Adedayo Akinwale and Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last Saturday’s election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has described the poll conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the worst he has seen in 30 years, vowing to retrieve his mandate.
The Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had in the early hours of yesterday declared the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari, as the winner of the contest having polled a total of 15,191,847 votes to Atiku’s 11,262,978 votes.
But, while addressing a press conference yesterday in Abuja, Atiku noted that democracy is the government of the people and by the people only when the people’s choice prevails, saying that did not happen last Saturday.
The former vice president stressed that the Election Day witnessed the implementation of grand theft of the people’s will, adding: “I am not one for hyperbole, so I will just let the facts speak for themselves.”
Atiku explained that 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 in 2015.
According to him, “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 in voter increase in APC strongholds.”
Atiku lamented that this pattern was repeated in strongholds of PDP including in states like Delta, Rivers, Abia and Benue.
He stated: “As this was occurring, we saw another statistical impossibility where the real numbers tallied increased astronomically in Borno State by an almost miraculous 82 per cent in the midst of insecurity.
“This pattern was also repeated in other strongholds of the APC states. One begins to ask if insecurity is conduits to higher voter turnout and security is antithetical to high voter turnout. It is further curious that the PDP’s margin of victory in state outside the South-east and South-south were extremely slim across board. That again is a statistical impossibility.
“The fact is that when you calmly look at the numbers declared by INEC as results of February 23, 2019 elections, they do not add up at all. Let me say that I am not speaking as a member of PDP, I am speaking as a Nigerian when I said 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.
“I told Gen. Abdulsalami two nights ago when he called me that not even the military conducted such a worst election. 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.
“As I have always said, this year, is my three decades in Nigeria’s struggle for democracy. And this is the worst election in those 30 years.
“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.”
Atiku noted that he was conferring with not just his party but also Nigerian people on the next step, which would be revealed to the public shortly.
The former vice president, however, appealed to Nigerians to remain calm and steadfast, saying Rome was not built in a day.
He said the party has the real figures and the facts that have spoken so loudly on Saturday.
He added: “To the international investors and friends of Nigeria now pulling out of the country, can you imagine only yesterday, by that mere announcement, the stock market, lost N85bn. I urge you to be patient and keep faith with the Nigerian people.
“Your problem is not with the Nigerian people; your quarrel is with those who stole their mandate. Please do not punish the people by divesting from Nigeria.”
ACF Urges Acceptance of Defeat
Reacting to Buhari’s emergence Wednesday, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) urged Atiku to concede victory to Buhari.
A statement by ACF National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim-Biu, made available to THISDAY in Kaduna, said Atiku should accept the will of the people.
It stated: “The ACF salutes the courage of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for putting up a gallant fight with an impressive performance in the presidential elections.
“The forum calls on Alhaji Atiku Abubakar 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, especially as there are credible evidence that the elections 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 urged other contestants to be magnanimous in defeat and congratulate their opponents who won.
The forum commended INEC for conducting smooth and transparent elections, 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.”
ACF also saluted 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 Abdulsalami Abubakar, foreign and domestic election observers and many others for their wise counsel and commitment to peaceful election,” it said even as it also appreciated the efforts of security agencies in making the elections relatively peaceful.
The forum congratulated President Buhari on his reelection and tasked him to strengthen national unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group is left out.
Don’t Go to Court, Agbakoba Tells Atiku
Meanwhile, as Atiku is preparing to head to court to challenge the victory of Buhari, a former President of NBA, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, has advised him to perish the thought.
In a piece titled, ‘2019 Presidential Election: Ethnic Consideration Vs Governance Consideration,’ written by Agbakoba yesterday, he advised the PDP presidential candidate against approaching the court, but to accept the outcome.
Agbakoba 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 lie in front of him.”
The SAN described Atiku as being in a position to take up the mantle of a statesman and build a ‘new Nigeria movement’ from the array of small parties, third force actors, change actors and millions who were desperate for a strong and united Nigeria.
“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.”
He, however, said he did not mean that the election was devoid of irregularities.
He said: “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 SAN noted that the voting pattern of last Saturday’s presidential election showed that ethnicity played a significant role in the election.
He said both the APC and the PDP benefited from “primordial voting.”
According to him, “The excepted 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.”