Here’s What We Know About Peter Obi’s Petition Against Tinubu and INEC

A petition that could change the legislative history of Nigeria

Call this the biggest lawsuit in the country and you wouldn’t be wrong. On March 20, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi filed his official petition against Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Nigeria’s president-elect and candidate of the All Progressives Party (APC). In the weeks since the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu as the winner of the 2023 presidential elections, the gross misconduct which saw several accounts of voter suppression and electoral malpractice have been a major talking point, both in on home turf and internationally

As expected, Peter Obi and the Labour Party had rejected the outcome of the elections. In his national address to the country on March 3rd, Obi said, “The election has been conducted and results announced as programmed. It is a clear deviation from the electoral rules and guidelines as we were promised and did not meet the minimum criteria of a free, transparent, credible and fair election devoid of voter intimidation and suppression, and late commencement of voting in some specific states”.

While many Nigerians had reservations about the judicial process, the precedent of Peter Obi in court cases provided hope to his teeming supporters. Those who witnessed his ascendance in state politics recollected how Obi had reclaimed his mandate from Dr. Chris Ngige of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after state elections in 2003, after thirty five months of the latter sitting in power. Even though he contested with a newly formed party All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the doggedness of Obi saw him make history as the first candidate to unseat a sitting governor through the judicial process. Eight months after he was sworn in, he was impeached by the state House of Assembly in 2006, but for the second time he went to court, reclaiming his mandate and returning as governor in 2007. 

Earlier this month, the Labour Party had dragged INEC to court, commencing its case by seeking to prevent INEC from reconfiguring its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS). Although the Court of Appeal had refused his prayer, it had granted Obi and other candidates the approval to scrutinise electoral materials. That court case had been the INEC’s validation in postponing the gubernatorial elections, but with this recent petition filed by Peter Obi and the Labour Party, it is clear that we have a major legislative battle on our hands. 

As can be accessed on the document made available by investigative journalist David Hundeyin, the petition was filed on the 20th of March. It makes the case of Peter Gregory Obi and the Labour Party against Bola Ahmed Tinubi, his running mate Kashim Shettima, INEC and the APC. In the petition, Obi’s case rested on five points, which are namely: that Bola Ahmed Tinubu was not qualified to run, that he failed to get majority of the lawful votes, that he failed to score 25% in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and the election be cancelled and a fresh one conducted in which Tinubu and Shettima won’t be a part of. 

Other details which came into prominence was the point made against Shettima, who accepted the vice presidential nomination even though he was a senatorial candidate. Although he withdrew the latter on February 15th, on the previous day he had a double nomination which infringed on the Section 115(d) of the new electoral act. More importantly, the petition also made mention of the alleged drug charges which Tinubu faced in the US prior to his becoming a politician in Nigeria. As many have pointed out, foreign security departments might be subpoenaed and called to testify at the case, which puts this in full glare of the international world.

The unprecedented nature of this case is not lost on Nigerians. With palpable buzz following the announcement of the petition, it has been described as a petition into the Supreme Court as a body. When these charges are brought to court and the witnesses present, it would open up the legislative framework of Nigeria in a way no case has ever done before. 

Indeed for Nigerian electorates, these are very interesting times. Having proven unable to conduct credible elections and demands for accountability falling on deaf ears, it would be revelatory to gauge the impartiality of the judicial process. As a country with weak democratic institutions, there’s a lot of potential in this particular court case. 

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