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Tinubu extends olive branch, invites youths to rescue Nigeria

By Terhemba Daka, Sodiq Omolaoye, Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Adamu Abuh, John Akubo, Matthew Ogune, Ajuluchukwu Brown (Abuja), Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt) and Adewale Momoh (Akure)
02 March 2023   |   4:36 am
After a gruelling six-month presidential campaign that saw candidates traverse the length and breadth of Nigeria in search of votes, President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday, called on his fellow contestants and their supporters to join him in pulling Nigeria out of the present challenges.

Board members, Youths Initiative Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA AFRICA), Dr. Aisha Abdullahi (left); Executive Director, Samson Itodo and Ezenwa Nwagwu during a press briefing on the outcome of the presidential results in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO 

• YIAGA Africa contradicts INEC on Rivers, Imo results • We’ve lost confidence in INEC, Situation Room declares • Protesters storm Abuja Unity Fountain, Niger, demand fresh election • Buhari: Losers should take their grievances to court not streets • APC sets up committee to meet aggrieved presidential candidates • Your attributes needed at this time, Osinbajo congratulates Tinubu  • Obi breaks silence, promises to address Nigerians • Datti vows to use legal means to reclaim mandate, tackles Lawan for trying to rewrite Electoral Act

After a gruelling six-month presidential campaign that saw candidates traverse the length and breadth of Nigeria in search of votes, President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday, called on his fellow contestants and their supporters to join him in pulling Nigeria out of the present challenges.

He further extended the olive branch to his rivals in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

Tinubu said though he knew that those who did not vote for him might be hurt and disappointed by the results, they should put what happened behind and support him in building the Nigeria project.

He stated this after receiving his Certificate of Return from the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja.

Present at the event were the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Ahmed Lawan; Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ministers and party members.

The race to yesterday was a long and tough road, which began months before June 8, 2022, when the former Lagos State governor emerged flag-bearer of the ruling party. In his first official outing as President-elect, Tinubu said: “For this to be a victory at all, it cannot simply be a victory for one man or even one party. It must become a victory for all Nigerians who are committed to a greater society. I know many did not vote for me. And you are disappointed that your candidate is not where I now stand.

“I understand your hurt. To you, I extend the embrace and comfort of one family member to another. This great project called Nigeria beckons to us all. It is bigger and more important than any partisan divide.

“As I hold this certificate, this moment is one of celebration and gladness for us. The road has been long. Yet, we walked it. The battle has been hard fought. Yet, we won it.

“But more importantly, I realise that I am just a servant of a larger purpose. This is more than a document confirming the positive outcome of an election. At its most sublime, this certificate also symbolises that each of you has the ability to achieve what others believe is impossible for you to achieve.”

He stressed that very soon, “the nation would witness a young person standing before the nation holding this great symbol of democracy and national leadership. I ask you to come in so that we may begin the task of rebuilding our national home together, day by day, brick by brick.”

He also called on Nigerians, whose candidates missed the opportunity of winning this time not to stop being patriotic citizens. “To the people, especially the youths, I will work day and night. I will work to the utmost of my ability to make Nigeria better.

“Where there is poverty. Let us create prosperity and jobs. Where there is hunger. Let us feed the people, chasing hunger from their midst. Where there is now scarcity, let us rediscover abundance. Where there is brutality, may we replace it with brotherhood.

GIVING an update on the election, YIAGA Africa has said INEC’s announcement of the presidential election in Rivers and Imo states was in sharp contrast with its own record observed from the polls.

“The state level presidential results for Imo and Rivers are inconsistent with the YIAGA Africa Watching The Votes projections for both states.

“For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC at 44.2 percent, 175,071 votes for LP (33.4 per cent) and 88,468 for PDP, representing 16.9 per cent.

“This is in sharp contrast to the YIAGA Africa estimate for Rivers, which are: APC, 21. 7 per cent, LP, 50.8 per cent, PDP, 22.2 per cent,” member of the YIAGA’s board, Dr. Aisha Abdulahi, disclosed during its post-election statement on the presidential election.

Aisha said YIAGA’s observers obtained its data through random sampling of several polling units totaling over 1,500 polling units. For Imo, Aisha disclosed that though INEC announced 66,406 votes for APC or 14.2 per cent, 360,495 for LP or 77.1 per cent and 30,234 for PDP or 6.5 per cent, its estimate from the state puts APC at 5.1 per cent, LP at 88.1 per cent, while PDP had 5.7 per cent.

