The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2023 poll, Atiku Abubakar, on Thursday, said he did not betray President Bola Tinubu, over the allegation of certificate forgery he levelled against him at the court.
Rather, he said the former Lagos State governor abandoned him as well as the Action Congress of Nigeria and supported Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP in the 2007 presidential poll.
Atiku also recalled how he saved Tinubu by not allowing former President Olusegun Obasanjo to take over Lagos State in the 2007 general elections.
However, the All Progressives Congress has knocked Atiku following his Thursday attack on Tinubu, saying his ill-timed press conference was in gross contempt of the Supreme Court.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, said the ruling party was not bothered by Atiku’s claims, which it said lacked purpose and delivered nothing except “the pitiful regurgitation of lies, mindless distortions and deliberate falsehood on Atiku’s infantile obsession with the academic record of the president.’’
But Atiku, who was the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the February elections, vowed not to give up on his quest to prove that Tinubu forged the Chicago State University certificate he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission before the polls.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, the former VP also urged the presidential candidates of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, to support his quest for justice.
He expressed concern that Nigeria’s reputation was at stake, adding that “We must uphold Nigeria’s election ground rule (constitution).”
The Thursday press conference marked the third time Atiku addressed journalists since INEC declared Tinubu of the APC the winner of the presidential election.
Those who attended the world press conference were former President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; ex-Cross River State Governor, Liyel Imoke; former National Chairmen of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; and Senator Iyorchia Ayu, among others.
In addition to filing an election petition appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge the judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal which upheld Tinubu’s victory, the PDP standard bearer had sought the academic records of the President from the Chicago State University to prove his allegation of forgery against the former Lagos State governor.
Magistrate Jeffrey Gilbert had on September 19 granted Atiku’s request for the release of Tinubu’s academic records but the President challenged the ruling, but his objection that the documents would not be relevant in Atiku’s appeal at the Supreme Court was overruled by federal judge Nancy Maldonado, who directed the CSU to release the president’s academic records.
Responding to questions from newsmen during the news conference, Atiku denied reports that his action was a betrayal of the ex-Lagos State governor, noting that Tinubu is indebted to him for preventing former President Olusegun Obasanjo from dethroning him as governor in 2007.
He revealed, “In 2007, we came together to form ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria) and in Lagos at the convention, I emerged and got the ticket. And after the convention, a few of our friends who are here met me and told me Bola wanted to be my running mate. So, I asked for their opinion on Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“All of them said they objected. So, I asked them why didn’t they tell him? So, that was the end of our political relationship; it broke away as he went ahead and supported Yar’adua. So where is the ground for him to say I betrayed him?’’
Speaking further, he added, “Those of you who are old enough will remember that in 2003 the PDP took over all the states in the South-West, with the exception of Lagos. I stood before Obasanjo and said no, you can’t take Lagos. And he left it. So, who is indebted to the other: Is it me or Tinubu? Tinubu is indebted to me.’’
The PDP presidential candidate, who lamented how former President Muhammadu Buhari allegedly dealt with some of his business entities, said he was not scared Tinubu would go after his business interest, adding “It has already been taken away from me since the Buhari administration. They took it and distributed it among themselves.”
Atiku fights on
Atiku who pledged to fight on, promised to sheath his sword after the Supreme Court must have passed judgment on the matter.
Justifying his demand for Tinubu’s CSU records, Atiku explained, “We undertook this journey at great cost and for important reasons. The ground rules for legitimate governance in our country need to be upheld, and the reputation of our country is at stake. That affects everyone, Nigerians everywhere.’’
He added, “I am a democrat by conviction and a citizen of a country that I love. The issues at stake in this case require us once more to re-dedicate ourselves to both the country and our constitution.
“I wish to pay tribute to the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, who inspired us on this path of discovery. Now, he can truly rest in peace in the assurance that what he started about 23 years ago has come to fruition.
“Gani’s vindication today gives credence to the saying that no matter how fast a lie runs, the truth will someday overtake it. This quest is not for or about Atiku Abubakar. It is a quest for the enthronement of truth, morality, and accountability in our public affairs.’’
Calling for mass support for his crusade, the PDP candidate said, ‘’In line with this, therefore, I am calling on all well-meaning Nigerians, leaders of thought, our religious leaders, our traditional leaders, our community leaders, our political leaders, and in particular, (ex) Governor Peter Obi of the Labour Party and (ex) Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP and the leaders of every political party in Nigeria and, indeed, every single person who loves this country, as I do, and who wishes nothing but the best for the country, as I do, to join me in this campaign to enshrine probity, accountability and the basic principles of justice, morality and uprightness in our country and our government.”
Atiku’s lawyer, Kalu Kalu alleged that the CSU confirmed that Tinubu forged the certificate he presented to INEC.
“Also, the qualifying certificates from Southwest College to Chicago bear a female indicating that the document does not belong to Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“The CSU admission has a claim that Bola Ahmed Tinubu attended government college, Lagos, and graduated in 1970 when indeed, the school was established in 1974. We were told by the CSU Registrar that the A in CSU stands for Adekunle, but the A in the certificate submitted by Bola Tinubu to INEC has the NYSC certificate as Adekunle,’’ he further claimed.
Kalu declared that the Supreme Court had held that they could permit a party to adduce fresh evidence as long as certain conditions were met, adding that “from what transpired in the proceedings in US courts, that condition is going to be met. So as we speak, our law is very clear that a party at fault cannot be allowed to enjoy the fruit of his illegality.”
