The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, have refused to concede defeat in the February 25 presidential election, vowing to recover their mandate in court.
The two candidates rebuffed the gesture of conciliation made by the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, who in his acceptance speech after he was declared the winner of the poll on Wednesday, asked them to support him in the task of building the nation.
Atiku and Obi spoke at separate news conferences in Abuja on Thursday.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu as the President-elect after the 70-year-old polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku and Obi who scored 6,984,520 and 6,101, votes, respectively.
Breaking his silence 24 hours after Tinubu was declared the winner of the hotly contested polls, an emotional Obi insisted that he won the election and he was ready to prove it.
He noted that the election in which Tinubu was declared victorious was controversial and programmed to deliver pre-determined results.
He pointed out that the election did not meet the requirements and could not be deemed credible.
The former Anambra State governor insisted that Nigerians were robbed of their true choice, adding was ready to challenge the results till he proved his argument in court.
“The election that we just witnessed had been conducted and the results announced as programmed. It is a clear deviation from electoral rules and guidelines contrary to what we were promised.
“This election did not meet the minimum standard expected of a free, fair, transparent and credible election. It will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria.
“The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed leaders whom they trusted,” he said.
Vowing to pursue and recover his mandate, the LP candidate said, “Let me reassure the good people of Nigeria that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election and I will prove it to Nigerians.’’
The former governor said he believed the process through which people come into any position was important and there was a need for Nigeria to sanitise the process.
Obi added, “The process through which people come into the office is far more fundamental, more important than what they do (in office) thereafter.
“I believe that if you must answer ‘Your Excellency,’ the process through which you arrive at the office must be excellent.
“We must now require that we do the right thing to generate the right confidence and moral authority to lead. As you know, the structure of society begins and gradually retrogresses when we act rascally and deliberately in the manipulation of rule of law and suppression of the will of the people.”
He said he had challenged several election results and come out victorious and he would be approaching the court with the firm belief of getting justice.
“On this issue (presidential election) I am challenging the process. I will challenge this rascality for the future of the country.
“The court exists for this and they have asked me to go to court and I will be going to court,” the former governor assured his supporters.
Asked if he was under pressure, he said no one could put him under pressure for “challenging the rascality.’
“Datti (his running mate) and I remain absolutely undaunted and deeply committed to the project of a new Nigeria that will be built on honesty, transparency, fairness, justice, and equity. All the above starts with the process.”
He added, “We have to go through this darkness. The structure of criminality can’t go out overnight.
“All we need to show is commitment and resilience. I will be at the forefront and will work through this darkness until daybreak.’’
But in a swift reaction to the claims by Obi, the Director of Media and Publicity for the APC presidential campaign council, Bayo Onanuga, said the president-elect was ready to engage the LP standard bearer if he had concrete evidence to prove he won the election.
Reacting in a statement titled, ‘We will meet Mr Peter Obi in court,’ Onanuga stated that in an election where Obi emerged third, he found his allegation of fraud ‘very weird.’
He nevertheless stated that the LP candidate, like every Nigerian, was entitled to seek redress in court if he was convinced his team had evidence of the electoral fraud to present before the tribunal.
He said, “We welcome the decision of Mr Obi to seek redress in court as an aggrieved party if he is convinced of the evidence of electoral frauds he will present before the tribunal as alleged.
“Going to court is part of the electoral process and it is the most decent, statesmanlike and civilised course of action to take. We salute the decision. It is surely better than calling supporters to the streets and instigating social unrest.
“Before Mr Obi goes to court, we consider it necessary to challenge some specific claims in his press address. Contrary to his statement, it is not true that the election held on February 25 was not free and fair.”
According to him, the 2023 election was one of the most transparent and peaceful elections in the history of the country.
Continuing, the APC PCC media director noted that Obi’s Labour Party was able to record over six million votes contrary to the pre-election forecast because of the credible electoral process.
Onanuga further stated that the former Anambra governor and his party also surprised bookmakers by winning in strongholds such as Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta and Edo states where there were sitting governors of the APC or the PDP.