YIAGA maintained that there were alleged inconsistencies from the presidential election results, particularly from Rivers and Imo. It advised that INEC should probe results from states where announcements were made under duress, while also clarifying the inconsistencies in some of the results.

“YIAGA notes that these polling units may have been cancelled at the point of collation. We urge INEC to publish a list of all cancelled polling units,” she said.

In its preliminary recommendations, the body called for a comprehensive audit and investigation to unravel the factors resulting in delayed upload of election results on INEC’s portal, saying it is “critical”.

Other recommendations are as follows: “Voting hours should be extended to 5:00p.m. to increase voter participation in subsequent elections. Legal timelines for testing new electoral technologies should be introduced to Nigeria’s electoral legal framework.”

As for the already announced results by INEC Headquarters, Aisha said it still “falls within our confidence limits and our margin of errors.

“Based on reports from 97 per cent (1,453 of 1,507) of sampled polling units, YIAGA Africa’s statistical analysis shows that APC should receive between 34.4 and 37.4 per cent of the vote, LP should receive between 24.2 and 28.4 per cent of the votes, NNPP should receive between 4.6 and 6.4 per cent of the votes and PDP should receive between 28.3 and 31.1 per cent of the vote, while no other political party should receive more than 0.3 per cent of the vote,” she said.

She concluded that the conduct of the elections was a missed opportunity for INEC to save its face before the public, as serious logistical and technological shortcomings undermined public confidence in INEC and the outcome.

ALSO, a coalition of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the auspices of the Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room said it has lost absolute confidence in INEC over its failure to effectively manage the February 25th presidential election.

Situation Room founder, Clement Nwankwo, yesterday in Abuja, said the position of the group is that the presidential election lacks credibility. According to Nwankwo: “It is very sad that despite all the promises, despite all the assurances, despite the huge sums of money that was budgeted and spent on this election, we got this shabby management of election.

“Going ahead to the governorship elections, it is very clear that INEC is in severe crisis establishing any confidence in anybody that it can mange the conduct of the state elections.
Presenting Situation Room third interim statement, convener of the room, Ene Obi, asked INEC Chairman to immediately apologise to Nigerians for failing to deliver a credible poll.

WHILE congratulating Tinubu, President Muhammadu Buhari has urged candidates that lost the election and their supporters to take their grievances to court and not the streets.
President Buhari, in a statement, said: “I congratulate Tinubu on his victory. Elected by the people, he is the best person for the job. I shall now work with him and his team to ensure an orderly handover of power.

“The election was Africa’s largest democratic exercise. In a region that has undergone backsliding and military coups in recent years, this election demonstrates democracy’s continued relevance and capability to deliver for the people it serves.

“Within Nigeria, the results reveal democracy is ripening. Never has the electoral map shifted so drastically in one cycle. In the presidential elections, states in all regions across the nation changed colour. Some among you may have noticed my home state amongst them.

“The winning candidate did not carry his own home state either. That happens during a competitive election. Votes and those that cast them cannot be taken for granted. Each must be earned. Competition is good for our democracy. There is no doubt the people’s decision has been rendered in the results we look at today.

“That is not to say the exercise was without fault. For instance, there were technical problems with electronic transmission of the results. Of course, there will be areas that need work to bring further transparency and credibility to the voting procedure.

“However, none of the issues registered represent a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections.

“I know some politicians and candidates may not agree with this view. If any candidate believes they can prove the fraud they claim is committed against them, then bring forward the evidence. If they cannot, then we must conclude that the election was indeed the people’s will – no matter how hard that may be for the losers to accept. If they feel the need to challenge, please take it to the courts, not to the streets,” he said.

APC has said it would soon engage its Committee of Elders to meet with co-contestants of the President-elect in a bid to assuage their loss. This was disclosed yesterday by governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. According to him, every aggrieved person involved in the election will be met for reconciliation.

While describing the outcome of Saturday’s election as a reflection of the wishes of the electorate, the governor stated that the election was the freest ever held in the country. He said: “The President-elect has set up committees to meet with the gentlemen who contested in the election for us to start the healing process. I belong to one of the committees. We are going to meet them and appeal to them so that we can work together. 

“This is an election that was not padded. People’s vote counted, it is not one which shows millions of votes. You can see the three candidates all won 12 states each, it has never been like that before.”

