Formal Opening of the National Collation Centre in Abuja. Photo/Twitter/inecnigeria
THE GUARDIAN, FEBRUARY 28, 2019
Nigerians in their numbers have continued to voice mixed reactions to the process that secured electoral victory for incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari and All Progressive Congress (APC).
While some have condemned the electoral umpire for a job haphazardly done, others blame the ruling party for unleashing violence in almost all polling units to disenfranchise people and rig in the president.
A member of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustee (BoT), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said no Nigerian could be happy with the way and manner the presidential election was conducted, because it was marred by violence and other irregularities even before it was held.
According to him, “It was glaring that President Muhammadu Buhari and APC manipulated themselves back into power against the wishes and desires of the electorate. The ruling party ensured that opposition parties especially PDP were gagged in their strongholds. A good example is Lagos where violence was recorded. I can say categorically that we won the election but APC rigged it for Buhari.”
Babatope declared that the outcome of the 2019 election portend grave danger for Nigeria’s democracy, just as the national chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, condemned the result. Nwosu said the gains Nigeria recorded in democracy when former President Goodluck Jonathan voluntarily relinquished power in 2015 after his defeat has been reversed.
According to him, “Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday to elect their choice leader but the people in power, led by Buhari, used the instrumentality of government to perpetrate the incumbent in power.”
The ADC chairman noted that the series of violence witnessed on Saturday were deliberately orchestrated to frustrate the opposition parties, adding that Alhaji Atiku Abubakar might likely not get any positive outcome from the court if he challenges the result of the presidential election, since according to him, the current government has succeeded in emasculating the judicial arm of government.
However, President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shetimma, hopes the court would do justice to Atiku’s case if he eventually goes to court, stressing: “There was nothing new in what INEC declared because the hanky-panky has been on even before the presidential and National Assembly election was conducted on Saturday. Nigeria’s only consolation is in the court.”
In separate reactions, legal practitioners Olumide Oyewole and Mr. Oluyinka Oyeniji differed on what the election behooves for Nigeria’s democracy.
Oyewole said: “The election was free and fair in most parts of the country. The reports of violence and electoral malpractice in certain areas, I believe, will not affect the overall outcome of the elections as announced by INEC. It would have been a different ball game altogether had the violence and electoral malpractice characterise major parts of the country. The exercise was improvement over the 2015 elections because Nigerians are now better educated and also a bit more vigilant now.”
But to Oyeniji, the attendant violence, which was necessarily predicted before the elections, was contained to a degree, adding, “This is not to say that the killings recorded in Lagos, Rivers, Kaduna and other parts of the country are justifiable. It is patently obvious that INEC’s preparation was shoddy and fit enough to be investigated by the National Assembly upon resumption.”
Meanwhile, a socio-political youth organisation in the South West, Apapo Egba Ewe Yoruba has urged Lagos chapter of APC to caution those working for it as hoodlums on Election Day before the March 9 gubernatorial elections. A statement from the Coordinator and the Secretary of the group, Babatunde Hassan and Ridwan Olaposi, warned that should the trend continue there would be problem in Lagos.
Similarly, public opinion analyst, Alex Ogundadegbe, said the elections are by no means victory for the nation’s democracy as it lacks credibility from every spectrum.
He noted that while the two leading candidates might not be the best for the country, the electoral umpire failed in its duty of guaranteeing a free, fair and credible election.
Ogundadegbe blamed Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for disenfranchising Nigerians like never before, especially in areas like Rivers where violence prevented voters from exercising their civic rights and Lagos where political thugs disallowed voters who were not of their party’s affiliations.
According to him, if the nation must get it right in the conduct of her elections, it must adopt an electronic process that ensures immediate transfer of results, noting, “The two best conditions that guarantee rigging in an election are when people don’t come out to vote or are not allowed to vote, and during the movement of ballot papers from the polling units to the collation centres.
“We cannot continue with this system of card readers and Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), which keep failing and disappointing the country. Every voter should be registered online and voting done through a voting machine like it is done in other parts of the world. We know no system is perfect but with this election; we still have a long way to go.
“How can more people come out to vote in areas where there is rise in insurgency and constant attacks than areas where there is peace? Why the so much delay in the process of collating and announcing the results? All these pose a doubt to the credibility and authenticity of the results. President Buhari may have won the election, but that margin of over four million is unbelievable.”
A public policy analyst, Mr. Gerald Eze, said Nigerians should get ready for another four years of suffering and hardship, as facilitated by INEC, remarking that the results released did not reflect the choice of majority of Nigerians.
According to him, “Have you noticed that everyone is complaining bitterly on the streets as a result of this outcome? Do you know that when a man of the people emerges there is usually celebration on the streets? Did you see any? Theses are good signs that the nation’s elections have become the case of victory for the best riggers. I wonder where we are heading to in this country.
“We are aware that over eight million Nigerians were disenfranchised by the INEC in various parts of the country; yet they declared him winner and hurriedly gave him his certificate of return this morning. What this could mean is that the certificates had been typed earlier than now in his name, but they waited patiently to deceive Nigerians in the name of conducting an election.
“They took days to collate and announce the results but gave the certificates just a few hours. I fear not for myself but for the generation yet unborn. In years to come, if nothing us quickly done to avert situations as these, people may decide to sit at home during elections.”
He further commended the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for taking the bold step to seek redress in court, saying: “Its obvious the people want someone who can positively impact in their lives, grow the economy and invest in infrastructure.
The PDP candidate was unjustly denied his mandate, but I am glad he is going to court with enough evidence to reclaim his mandate.
“Victory can only be delayed, but can never be denied. I and several other Nigerians who are pained by the increasing undeserved hardship are with him in reclaiming the stolen mandate of the oppressed in Nigeria.”
However, Pioneer Secretary-General, Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-corruption and Open Leadership, Mr. Debo Adeniran, identified the large number of presidential candidates as being responsible for the under-performance of the electoral body.
According to him, with 73 political parties presenting their different candidates, it may be difficult to rate the real capability of the INEC.
He said the nation needs not more than five political parties with different ideologies and manifestoes if it must meet the performance expected of it by the rest of the world.
“INEC must give more conditions to ensure deregistration of these political parties. Most of them are mere social clubs with similar names, ideologies, manifestoes and beliefs. Why can’t they group and form one party and reduce the disgrace on our electoral process and democracy? The number of political parties contributed immensely to the problems faced by the electoral umpire, as compiling the results became a huge issue. We must look into this challenge in the future if we must leave this level of poor electioneering system. The capacity of the parties should be tested to see that each party doesn’t operate beyond its powers.”
Meanwhile, a legal expert and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Norrison Quakers, opined that INEC should be held responsible for the shortcomings of the polls, because it failed in terms of neutrality and preparations.
He, however, predicted that the next few weeks would be surrounded with legal sanctions and challenge between the political parties as a result of loopholes on the side of the umpires.