The national election commission of Nigeria declared Bola Tinubu, the 70-year-old former governor of Lagos nominated by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the winner of this year’s presidential election on Wednesday.
Nigerians went to the polls to choose a new leader on Saturday, as incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is term-limited out of power. Buhari endorsed Tinubu and campaigned with him. Reports on the ground indicated that many voters faced threats of violence; opposing parties compiled evidence they claimed to show faulty voting machines and incorrect vote tallies, challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to revise its counting or throw the election results out altogether.
Tinubu received the official certificate declaring him the winner on Wednesday and delivered a victory speech, but the parties of the two other top candidates vying for the presidency, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), rejected the results and demanded a new election. Protests erupted on Wednesday outside the INEC headquarters in Abuja demanding a new election and the resignation of INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu.
The parties’ respective candidates — Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respectively — have yet to speak publicly at press time.
Nigeria has chosen its presidents through a democratic process since 1999. During that time, the PDP and APC have traditionally been the two establishment parties, trading power with few aggressive third-party challenges. Obi, a former PDP member, upended that convention by running as a candidate with the small Labour Party and rising to the top of the polls on the back of outsized support from young voters. The election saw a record number of young people registering to vote, leading many to believe Obi could potentially win the race.
According to the INEC, Obi did pull off a stunning victory in Lagos, taking over Tinubu’s home turf. Ultimately, however, the commission found that, with about 8.8 million votes, Tinubu received more support than any other candidate. Tinubu also allegedly met the constitutional requirement that presidential candidates over 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of state, or 24 states. INEC gave Tinubu victory by that margin in 30 of 36 states.
INEC found that Abubakar came in second place and Obi in third.
“I am profoundly humbled that you have elected me to serve as the 16th president of our beloved republic,” Tinubu said in a victory speech on Wednesday. “This is a shining moment in the life of any man and affirmation of our democratic existence. From my heart, I say thank you.”
Tinubu addressed his fellow candidates and cries of fraud, emphasizing his gratitude to the INEC for “running a free and fair election” and offering “the hand of friendship” to his competitors.
“During the election, you may have been my opponent but you were never my enemy. In my heart, you are my brothers. Still, I know some candidates will be hard put to accept the election results,” Tinubu continued. “It is your right to seek legal recourse. What is neither right nor defensible is for anybody to resort to violence. Any challenge to the electoral outcome should be made in a court of law, and not in the streets.”
Tinubu also urged his supporters not to engage in violence against political opponents, and saved a message for young Nigerians, who predominantly supported Obi.
“Now, to you, the young people of this country, I hear you loud and clear. I understand your pains, your yearnings for good governance, a functional economy and a safe nation that protects you and your future,” the president-elect said. “I am aware that for many of you Nigeria has become a place of abiding challenges limiting your ability to see a bright future for yourselves.”
The PDP and LP had already rejected the results of the election before a winner was announced. On Tuesday, representatives of both parties – and of the smaller African Democratic Congress (ADC) party – held a press conference demanding Yakubu, the INEC head, resign and the country hold a new presidential election.
“INEC compromised the integrity of this election even before collation commenced at the polling units,” the parties said in a joint statement. “This election is not free and far from being fair and transparent.”
“We shall not be part of the electoral process currently going on at the National Collation Centre and we demand that this sham of an election be immediately cancelled,” the parties declared. “We also call for a fresh election to be carried out in accordance to the laid down INEC procedure.”
“The election was a sham, and never free and fair,” a PDP representative asserted.
On its social media outlets, the Labour Party published videos of what it claimed to be evidence of fraud, such as machines that did not document voter preferences and “tampered and manipulated” machines.
In Ogwa ward 2, Imo State, most BVAS machines were tampered and manipulated.
People turned up there large numbers.
And they couldn’t vote.
Ogwa ward 2, Mbaitoli, P.U 025 pic.twitter.com/WHu346tmNZ
— LabourPartyNG (@NgLabour) February 27, 2023
On Tuesday, the parties also claimed that INEC counted the votes and announced Tinubu as the winner before uploading the results of the election into a central server, as Nigerian election law demands.
The PDP and Labour Party vice presidential candidates, Ifeanyi Okowa and Senator Datt-Ahmed, held a separate press conference to confirm on Wednesday that their parties did not accept Tinubu as the winner, calling the election “a rape on democracy,” according to the Nigerian newspaper This Day.
”We wish to state for the records that last weekend’s election was a sham. It was neither free nor fair,” Okowa said. “What played out yesterday at the National Collation Center exposes the National Chairman of playing to a predetermined script. Our position remains that the election and transmission of the results must be in tandem with the Electoral Act and the INEC guidelines.”
Standing alongside the three parties is former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, formerly of the PDP and a current ADC member. Obasanjo published a long missive on social media urging Buhari to cancel election results only in areas where the parties had presented credible evidence of vote tampering and hold new elections in those areas on March 4.
AN APPEAL FOR CAUTION AND RECTIFICATION
Nigerian Brothers and Sisters, greetings to you all.
I am constrained to speak at this point.
— Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (@Oolusegun_obj) February 27, 2023
Your Excellency, President Buhari Muhammadu, 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..
— Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (@Oolusegun_obj) February 27, 2023
In Abuja, protesters flooded the area outside the INEC headquarters in support of the opposition parties, demanding a cancellation of the elections and calling for United Nations intervention.
BREAKING: Massive Protest Erupts In Abuja Over Alleged Manipulation of 2023 Presidential Election Results | Sahara Reporters https://t.co/DG7kfX5DDg pic.twitter.com/C3g7ejKs3D
— Sahara Reporters (@SaharaReporters) March 1, 2023
PHOTOS: Youths Protest Election Results In Abuja
Some youths on Wednesday protested the election results at Unity Fountain, Abuja.
This comes after the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, was declared the winner of the presidential election pic.twitter.com/sXY0D2bZet
— Punch Newspapers (@MobilePunch) March 1, 2023
Like the party leaders, the protesters condemned the INEC for not following protocol in uploading elections results to a central location.
“Instead what we are seeing is a situation where results that were written, that didn’t follow the process, are being announced as the results of the election contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act,” a protester, Ilemona Onoja, told Nigeria’s Daily Trust, “contrary to the INEC guidelines that they issued, and contrary to the promises of the INEC chairman.”
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