The 2023 General Elections may have come and gone but the dispute over the credibility of the process continues to linger with barely seven weeks to May 29th, when the President-Elect is scheduled to be sworn into office.
National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, announced the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, as the winner of the election.
He said the APC candidate defeated 17 other candidates who took part in the election.
According to him, Tinubu scored a total of 8,794,726 votes, the highest of all the candidates, thus meeting the first constitutional requirement to be declared the winner.
He also scored over 25 per cent of the votes cast in 30 states, more than the 24 states constitutionally required.
The INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu also said Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party came second with a total of 6,984,520 votes while Obi of the Labour Party came third with a total of 6,101,533 votes.
INEC and the ruling All Progressives Congress have since asked all those who choose not to accept the results as declared to go to court, a call to which both Atiku and Obi have taken heed to.
Their results are being challenged by the 1st and 2nd runner-ups at the Presidential Election Tribunal on account of alleged substantial noncompliance with the Electoral Act and INEC guidelines, voter intimidation/ vote suppression, violence as well as result manipulation among other infractions.
However, following the intensity of Mr Peter Obi’s challenge, he, according to his party, has become a target of state-sponsored intimidation, blackmail, threats, invasion of privacy and other acts of subterfuge aimed at forcing him to abandon his legal challenge.
Perhaps for the first time in Nigeria’s recent political history, a leading opposition figure is allegedly being pressured by state actors to leave his homeland because his presence is said to be threatening national stability.
Only last week, the Department of State Security DSS, raised an alarm that political actors were plotting to orchestrate violence through “demonstrations and frivolous court orders” to stop the scheduled presidential inauguration on May 29th all in a bid to pave the way for an illegal interim government.
Within days, the Federal Government through the Minister for Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in far away Washington DC, in the United States of America, accused the LP candidate and his running mate, Dr Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed of making treasonable remarks about the outcome of the presidential polls.
He was quoted by the State-owned News Agency of Nigeria, as saying, “Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, cannot be threatening Nigerians that if the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress is sworn-in on May 29, it will be the end of democracy in Nigeria.
“This is treason. You cannot be inviting insurrection, and this is what they are doing. Obi’s statement is that of a desperate person, he is not the Democrat that he claimed to be. A democrat should not believe in democracy only when he wins the election.” The minister’s comments have put party supporters on edge.
A member of the LP Presidential Campaign Council who pleaded anonymity so as not to jeopardize internal investigations explained that the attacks against the candidate started as soon as the campaigns started.
He said, “We have since been made aware of the orchestrated move by the state to sabotage our candidate starting from our campaigns.
“They tried entrapment by stationing all kinds of women at hotels where our candidate lodged during the campaigns that failed.
“They have been going through records of his financial dealings and bank accounts. They’ve found nothing incriminating.
“They tried bringing up the Panama papers that also failed to stick, then they resorted to the oldest trick in the book-wire tapping.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Chief Spokesperson of the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Dr Yunusa Tanko, explained that the LP candidate has lately come under intense pressure to flee Nigeria.
He said, “Before, throughout and after the campaigns, it is on record that Mr Peter Obi maintained his commitment and focus on an issues-based campaign, about a New Nigeria that is Possible, a shift of emphasis from consumption to production, as well as a New Nigeria characterized by inclusion, justice, equity, fairness and prosperity.
“He repeatedly stated that no one should vote for him based on tribe or religion, but rather on the assessment of Character, Competence, Capacity, Credibility and Compassion, to create a New Nigeria!
“Most unfortunately, in the past few weeks, Mr Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate in the February 25th, 2023 presidential election has been contacted by associates, elder statesmen, family and friends with concerns for his personal safety.
“These concerns have increased intensely in the last few days as immense pressure, has been mounted directly on Mr Obi to leave the country, no doubt, from sources allied to the All-Progressive Congress (APC) and its agents in the security services.
“Mr Obi has been repeatedly and categorically told that he has a choice to leave Nigeria or face the prospect of being arrested on false charges of inciting insurrection in the country.
