• INEC owes allegiance to Nigerians, not any political party, says Okoye
• Retire from politics, go to Dubai, stop embarrassing yourself, Tinubu tells Atiku
Days after announcing his decision to challenge outcome of the February 25 elections, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday, led stalwarts and members of the party in a protest march to headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Abuja.
With placards reading ‘Save our democracy from INEC,’ ‘INEC is an enemy of the Nigerian democracy,’ ‘Cancel 2023 general elections now,’ ‘We stand for justice, we fight for a new Nigeria,’ and ‘Nigerians have lost confidence in INEC,’ among others, the demonstrators marched from Legacy House, PDP presidential campaign office, through British High Commission, Abuja, the National University Commission (NUC) office to the Maitama office of the electoral umpire, to protest outcome of the election won by candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Among the protesters were PDP governors, top party chieftains, including national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu; former national chairman, Uche Secondus; chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT), Adolphus Wabara; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Senator Dino Melaye, among others.
INEC had on Wednesday declared Tinubu President-elect after he polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku, who had 6,984,520 votes, while Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) got 6,101,533 votes.
Clad in black attires, Atiku and party leaders reiterated their earlier rejection of the results, saying the election was marred with infractions and they would challenge it in court.
The party also presented a letter of protest to INEC, which was received by the National Commissioner, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
Speaking earlier before Okoye received the petition, Atiku said the party would continue its protest daily for a long time, adding that the exercise will not stop them from going to court to challenge the outcome of the election.
He said: “We are protesting and we have every right to protest. It doesn’t stop us from going to court. We will protest for a very long time, either everyday or every other day.”
Excerpts of the petition reads: “PDP detests and condemns this absurdity and brazen rape of our electoral process. Nigeria should be seen as a country governed by the rule of law and it is a responsibility we collectively owe our citizens desirous of entrenching true democratic principles and the rule of law.
“In consideration of the foregoing, the leadership of PDP, acting on the mandate of the electorate, has resolved as follows: To reject and declare as unacceptable the outcome, announcement and declaration of the presidential election results.
“To call on your Commission to suspend the ongoing transmission of the Polling Units results to your Server, which is in complete breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022.
“To warn your Commission against a repeat of the experiences of the February 25, election in the coming governorship and state Assembly elections of March 11. Any attempt to manipulate the electoral process will be vehemently resisted.
“To demand an explanation why you proceeded with the declaration of the election results marred with irregularities against all calls to address the complaints brought to your attention before and during the collation process.”
Responding after receiving the letter, Okoye said the Commission acted in the interest of Nigerians and not in favour of any particular political party. He promised that all remedial issues would be addressed.
“So, I have received this protest letter on behalf of the INEC chairman and I promise you this letter will be transmitted to him. If there are remedial issues, we will deal with those remedial issues.
“But I want to assure you that this Commission is a listening Commission; this Commission is a public trust and this Commission belongs to the Nigerian people. Our allegiance is to the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This Commission does not owe allegiance to any political party,” he added.
HOWEVER, reacting to the protest, the President-elect has called on Atiku to retire from politics and go take a rest in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“At 77 in November, Atiku does not have age on his side again. He has participated in his last election and hopefully, he has learnt worthy lessons, never to place his selfish interest above party and established principles in his party and the polity,” he noted.
Tinubu, who spoke through his aide on media and publicity, Bayo Onanuga, expressed surprise that Atiku embarked on the protest march after promising to seek redress in court.
He added: “What was on display by Atiku and his motley crowd was a new low from the perennial election loser. With Atiku staging a theatre of the absurd, we fail to see how a march to INEC by a scanty crowd will provide any victory window for him and his fragmented PDP. The only recourse open to Atiku after the electoral umpire declared Tinubu the President-elect is the election petition tribunal.
“INEC headquarters is not a court where the prayers of Atiku can be answered. No amount of theatrical display will give him succour. The honourable and lawful path to take is for Atiku to get his lawyers to plead his case in court.”
Also, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has attributed Atiku’s failure to win the presidential election to the consequences of ignoring warnings of the G-5 governors. He spoke yesterday while inaugurating the Chokocho-Igbodo Road in Etche Council of the state.
Wike added that it was too early in the day for people to begin to forget that the eventual fate that befell PDP was avoidable if the national leadership of the party had heeded the several appeals and demands on them to adopt the principle of equity, fairness and justice as they approached the election.
He said it is now settled that the presidency is returning to the South after the North completes its eight years.
“Our Constitution says in Section 7:3c that there shall be rotation of public offices; of appointive and elective offices. You took the chairmanship of the party. You took the presidential candidate slot of the party and we came to you, saying this is against the spirit of our Constitution. Give us back the chairmanship, you said no, that you must have it all because you have won. I said be careful then, and nobody wants to remember all those things when we were shouting.”
Wike explained that there was no time he ever criticised either the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi or Tinubu during the campaigns.
Wike said he rather campaigned, unapologetically, to true lovers of Nigeria to vote for a Southern presidential candidate in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice.
A Plateau-based public affairs analyst and lawyer, Comrade John Timothy, has condemned the protest, tagging it as unnecessary and uncalled for.
Timothy dubbed the demonstration as a contempt of court processes, especially when PDP has shown its interest to go to court to challenge the outcome of the election.
He said: “PDP’s protest has shown that PDP does not have confidence in the judiciary, except maybe it is to goad the judiciary. I do not know how my lords will view the action or whether PDP’s action was to sway the decision of the lordships to their sides. But whatever it is, the action of PDP is not in the interest of the party’s stance before the court. However, Nigerians, whatever their standing in society, have inalienable rights to stage any peaceful protest.”