While stating that the affected governors had entrenched political machinery, the former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria disclosed that Obi’s victory in those regions further attested to the credibility of the electoral process.
“In those states, most of the sitting governors contested elections to go to the Senate and lost to little-known candidates of the Labour Party. The Labour Party also swept the entire five South-East states under the control of APGA, PDP or APC.
“We believe that the Labour Party presidential candidate contradicted himself and exposed himself to public ridicule by suggesting that the election was only credible in states and places his party won.
‘’We need to forewarn Mr Obi, that when he gets to court he should be prepared to tell the world how his party won over 90 per cent of votes in his region of South-East while other parties got almost nothing. We have evidence of voter suppression, intimidation and harassment in the South-East, especially of those who came out to vote for our party.
“Also when Obi gets to court, he will have to convince the court with his allegation of rigging in over 40,000 polling units across the country, especially in North-West and North-East where his party had no party agents and did not sign result sheets as required by law. We assume that Labour Party will enlist the PDP agents to prove its fraud claims since it is an affiliate of PDP.’’
“We want to state again for the umpteenth time that Mr Obi didn’t win the presidential election and could not have won under any circumstances. Obi anchored his presidential campaign on the failed strategy of ethnicity and religion, the divisive and dangerous politics that has hobbled the progress of our country for decades.
Obi’s campaign divisive
“His campaign also ran on the engine of ethnicity, inflaming strong Igbo sentiments. He also sought to cash in on the supposed youth discontent in Nigeria, as fuelled by the #EnDSARS protest in 2020.
‘’The lesson in Mr Obi’s defeat in the election is that no politician in Nigeria can win a presidential race by being a sectional and an anointed candidate of any religion,” he said.
The Chief Spokesman for APC PCC, Festus Keyamo, likewise admonished the LP candidate to quit playing the victim.
Responding to Obi’s claim that he was robbed of his mandate, Keyamo countered his argument, noting that there is evidence showing how his supporters engaged in thuggery, violence and outright falsification of figures.
The senior advocate stated, “He pretends to play the victim, whereas he is the greatest culprit in this game of brickbats. Mr Peter Obi is always quick to cite some isolated incidents of irregularities outside his strongholds that could not have substantially affected the outcome of the results in those areas, whereas he deliberately fails to comment on tons and tons of evidence circulating everywhere wherein his supporters in his strongholds engaged in thuggery, hooliganism, violence and outright falsification of figures against our party and our supporters.
“Obi knows he could not have won, having played the most divisive religious politics in our history and the pattern of the votes clearly shows that. Obi knows he could not have won having broken out as a fragment of the main opposition, the PDP and all he could hope for was to harvest a portion of the votes of the PDP in a section of the country and the results do not tell a lie.
‘’Mr Obi knows he could not have won when he presented himself as a tribal candidate and was only campaigning in settlements of his tribesmen in other states outside the South-East instead of appealing to all and sundry.’’
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday evening, Atiku accused the electoral commission of shattering the dreams and aspirations of Nigerians with its shoddy conduct of the polls.
“Having consulted with leaders of our party who are seated here with me and Nigerians from different walks of life, I have concluded that the processes and outcome of the presidential and national elections on Saturday were grossly flawed by every single material and as such, must be challenged by all of us,” he declared.
The ex-vice president submitted that the presidential election presented Nigeria and Nigerians an opportunity for a reset but claimed that INEC “failed woefully.”
Atiku said that the electoral umpire’s failure was attested to by both local and international observers.
The PDP standard bearer wondered why the commission was in a haste to declare the result of the election, calling the process “a rape of democracy.”
This, he noted, was not the legacy the Muhammed Buhari-led regime wished to leave behind for Nigerians, adding that it is not late for Buhari to make a U-turn.
Saying that the poll was not about him but about the future of the Nigerian youths, Atiku, however, called on the youths to conduct themselves well.
He said the party’s lawyers had started studying relevant with a view to offering advice.
Also, the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said Atiku won the poll.
“Our party and its presidential candidate have commenced an action for legal redress to reclaim our victory in the 2023 presidential election,” he added.
‘Obi took our votes’
When asked if he was willing to work with Obi, Atiku said he is open to collaborating with the former Anambra State governor.
