Saturday, 1st April 2023
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Atiku, Obi insist they won, set for legal fireworks

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Leo Sobechi, Adamu Abuh, Sodiq Omolaoye and John Akubo
03 March 2023   |   4:30 am
Just as the campaigns leading to February 25th presidential election were rancorous and fierce, the countdown to May 29 handover from President Muhammadu Buhari to President-elect Bola Tinubu could be equally exciting, as Atiku Abubakar of...

Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri (left); Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu during a world press conference in Abuja… yesterday. PHOTOS: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO 

• Atiku: Election a rape of democracy that must be challenged by all
• Obi: It’s not the end but beginning of new Nigeria
• APC: We will meet Atiku, Obi in court
• SDP: We won’t challenge Tinubu’s victory
• Tinubu moves to Defence House, receives presidential briefing
• It’s a pity PDP, LP taking Tinubu’s victory badly, says Adamu
• UK, U.S. congratulate Tinubu, want electoral irregularities addressed

Just as the campaigns leading to February 25th presidential election were rancorous and fierce, the countdown to May 29 handover from President Muhammadu Buhari to President-elect Bola Tinubu could be equally exciting, as Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), yesterday, rejected Tinubu’s olive branch, vowing to challenge his victory in court.

In separate address to the media, Atiku and Obi, both insisted they were the winners of the keenly contested election.

Atiku said: “The presidential election presented our nation the greatest opportunity for a reset. We had everything going for us: a legal framework in the 2022 Electoral Act and the BVAS technology. The enthusiasm of Nigerians to turn out in large numbers was an added bonus.

“However, the dreams and aspirations of Nigerians who braced all the challenges to go and cast their votes on Saturday were shattered by the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which failed to live up to expectations. The election was neither free nor fair. Preliminary assessments indicate that it is the worst conducted elections since the return to democratic rule.

“The manipulation and fraud that attended this election was unprecedented in the history of our nation. I can still not understand why the electoral umpire was in such a hurry to conclude collation and announcement of the result, given the number of complaints of irregularities of bypassing of BVAS, failure to upload to the IReV and unprecedented cancellations and disenfranchisement of millions of voters in breach of the Electoral Act and the Commission’s own guidelines. It was indeed a rape of democracy.

“Having consulted with leaders of our party and Nigerians from different walks of life, I have come to the conclusion that the processes and outcome of the election was grossly flawed in every material particular, and as such must be challenged. This has been attested to by both local and international observers. I want to believe that this was not the legacy that President Buhari had promised.

“This battle to right the wrongs of Saturday is not about me. It is a continuation of my battles to deepen democracy and for a better life for our people. It is about the future of Nigerian youths.

“It is my hope that the judiciary will redeem itself this time around and rise to the society’s expectation as the last hope. In the end, who wins is not as important as the credibility of our elections and electoral processes.”

For Obi, despite INEC’s assurances, the Commission allowed political leaders to disappoint youths that trust them, reason for his decision to test the outcome of the election at the Presidential Election Tribunal.

He said: “The election has been conducted and results announced as programmed. It is a clear deviation from the electoral rules and guidelines as we were promised and did not meet the minimum criteria of a free, transparent, credible and fair election devoid of voter intimidation and suppression, and late commencement of voting in some specific states.

“The poll will probably go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria, as the good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by the institutions and leaders whom we trusted.

“I am sure that LP won the presidential election and, therefore, determined to challenge the election in court. Let me reiterate and assure my good people of Nigeria that we will follow all available legal and peaceful procedures to reclaim our mandate.

“If we seek to be called Your Excellency, then the process through which we are elected should also be excellent or sufficiently credible to generate the required confidence and moral authority to govern and lead.”

He recalled how he was able to recover his mandate when he was rigged out during the Anambra State governorship poll in 2003.

“They have asked me to go to court. I am obedient, I will go to court. Nobody will ever put me under pressure when I challenge a process that is faulty.

“If the foundation is faulty, there cannot be peace. It is not about us, it is about our children and the society. We went into an election, where someone said this is the route to follow and how he would do things. Then we started and he changed it. It is all about the process, follow the process.

