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•Declares he has no personal issue against former Lagos governor, only challenging INEC’s process, procedure of declaring him president-elect
•Insists Wike worked against him in Rivers
•Electoral body bows to pressure, grants LP access to election materials
•Commission promises to be fair to all
Chuks Okocha and Emameh Gabriel in Abuja
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Mr. Peter Obi, yesterday responded to calls from church leaders and some elder statesmen that he should not contest the outcome of the 2023 presidential election as it was God’s will for Bola Tinubu to emerge.
Also, after days of pressure from LP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday granted the party’s legal team the opportunity to review materials that were used for last month’s presidential election.
INEC had declared Tinubu, winner of the presidential election held on February 25, proclaiming he scored the highest number of votes cast in the election. Tinubu, a former Lagos State governor had polled a total of 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rival and presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku, who scored 6,984,520 votes, and Peter Obi of LP, who polled 6,101,533 votes.
But the LP which is challenging the outcome, had last week asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to compel INEC to grant it access to the materials used for the presidential and National Assembly elections.
Speaking during an interview on Arise News Channel’s ‘The Morning Show,’ Obi said one of the problems with Nigeria was accepting what was wrong and unacceptable as God’s wish for the country.
He also pointed out that he had no personal grudges against the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Tinubu, saying he was in court to challenge the procedure and process that led to the declaration of Tinubu as president-elect by INEC.
Obi also denounced attempts to ethnicise the voting pattern during the February 25 presidential poll, saying that he got votes across ethnic boundaries in the same way former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former President Goodluck Jonathan respectively got over 90 per cent votes from the South-east in past elections.
Commenting on pleas by church leaders and elder-statesmen that he should take the outcome of the election that produced Tinubu as God’s will, Obi said: “I am very respectful to them and I think that they should be respected for what they represent to the society. But I disagree with them. What they are actually preaching is the problem of Nigeria.
“The problem of Nigeria is accepting wrongdoing, accepting what is unacceptable, that is using God’s name in vain. That’s not what God said. God said do not use my name in vain. What they are saying is not God’s wish.
“So are they saying that the 133 million Nigerians who are poor is God’s wish? Why don’t we accept that 95 million Nigerians living in absolute poverty is God’s wish? Is it God’s wish that your children are kidnapped? Is it God’s wish that we have collapsed primary health care making us to be the country with the highest infant mortality.
“That’s not what God’s will says; God’s will is that when you do the right thing then in the end it is well.
“We have clear laws about the conduct of the election. If it was followed, if the results were uploaded from the polling booths, we won’t be here talking about all these. It would have been concluded within hours without anybody arguing about it. But it is not God’s will that you do the wrong thing. It is not God’s will that you go and rob a train and start sharing money.
“This is what is killing the country. People come here take public money then go and give it to the people in the church and they give them title, that is what we are fighting.”
Obi pointed out that he has no “issues with Tinubu,” adding that, “he is somebody I have so much respect for as a brother and one I can regard as a father.
“I am only challenging the process through which INEC declared him as the president-elect.”
He also appealed to INEC to rise up to the responsibility of helping Nigeria build a positive global image.
The LP presidential candidate added: “We are committed to a new Nigeria. We must do everything that is right. We need to build strong democratic institutions that will teach people what their job requires and what government.
“It is a saddening fact that after 63 years as a nation, Nigeria is yet unable to conduct a good election. The February 25 presidential election is the worst in Nigeria’s history considering that the Electoral Law of 2022 was enacted to ensure free, fair and credible elections.”
Obi who defended votes he earned, denounced attempts to ethnicise the voting pattern during the presidential poll, saying he was supported across ethnic boundaries.
Responding to the allegation of being supported only by Igbos, Obi said it was wrong saying that the votes he won from Nasarawa, Plateau, Lagos and including Aso Rock did not fit into the ethnic strength of the Igbos.
Continuing he said in 2003, despite the fact Chief Emeka Ojukwu contested against Obasanjo, the former president got 90 per cent vote from the south-east.
“In the South-east, it is a similar situation, people know me, people know what I stand for, people know I have kept my promises. People know I’ve kept to what I have said.
“It is a simple thing, people go about and say, ‘Oh! He got votes in Lagos because of the Igbo’, and I ask how many Igbos live in Lagos? I got more votes from indigenes in Lagos than those who you can call visitors. Are the people that voted for me in Nasarawa Igbos? Are the people that voted for me in Plateau Igbos? Are there only Igbos in Abuja?” he asked.
