- European Union reports indict INEC, others on the flawed conduct
- APC, Presidency reject the report, alleging it was fraudulent
- LP, PDP reactions
- Protesters storm EU building in Abuja
More than three months after the Nigeria 2023 general elections, the echoes generated by the said elections have refused to fizzle out. In fact, like cat with nine lives, the outcome of 2023 general elections have continued to churn out doses of surprises, reactions, accusations and counter-accusations across the political spectrum.
However, following the declaration of the All Progressives Congress, APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the winner of the presidential elections, the result of the election has continued to spark off mixed reactions in many quarters as to the transparency and credibility of the election.
According to the presidential election results, Bola Ahmed Tinubu polled a total of 8,794,726, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP scored 6,984,520 while Mr. Peter Obi of Labour Party got 6,101,533, coming third position.
Since the declaration of the final result by the Independent National Election Commission on March , the elections, particularly that of presidential elections have become a subject of controversy in Nigerian political spectrum. The controversy has refused to die down as new month props up new sizzling twist in the scenario.
Expectedly, the two opposition parties vehemently rejected the results. They alleged manipulation in the election result, citing all manners of irregularities during the election.
These two major opposition parties and a few others headed for tribunal to seek redress and possible upturning of the election results in their favour.
It has been said in many quarters that of all the general elections being so far held in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999, 2023 general elections remained the most fiercely contested and participated election in Nigeria history. It is also the most transparent election ever conducted in Nigeria.
Again because majority didn’t see it as free and fair, the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria has been variously described as a charade, a circus show of deceit, manipulation and political shenanigans.
Recall that few months to the elections, millions of Nigerian youths have high hope that it will help in bringing more desired political change in a country that her leaders have become a proverbial dog that eats the bone hung around her neck.
Needless to say that the announcement of the presidential election has sparked off a chain of reactions from both local and international observers, describing it as fallen short of what free and fair election should be.
By and large, the ruling party, All Progressives Congress, APC has remained resolute, maintaining that the election was everything a free, fair and transparent election should be.
It has become a ding dong affair in the Presidential election petition tribunal among the three popular political parties, the APC, PDP and Labour party together with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
In any case, as the nation awaits the outcome of the election petition tribunal sitting in Abuja, another fuel seemed to have been added to the flame of the political discussion on the general election with the recent release of the final report on the findings by one of the foreign elections observer missions, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM), on the February 25 and March 18 elections.
The EU-EOM, it should be recalled, worked for three months in Nigeria, between January 11 and April 11, 2023 and had a total of 110 accredited observers from 25 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and even Canada.
Ironically, the Mission observers were in the country on the request of the electoral umpire, INEC with a view to lending credence and credibility to the conduct of the election. But, like as always said, the best laid plans between mice and cats sometimes end up looking like a dog’s breakfast.
In the words of the Chief Observer of the Mission and member of the European Parliament, Barry Andrews, after a three-month-long observation across Nigeria the Mission was pleased to present its findings and recommendations.
Giving the background of their mission, the report stated that “The EU EOM was led by the Chief Observer, Barry Andrews, Member of the European Parliament from Ireland. The EU EOM comprised a core team of 11 analysts based in Abuja and 40 long-term observers deployed to all regions of the country.
“For the 25 February election day, the EU EOM was reinforced with 54 locally recruited short-term observers bringing the total to 110 observers from 25 EU Member States, as well as from partner countries Canada, Norway and Switzerland and including a seven-member delegation of the European Parliament, led by Evin Incir, Member of the European Parliament from Sweden.
“For the 18 March election day, the EU EOM was reinforced with 16 locally recruited short-term observers. In total, the EU EOM deployed 63 observers for the gubernatorial elections.”
According to the report the shortcomings in law and electoral administration allegedly led to the lost of trust in conduct of well-run and inclusive election during the 2023 general election.
“The electoral legal framework lays an adequate foundation for the conduct of democratic elections, with key regional and international standards being ratified. However, gaps and ambiguities in national law enable circumvention, do not safeguard transparency, while also allow undue restrictions to the rights to stand and to vote.
“ Fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, while constitutionally guaranteed, were not always well protected. The widely welcomed Electoral Act 2022 (the 2022 Act) introduced measures aimed at building stakeholder trust.”
“However, the Act’s first test in a general election revealed crucial gaps in terms of INEC’s accountability and transparency, proved to be insufficiently elaborated, and lacked clear provisions for a timely and efficient implementation.
“Weak points include a lack of INEC independent structures and capacities to enforce sanctions for electoral offences and breaches of campaign finance rules. Furthermore, the presidential selection of INEC leadership at federal and state level leaves the electoral institution vulnerable to the perception of partiality. Early in the process, while enjoying a broad stakeholder trust, INEC introduced a series of positive measures to strengthen the conduct of the elections.”
Indicting the electoral umpire, the report stated thus; “however, closer to the polls some started to doubt INEC’s administrative and operational efficiency and in-house capacity. Public confidence gradually decreased and was severely damaged on 25 February due to its operational failures and lack of transparency.
“While some corrective measures introduced before the 18 March elections were effective, overall trust was not restored. The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) was widely seen as an important step to ensure the integrity and credibility of the elections.
“In practice, multiple missteps and lack of transparency before the polls, compounded by severely delayed display of presidential result forms, dashed the public trust in election technologies used.
