Sunday, 28th May 2023

Drama as observers, Obasanjo, Abdulsalami query elections

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Sodiq Omolaoye, Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Joke Falaju (Abuja), Charles Coffie Gyamfi (Abeokuta) and Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna)
28 February 2023   |   4:30 am
Three days after, tension is rising in the land over long wait for the outcome of Saturday’s presidential election. After failing to resolve the slow down of electronic transmission of results into the result viewing portal (IReV), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, resumed collation of results.

The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Yakubu Mahmood, displays a results sheet to the media during the presentation of final results of Nigeria’s 2023 General and Presidential election at the International Conference Centre (ICC), the venue of National Collation Centrein Abuja on February 27, 2023, two days after Nigeria’s presidential and general election. (Photo by KOLA SULAIMON / AFP)

• Save Nigeria from looming disaster, cancel elections that lack credibility, says Obasanjo
• Melaye, Ihedioha, 10 parties seek cancellation of results, storm out of collation centre
• Yakubu insists no over-voting in Ekiti, asks aggrieved party to seek redress in court
• Election falls short of expectations, lacks transparency – U.S., EU observers
• Tinubu warns against plots to procure order to stall process

Three days after, tension is rising in the land over long wait for the outcome of Saturday’s presidential election. After failing to resolve the slow down of electronic transmission of results into the result viewing portal (IReV), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, resumed collation of results.

Midway into the announcement of results, a mild drama ensued at the National Collation Centre, Abuja, when opposition parties’ agents staged a walk out. Numbering about 10, agents of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Dino Melaye and former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha; Labour Party (LP)’s National Secretary, Umar Faruq, among others, accused INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, of allegedly rigging the entire process in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Trouble started when PDP agents, led by Melaye rejected the presidential election result declared for Ekiti State on Sunday, alleging over-voting. Melaye also faulted ongoing method of collation of the presidential election. His observations were supported by agents of LP and Action Alliance (AA).

But INEC chairman said the Commission stood by the result declared by the collation officer for Ekiti, Prof. Akeem Olawale Lasisi, who is the Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Health Sciences, Ila Orangun, Osun State.

“I still insist that the figure presented by the state collation officer of accredited voters is 315,058. This is what is on the spreadsheet that we screened yesterday. And this is also what is on the actual result manual recorded and signed by the PDP agent and agents of other political parties back in Ekiti.

“But having said that, I’ve taken note of your observations, let us make progress. Any other figure that is at variance with this one cannot supersede the official result presented. Let’s make progress,” he stated.

The INEC boss afterwards declared a short break. But during resumption of collation at 4:00p.m., Melaye and other aggrieved agents insisted that the INEC chairman must suspend collation until results from states are uploaded to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).

Yakubu, however, rejected the idea, saying there is nowhere in the law that says the Commission must transmit all the results on IReV before the manual collation, advising any aggrieved party to seek redress in court.

Speaking with journalists after staging a walkout, Melaye alleged that the move by INEC to announce the results manually without the result copies from polling units uploaded online was an attempt to compromise the process, adding that the aggrieved parties were seeking for cancellation of the entire presidential election result

WITH the country already on tenterhooks, former President Olusegun Obasanjo has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and INEC chairman to immediately cancel elections that lack credibility to save Nigeria from looming danger and disaster.

Obasanjo alleged that some INEC officials sabotaged the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Server for transmission of results from polling units. The former President made the allegations, yesterday, in a letter to President Buhari and Yakubu.

Obasanjo, in the letter made available to journalists in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, through his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Akinyemi, also accused officials of the Commission of manipulating the election process to favour a particular candidate.

Obasanjo said: “I am constrained to speak at this point. I crave the indulgence of the President to make this statement because I have had opportunity to keep him aware of what I know is happening and the danger looming ahead.

“On many occasions in the past, I have not hesitated to point out lacuna in the action of the President and his government.  But as far as the election issues are concerned, the President has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he will want to leave a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

“Until last Saturday night, February 25, the good and noble plan and preparation for the elections seemed to be going well. For INEC, a lot of money was spent to introduce BVAS and the Server for immediate transmission of results from polling units.

“It is no secret that INEC officials, at operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not to work and to revert to manual transmission of results, which is manipulated and the results doctored.

“The chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and Server are not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice.

“Let me appeal to the INEC chairman, if his hands are clean, to save Nigeria from the looming danger and disaster, which is just waiting to happen. If the chairman can postpone elections four days to the election, he can do everything to rectify the errors of the last two days – no BVAS, no result to be acceptable; and no uploading through Server, no result to be acceptable.

“Whereas, BVAS and Servers have been manipulated or rendered inactive, such results must be declared void and inadmissible for election declaration. INEC Chairman, I have thought that you would use this wonderful opportunity to mend your reputation and character for posterity.

“Your Excellency, President Muhammadu, tension is building up and please let all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency test be cancelled and be brought back with areas where elections were disrupted for next Saturday, March 4, and BVAS and Server officials be changed.”

SIMILARLY, the National Peace Committee, jointly chaired by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has urged INEC to probe grievances being expressed by Nigerians against the presidential election.

The Committee also appealed to INEC to take all the time it required to ensure delivery of results, which will inspire the confidence of Nigerians in line with international best practices.

Abdulsalami made the recommendations in a statement titled: ‘A call for calm: Please give peace and the process a chance’, in Abuja yesterday.

He reminded Nigerians that the world has invested a lot of goodwill towards the country in the elections, adding that all citizens deserve to be rewarded by a process that ensures that their votes truly count.

THE concerns made by the former leaders followed a damning report by foreign election observers on the conduct and processes of the election.