“They forgot that I got over 95 per cent in Anambra State in 2019, when I was a running mate to Atiku, in 2023 I was the main candidate, I am even surprised that I did not get 100 per cent,” he said.
On the claim that he took away PDP votes and helped the APC’s Ahmed Bola Tinubu to win, Obi said he did not contest to help anybody, but to win, saying that by records, Nigerians made that happen.
Obi also reiterated his support for LP governorship candidates in Enugu, Abia, Lagos, Delta, Plateau, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, states among others 100 percent, and directed his supporters to vote for them.
On the ethnic tension in Lagos State ahead of the governorship election, Obi said some mischievous persons were trying to create the impression that there was tension in the state.
Responding to a question on Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, calling him the hero of the election, he noted that Wike, “came out against” him in the February 25 poll.
He added that if the “real votes” were counted in Rivers he would have won.
Obi noted: “In Rivers, where you know that the governor came out against me and everything, I still… If the real votes of Rivers were counted, I won. I had over 50 something per cent of the vote. The other two parties were sharing the others.”
INEC Bows to Pressure, Grants LP Access to Election Materials
INEC yesterday granted LP’s legal team the opportunity to review materials that were used for last month’s presidential election.
The presidential candidate of LP, Mr. Peter
Labour Party officials yesterday, including members of its Presidential Campaign Council, National Working Committee and its legal team led by Dr. Livy Uzoukwu, who stormed INEC’s headquarters in Abuja, were granted official access to inspect sensitive electoral materials after a brief meeting with the Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
However, speaking during a meeting with Labour Party representatives at the INEC’s headquarters, Mahmood, confirmed receiving a letter from head of Labour Party legal team dated March 6, which was a notification of their visit to the Commission headquarters to inspect the materials and to get in touch with all the Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) across the 37 states of the federation to make the documents and information available for the prosecution of their petition.
The INEC boss promised to schedule a meeting with the RECs before the end of yesterday, to discuss among other issues, the matter of make available all that was requested of the Commission, not only to the Labour Party, but to all other litigants as well.
He said: “I want to assure you that the Commission will not hide any document from anybody and will make available any document that they have requested. There are two categories of documents. Those that are in the headquarters of INEC, I will easily make available to you.
“Specifically the EC8Ds from the states and the ECD A, which is the collation at the national collection centre by the commission itself. The EC8E, the declaration, so I think a total of 39 documents, these we can easily certify and give you almost immediately.
“As for other documents that you are asking for, they are at state level, so we need to work out the schedule so that we would know when your team is going to which state and on which date so that we can easily facilitate not just certification of documents, but also the inspection that you requested for each of these documents.
“The other one is accreditation data from the back end. This will also be made available to you. Remember that the accreditation data covers over 176,000 polling units. We have to print them physically certify them, and give them to you.”
Speaking further, the INEC boss said: “They will also make arrangements and notify our RECs of your intended visit so that these documents will be made available to you, those that are at the state level, including access to inspection of any category of materials.
“So I crave your indulgence to suggest that let your team interface with the legal team of the Commission immediately. So you work these things out and then we make all the documents available to you.
“But please be assured lead counsel that INEC has nothing to hide. Whatever you’re asking for will be made available to you.
So, I want to thank you for coming. Now the meeting will be between our technical people and you will just work things out so that whatever we need to facilitate as a commission, you can get the document that you require as a matter of urgency.”
Speaking earlier, Uzoukwu had expressed frustration over the continued delay by INEC to make available materials used for the elections, saying they have only 10 days left for the inspection, which was expected to be carried out across the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT.
Uzoukwu said: “We are here because we have not received any electoral stocks for inspection on behalf of our clients, and as you all know, election petition is time sensitive.
“We have 21 days to file a petition on behalf of our clients. Out of that 21 days, we probably have about 10 days to go and up till now we have not received any documents.
“We have written to INEC requesting for documents. The Court of Appeal made an order on the March 3, ordering INEC to release those documents to us but we haven’t received any, hence we requested for a meeting with the chairman of finance.
“I was graciously granted that audience within a very short notice, and he has given us assurance, concrete assurance on record that all documents we require will be made available and if possible, some of them will be made available to us today.
“So we believe that will happen and we are leaving here rest assured that by the time we leave INEC premises at least we will leave with some documents, the rest can then come from tomorrow and so on.”