Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, the star witness of President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima in Atiku Abubakar’s petition, failed to give a categorical answer when asked if Tinubu was the first to be declared president-elect without securing 25% of the total votes cast in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Bamidele, who recently emerged as Majority Leader of the Nigerian Senate, appeared before the Presidential Election Petitions Court sitting in Abuja to testify in separate petitions filed against President Tinubu’s February 25 presidential victory by Atiku and Peter Obi.
The question was put forward to him by the counsel for the People’s Democratic Party and Atiku Abubakar, Eyitayo Jegede SAN.
The cross-examination by PDP almost resulted in a shouting match between the lawyer and the senator, resulting in the intervention of the court.
Tinubu’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun SAN, began by presenting Senator Bamidele as his star witness against Atiku.
Recall that among other things, Atiku had claimed that the 1999 Constitution demands that for one to be declared winner in a Nigerian presidential election, such person must get 25 percent in 2/3 of the country’s 36 states and the FCT.
Atiku himself did not get 25 percent votes in FCT but is seeking cancellation of the poll for a rerun.
When Bamidele came to the witness box, he adopted his statement on oath and also identified the “Report of the Committee on the location of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria obtained from the FCT Archives and Historical Bureau,” already tendered as evidence by Tinubu’s lawyer.
The PDP lawyer, Eyitayo Jegede SAN, took the witness on regarding the FCT status in relation to the election.
He told the registrar to give Bamidele the Committee’s report on FCT, which had been tendered by Tinubu’s lawyer and identified by him.
“According to that report, Abuja is called a symbol of unity,” Jegede stated.
Bamidele replied that the reference “symbol of unity” is subjective.
“How many states are in Nigeria?,” The PDP lawyer asked the witness, to which he said 36 states.
The witness was asked to tell the court what the capital of Abuja is, but the witness maintained that Abuja is the Federal Capital Territory.
He was told by Jegede that the Committee’s report which he cited in open court to quash one of the grounds of Atiku’s petition (25 percent votes in FCT) recommended “that FCT should be specially provided for in the Constitution.”
Bamidele agreed with him.
The witness was then asked if he was aware that former president Muhammadu Buhari and Musa Yar’Adua scored over 25 percent in FCT before they were declared winners in separate presidential elections.
The witness confirmed that of Buhari but said he does not recall the scores Yar’Adua got in the FCT.
“I put it to you that Tinubu will be the first person to be Nigeria President without winning 25 percent in FCT,” Jegede stated.
Bamidele replied that he was among lawmakers that worked on the Electoral Act 2022, disagreeing with Jegede’s line of argument regarding FCT.
Jegede told him that of all the four major candidates in the presidential election (Tinubu, Atiku, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso) , Tinubu was the only one that did not win his home state, Lagos.
Raising his voice, Opeyemi said what a candidate needs to win an election is the majority of lawful votes cast across the federation or at least 25 percent of votes in 2/3 of the country.
But a member of the PEPC panel interjected the senator.
“Go straight to the (point and answer the) question. The question they are asking you is based on what INEC declared, not your opinion,” the panel told him.
The senator accepted the court’s advice but did not answer the question while Jegede moved on to another question.
Earlier, the witness, like he did in Peter Obi’ case, tendered the election observers’ preliminary report from the Economic Community of West African State, ECOWAS, on the 2023 presidential election.
Under cross examination by APC’s lawyer, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, the witness responded to a question on Tinubu’s forfeiture of monies suspected to be proceeds of drug trafficking in the U.S.
According to him, there cannot be a conviction in the United States without indictment, arraignment and defense.
He added that the forfeiture ( in relation to narcotics dealings) of 460,000 US dollars in the bank account of Bola Tinubu, by the US District Court, was a civil forfeiture.
Bamidele also tendered a Federal High Court judgment which held that INEC had discretion on the mode of collation of election results.
He was asked by Jegede if he was in Kano state during collation of the presidential election results, having alleged that Tinubu’s votes were not properly recorded at the National Collation Centre by a shortfall of 10, 929 votes.
The witness said he was not in Kano state but was part of the APC situation room in Abuja.
He was presented with the result sheet at the national collation centre in Abuja and asked to confirm if the PDP agent, Senator Dino Melaye, signed it in line with relevant provisions of the Electoral Act, to which, he said the final result was not signed by the PDP.
The PDP lawyer told the senator that his party, the All Progressives Congress, was opposed to the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System BVAS machine prior to the election.
He showed the witness a Vanguard newspaper report of February tagged ” APC kicks Against BVAS, IRev.”
The legal team of Tinubu, Kashim Shettima and All Progressives Congress, however, raised an objection, asking the court not to admit the newspaper report.
But the court admitted it while adding it will rule on their objections during final judgment.
After the witness was discharged, Olanipekun said he had closed his defense with one witness .
APC lawyer, Fagbemi aligned with Olanipekun to close his defence, saying the sole witness that was cross-examined was enough for the party.
Subsequently, the five-man panel of the court led by Justice Haruna Tsammani gave the respondents 10 days each to file their written address.
“Petitioners have 7 days to file their written address, ” the court held.