“It is difficult to fathom and regrettably unfortunate that state institutions have become part of a well calculated, deliberate and orchestrated campaign of calumny by the APC to discredit and delegitimize Mr Peter Obi and compel him to abandon his right to seek redress in court following the outcome of the last election which was adjudged both locally and internationally to have failed to meet any standard of credibility or fairness.”
Tanko further said, “As part of the grand design, they are circulating a fake doctored audio call. At no time throughout the campaign and now did Mr Peter Obi ever say, think or even imply that the 2023 election is or was a religious war.
“It is very sad and wicked the attempts to manipulate Nigerians. Our legal team has been instructed to take appropriate legal actions against media outlets that make themselves willing tools in the hands of APC’s malicious propagandists.
“Despite the public denunciation of the fake audio call, its contents have been translated into other Nigerian languages and circulated in most parts of Northern Nigeria with some of our Muslim clerics deceived and instigated to use the contents for their sermons at various Mosques during the usual Friday prayers.
“This is a dangerous development at a time when the APC led-government and the APC party which have been awarded undeserved and unfair victory should be more concerned in addressing the ethnic and religious frictions unfortunately created by the outcome of the elections.
“Yet unsatisfied but determined to cause more problems, Mr Lai Mohammed, who fancies himself as modern-day Goebbels is on a tour of some selected countries to present an alternative story about the 2023 discredited election, and from his first statement in Washington has assumed the role of the courts by stating that Mr Obi has no pathway to victory.
“This is a direct intimidation of the courts and a waste of Nigerian taxpayers’ money.
“There are many more campaigns of calumny against Mr Peter Obi planned for the near future both before and during the court process.
“However, we want to make it clear to the APC party, APC led-government and its agents that Mr Peter Obi, a widely travelled man, has no intention to leave the country at this time irrespective of the pressure on him and his family.
“He is determined as he had stated in his first and only press conference after the election to challenge the outcome of the election and the process has begun. It is his fundamental right!
“While we call on all concerned Nigerians and the International Community to caution APC and the APC Led-government to stop their nasty attacks, Mr Peter Obi’s focus and commitment to lawfully and peacefully retrieve our mandate to secure and unite our Nation, take Nigeria from consumption to production, pull millions of Nigerians out of multidimensional poverty, especially in the North and jumpstart prosperity through agricultural, industrial and technological revolution remains unchanged.
“He has continued to impress upon his supporters, the essence of the legal process and will not now or in the future encourage any violence against the state.
“He has absolutely no reason for this nor is he desperate especially as throughout the campaign, he called for a new Nigeria defined by opportunities for all, an end to poverty and criminality in government, especially corruption and an end to tribal and religious division and bigotry.
“It is for this reason that we appeal to revered religious leaders especially in the North not to be part of the grand design of the state apparatus to further increase the religious and ethnic divides in the country. Irrespective of the outcome of the court process, we have an obligation to strive for the peace and co-existence of all Nigerians.
“We call on President Buhari to rein in his desperate officials at all levels as their actions or inactions could lead to an unnecessary crisis in the country.
“Elections are over, and we are in court to retrieve our stolen mandate. We reiterate that we are doing so through all lawful and peaceful options in line with our legal system and constitution, and we continue to implore all Nigerians to remain peaceful and law-abiding.
“Those fixated with heating up the polity, creating divisions, tensions and hatred within and outside Nigeria should remember that Nigeria is our only country.
“Our focus should be on how to address the litany of challenges facing us such as deliberate non-adherence to the election process, the parlous state of our economy, unsustainable debt burden, lamentable unemployment and inflation, insecurity and multi-dimensional poverty. A New Nigeria is Indeed Possible and God will help us.”
Public affairs analyst and Executive Director of Civil Societies Legislative and Advocacy Centre, Auwual Musa Rafsanjani, expressed the view that citizens have a constitutionally guaranteed right to freely hold and express their opinions within the confines of the law.
He recalled that ahead of the 2015 elections, opposition political figures threatened to form a parallel government if the elections were rigged “Nobody accused them of committing treason.”
Rafsanjani cautioned politicians against heating up the polity in pursuit of political ends because in the long run, if there was a breakdown of law and order, the entire nation would be at the receiving end.
By John Alechenu (Vanguard-Nigeria)