The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, were at loggerheads, over the conduct of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the protest embarked upon by the opposition party leadership against the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Atiku, alongside National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu and other party leaders, during a protest at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, described the presidential poll as a charade, adding that the integrity of INEC is on trial because it allegedly failed to fulfil its promises regarding use of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System, BVAS, and electronic transmission of results from the polling units to its result viewing portal real-time.
However, Tinubu disagreed with Atiku on the conduct and result of the election, saying the PDP candidate had no chance of winning the poll and should stop causing traffic snarls in Abuja via protest. Tinubu challenged the former Vice President to go to the court where his grievances would be heard not at INEC headquarters.
The PDP leadership submitted a strongly worded protest letter to the INEC, to register its displeasure over the conduct and outcome of the February 25 Presidential election.
National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who led other party leaders and supporters to the INEC Headquarters, yesterday, submitted the letter which was received by INEC’s Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Information, Dr. Festus Okoye, on behalf of the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
In the letter, which was signed by Ayu and the PDP National Secretary, Samuel Anyanwu, and addressed to the INEC chairman, the party said its decision to embark on a peaceful march, backed by the protest letter, was taken after several meetings to review the elections.
Meanwhile, INEC has insisted that it had no allegiance to any party just as the President-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, advised Atiku to respect his age, averring that the PDP’s protest to INEC headquarters was a new low of absurdity.
The letter read in part: “After long sessions of meetings to review and deliberate on the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25, 2023 considers it expedient to communicate to you and other critical stakeholders and partners in the advancement of democracy in Nigeria, the position of our great Party (PDP) with regard to the conduct and outcome of that election.
“It is indeed disheartening to say that the election which raised the hopes of all Nigerians to witness an advancement in our electoral process turned out to be a charade.
“You would recall the outcry of many concerned citizens of this country variously accusing your commission of complicity in a planned manipulation of the electoral process in favour of the ruling party, APC.
“ At each time the issues took the media front burner you were quick in dispelling them as rumors and mere allegations. Today, Nigerians have all seen that those allegations were true.
“In many meetings and briefings your commission held with the political parties and the press ahead of the 2023 general elections, you assured Nigerians that INEC under your leadership would conduct a free, fair, transparent and credible election.
“You also promised the use of the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System, BVAS, technology in voter accreditation and result management whereby the public would have unhindered access to the results uploaded to your Servers online and in real time (iREV). Contrary to this belief there was an abysmal failure on your part to honour your promises.
“Predictably, the conduct and outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly elections fell below acceptable standards. It has resonated the fears of all Nigerians in your integrity and that of your commission to conduct a free, fair, transparent and credible election.
Confidence in INEC battered
“The confidence you deceitfully made us to repose in you and your commission has been battered and eroded away by the outcome of that election. The masses are angry and have not hidden their resentment and rejection of the purported declaration you made to that effect.
“Without any equivocation, this election, in the history of our country, elicited so much interest, awareness, commitment and dexterity in Nigerians to exercise their civic responsibility.
“The major factors that heightened the zeal and confidence of Nigerians to participate in the electoral process were the failures of the ruling APC government, the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System technology ,the Electoral Act 2022 and your repeated assurances of bequeathing Nigerians a credible electoral process.
Alleged complicity of INEC in rigging
“Everyone recalls with disappointment the reported widespread irregularities and manipulations that marred the election. There are ample evidence to show deliberate complicity of your commission in the entire fraud.
“ The falsification of results and deliberate de-activation of the BVAS and your Servers to frustrate the transmission of election results directly from the polling units attest to that. In all these issues brought to your attention you refused to act.
“Nigerians are no more in doubt of your direct involvement in aiding and abetting the monumental rigging and manipulation of the election results in favour of the ruling Party (APC).
“In addition, the refusal and neglect of your electoral officers to transmit the results of the election directly from the Polling Units (PU) to INEC Servers as required by law is a flagrant violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022. This action is not acceptable to Nigerians and neither to the Peoples Democratic Party. It therefore stands to be challenged.
“For want of clarity, Section 64 (4) (b) of the Electoral Act 2022 specifically provides thus: A collation officer or Returning Officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the –
(b) “Votes stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the votes or results recorded and transmitted directly from Polling Units under Section 60 (4) of this Act
“Consequent upon the above Section 60 (4) of the Electoral Act 2022, the result you have announced and the declarations made are ultra vires, illegal and of no effect except for results transmitted directly from the Polling Units.”
The letter further read: “It is therefore circumspect that despite the agitations by Nigerians and our party during the collation process protesting the reported irregularities surrounding the election you proceeded with the announcement of the results in utter disregard of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
“It is funny and a gross abuse of our electoral process for your commission to have commenced transmission of the February 25, election results from the various Polling Units (PU) days after the results of the said election had been announced and purported winners declared. Your action in this regard is an affront on the sensibilities of all Nigerians which we have vowed to resist.
“Notably, the hasty declaration of the election results evidently violating the Electoral Act 2022 places your integrity to total scrutiny going by your deceitful representations and assurances to Nigerians and the International Community that the Electoral Act 2022 is a game changer that would guarantee a free, fair, transparent and credible electoral process especially with the BVAS transmission of election results directly from the Polling Units.
“The Peoples Democratic Party detests and condemns this absurdity and brazen rape of our electoral process. Nigeria should be seen as a country governed by the rule of law and it is a responsibility we collectively owe our citizens desirous of entrenching true democratic principles and the rule of law. In this circumstance we call on all Nigerians both home and in the diaspora to stand firmly in defense of their rights, votes and stolen mandate.
