President Muhammadu Buhari is being sworn in for a second term in office today May 29, 2019. This is based on his declaration as winner of the February 23 elections by the electoral commission.
That election was fraught with almost every electoral irregularity that Nigeria has ever been familiar with since the 1960s but also a couple of new ones.
Buhari’s opponent in that election – former Vice President Atiku Abubakar not only ran a brilliant campaign and ran on the platform of a formidable national party, but also did well to prepare for the post-electoral phase of the elections.
The major fear of most Nigerians who wanted a change was that the Government and the electoral commission would not allow the more popular candidate to emerge – and that was exactly how it played out:
In Rivers State – the military was used to hound supporters of the PDP including aides of the Governor into hiding.
In Abonema – no questions were asked before these soldiers opened fire on innocent voters to discourage them from coming out to vote. State Commissioner for Education, Tamunoisi Gogo Jack was detained. Special Assistant to the Governor, Marshal Obuzor, was also detained – along with several others.
In Kwara State – PDP supporters Alhaji Amuda Orilowo, Zulkififi Abdulrafiu, Bolaji Olororo, Jimoh Abdulazeez and Babaita Bayo were attacked by soldiers and hospitalised.
In Oyo State – PDP stalwart Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja was arrested and detained a few days to the election and not released for weeks after.
In Kaduna State – Ben Bako, a PDP supporter was arrested and detained, few days to the election.
In Lagos State – thugs, acting on the belief that Igbos would vote for Atiku, went about areas that were Igbo-dominated and disrupted the voting process there.
Electoral violence was also deployed in many areas across the country from Brass in Bayelsa State to Dekina in Kogi State – the instances mentioned above are only few of those who were victims.
From analysis of the events of February 23 and the results declared, the aim was to reduce votes and margins from the Southern parts of Nigeria comprising three geopolitical zones, along with some states in the North Central geopolitical zone, while disrupting the voting process and rewriting inflated results in core Northern zones.
The result was an unprecedented lopsided election result, with about 17 million votes from the Northern zones and only 9 million allocated to the Southern zones – a foundational message being laid for future elections.
In many parts of the North, the manipulation of election results with the active connivance of the electoral umpire was combined with violence to foist a Buhari second term on Nigeria.
A few examples: Of 4,796 polling units in Kebbi State, wrong electoral figures that do not add up were entered in 979 polling units across the 21 Local Government Areas of the State.
In 55 of those polling units, nil accreditation was visibly entered unto the electoral result sheets but votes were allocated, giving the APC and Buhari more votes than Atiku and the PDP.
In Jigawa – APC leader Alhaji Issa Garewa led armed security personnel to intimidate PDP supporters in Tofa Ward of Ringim LGA before carting away voting material – not a single vote was cast there but INEC announced results in favour of APC. This procedure was replicated in other PDP strongholds like Farin Dutse Ward of Gwaram LGA in Jigawa and also across many core Northern States.
In Katsina – as one example: Polling Unit 008 of Yankara Ward accredited 411 voters but returned results showed 539 votes. The Presiding Officer simply deducted and added figures until the numbers were made up.
In Kaduna – buses and government vehicles were used to convey specific sets of voters from one voting point to another to vote multiple times. Smart Card Readers were simply not used in many states across the North and multiple voting became the standard rigging practice.
In Borno – the entire 12 wards of Monguno LGA voted within the LGA Secretariat premises and uncollected PVCs were distributed to APC supporters to vote multiple times for APC.
In Kukawa LGA, there was only one voting point – Government College, Maiduguri but due to terrorist attacks on the eve of the elections and into election morning, many voters did not turn out to vote and election officers ended voting by 1pm but refused to count the results against the insistence of PDP agents who were later sent out by security officers. Shortly afterwards and without sorting or collation of votes, the electoral officer announced 11,225 votes for Buhari and 377 for PDP.
The February 23 election was a sham and the result declared by the electoral commission cannot stand any thorough scrutiny.
The instances highlighted above are only a small part of what played out on actual election day but the systemic manipulation of the process had begun before February 23, with the compromised printing and production of electoral materials, which was handled by a company belonging to an APC Senatorial candidate in Niger State.