VICE President Osinbajo has congratulated Tinubu. He extended his felicitations in a message he sent to the President-elect yesterday. “I warmly congratulate the flag-bearer of our great party, Asiwaju Tinubu, on his victory. I also congratulate Senator Kashim Shettima on his declaration as Vice President-elect.”
Addressing the President-elect, Osinbajo stated that “in your previous years of public service, you have demonstrated a consistent fidelity to progressive and welfarist ideals, and an ability to build bridges across several divides. 

“These attributes are needed, especially at this time, to reach out to disaffected sections of our society and to meet the aspirational expectations of our young people who have shown such a strong desire to impact our democratic process in a positive way.” 

Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, yesterday, met with President Buhari in his hometown of Daura to felicitate the President for producing a successor from within the APC, as well as review preparations for the gubernatorial elections in the state on March 11. The meeting, which lasted for about an hour, was held behind closed doors.

Asked how the President felt about the elections, Masari said: “He (Buhari) is more than delighted, first of all for APC to have won this presidential election and in a peaceful manner. Like I said in Katsina, we had the elections without loss of lives, without any violence recorded, so he is very pleased and happy about it.”

HOWEVER, protests continued yesterday over fallout of the election. Protesters under the aegis of Citizens Unite for Democracy (CUfD) stormed the popular Unity Fountain in Abuja, calling for the cancellation of the Presidential and National Assembly elections, and demanded for fresh elections that will reflect the will of Nigerians.

They appealed to the international community to assist Nigeria conduct a fresh election as Nigerians have lost hope in INEC to conduct a free and fair election. Speaking on behalf of the group, one of the conveners, Isaac Balami, accused INEC of violating its own rules by refusing to transmit election results electronically.

IN Rivers State, there was unusual indifference following the outcome of the presidential election. Speaking in an interview in Port Harcourt, former president of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Onueze Okocha, described the poll as regrettable. A human rights activist, Omenazu Jackson, said: “There is undignified silence everywhere, the manipulations were unprecedented, it was a monumental fraud.”

A group of aggrieved youths invaded INEC office in Minna, capital of Niger State, over alleged irregularities during Saturday’s polls. The group numbering about 100 protested over what they described as ‘rigged’ election results in Niger.

The protesters, who were not deterred by the presence of security personnel, queried the electoral body on why the presidential election results were not transmitted electronically to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV). He stated: “INEC is transparent, we are open. We have nothing to hide, but for clarifications on the uploading of results, we will wait to hear from the INEC headquarters in Abuja.”

In Lagos, residents resumed their daily activities, while the streets of Abuja still looked deserted as it has been since the weekend. Despite announcement of the presidential election result in the early hours of yesterday, major roads known for their busy nature, were unusually scanty, as the city, which massively voted for LP’s Obi, was without its cheer and excitement.

BREAKING his silence, Obi has promised to address Nigerians on the outcome of the elections. He disclosed this on his verified Twitter handle yesterday.

“Our vice presidential candidate, Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, is addressing an international press conference at the Labour Party Headquarters in Abuja. I intend to address Nigerians and the international community shortly,” he tweeted.

Obi has vowed to use legal, but peaceful means to reclaim the mandate Nigerian people freely gave to him and his running mate on February 25. Speaking at a press conference in Abuja through Datti, Obi said certain legal actions, would be taken when they approach the court within the stipulated time.

“The legal team is at work already, and you will get more details from Obi when he speaks. This is prelude to his own. It is our position that the purported result released does not meet the expectations, minimum criteria of transparent, free and fair election, in addition to the most condemnable attacks, violence, voters intimidation and suppression.

“The election was conducted in clear violation of INEC rules and guidelines, the Electoral Act 2022 as amended and the Constitution. Please be assured of our determination to fight the injustice that has been perpetrated on Nigerians with all legal and peaceful means.

“While painful, we implore you all to please remain peaceful as our fight for a new Nigeria is just beginning.”Datti further challenged the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, to stop trying to rewrite the Electoral Act to justify the controversy of non-transmission of polling units results by saying there was nothing like electronic transmission of result in the Act passed by the National Assembly.

Datti said: “This gentleman, as far as we are concerned, contested for the presidency in their party primary and now he is an elected senator returned by the Supreme Court, yet the Electoral Act says you cannot contest two offices in the same election circle, while he sits as Senate President to give this kind of opinion. It is very difficult for me to say it but I have to say it. This person must never be listened to.”