“In consideration of the foregoing, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) acting on the mandate of the Nigerian electorate has resolved as follows:
“To reject and declare as unacceptable the outcome, announcement and declaration of the Presidential election results;
“To call on your commission to suspend the on- going transmission of the Polling Units results to your Servers which is in complete breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
“To warn your commission against a repeat of the experiences of the February 25, election in the coming Governorship and State Assembly elections of March 11, 2023. Any attempt to manipulate the electoral process will be vehemently resisted.
“To call on all Nigerians to be co- partners in defense of our democracy, votes, the rule of law and their Rights to freely choose the candidates of their choice.
“To demand an explanation why you proceeded with the declaration of the election results marred with irregularities against all calls to address the complaints brought to your attention before and during the collation process.
“We are writing to you because we want to bring our grievances and demands formally to your attention for necessary action.
“Furthermore, to inform you and your commission that, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) together with the ordinary and aggrieved masses of our dear country will no longer tolerate any act in defiance of our electoral processes and laws.
“We feel pained at the outcome of the February 25, 2023 election and the provocative declaration your commission made against the will of the people. Sadly, this is coming at the time Nigerians were in high hopes of embracing a reformed electoral process. Please take caution in your acts to avoid destabilizing our fledgling democracy.”
Respect your age, Tinubu warns Atiku
Reacting to the protest yesterday, Tinubu asked Atiku to respect his grand old age and stop following court jesters like Dino Melaye to dance ‘skelewu’ and cause traffic snarls within the nation’s capital, Abuja.
‘Skelewu’ is a dance form established by the musician, David Adeleke (Davido) in his song of the same title.
Describing the action as a new low and a theatre of the absurd, Tinubu said it is strange that a former vice president of the country could be so idle as to disturb the public peace.
Director, Media and Publicity, at the APC Presidential Campaign Council PCC, Mr Bayo Onanuga in a statement said when Atiku told the world last week that he would seek redress in court over the outcome of the presidential election, little did the PCC know that he did not plan to be guided by his own promise.
“Going by his political antecedents, it was rather not surprising that Atiku, days later, led a band of protesters, nay jesters in Abuja, to the Headquarters of INEC.
“What was on display today by Alhaji Atiku and his motley crowd was a new low from the perennial election loser.
“With Atiku staging a theatre of the absurd, we fail to see how a march to INEC by a scanty crowd will provide any victory window for him and his fragmented PDP. The only recourse open to Atiku after the electoral umpire declared Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the President-elect, is the Election Petition Tribunal.
“Instead Atiku and his party wisely spend their time to gather the so-called evidence they hope to present before the courts, they are busy dancing ‘skelewu’ on the streets and causing traffic nuisance to residents of the Federal Capital Territory who were going to work on a Monday morning.
“We don’t expect a former Vice President of Nigeria, a statesman and a Presidential candidate to be so jobless as to have time to disturb public peace over an electoral outcome he had already said he would challenge in court”, the APC PCC stated.
Age not on your side
The council also admonished Alhaji Atiku “to respect his age and the high office of the Vice Presidency of Nigeria he once occupied.”
“He should stop being tele-guided by Dino Melaye, who disclosed scandalously that N400 billion was wasted on the election, which was clear at the outset that Atiku was bound to lose.
“Atiku should avoid being misdirected by other court jesters in his party, who continued to campaign after the election, still spewing their inanities against the President-elect. They are mere comic characters in a travelling theatre group.
“INEC Headquarters is not a court where the prayers of Alhaji Atiku can be answered. No amount of theatrical display will give him succour. The honourable and lawful path to take is for Atiku to get his lawyers to plead his case in court.
“He should stop throwing tantrums like a baby whose candy was taken away over an election he clearly lost due to his own poor judgment; mismanagement of his own party and violation of power rotational arrangement between the North and the South. The PDP presidential candidate dug his own grave in his last election and, absurdly, he is trying to rewrite the script of his own utter failure.
“We wonder how Atiku and his party hoped to win, when he himself admitted that Peter Obi, his running mate in 2019, ran away with traditional PDP votes from the South-East and South-South.”
“We advise Atiku to retire honourably from politics and move to his abode in Dubai. At 77 in November, Atiku does not have age on his side again. He has participated in his last election and hopefully, he has learnt worthy lessons, never to place his selfish interests above party and established principles in his party and the polity.”
We have no allegiance to any party — INEC
Meanwhile, in his remarks after receiving the protest letter, Okoye said: “So, I have received this protest letter on behalf of the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and I promise you this letter will be transmitted to him.
“If they’re remedial issues we will deal with those remedial issues. But I want to assure you that this Commission is a listening Commission. This Commission is a public trust and this Commission belongs to the Nigerian people. Our allegiance is to the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This Commission does not owe allegiance to any political party.
“I want to thank all of you for the peaceful way this protest has been conducted.
“The commission belongs to the Nigerian people and whatever grievances there are, we will look into all those grievances. If there are grievances that can be redressed, we will redress those grievances but I want to plead that all of us should continue to be peaceful and all of us should continue to respect the integrity of the commission and also the integrity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“I am going to go and hand over the protest letter to the chairman of the commission and I want to assure you that the commission will meet over this letter, look into it and address some of the issues.”
Earlier, dozens of party supporters dressed in black outfits marched from the PDP Legacy House to the INEC Headquarters amid singing and dancing with armed regular and riot policemen in several trucks providing security cover. The March started and ended without incident.