The Joint Election Observation Mission of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI), led by former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda, declared that the election fell short of the reasonable expectations of Nigerians.

According to the 40-member delegation of the two United States institutes, logistical challenges and multiple incidents of political violence overshadowed the electoral process and impeded a substantial number of voters from participating.

The Mission explained that members of the team were deployed across all six geopolitical regions of the country to observe all stages of the voting process; stressing that their observations informed the preliminary findings and practical recommendations to improve future elections.

It noted: “At the close of the polls, challenges with electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner undermined citizens’ confidence at a crucial moment of the process.

“Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of transparency by INEC created confusion and eroded voters’ trust in the process. Nonetheless, the delegation maintained that despite these issues, Nigerians demonstrated their commitment to the democratic process.”

According to IRI and NDI, voters demonstrated resilience and resolve to have their voices heard through the ballot. They, however, lauded INEC, saying it administered a nationwide election according to the electoral calendar for the first time in the country’s recent history.

THE European Union Election Observations Mission (EU-EOM) has said Saturday’s election lacks transparency. They maintained that although the election was held as scheduled, it lacks transparency during the critical stages of the electoral process, while on the election day, trust in INEC was further reduced due to delayed polling processes and information gaps from the Result Viewing Portal.

The Chief Observer, EU-EOM, Andrew Barry, noted that INEC’s operational capacity was hampered by ongoing fuel and naira shortage, adding that insecurity prevented the Commission from accessing some councils.

He said they also noted that the level of violence suppressed voters’ turnout during the election, saying suppression of voters is a serious issue to the rate of inclusiveness in the election and they have taken note of it.

THE PDP has called on INEC to discontinue what it called manipulated results of the presidential election. Briefing journalists hours after its agents pulled out of the collation of results, the party through its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said: “it is clear from the votes as cast at the polling units across the country, that our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, substantially defeated the APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”

The opposition party said it is alarming that “INEC is aiding and abetting the rigging and manipulation of the election results in favour of APC by flagrant and provocative violation of the express provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, by refusing and neglecting to transmit directly the results of the elections from the polling unit to the INEC Server/Website as required by law.

“This deliberate delay provided the opportunity for the reported compromise, alteration, falsification and switching of election results in favour of APC in Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Ondo, Ekiti, Kebbi, Ogun and other states where our candidate was in clear lead. The PDP therefore rejects the manipulated election results as announced by INEC.”

Also, the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of LP, Balogun Akin Osuntokun, has demanded that INEC suspends further announcement of results and follow its own guidelines. He also called for outright cancelation of the entire election to make immediate plans for another election with strict compliance with the stipulated laws and guidelines.

Osuntokun indicated that INEC guidelines on the conduct of the elections were extensively breached, adding that the electoral umpire has evidently been reluctant to make the necessary adjustment to remedy the situation.

HOWEVER, APC has said it is upbeat on Tinubu’s victory. Spokesman of the party’s PCC, Dele Alake, at a press conference in Abuja, however, raised the alarm of subterranean plot by the opposition parties to procure an order of the court aimed at stalling the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the presidential poll.

Reminding those behind such plot of the fate that befell Justice Bassey Ikpeme, who issued the order against the declaration of Chief M.K.O Abiola as winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll, the council vowed that supporters of APC would leave no stone unturned to protect the mandate freely given to Tinubu to administer the country at the poll.

The council urged the judiciary to be circumspect on the plot and be mindful of any act that could scuttle democracy rule in the country.

The council thereby called on the opposition LP and PDP to concede defeat and congratulate Tinubu accordingly.

Reacting to Obasanjo’s letter, Alake described the move as the former president’s mischief and hypocrisy on display again.

He said: “Our attention has been drawn to a press statement by Obasanjo in which he was virtually calling for a truncation of the ongoing electoral process and a cancellation of already conducted elections on the basis of frivolous, unfounded and baseless allegations by politicians who are sore losers and have no respect for democratic values.

“It is tragic that a former President who ought to be a statesman in comportment and speech will recklessly seek to endanger and derail our democratic process for utterly selfish, egoistic and malicious reasons. He offers not a single credible piece of evidence to prove his laughable and ridiculous allegations against INEC and the credibility of the ongoing process.

“Of course, we are all aware that Obasanjo is not an impartial and disinterested party as far as this election is concerned. On January 1, 2023, he had issued a characteristically lengthy epistle to Nigerians endorsing the candidacy of Peter Obi and asking Nigerian youths to vote en masse for him.

“As fate would have it, Obi was defeated even in Obasanjo’s own polling unit in Abeokuta, in Ogun State. But it is now obvious that the only election Obasanjo will agree to being free, fair and credible is one that produces Obi as winner, which is ridiculous.

“Is Obasanjo also querying the outcome of the presidential elections in Lagos or Delta where Obi won? If the outcome in Lagos won by Obi is free and credible, on what basis is he querying the outcome of the elections in other places? This is pure mischief and sheer hypocrisy. Obasanjo wants President Buhari to intervene in an undemocratic manner to truncate the ongoing political process just the way he did in the 2003 and 2007 elections widely described as the worst in our political history.”

Also, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has described Obasanjo’s letter as inciting and called him a security risk. The CNG said Obasanjo needs to be questioned and cautioned over his deliberately inciting utterances and should be prepared to be held responsible for any breach of law and order that may lead to a rupture in the system.

Making the response, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, spokesperson of the CNG, said: “For whatever reason, Obasanjo should not be the person to speak of irregular electoral practices going by his record of inconsistencies with elections while in office.”