In 2015, the Nigerian general elections were conducted peacefully (at least when compared to what transpired four years after), but things heated up a little when Honourable Peter Godsday Orubebe, acting as a polling agent for the People's Democratic Party (PDP), attempted to disrupt proceedings. Orubebe alleged that then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, had taken side with then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Grabbing a microphone and a sheet of paper whose source was unknown, he went on a tirade, screaming "we will not take it!" and had to be restrained by security operatives.
The election was ultimately won by Muhammadu Buhari, and then President Goodluck Jonathan put a call through to congratulate him. Four years down the line, the roles and the reactions are a lot different: Buhari has retained his position as president of the country (amidst a lot of controversy), but opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, who contested under the platform of the PDP, is certainly not about to reach for his phone to extend any sort of sportsmanship. He is not pleased with the outcome, and he has apparently opted to seek redress at the Election Tribunal.
In a series of statements published on his Twitter account, Atiku expressed his displeasure with the conduct of the general elections, stating thus:
"I thank the Nigerian people who trooped out in their millions to perform their civic duty this past Saturday. The patriotism of Nigerians is heartwarming and affirms my oft-repeated statement that we are brothers and sisters born from the womb of one mother Nigeria.
"With regards to the Presidential elections that took place on February 23, 2019, it is clear that there were manifest and premeditated malpractices in many states which negate the results announced.
"One obvious red flag is the statistical impossibility of states ravaged by the war on terror generating much higher voter turnouts than peaceful states.
"The suppressed votes in my strongholds are so apparent and amateurish, that I am ashamed as a Nigerian that such could be allowed to happen. How can total votes in Akwa-Ibom, for instance, be 50% less than what they were in 2015?"
Decrying the disruption of the electoral process in a number of locations, he continued:
"Another glaring anomaly is the disruption of voting in strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers and diverse other states, with the authorities doing little or nothing and in some cases facilitating these unfortunate situations. The militarization of the electoral process is a disservice to our democracy and a throwback to the jackboot era of military dictatorship.
"In some areas of the country, such as, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo states, troops deployed for the elections turned their guns on the very citizens they were meant to protect. This is condemnable and should not be associated with our electoral process in the future.
"I am a democrat and there are democratic avenues available to present the truth to the nation and the watching world. Already, many international observers have given their verdicts, which corroborate our observations. I am sure more will come in the coming hours and days.
If I had lost in a free and fair election, I would have called the victor within seconds of my being aware of his victory to offer not just my congratulations, but my services to help unite Nigeria by being a bridge between the North and the South. However, in my democratic struggles for the past three decades, I have never seen our democracy so debased as it was on Saturday, February 23, 2019."
The 72-year-old was quick to draw comparisons with previous elections, adding that:
"2007 was a challenge, but President Yar’Adua was remorseful. In 2019, it is sad to see those who trampled on democracy thumping their noses down on the Nigerian people. Consequently, I hereby reject the result of the February 23, 2019 sham election and will be challenging it in court.
"I want to assure my supporters and the entire Nigerian people that together, we will not allow democracy to be emasculated. I hope and pray Nigerians will someday summon the courage to defend democracy. That is the only way we can move away from being the world headquarters for extreme poverty."
From the look of things, election drama in Nigeria is hardly over, and lawyers would be anticipating a windfall in the coming months as election petitions, preliminary objections and counter affidavits are expected to fly back and forth between winners and aggrieved candidates at various levels of government. Ultimately, it is hoped that the arguments and protests remain in the courtroom and do not spill to the streets, as the memories of the post-election violence that claimed hundreds of lives (including those of youth corps members) in 2011 are still fresh.
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