He said, “So, as far as I am concerned, Peter is welcome to dialogue with the PDP. We are ready to dialogue with him. I don’t think we will have a problem if he wants to dialogue with the PDP, whether for an alliance or not,” he said during the event.
Speaking further, he noted, “At the time Peter decided to leave the PDP for the Labour Party, we had not begun our primary process. So, the question of whether he was going to get a ticket or not did not arise.”
Asked whether Obi’s candidacy affected his performance at the poll, Atiku answered in the affirmative saying Obi took PDP’s legacy votes in the South-East and South-South.
But he argued that the Labour Party candidate couldn’t still have garnered enough votes to beat him in the contest.
“It’s a fact that Peter Obi took our votes from the South-East and South-South, but that wouldn’t make him a president – you need votes from everywhere. He’s welcome to dialogue with the PDP on forming an alliance,” the PDP candidate said.
The former Vice-President disclosed that Obi left the PDP because he was scared of the party’s governors who had insisted that one of them must produce the presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
Atiku said, “You negotiate for power, you don’t fight for it. I think Peter Obi was in a rush. When the campaign started and our PDP governors said, ‘They must produce the president among them,’ he got scared and left (PDP). I didn’t get scared and stood up against the governors.”
When asked if Tinubu had reached out to him, Atiku said he was aware of any reconciliatory moves by the president-elect.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the APC set up a reconciliation committee to meet with Atiku, Obi and other aggrieved candidates who contested the election.
“Well, I am not aware of that. I was home all day today. I was not aware of any governor coming to see me,” the former vice president said.
Responding to the points raised by Atiku during his media conference, the Chief Spokesman for the APC PCC, Festus Keyamo, maintained that the PDP candidate’s desperate attempt to become the next president was long dead before Saturday’s election.
Keyamo stated this in a statement titled, ‘Atiku Abubakar should quit being delusional: He destroyed his party and reaped the full consequence of his indiscretion.’
Keyamo said the former Adamawa State governor’s presidential aspiration died the day his party was fractured into three components that produced Obi and Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party as his political rivals.
He also asserted that the PDP standard bearer breached the zoning principle of his party by insisting on running for the presidency when that was clearly against the mood of the nation.
Even after emerging as the PDP candidate, Keyamo noted that the party continued to rub insult on the faces of southern leaders in the PDP by insisting on keeping the position of the national chairman in the North, which he said culminated in the rebellion by the G-5 governors before the polls.
APC berates Atiku
The APC PCC spokesman further mocked the PDP candidate saying his ‘bogus claim’ to have won Saturday’s presidential poll claim without a shred of evidence was the last kick of a dying horse.
He said, “Atiku’s bid for the Presidency this time around was dead on arrival when his inordinate ambition fractured his party into three parts, with Alhaji Rabiu Kwakwanso and Mr Peter Obi breaking away to the NNPP and the Labour Party, respectively. The massive loss he suffered in traditional PDP zones and states is a clear testament to this.
“One wonders, then, how he expected to have won the election. It is also comical to see that he claims victory at the polls together with Obi with whom his party has been holding press conferences. Nigerians have since seen through the ambition of Atiku that it is merely self-serving.
“He has run for Presidency at every point in time in the last 30 years, irrespective of the zoning tilt of the nation. Following his successive failures and rejection by Nigerians in different elections, it should be clear to him by now that he is simply unelectable. The expositions relating to his confessed mode of siphoning public funds whilst in office through SPVs further dented his aspiration before Nigerians.’’
The APC PCC welcomed Atiku’s decision to challenge the outcome of the results, saying it was prepared to meet his challenge, no matter the nature of the challenge, anywhere and anytime.
“If he is not embracing the olive branch extended to him and other losers in the 2023 elections by the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the least he can do is to quietly relocate to Dubai which has become his traditional home base,” Keyamo jibed in an apparent reference to Atiku’s regular trip to the picturesque city.
Speaking to media on his party’s next move, the Spokesman for the New Nigeria Peoples Party Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson said the party was looking at many issues arising from the election, pointing out that it would make its position known at the right time.
