Amidst claim by presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, that his mandate was stolen, some stakeholders have asked the former vice president to accept the outcome of last Saturday’s presidential polls in the spirit of good sportsmanship.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Wednesday announced incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the poll with 15,191,847 votes, while Atiku polled 11,262,978.
But the PDP candidate said he was robbed of victory, accusing INEC of collaborating with the ruling party to deny the people of their choice.
Speaking at a world press conference in Abuja Wednesday, Atiku, who is also the Waziri Adamawa, thanked Nigerians for choosing democracy as the settlement system of government of the country.
On his rejection of the poll, he said, “On election day, we saw the implementation of grand theft of the people’s will. I am not one for hyperbole, so I will just let the facts speak for themselves.
“In Akwa Ibom for instance, the result showed a statistical impossibility of a 62 per cent drop in voter numbers from the 2015 elections even where voter registration and PVC collection rate were much higher than 2015.
“This is why voter suppression took place. You must recall our party made this observation and complain before the elections that there were plans to implement voter suppression on PDP or opposition’s strongholds, then voter increase in APC strongholds.
“This pattern was repeated in strongholds of PDP including states like Delta, Rivers, Abia and Benue states. As this was occurring, we saw another statistical impossibility where the real numbers tallied in numbers increased astronomically in Borno state by an almost miraculous 82 percent in the midst of insecurity.
“This pattern was also repeated in other strongholds of the APC states. One begins to ask if insecurity is conducive to higher voter turnout and security is antithetical to high voter turnout. It is further curious that the PDP’s margin of victory in states outside the South-east and South-south were extremely slim across board. That again is a statistical impossibility.”
He said when the numbers declared by INEC as result of the presidential election were calmly looked at, “they do not add up at all.”
The former vice president said he wasn’t speaking as PDP member but as a Nigerian.
“The electoral fraud perpetuated by the Buhari administration this past Saturday cannot produce a government of the people, for the simple reason that it does not reflect the will of the Nigerian people.
“My dear Nigerians, it is for this reason that I, Atiku Abubakar, reject the result declared by the INEC which declared Muhammadu Buhari as duly returned by the majority of the lawful votes. I am conferring with not just my party but also Nigerian people on the next step which will be revealed to the public shortly.”
Atiku also appealed to his supporters to remain calm and steadfast, saying, “Rome was not built in a day. We have the real figures; we have the facts that have spoken so loudly on Saturday, Feb 23, 2019.”
While saying even the military never conducted such a worst election, the PDP candidate said: “This is a long journey but I am confident of victory. All hope is not lost, stay strong. By the grace of God, we shall triumph.”
He said the international investors and friends of Nigeria should be patient and keep faith with the Nigerian people.
Those in attendance were: Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi, Director General of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation and Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Speaker House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara, National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, Chairman PDP Board of Trustees, Walid Jibrin, former Governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, former Governor of Niger state, Dr Babangida Aliyu, Senator Ben Bruce and Senator Dino Melaye among others.
However, some stakeholders, including Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and human rights activist Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, have called for caution, calling on the former vice president to accept the election outcome.
They said this Wednesday in separate statements in Abuja, Kaduna and Lagos respectively.
Authenticating the results by the electoral umpire, YIAGA said it validated the declaration of President Buhari as winner of the poll.
The body said results announced by INEC tallied with the findings of its observers as part of their Watching The Vote (WTV) project.
In a statement by its communication officer Moshood Isah in Abuja Wednesday, the group said findings by its observers agreed with the figures declared by INEC.
YIAGA Africa enjoys technical support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the US-based National Democratic Institute.
The body deployed parallel vote tabulation (PVT) described as gold standard citizen observation methodology that uses statistics and information communication technologies in its assessment.
YIAGA Africa said INEC’s official results complied with the group’s parameters for measuring elections.
In the post-election statement, YIAGA said the public, political parties and candidates should have confidence in the ballots cast at the polling units.
It said: “Based on reports from 1,491 or 98.4 per cent of sampled polling units, YIAGA Africa’s findings show that for the presidential election, the All Progressive Congress (APC) should receive between 50.0 per cent and 55.8 per cent of the votes; and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 41.2 per cent and 47.0 per cent of the votes.
“These figures are consistent with the official results as announced by INEC. For both APC and PDP the official results fall within the PVT estimated ranges.”
The body further asked INEC to provide clarity around two issues of pressing concern to Nigerians, including the cancelled votes, even as it said they never affected the overall outcome of the elections.
“First, the overall, percentage of cancelled ballots announced by INEC was 3.3 per cent of all registered voters.
“This figure was four times higher than the rate from 2015 when registered voters in cancelled polling units were less than one per cent of all registered voters.
“Second, YIAGA Africa noted discrepancies between the number of registered voters announced prior to the election and the numbers announced during collation and called on INEC to provide an in-depth explanation, including of whether these differences indicated that collation did not conclude in all parts of the country.
“However, YIAGA Africa noted that the PVT data, which projected its estimated vote shares on the basis of the numbers announced at the polling units before any cancelation of results could take place, showed that neither of these issues impacted the outcome of the election,” the statement said.
While saying those who lost out in the elections should seek legal redress, it said: “YIAGA Africa noted that the challenges experienced during the elections call for a detailed and systematic post-election review to include an inquiry into the cancellation of ballots, an audit of the voter register and a review of the elections operation management systems.”
“YIAGA Africa is a nonpartisan and independent civil society organisation without affiliation to any political party, candidate or state agency.
“YIAGA Africa carries out research, capacity development and policy advocacy. YIAGA AFRICA has been involved in election observation since 2007 and it is one of the leading organisations working on elections in Nigeria.”