“I know how the youths feel now. They are disillusioned. We will walk this path together. The people who did this are determined. But we are more determined than them. We will overcome.”

Atiku stated that he was not aware of any reconciliatory moves by the President-elect. It was earlier reported that APC had set up a reconciliation committee to meet with Atiku, Obi and other aggrieved candidates who contested the presidential election.

The committee, according to Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, is to resolve their displeasure and ensure all parties involved work together with the President-elect for the growth of Nigeria.

But when asked, during the press conference in Abuja, to confirm if some APC governors visited him and they were turned back, Atiku said he was not aware of any such moves.

“Well, I am really not aware of that. I was home all day today. I was not aware of any governor coming to see me,” he said.

MEANWHILE, Tinubu has started receiving the needed presidential treatment as he will be moved to the Defence House in Maitama, Abuja today. By law, the President-elect will be at the place and start receiving presidential briefings till he will be sworn in as President on May 29 and then move to the Presidential Villa.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), yesterday, disclosed this via its official Twitter page. The tweet reads: “The President-Elect will be moving into Defence House, in Maitama, FCT, where he will spend the next couple of months, and from where he will move into the Presidential Villa.”

Tinubu, yesterday, received members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at his residence in Abuja, where pledged to work for all Nigerians by working hard from day one to deliver his campaign promises. He added that he would run a fair and inclusive administration that would unite all Nigerians.

The delegation that arrived at his residence on a congratulatory visit at 2:35p.m. had the National Chairman, Senator Adamu Abdullahi; National Youth Leader, Dayo Israel; Deputy National Women Leader, Zainab Ibrahim; Vice Chairman (North-East), Salihu Lukman and National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, in attendance.

The ruling party has yesterday said it looked forward to meeting Atiku and Obi in court. In a statement by Tinubu’s campaign spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, APC said it welcome the decision of Obi to seek redress in court, which is better than calling supporters to the streets and instigating social unrest.

Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Peter Obi (left); Chairman, LP, Julius Abure; LP chieftain, Alhaji Mohammed Audi and former Minister of Aviation, Fidelia Njezie during a world press conference on the 2023 general elections in Abuja…yesterday.

“Before Obi goes to court, we consider it necessary to challenge some specific claims in his press address. Contrary to his statement, it is not true that the election was not free and fair. The 2023 election is one of the most transparent and peaceful elections in the history of Nigeria. It is because the process was credible that made it possible for Obi’s LP to record the over six million votes it got contrary to pre-election forecast.

“That LP and Obi surprised bookmakers by winning in Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta and Edo where there are sitting governors of either APC or PDP attests to the credibility of the election process. In those states, most of the sitting governors contested election to go to the Senate and lost to little known candidates of LP. LP also swept the entire five Southeast states under the control of either APGA, PDP or APC.

“We believe Obi contradicted himself and exposed himself to public ridicule by suggesting that the election was only credible in states and places his party won.

“We need to forewarn Obi, that when he gets to court, he should be prepared to tell the world how his party won over 90 per cent of votes in his Southeast region, while other parties got almost nothing. We have evidence of voters suppression, intimidation and harassment in the Southeast, especially of those who came out to vote for our party.

“Also, when Obi gets to court, he will have to convince the court with his allegation of rigging in over 40,000 polling units across the country, especially in Northwest and Northeast where his party had no party agents and did not sign result sheets as required by law. It is our assumption that LP will enlist PDP agents to prove its fraud claims since it is an affiliate of PDP.

“We owe LP and Obi the blunt truth: They failed in the election. No amount of red-herring and misinformation about the election and the outcome can obliterate this reality. The President-elect won a pan-Nigeria mandate in a free, fair and credible election.”

Also, APC Chairman, Adamu, said it was a pity that PDP and LP have taken their losses at the presidential poll badly, while condemning the conduct of the opposition parties for “their unwarranted attempts to sabotage the elections and throw the country into chaos and avoidable crisis.”

He said both parties ought to be good sportsmen in the political arena. “Their protest walkout from the collation centre was childish, but clearly a calculated attempt to rubbish the elections and impugn the integrity of the electoral umpire. Their call for the cancellation of the election over their unproven allegations of electoral fraud must be the height of diabolical desperation.

