GOVERANCE

Obasanjo, EU, Nat’l Peace C’ttee Say Presidential, NASS Polls Fraught With Irregularities

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the European Union and the National Peace Committee, have flayed the lack of transparency that trailed last Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

Similarly, the National Peace Committee, NPC, also yesterday expressed concerns over events trailing collation of results of the elections, especially protests over alleged manipulation of the results across the country.

Obasanjo in an open letter dated February 27, 2023, which he personally signed, also urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to fold his arms and watch as his effort to bequeath a legacy of free and fair election was being threatened by INEC officials who he claimed had collaborated with politicians to compromise the election.

He warned that Nigeria might be set on fire, if nothing was done urgently to address the problem, claiming that most of the results that were brought outside BVAS and server were not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who had made their individual choice.

The letter read: “I crave the indulgence of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, to make this statement because I have had opportunity to keep him aware of what I know is happening and the danger upcoming ahead.

‘’On many occasions in the past, I have not hesitated to point out lacuna in the action of the President and his government.

“But as far as the election issues are concerned, the President has proved beyond reasonable doubt that he will want to leave a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

“Until last Saturday night, February 25, 2023, the good and noble plan and preparation for the election seemed to be going well. For the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, a lot of money was spent to introduce Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and the Server for immediate transmission of results from polling units.

 

 

“It is no secret that INEC officials, at operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not to work and to revert to manual transmission of results which is manipulated and the results doctored.

‘’The Chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and Server are not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice.

“At this stage, we do not need to wittingly or unwittingly set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act or those who allegedly gave money to INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money.

“Let me appeal to the Chairman of INEC, if his hands are clean, to save Nigeria from the looming danger and disaster which is just waiting to happen.

“If the Chairman can postpone elections four days to the election, he can do everything to rectify the errors of the last two days — no BVAS, no result to be acceptable; and no upload through Server, no result to be acceptable.

“Where BVAS and Servers have been manipulated or rendered inactive, such results must be declared void and inadmissible for election declaration.”

Tension

Warning that tension was already building up in some parts of the country, Obasanjo urged the INEC chairman to redeem his reputation which was now at stake.

He said: “Chairman INEC, I have thought that you would use this opportunity to mend your reputation and character for posterity. Your Excellency, President Buhari, tension is building up and please let all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency test be cancelled and be brought back with areas where elections were disrupted for next Saturday, March 4, 2023, and BVAS and Server officials be changed.”

How the problem can be addressed

On how the problem can be addressed, Obasanjo said: ‘To know which stations or polling units were manipulated, let a Committee of INEC staff and representatives of the four major political parties with the Chairman of Nigerian Bar Association look into what must be done to have hitch-free elections next Saturday.

“Mr. President, may your plan and hope for leaving a legacy of free, fair, transparent and credible election be realised. Mr. President, please don’t let anybody say to you that it does not matter or it is the problem of INEC.

‘’On no account should you be seen as part of the collusion or compromise. When the die is cast, it will be your problem and that of the nation.

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‘’The Chairman of INEC may sneak out of the country or go back to his ivory tower. Your Excellency, thank you for hearing me out. Compatriot Nigerians, please exercise patience until the wrong is righted. I strongly believe that nobody will toy with the future and fortune of Nigeria at this juncture.”

Obasanjo out to derail democracy — APC PCC

Reacting to the former President’s letter, Special Adviser, Media, Communications and Public Affairs of the APC PCC, Mr Dele Alake urged Nigerians to disregard Obasanjo’s “dubious and hypocritical advice” and stay strictly and firmly on the path of constitutionalism and democratic due process.

Alake, in a statement entitled ‘Obasanjo’s mischief and hypocrisy on display again,” accused the former President of plans to “endanger and derail” the country’s democratic process.

The statement read: “Our attention has been drawn to a press statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in which he was virtually calling for a truncation of the ongoing electoral process and a cancellation of already conducted elections on the basis of frivolous, unfounded and baseless allegations by politicians who are sore losers and have no respect for democratic values.

“Obasanjo repeated without the slightest iota of evidence rumours he had picked up that the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System had been compromised and that the results of elections being announced are fraudulent.

“It is tragic that a former President, who ought to be a statesman in comportment and speech, will recklessly seek to endanger and derail our democratic process for utterly selfish, egoistic and malicious reasons. He offers not a single credible piece of evidence to prove his laughable and ridiculous allegations against INEC and the credibility of the ongoing process.

“Of course, we are all aware that Obasanjo is not an impartial and disinterested party as far as this election is concerned.

“On January 1, 2023, he had issued a characteristically lengthy epistle to Nigerians endorsing the candidacy of Mr Peter Obi and asking Nigerian youths to vote en masse for him. Of course our reaction was that the former President was entitled to his view and that the outcome of the elections would demonstrate if he had any electoral value.