“We witnessed a lot of things that were not right during the election. There are a lot of legal issues being looked at by the legal department of our party. When this is over, we will make the next move,” he said.
On claims by Obi that he won the election, Johnson urged the former Anambra State governor to prove his argument beyond doubt at an election petition tribunal.
“Obi, like every other Nigerian has a right to make a claim. We can’t join issues with him or with anyone else. If he is truly sure he won the election, I think the right thing to do is to prove this claim at an election petition tribunal. It is not enough to claim victory,” he added.
Tinubu meets NWC
Meanwhile, the President-elect, Tinubu, on Thursday pledged to hit the ground running from his first day in office to deliver on his campaign promises.
He reiterated that he would run a fair and inclusive administration that would unite all Nigerians.
Tinubu gave the assurance when he received the members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress.
The delegation, which arrived at his residence in Abuja on a congratulatory visit at about 2.35 pm, had the National Chairman of the party, Senator Adamu Abdullahi; National Youth Leader, Dayo Israel; Deputy National Women Leader, Zainab Ibrahim; Vice chairman (North-East), Salihu Lukman and National Secretary, Iyiola Omisore, in attendance.
While drawing attention to the challenges of electioneering in the country, Tinubu said he ran a tough campaign anchored on issues right from his bid for the APC’s ticket.
He said, “It is going to be a fair government guided by the rule of law, justice and fairness. It is going to be hard work from day one and we are going to join hands in building a government of the people and by the people.
“We drew a strong commitment with Nigerians. From the primary we were transparent. We were committed to our ideals. We promised Nigerians that if we win we will work for all Nigerians.”
The president-elect also restated his commitment to uniting the country promising to be president for all.
According to him, he felt a fresh weight of responsibility after collecting his certificate of return from the electoral commission on Wednesday, promising to commit his victory to unite Nigeria.
“I am committed to uniting the country. Definitely in any contest, particularly a democratic contest, there must be losers and winners,” he stated.
Tinubu also thanked the party leadership for showing commitment and courage in leading the party to victory despite all the odds.
Adamu disclosed in his speech that though transition elections are always tough for ruling parties, the victory of the APC was long foreseen.
Earlier before the NWC members visited the president-elect, Adamu addressed journalists where he lampooned the PDP and the LP agents and others for storming out of the collation centre after the APC flag bearer was declared the winner of the presidential election on Wednesday.
Recall that the PDP National Collation Agent, Dino Melaye and some other party agents staged a walkout of the International Conference Centre in Abuja, alleging that the INEC had been compromised. They also refused to sign the result sheet of the election.
But Adamu, who addressed newsmen at the party secretariat in Abuja, described their actions as ‘childish’ and a calculated attempt to rubbish the elections.
While urging the opposition to take the result in good faith as ‘good sportsmen’, the former governor of Nasarawa State noted that the laws of the country also provide channels for the redress of electoral grievances.
He said, “I would be remiss if I fail to condemn in the strongest possible terms the shameful conduct of the leadership of PDP and the Labour Party in their unwarranted attempts to sabotage the elections and throw the country into chaos and avoidable crisis. It is a pity that they take their loss so badly. They ought to be good sportsmen and women in the political arena.
“Their protest walk out from the collation centre was childish but a calculated attempt to rubbish the elections and impugn the integrity of the electoral umpire. Their call for the cancellation of the elections over their unproven allegations of electoral fraud must be the height of diabolical desperation.
“Nothing in our laws and the constitution gives aggrieved individuals and groups the right to abort the unequivocal choices freely made by the people in their wisdom. Power belongs to the people and the people must be allowed to exercise it in the best way they choose in instituting the government of their choice.
“Our laws provide channels for the redress of electoral grievances. We urge those who feel aggrieved to avail themselves of those channels to seek redress. To set the house on fire in pursuit of a rat is not an act of courage or patriotism. It stands condemnable.
“We are happy to see that the people have seen through their unpatriotic antics and rejected their attempts to set the country on fire. We commend the highly placed and patriotic former public officers who instantly rose in defence of the conduct of the elections and the election results and condemned the saboteurs.”