“All patriotic citizens of this country who value peace and unity of purpose must rise with one voice to condemn these elements who want to parade themselves in the public space as the guardians of our electoral system.

“Nothing in our laws and the Constitution gives aggrieved individuals and groups the right to abort the unequivocal choices freely made by the people in their wisdom. We must learn to be good losers, not bad losers. It is the hallmark of good citizenship.”

THE United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) governments have sent congratulatory messages to the President-elect, while acknowledging alleged irregularities in Saturday’s polls.

UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, tweeted: “Congratulations to Tinubu on his victory in Nigeria.”

He expressed his willingness to work with Tinubu to grow security and trade ties, opening up opportunities for businesses and creating prosperity. “The UK-Nigeria relationship remains strong,” he said.

In a separate congratulatory message, UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, commended Nigerian voters for their participation, patience and resilience in exercising their democratic rights.

“We note the position of opposition parties on the election outcome and the concerns expressed by observer missions and civil society about the organisation of the process, including delays and technical challenges,” Cleverly said.

He encouraged the authorities to examine all concerns carefully, take action to resolve outstanding issues and focus on delivering the will of the Nigerian people.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of State spokesperson, Ned Price, congratulated Tinubu and all political leaders on the results of the election. He described the election as competitive and representing a new period for Nigerian politics and democracy.

“Each of the top three candidates was the leading vote-getter in 12 states, a remarkable first in Nigeria’s modern political era, reflecting the diversity of views that characterised the campaign and the wishes of voters,” Price said in a statement.

He acknowledged that many Nigerians and some of the parties have expressed frustration about the manner in which the process was conducted and the shortcomings of technical elements that were used for the first time in a presidential election cycle.

“Nigerians are clearly within their rights to have such concerns and should have high expectations for their electoral processes. We join other international observers in urging INEC to improve in the areas that need the most attention ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections,” Price added.

President of Niger Republic, Mohamed Bazoum, described the election as “free, fair and transparent.” He said the victory “reinforces the anchoring of democracy in Nigeria and constitutes great progress for the entire African continent.”

The immediate-past president of the Republic of Benin, Thomas Boni Yayi, also sent congratulatory message to the President-elect. Yayi, in a personal letter to Tinubu, described the election victory as well deserved.

He prayed God to give the President-elect “sound health and divine wisdom to deliver meaningful public service dividends to your compatriots.”

In her message of solidarity, First Lady Aisha Buhari, expressed confidence that Tinubu “would lead the country into the future our forefathers envisioned for Nigeria.”

The President-elect has also continued to receive dignitaries at his Abuja home, who paid congratulatory visits. Some of the latest visitors included former South African president and leader of the Commonwealth observer delegation, Thabo Mbeki; business mogul, Aliko Dangote; Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, among others.

MEANWHILE, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) has said it will not challenge the victory of Tinubu. The party said though it stands with the declaration of INEC on the presidential poll, it would challenge the outcome of some of the National Assembly elections.

Tinubu scored 8,794,726 votes to defeat fellow contenders – Atiku, who polled 6,984,520 votes, Obi, who had 6,101,533 votes and candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso, who scored 1,496,687 votes, to finish second, third and fourth respectively. SDP’s Adewole Adebayo came sixth with 80,267 votes.

Addressing newsmen in Abuja, National Chairman of SDP, Shehu Gabam, observed that Saturday’s poll was fraught with irregularities such as voter suppression, violence and inability of the Commission to use BVAS to transmit election results electronically. He, therefore, urged aggrieved candidates to go to court to argue their case, not to the streets to cause riot.

Gabam added that with the party wining two senatorial and four House of Representatives seats in Nasarawa State, the party was poised to be among the key decision makers in the next administration.

Dr Kayode Ajulo, a constitutional lawyer, has advised LP not to partner with PDP in seeking legal redress. Ajulo said: “I find it strange that LP is parleying with PDP, whereas when PDP was supposed to negotiate with LP before the election, it did not; LP should be wary of this alliance.”

He, therefore, urged LP to distance itself from PDP and pursue its case alone if it strongly felt that the election results were not acceptable. He wondered why LP thought it would get justice through PDP that denied Obi justice during the party primaries.