“As fate would have it, Peter Obi was defeated even in Obasanjo’s own polling unit in Abeokuta in Ogun State. But it is now obvious that the only election Obasanjo will agree to being free, fair and credible is one that produces Obi as winner, which is ridiculous.

“Is Obasanjo also querying the outcome of the presidential elections in Lagos or Delta where Obi won? If the outcome in Lagos won by Obi is free and credible, on what basis is he querying the outcome of the elections in other places? This is pure mischief and sheer hypocrisy.

“Obasanjo wants President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in an undemocratic manner to truncate the ongoing political process just the way he did most shamelessness in the 2003 and 2007 elections widely described as the worst in our political history.

“Luckily, President Buhari is made of finer and more principled democratic stuff. He will not allow Obasanjo to lure him into tainting his democratic credentials in this regard.

“We recall that in his last trip to the United States, President Joe Biden praised Buhari ‘s commitment to democratic values and principles. Obasanjo has no such record to be applauded. The world has not forgotten his fraudulent and undemocratic attempt at a third term agenda in violation of the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution.

“This is an election in which Asiwaju Tinubu, for instance, has lost in  Lagos State in his South West region while Atiku and Obi have also won elections outside their own regional bases.

“No true democrat must seek an abortion of the process just because he believes the elections are not going his way. What Obasanjo is subtly calling for in his nefarious statement is a coup against democracy and the constitution. He should be roundly condemned and severely ignored.

“The constitution has stipulated processes for seeking redress against electoral malpractices in the past and these have been tested several times and used to redress electoral injustice where such has been proven. Nigerians must reject Obasanjo’s dubious and hypocritical advice and stay strictly and firmly on the path of constitutionalism and democratic due process.”

Elections lack transparency, reduced trust, challenged right to vote— EU

On its part, the EU stated:  ‘’On February 25, Nigerians went to the polls in highly anticipated presidential and National Assembly elections that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, kept on schedule, despite a volatile and challenging environment.

“Fundamental freedoms of assembly and movement were largely respected, yet the full enjoyment of the latter was impeded by insufficient planning, insecurity and the prevailing naira and fuel shortages. Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying.

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‘’Media provided an extensive coverage of the three leading campaigns, while disinformation interfered with voters’ right to make an informed choice on election day. The EU EOM is continuing its observation of the ongoing collation and tabulation of results throughout the country.

‘’INEC’s operational capacity was hampered by the ongoing fuel and naira shortage. Insecurity prevented it from accessing some Local Government Areas (LGAs), notably in the south. Attacks on INEC premises, including just days before polling, hindered preparations in affected areas, while instilling fear in voters.

“Overall, stakeholders had expressed confidence in INEC’s independence, professionalism, and voter information efforts, but this decreased ahead of elections. INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day, trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal, IReV.

‘’In the lead-up to elections, the widely welcomed Electoral Act 2022 introduced measures aimed at building stakeholder trust, however, leaving some important gaps in terms of accountability and INEC’s power to enforce the law.

‘’Weak points include a lack of INEC empowerment to enforce sanctions for electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules. Positively, INEC benefited from more timely financing than for previous contests.

“Other new provisions also aimed to enhance transparency of results. The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and the IReV for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of elections.

“However, delayed training of technical personnel, an inadequate mock testing exercise, and a lack of public information on the election technologies diminished expectations and left room for speculation and uncertainty.

“During the early stages of collation, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed on the IReV, while Senate and House of Representative results were slowly published. Presidential election result forms started to be uploaded after 10 pm on election day, raising concerns and reaching only 20 per cent by noon on February 26.

“Later the same evening, INEC explained the delay with ‘technical hitches.’

EU election observations

“Among 93.4 million registered voters, 9.5 million additional voters were registered ahead of the 2023 polls, of whom two-thirds were youth, following mobilisation efforts during the registration period.

“Yet, the collection of permanent voter cards, PVCs, a requirement to vote, was negatively affected by poor institutional planning. Two days before elections, INEC stated that 93.3 per cent of PVCs were collected.

‘’Without an independent audit of the voter register, quality and inclusiveness could not be assured. Following contentious candidate registration processes, there were 18 contestants for the presidential office and over 4,200 for 461 National Assembly seats.

‘’They were selected in party primaries that reportedly lacked transparency and inclusiveness, marked by very chronically low levels of participation of women and youth. This compounded an overall stark lack of legal measures for inclusion and barriers to participation which do not align with international standards.

‘’The conduct of contesting parties and candidates, as well as some gaps in the law, led to a spate of preelection court cases, with some matters not finalised ahead of elections.

“During the pre-election period, EU EOM interlocutors criticised various court rulings for being too technical, some leading to belated primary re-runs, others to substitutions of perceived legitimate candidates, thereby eroding public trust, exposing intra-party conflicts, and contributing to a volatile campaign environment.

