Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Wole Olanipekun, will lead 49 other lawyers to defend the victory of the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu at the 20230 presidential election tribunal.
Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) alongside other legal luminaries to ensure that Tinubu prevail over his opponents, Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who have challenged his victory.
Tinubu, the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged as the winner of the February 25 presidential election with 8, 794,726 votes to beat Atiku and Obi to the second and third positions with 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 scores respectively.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu, presented him with a Certificate of Return on March 1 after days of result collation.
However, Obi and Atiku criticised INEC, arguing that the elections were marred with irregularities, and vowed to take their grievances to court.
However, Tinubu’s legal representatives are waiting to be served with the petitions of the candidates of the PDP’s Atiku and the LP’s Obi.
But the first and second runners-up have sought leave of the tribunal to inspect some election materials used for the poll.
Members of the Tinubu legal team are to hold their preliminary meeting today in Lagos. They are to discuss some of the issues in the public domain which may be included in the petitions of the PDP and the LP.
There were indications that some PDP governors may join in the case before the tribunal to testify that the poll was free and fair in their states.
Investigations showed that some of the 50 SANs were said to have opted for free service to actualise Tinubu’s mandate.
It was learnt that a few of them joined the team based on the conviction that the presidential election was the “freest and fairest” in the country’s history with large-scale upsets.
Some of the senior lawyers in the vanguard of defending Tinubu’s mandate are a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Akin Olujimi, Yusuf Ali, Lateef Fagbemi, A.U. Mustapha, Ahmed Raji, Abiodun Owonikoko, Kemi Pinheiro, Niyi Akintola and H.M. Liman.
Others are: Taiwo Osipitan, Babatunde Ogala, Roland Otaru, James Onoja, Muiz Banire, Olusola Oke and a former Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar.
A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Buoyed by patriotism and the need to protect the sanctity of the ballot, about 50 SANs have signed up to defend the mandate of Asiwaju Tinubu. The figure may be more in the next few days.
“Some of these legal giants have either not met with Tinubu or seeking any favour from him. They believe that the February 25 poll was credible and the best in the history of Nigeria.”
The source added: “In spite of the noise in the media, both Atiku and Obi have not served Tinubu and APC a copy of any petition before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
“But the defence team of Tinubu will meet on Tuesday (today) in Lagos ahead of allowing Atiku and Obi to get their acts together.”
Section 130 (1, 2and 3) of the Electoral Act 2022 says: “ “No election and return at any election under this Act shall be questioned in any manner other than by a petition complaining of an undue election or undue return presented to the competent tribunal or court in accordance with the provisions of the constitution or of this Act and in which the person elected or returned is joined as a party.
“In this part, ‘tribunal’ means-(a) in the case of the presidential election, the Court of Appeal; and (b) in the case of any other elections under this Act, the election tribunal established under the Constitution or by this Act.
“The election tribunals shall-(a) be constituted not later than 30 days before the election; and (b) when constituted, open their registries for business seven days before the election.”