“YIAGA Africa urges Nigerian voters, political parties, candidates and international stakeholders to have confidence in the just-concluded electoral process and the officially announced results,” YIAGA Africa’s WTV chair, Dr. Hussaini Abdu said.
ACF urges Atiku to concede defeat (2)
Also, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) said the PDP flag bearer at the poll should be gracious in defeat.
The body said this in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, a copy of which was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna.
It said: “The ACF salutes the courage of Alhaji Atiku for putting up a gallant fight with an impressive performance in the presidential elections.
“The forum calls on Alhaji Atiku of PDP as a committed democrat who cherishes peaceful democratic transition, to accept the will of the people, concede defeat and congratulate President Buhari on his well deserved victory at the just concluded elections.
“There is credible evidence that the election have been generally peaceful, free and fair. Such concession on the part of the main challenger would be in the overall interest of Nigeria and place him among global democrats.”
The ACF also asked other contestants to be magnanimous in defeat and congratulate their opponents who won.
The forum commended INEC for conducting a smooth and transparent election, and refusing “to be intimidated or cajoled by the initial logistic challenges which led to the postponement of the elections by one week and other unfortunate incidences.”
The body also lauded “Resilient Nigerians for their personal sacrifices to, not only exercise their franchise by voting candidates of their choice, but also to ensure that their votes got counted.
“We equally salute other stakeholders, especially the National Peace Committee of General Abdusalami Abubakar, foreign and domestic election observers and many others for their wise counsel and commitment to peaceful election.”
While appreciating the efforts of security agencies in making the elections relatively peaceful, the forum congratulated President Buhari on his re-election and tasked him to strengthen national unity and inclusiveness, and ensure no section or group is left out.
Similarly, Mr Agbakoba said the former vice president should not challenge the outcome at the election tribunal.
In a paper; ‘2019 presidential election: Ethnic consideration vs. governance consideration’, the SAN said: “I understand the PDP is aggrieved at the outcome of the election and alleged massive irregularities. I urge former Vice President Atiku Abubakar not to approach the Election Petition Tribunal.
“He might have (been) moved backwards by his loss but he should not lose sight of the legacy and greatness that lies in front of him.”
He said Atiku should work with others in building a stronger political structure that could make political inroad in the next dispensation.
Agbakoba said: “There is also a lot of work to be done in both political and electoral reforms. I request former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to step into the shoes.”
“I can see how tempting it is to take the option of the Election Petition Tribunal. But that, in my view, is not the right decision. We look forward to a new Nigeria, strong and united; a new Nigeria that will not vote on the basis of ethnic and primordial sentiments.”
The activist said ethnicity played major role in the nation’s voting pattern, stating that both the APC and PDP were beneficiaries of this “primordial voting.”
“The exempted zone is the South-west, where voting occurred on the basis of issues. The significance and consequence of the 2019 presidential election are huge unless we are able to reverse it. 2023 will follow the pattern of 2019 unless we do something about it.”
Election not war -Buhari
But in all of this, President Buhari said election should not be seen as war and therefore pleaded with his opponent to accept defeat.
He said this Wednesday shortly after receiving his certificate of return from the INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu in Abuja.
“Election is not war, and should never be seen as a do-or-die (affair). I pray that we all accept this democratic approach to elections, however contentious,” he said.
With the elections now over and a winner declared, the president said, “We must all see it as a victory for Nigeria, our dear country.
“That was why I encouraged my teeming supporters, in a speech I read earlier today, not to gloat. Our God-given victory is enough cause for joy, without deriding those who were in the opposition. All Nigerians, going forward, must stand in brotherhood, for a bright and fulfilling future.
“I, therefore, want to assure that we will continue to engage all parties that have the best interest of Nigerians at heart.”
He said his government would remain inclusive and that all doors would also remain open.
That, he said, “is the way to build the country of our dream; safe, secure, prosperous, and free of impunity and primitive accumulation by those entrusted with public offices.”
To Atiku and his other fellow contestants, Buhari said: “We may have had different views during the campaign, but the one thing most of us have in common is love of our country and our desire to improve conditions for Nigerians.”
“From the comments of several observers both local and foreign, it is obvious that the elections were both free and fair,” the president said.
“We will roll up our sleeves afresh, and give it our all. We have no other motive than to serve Nigeria with our hearts and might, and build a nation which we and generations to come can be proud of,” he said.
He expressed his appreciation to over 15 million citizens who voted for him as well as those who contributed to the running of his successful campaign.
“I can assure that you will see a country moving to the Next Level, as we consolidate on our fundamental areas of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption.
“Many other focal areas, as stated in our campaign manual, will be added, to the good things we plan for our country.”
To those who lost their lives during the exercise, he said: “My heart and thoughts are with the families of the victims. May God comfort and give them the fortitude to bear the loss.”
U.K. congratulates Buhari
Meanwhile, the U.K. government has congratulated President Buhari on securing a second term as president.
A statement from the British High Commission in Abuja Wednesday quoted the Minister of State for Africa, Harriett Baldwin, as saying “I offer my congratulations to President Buhari on securing a second term as the Nigerian president.
“The UK is a long-standing friend and partner of Nigeria and the Nigerian people and a stable and prosperous Nigeria benefits Africa and the world.”
Baldwin commended Nigerians for their resilience and commitment to democracy.
She said the results declared by INEC were consistent with the results obtained through the civil society Parallel Vote Tabulation process.
“Along with our international partners, the UK believes the Nigerian people can have confidence in the result.”
She, however, said there were concerns expressed by Nigerians on the conduct of the electoral process, in particular on logistics and results collation, and reports of intimidation of electoral officers.
The minister said any party or individual who wished to challenge the process to do so peacefully and through the appropriate legal channel.