The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, on Wednesday withdrew as a member of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal.
This followed allegations of likelihood of bias levelled against her by the Peoples Democratic Party, and its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
All the lawyers representing the various parties to the petition – the PDP and Atiku, the Independent National Electoral Commission, APC and Buhari’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said the decision had saved the judiciary from an embarrassment.
The petitioners’ lawyer, Livy Uzoukwu (SAN), said his team filed the application in their interest to protect the right of their clients.
He added that the application was “never personal,” adding that it was carefully done “to respect the institution.”
All the respondents’ through their lawyers –Yunus Usman (SAN) for INEC, Olanipekun for Buhari, and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) for the APC, had earlier opposed the petitioners’ application.
But in what appeared to be candid advice, the lawyer representing the APC, Fagbemi, urged Bulkachuwa to “leave the matter” for the sake of her name and her retirement from the bench that is only barely a year away.
He said, “As it is fast becoming the norm and regrettably so, this is another havoc wreaked on the finest Nigerian jury. This is not the first time this is happening.
“Just recently, Justice Oyewole, whose immortal contribution was acknowledged by the counsel for the applicants a while ago, was written against not to be allowed to sit on the appeal panel on the Osun State governorship election petitions tribunal.
“Nebulous as ‘likelihood of bias’ is, it has its own boundaries. The exhortation in all the authorities that have been cited, recognises that each case will have to be dealt with on its own merit.
“The matter before the court has nothing to do with the governorship or National Assembly elections. Whatever the constitution of a political party is, it is the constitution of the country that is supreme, and nowhere in the Nigerian constitution is the President allowed to remove a governor or a member of the National Assembly.
“My conclusion, with respect, is that the application is blackmail. On the facts and the law, the application is most unmeritorious.
“But, with respect, next year, your lordship, the President of the Court of Appeal, will be bowing out gloriously by God’s grace.
“Your name, either the one you acquired before you got married, or the one you acquired after you got married, none is for you alone. You hold them in trust and you have been blessed – being the first female President of the Court of Appeal in Nigeria.
“My lord, your youthful look may confuse one. You are old enough to be my mother. My lord, you standing in as my parent, I will say, ‘Mum, leave the matter.’”