Meanwhile, Atiku has reportedly filed fresh evidence obtained from the Chicago State University, United States to strengthen his appeal in the Supreme Court against Tinubu.
A credible source, who is close to the former Vice President, exclusively disclosed that Atiku submitted fresh evidence.
Responding to a question from our correspondent on the matter, the source said “ Yes, we have submitted fresh evidence to the Supreme Court before the deadline.”
But Morka dismissed Atiku’s charges against the President as a display of desperation and an attempt to whip up public sentiments and put the Supreme Court under pressure.
He said, “For several weeks now, Nigerians and the world have watched with incredulity Alhaji Abubakar’s display of utter desperation in his failed bid to become the President of Nigeria.
‘’Earlier today (Thursday), he put his desperation in overdrive during his press conference where he addressed some of the issues in his appeal at the Supreme Court and bandying unproven charges against the President of Nigeria, His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in a calculated attempt to shamelessly whip up public sentiments and inordinately pressure the Supreme Court.
“We believe Atiku should have known better than to demonstrate gross contempt of the highest court by making public comments on a matter that he has submitted to the court for adjudication.
‘’The major take-away from his Yar’Adua Centre show, especially at question time, was that Atiku harbours deep animosity towards Tinubu whom he believes was responsible for his electoral woes in 2007, 2015, 2019 and this year.’’
Describing Atiku’s action as unbecoming of a statesman of his stature, the APC spokesman accused the PDP standard bearer of using his fight for Tinubu’s academic records as an instrument of mischief and blackmail.
He stated, “In desperation, unbecoming of a statesman who once occupied the second highest office in the land, the PDP candidate in the last election has thrown every decency, decorum, dignity and national respectability out of the window on his purposeless judicial voyage of discovery to the United States in search of a magic wand for taking power against the will of the Nigerian electorate loudly expressed in last February’s presidential election.
“It should now be clear to all Nigerians that despite Atiku’s lies before the Illinois Court that he wanted to use the discoveries in pursuit of his appeal at the Supreme Court, he has rather chosen to use the same as an instrument of mischief and blackmail in clear contempt of the highest court of the land.
‘’We want to urge him to graciously accept his defeat and quietly lick his political wound with some dignity. Nigerians rejected him at the polls, and he cannot get by subterfuge what he failed to get through the ballot box.”
A former Director of Publicity and Media for the dissolved Tinubu-Shettima Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, also slammed the PDP candidate over his ‘’obsession with Tinubu’s emergence as president of the country.’’
While admonishing the former VP to deal with his desperation to become president, the veteran journalist also described his media conference as an affront and a plot to whip up sentiments against the Supreme Court.
He said, “The guy (Atiku) is just desperate. You went on a fishing expedition. What did you bring back? They are obsessed with their own version of reality, which is contrary to the fact presented to them.
“Chicago State University already told these people that this man indeed attended our school and that he is a male, not a female. He even took an entrance exam into the school from a college. It is the same man, yet these people (PDP) are still doubting his certificate.
“The fact is obvious. Did this man attend CSU? Yes, he did. They’re just bringing up irrelevant issues. Imagine Atiku talking about the president dragging down the reputation of Nigeria. Who is more guilty of dragging the country into the mud if not this same Atiku Abubakar?
‘’Look, in the United States, Atiku’s corruption status has become legendary. The last time the US Congress published what they call ‘Case Report of Corruption’, Atiku featured among four or five African leaders there who were said to have siphoned money from Nigeria to America, which of course were seized from him.
‘’He was stealing from here to abroad. Tell me, who has dragged Nigeria more into the mud than this guy, who is merely obsessed because he desperately wants to be president and was beaten by a first timer? Yet, he cannot just stomach the defeat.’’
Speaking further, Onanuga queried the rationale behind Atiku’s press conference which he described as a contempt of court, stressing that he should have waited for the apex court to determine his election petition appeal.
He added, ‘’Again, you said you have filed a case at the Supreme Court, what is the purpose of this press conference? Are you planning to pile pressure on the court, pre-empt the judgment or whip up sentiments against the apex court?
‘’That press conference was totally unnecessary because you have already filed a case in court. So why not wait for the Supreme Court to deliver its own judgment? Why must you come public again with what you have already filed?
‘’This is a contempt of the highest court in the land. He and his lawyers should know better. The Supreme Court should hold them in contempt for speaking to what they are presenting before it. It is so unnecessary.”
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Labour Party has admonished Atiku to leave out its presidential candidate, Obi, out of his feud with the President.
The party’s response was a reaction to an earlier call by the PDP candidate on Obi and Kwankwaso, to join his crusade in exposing the alleged dirty secrets of the president.
In a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of LP, Obiora Ifoh, on Thursday, the party disclosed that its candidate shouldn’t be distracted as he is presently focused on reclaiming his ‘stolen mandate’ from the apex court.
The statement read, “The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi is presently in the Supreme Court seeking to reclaim his stolen mandate and he is focused on that.
“He has been in the vanguard of ensuring a just nation where justice must be the watchword, and he will not stop until Nigeria achieves the leadership it truly deserves. Obi has pontificated severally on the need for leaders to be good role models and to live a life worthy of emulation.
“This he has done by publicly putting his credentials in the open for verification. Nigeria will get better when men of integrity and honour drive the affairs of the nation. We therefore welcome every other interest willing to join us in our pursuit of a nation where justice shall reign.”