‘’The campaign was highly competitive, and contestants conducted rallies nationwide, but the Naira cash and fuel scarcity reduced activities and attendance. Political parties denounced unequal campaign conditions due to interference of opponent governors.

“Reports of vote and PVC buying were also frequent. Internal party conflicts weakened the presidential campaigns of PDP and APC with personal accusation obscuring issue-based messages shortly before the elections.

‘’There was a lack of prosecution of electoral offences and a significant increase in violent incidents closer to elections, including attacks on candidates, reportedly, aimed to disturb the elections and suppress voter participation, particularly in the South-East.

‘’Media offered an extensive campaign coverage, despite economic hardships, institutional pressures, and electoral violence. Prime-time newscasts focused on the Naira swap, and APC and PDP animosities, granting both parties equitable exposure, although mostly negative in tone.

‘’Politicians used polarising rhetoric on air and conspiracy theories, originating online, were frequently discussed in the most popular talk shows. Analytical reporting on party policies was scant.

‘’Lead contestants could not be compared directly, as APC and PDP rebuffed presidential debates, undermining voters’ right to an informed choice. Social media was actively used by political actors as a campaign tool.

“However, the platforms were misused to spread harmful content, including disinformation on key electoral processes; the measures the platforms took to protect electoral integrity were insufficient.

“Misleading information also came from political actors and contributed to a blurred information environment for voters.

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‘’Online and offline media joined forces with civil society and fact checkers to safeguard the integrity of the pre-election information environment.

‘’Real-time fact checking of gubernatorial and other contestants’ debates strived to hold candidates accountable, while various formats of voter information, raised voter awareness and helped to counter electoral insecurity, complementing INEC efforts.

‘’Civil society organisations observed and scrutinised different aspects of the election, issued several preelection reports, at times probing INEC’s operational preparedness, offering voters a non-partisan assessment of election preparations. Over 144,800 citizen observers monitored election day proceedings.’’

 

 

Listen to grievances, probe all allegations of rigging, Nat’l Peace C’tte tells INEC

Also reacting to the elections yesterday, National Peace Committee, NPC, expressed concerns over events trailing collation of results of the elections, especially protests over alleged manipulation of the results across the country

It noted that all citizens deserved to be rewarded by a process that ensured that their votes truly counted.

To this end, the committee called on the INEC to listen to grievances associated with the exercise by launching investigation into all allegations of manipulation of the exercise.

The committee, in a statement by its Chairman and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, also appealed to INEC to heed the grievances being expressed, to take the necessary steps to escalate investigations of all allegations of infractions and ensure that justice  was done to all citizens who went out to vote.

 

In the statement, tagged: ”A call for calm, please give peace and the process a chance,” the committee appealed to INEC to take all the time it required to ensure it delivered results that would inspire the confidence of the people and meet time tested international standards.

 

The statement read: ”We commend Nigerians for turning out in mass to exercise their civic duty by voting in the February 25 elections. We took note of their patience, dignity and enthusiasm which Nigerians lined up to vote despite observable challenges in the polling units.

“Along with millions of other Nigerians and the international community, we have followed developments since the commencement and end of the Presidential and the National Assembly elections last Saturday.

“Not unexpectedly, the elections got on to a rather rocky start with the problems around logistics and accreditation processes across the country. On balance, despite these glitches, the elections were peaceful across most part of the country.

“However, now that the process of casting our votes has been largely concluded, the challenge now lies with the collation of the results. We perfectly understand that Nigerians are quite disturbed by these developments. Against, this backdrop, we make the following appeals

“Nigerians must be reminded that the worid has invested a lot of goodwill towards us in these elections. We have taken note of the dissatisfaction among voters who braved all harsh weather elements to perform their civic duties.

“All citizens deserve to be rewarded by a process that ensures that their votes truly count.  We appeal to INEC to heed the grievances being expressed, to take the necessary steps to escalate investigations of all allegations of infractions and to ensure that justice Is clearly done to all citizens who went out to vote.

“We have received reports of the culture of voter suppression manifested across the country through the application of targeted violence, disruption of processes, inducement of voters, intimidation, deliberate frustrations of voters and the challenges of the election equipment.

“We are pleased that INEC has accepted these lapses and promised to rectify these lapses. We appeal to the security agencies to collaborate with INEC in their investigations of these weighty allegations. Concerns about the failures of the INEC Result Viewing Portals, IreV, across the country must be thoroughly investigated to ensure transparency.

“In the spirit of the Peace Accord, which all candidates and their chairmen signed on February 23, 2023, the NPC appeals to all the presidential candidates, the chairmen of parties to take full responsibility for statements made by their spokespersons and agents.

“We appeal to all our citizens to remain calm while INEC continues with its process to its conclusion.

“Finally, let us all stand together trusting in the will of God. We appeal to INEC to take all the time it requires to ensure that it delivers results that inspire the confidence of our people and meet time tested international standards.”

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