judgment of the Supreme Court after the court would have given reasons for its decision.

The PDP spokesman also said the judgment would not lead to a mass defection of the PDP members to the APC or any other party.

He said the party’s future was bright, adding that the party won about five governorship elections in former APC strongholds during the last polls.

Ologbondiyan said, “As a party, we are awaiting the reasons for the decision. When we find their reasons, we will go into the substance of the matter.

“But in respect of what the matter holds for the party; in the last elections, we won about four to five states from the ruling government, which shows the believability of Nigerians in what the  PDP represents.

“Moving ahead, the PDP will go inside as a party and begin a process of reform. I can assure you that, within the next couple of years, the PDP will come out stronger.”