The widespread appeals to Atiku Abubakar not to challenge the sham results at the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal were the signal that there was something wrong that the alleged winners did not need to be uncovered.
After that came the astounding denial by INEC that it did not collate results electronically – a barefaced lie that was easily exposed with dozens of Registration Area Technical Officers and adhoc INEC staff coming out to say that they were trained to transmit results electronically, were instructed to do same and that they indeed did so.
INEC lied because the manually collated results (which had been manipulated in the field) did not tally with the electronically collated ones. Forensic analysis of both sets of results show that the e-collated results are more statistically consistent.
But the e-collation matter is not the only ground for challenging the election result.
The electoral petition has five major grounds upon which Buhari, APC and the electoral commission are indicted. The first ground is that Buhari simply did not win the majority of lawful votes cast in the February 23 election.
This is reinforced by several points including the instances mentioned above but expanded on in the petition itself, and also that the electoral commission failed to uphold its own guidelines by not cancelling votes cast without smart card reader accreditation.
The e-collation or e-transmission aspect of this ground has been the subject of public discourse and the results are more statistically accurate than the result declared by the electoral commission.
The second and third grounds are that the election is invalid by reason of corrupt practices and is invalid by reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The matter of Buhari’s qualification to run for President has never been tested but will be at the Tribunal as the fourth ground for seeking the invalidation of the election.
The fifth is also related to it – Buhari swore to false information in his affidavit submitted for the election, claiming that he attended Middle School, Katsina and Katsina Provincial Secondary School from 1953-1956 and 1956-1961 respectively.
The problem with this information is that both schools did not exist in the years he claimed to have attended them.
The suspension and removal of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen was to pave the way for a smooth sail at the tribunal, which verdict will most likely end up at the Supreme Court as the final arbiter.
Despite his orchestrated removal and replacement, the APC is still not confident it will have its way and in the past few weeks has been on the offensive against Buhari’s opponent as the leader and rallying point of the opposition.
Various accusations have been made against the democrat, but none has stuck – because Atiku Abubakar has conducted himself reasonably and democratically.
APC’s response to the petition has ranged from the mundane (that Atiku’s lead lawyer was not licensed to practice law in Nigeria) to the insane (that Atiku is not a Nigerian but a Camerounian). They did not prepare for this post-election phase.
Atiku’s legal team is headed by Dr. Livy Uzuokwu (SAN), backed by other Senior Advocates Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, Chief Chris Uche, Pius Akubo, Adebayo Adelodun, Saka Abimbola Isau, Isiyaku Ibrahim, Eyitayo Jegede, Mike Ozekhome, Paul Erokoro, K.C.O. Njemanze, Emeka Etiaba, Gordy Uche, Emeka Okpoko, Olalekan Ojo, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, Prof. Maxwell Gidado and several other lawyers.
If there are any two people who have tried and tested the court system and got meaningful results for Democracy in Nigeria, it is Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. Atiku Abubakar won four landmark cases in court including the one that restrains INEC from rejecting any candidate nominated by a political party and another case ensuring that political parties go to convention to choose their leadership, regardless of consensus arrangement.
Peter Obi was the first Governor to win back his seat after being manipulated against in the 2003 elections with the connivance of INEC. He was illegally impeached by the Anambra House of Assembly but he got a court judgement declaring the impeachment illegal. Starting his tenure in 2006, INEC’s insistence on conducting elections into his office in 2007 was again defeated by a court judgement.
Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in because the seat of the President of Nigeria can not be vacant, but with the evidence of the petition against his election, he will be President de facto and not de jure. The swearing-in changes nothing – the petition will play out all the way to the Supreme Court and a verdict will be given.
If the verdict goes against the democratic will of Nigerians, Buhari will see out his term until 2023. If the verdict reflects the voting choice of the majority of Nigerians, Buhari will immediately cease to be President and Commander-in-Chief and any instruction he gives to anyone, relying on the power of that office is illegal. Atiku Abubakar will then be sworn in to commence his tenure from the day the verdict is given.
The latter scenario is the hope of Nigeria and Nigerians.
*Demola Olarewaju is a Political Strategist and member of the PDP who lives in Lagos.*