Millions of Nigerians trooped out to exercise their franchise yesterday, Saturday, 25th February, 2023 in a keenly contested presidential election. Interestingly, the final results are still being awaited as the nation’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been announcing the results in trickles. Only 14 out of 36 states have been announced as at Monday evening.
This delay is quite unusual and it has been traced partly to some logistic problems being faced by the electoral body at state level. But the lion share of the blame for the delay must go to the party agents of two political parties, one of which is Nigeria’s main opposition party.
Whereas INEC had set up its situation room in Abuja by 12 noon on Sunday, 26th February, 2023 and it has since adopted a business-like approach, the party agents appear determined to constitute clogs in the wheel of progress.
Labour Party whose result as announced by INEC showed that it was in the third position with little chance of catching up actually demanded that INEC should stop the collation exercise.
But the agent of the main opposition party who had persistently protested against the procedure and raised certain concerns with impertinence later staged a walkout during the collation. We find this very disturbing and highly opinionated.
This attitude stands in contradistinction with African values of decorum in public places. We believe that anyone in the INEC situation room can ask questions or pass comments but decency and moderation are mandatory. Nobody has the right to insist on truncating the collation exercise of a presidential election in which millions had participated just because he could not get his wish done immediately.
Every institution has its laid down rules and certain methods of resolving issues. There is a pattern laid down for agents and their political parties for solving problems encountered by them. That is what we call due process.
The agent of the main opposition party expected too much from the INEC chairman when he insisted that certain perceived errors in the documents submitted should be corrected by the chairman on the floors of the situation room. The chairman merely asked for due process to be followed and this drew the ire of the agent. He therefore stormed out of the place.
This behaviour is a sad reminder of the condescending behaviour of another agent of the same party also during the collation of the results of the 2015 presidential election. It is unparliamentary.
It smirks of gross desertification of vital qualities like patience and coolheadedness which people who represent esteemed establishments should possess. Political parties are advised to screen their agents and spokespersons with microscopic accuracy before putting them on the assignment.
INEC should not listen to these agents diaboli. The electoral body should not stop the collation of results, rather the exercise should continue until all the results are announced and certificates of return given to the winners. The same continuity should be extended to gubernatorial as well as national and state assembly elections.
We wish to appeal to participants who are currently in the INEC situation room as well as future participants to view their role as a serious national assignment that cannot accommodate any form of reckless behaviour. They should note that the tribunal is there to adjudicate in their grievances should there be any. We charge political actors to weigh their words before uttering them so as not to set the country on fire.
NO TO ANOTHER JUNE 12
This is another June 12 loading. Like Arthur Nzeribe headed for the courts in 1993 to stop the announcement of results of the June 12 election, the agent of the main opposition and his cohorts who stormed out of the collation centre is allegedly looking for a court injunction to stop proceedings at the collation centre. This was exactly how the June 12, 1993 election was annulled by the military. Anybody who supports this move is dragging Nigeria back to the Stone Age. We say NO to another June 12.
In this regard, we denounce the unsolicited and jaundiced intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who called for the cessation of the collation of results. We are nonplussed that a main beneficiary of democracy failed woefully to respect democratic process. Obasanjo’s call is sacriledgious. It is a rape of democracy. It is an attempted coup.
Obasanjo’s sanctimonious façade comes crumbling down against the background of his role in the enthronement of Musa Yaradua as president. The latter himself admitted that he was rigged into office. Now we know it takes a rigger to see rigging even in his sleep. Obasanjo is desperate because his anointed candidate has not performed well at the polls. His intention is to force him on us. Obasanjo wants to reap by the bends what he could not get by the straight.
Keen observers will realise that it is those who know that they have lost the election who are now calling for a halt to the collation of results. This is not the way of real men. Neither is it the way of genuine democrats. It is cowardly and escapist. There is honour in acceptance of defeat. Great politicians do not hesitate to congratulate the winner when they lose elections. That is true sportsmanship.
The allegation of rigging coming from those who know that they are about to lose this election is lame, baseless and unfounded. African politicians hide under the umbrella of rigging when they have been beaten black and blue at the polls.
For instance, President Muhammadu Buhari lost the election in Katsina, his home state, during this same election. Did he also rig that? The presidential candidate of the ruling party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, lost his home base, Lagos. People are already asking if Tinubu rigged himself out of Lagos. Even the national chairman of the ruling party, Senator Adamu Abdullahi, lost his base in Nasarawa State. Again, did Governor El-Rufai plot with riggers to rig him out in Kaduna State?
In Plateau State, the Director General of the Presidential Campaign Council of the ruling party and state governor, Simon Lalong, lost the state and you still have the temerity to accuse such a party of rigging the election. It really beggars belief. A ruling party that is bent on rigging must first secure the party chairman’s base. The governor of Yobe, Mai Mala Buni, was defeated. Did he rig himself out? Did Senate spokesman who lost this election rig himself out? This rigging allegation stands logic on its head. Why do you accept results when you win but cry foul when you lose? It is a manifestation of double standard.
MURIC notes with keen interest the way Governor Ortom of Benue State did an acrobatic U-turn after discovering that the mandate went to a Southern Muslim. We commend the two G-5 governors, Nyesom Wike of Rivers and Seyi Makinde of Oyo State for working for the success of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Governors Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Abayomi Oyebanji of Ekiti also deserve our encomiums. Nigerian Muslims will not forget.
Equally deserving of our panegyrics is INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, particularly for taking the aggression of agents with equanimity.
We advise international observers to pass their comments through diplomatic channels so as not to ignite crisis in the country. Democracy is not perfect even in sophisticated climes. International observers should not be swayed by Obasanjo’s involvement. This man has no political relevance in Nigeria. He could not even deliver his polling booth on Saturday to the candidate endorsed by him.
Experience has also shown that no election is perfect. Russia is still under suspicion of interrupting US election in 2017. Donald Trump’s January 6 insurrection has demystified America’s myth of a perfect democracy. Britain has had four prime ministers in four years. International observers should therefore act with utmost constraint and caution.
In conclusion, MURIC condemns attempts to disrupt the collation of 2023 presidential results. We charge politicians to give democracy a breathing space. We advise losers to take graceful exits while winners are urged to be magnanimous. In actual fact there is no winner, no vanquished in a national election of this nature. The real winner is Nigeria so long as we allow peace to reign. May Nigeria survive.
Long Live The Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Gentlemen of the press, thank you for listening.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)