Analysis: 2019 presidential legal battle: Will Atiku go the way of Awolowo?

Chief Awolowo

By Our Reporter

Shagari

The inauguration of a legal team by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate in the February 23, 2019 polls, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is not the first in the democratic history of Nigeria that a presidential election will be challenged in a tribunal.

On Saturday, March 2, 2019, Atiku, in a statement by his media aide Paul Ibe, inaugurated the panel led by Dr Livy Uzoukwu (SAN) to reclaim what he described as a “stolen mandate.”

In the February 23 polls, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari got 15,191,847 votes winning in 19 states, while Atiku received 10,782, 007 votes and won 17 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Though, how far the PDP legal challenge will go, is not known, that of Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the defunct United Party of Nigeria (UPN) against the presidential election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) for the 1979 polls will go down as an epoch in Nigeria political history.

Atiku

Buhari
Chief Awolowo had challenged the declaration of Shagari as winner of the August 11, 1979, presidential election. Shagari won with 5,668,857 or 33.77 per cent of the votes of 19 states as then while Awolowo got 4,916,651 votes or 29.18 per cent.

Other presidential votes were, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), 2, 822, 523 votes or 16.75 per cent, Malam Aminu Kano, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), 1,732, 113 or 10.28 per cent and Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), 1,686, 489 votes or 10.02 per cent.

The election petition tribunal was to interpret Section 34 A (i) (ii) of Electoral Decree No 73 of 1977.

Awolowo had contested the declaration of Shagari as President on grounds that Section 34 A (i)(c)(ii) of the Electoral Decree had not been satisfied, that is, winning two thirds of all the states of the federation. However, the tribunal dismissed the claims, affirming the election of Shagari. Not satisfied, Awolowo appealed but the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the tribunal and dismissed this appeal. The Supreme Court decision was presided by Justice Atanda Fatai-Williams with Justcie Kayode Eso as dissenting judge.

Under the 1979 Nigerian Constitution, in order to be elected President on the first ballot a candidate needed to receive both the most votes nationwide and at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of the states.

However, at the time of the election, Nigeria had nineteen states, two-thirds of which in exact figures is 12.66. A dispute thus ensued over whether Shagari had received the necessary threshold by winning 25 per cent in twelve states and 19.9 per cent in Kano State, which Shagari claimed was two-thirds of the required 25 per cent threshold and represented the remaining 0.66 in the constitutional threshold.

Awolowo claimed that the threshold should be rounded up to thirteen states, which Shagari had not met.

The PDP and Atiku rejected the result 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 “manufacture” of figures and outright falsification of the returns from the polling units.

Waziri Ibrahim of GNPP

NPP Azikiwe

1983 presidential results

In the 1983 presidential elections held on 6 August 1983, President Shagari of the NPN was re-elected. He achieved 47.5 per cent with 12,081,471 of the votes cast.

Other results were Awolowo, UPN, 7,907,209, Dr Azikiwe, NPP got 3,557,113 votes, Alhaji Hassan Yusuf, PRP received 968,974 votes, Alhaji Waziri, GNPP got 643,806 votes while Dr Tunji Braithwaite, Nigeria Advance Party (NAP), got 271,524 votes. In the polls, Dr Alex Ekwueme remained Shagari’s running mate, Mallam Muhammadu Kura was Awolowo running mate was while Dr Ishaya Audu was Nnamdi Azikiwe’s vice presidential candidate.

 

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