“INEC failed to give a timely and comprehensive explanation for the failures on 25 February, hence the improved online display of results forms from the 18 March state elections just fuelled further speculations about what exactly caused the delays after the presidential poll.”
The Mission, however, offered 23 recommendations for consideration by the Nigerian authorities as a part of its contribution to improve the future elections in the country.
“Protect the free expression of the will of the voter and integrity of elections by establishing a robust, transparent, and easily verifiable results processing system with clear rules. These include uploading polling unit results from the polling unit only and in real time, at each level of collation results forms to be uploaded in real time, and all forms to be published in an easily trackable and scrapable database format.”
Explaining further, the Mission expressed deep concern about the future elections in the country.
“We are particularly concerned about the need for reforms in six areas, which we have identified as priority recommendations, and we believe, if implemented, could contribute to improvement in the conduct of future elections,” Andrews said.
According to the report, the six priority recommendations include the removal of ambiguities in the law, establishment of a publicly accountable selection process for the INEC members, ensuring that there is a real-time publication of and access to election results, providing greater protection for media practitioners, addressing the discrimination against women in political life, as well as addressing the impunity of the electoral officers.”
The Mission, however, stressed the need for strong political will to achieve improved democratic practices in Nigeria, stressing that dialogue between all stakeholders on electoral reforms remained crucial.
Needless to say that the report has generated mixed reactions across the political and social spectrum in the country.
However, while the presidency and indeed the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC supporters disagreed with the report, describing it as biased and fraudulent, other well meaning Nigerians have applauded it, saying it corroborated what most Nigerians already knew.
In his reaction, the presidency, through the Special Adviser to the President on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Dele Alake, in a statement, dismissed it as an attempt to ridicule the Nigeria electoral system and its umpire, the INEC.
According to him, Alake described it as “machinations of the European Union to sustain its, largely, unfounded bias and claims on the election outcomes”.
He further stated that there is no substantial evidence provided by the EU or any foreign and local organisation that is viable enough to impeach the integrity of the 2023 election outcomes.
“We would like to know and even ask EU, how it reached the conclusions in the submitted final report with the very limited coverage of the elections by their observers who, without doubt, relied more on rumours, hearsay, cocktails of prejudiced and uninformed social media commentaries and opposition talking heads,” he stated.
“We have many reasons to believe the jaundiced report, based on the views of fewer than 50 observers, was to merely sustain the same premature denunciatory stance contained in EU’s preliminary report released in March.
“We strongly reject, in its entirety, any notion and idea from any organisation, group and individual remotely suggesting that the 2023 election was fraudulent.”
He said Nigeria has put the elections behind and Tinubu is facing the task of nation-building.
“As a country, we have put the elections behind us. President Tinubu is facing the arduous task of nation-building, while those who have reasons to challenge the process continue to do so through the courts.”
In any case, some analysts have accused President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of not being economical with the truth, hence the spontaneous reaction of the presidency.
Dr. Ikechukwu Asadu, a social critic and political analyst stated that “since the report discredited his acclaimed mandate, you should not expect him to keep mute even though he knows the truth.
“The report gave credence to the petitioners’ contention that he(Tinubu) didn’t win the election so he has to react to save his face from the political shame.”
Reacting further, Dr. Asadu stated that report of the European Observers Mission was a true reflection of what transpired during the election.
“Without mincing words I wish to state that the EU report on 2023 general election in Nigeria reflects the true circumstances and conditions that characterized the election .
“The report captured the extent of irregularities, violence and hate speeches that marred the election as well as the dubious role and manipulation of INEC particularly in respect electronic transmission of results.
“Even the media aids of President Bola Tinubu know that the report was devoid of bias but they have to criticize it to justify their pay and protect their pay master from global embarrassment of getting to power through a flawed process.”
Nevertheless, another analyst who hold this view is a journalist and public affairs analyst, Lemmy Ughegbe.
Ughegbe expressed surprise at the reaction of Tinubu and his team to the report, saying it was nothing but just a rehash of what the Nigerian civil society organisation’s situation room had released as their findings on the election.
“I am worried because Tinubu did not conduct the elections; he was a candidate. So, why should he even bother about jumping into this discussion when he should leave the INEC and Buhari of course, to deal with it? It is not his business because he didn’t conduct the elections. He should just concentrate on issues of governance,” he said.
He added: “The worry in all of these is the fact that Tinubu on inauguration day and thereafter has spoken as if the election was perfect, which is a disservice to honesty, and a slap on the face of Nigerians, who participated in the elections and are witnesses.
“The National Assembly elections and the presidential elections were held on the same day and time. The INEC officials were able to upload real time election results for the National Assembly, but when it came to that of the presidential elections, there emerged a glitch suddenly.
“The danger in Tinubu and his men describing the election as perfect is that the 2027 elections will be worse, because if you don’t admit to the flaws and the gaps, then there is a problem. No human endeavour is perfect but Tinubu and his men are saying that theirs is perfect.
“I am also worried that people like Dele Alake do not understand that by responding to this, they are even making sure that this controversy continues to fester. If they had kept quiet on it, it would just go.
“It is worrisome and makes one to nostalgically recall Nigeria’s patriot, the fine and noblest of gentlemen, late Umar Musa Yar’adua; a man who on his inauguration day in 2007, on the podium on a day that he should just bask on the euphoria of his inauguration as president, said that the elections that brought him to the presidency were fraught with irregularities and was prepared to commence electoral reforms.
“That is how the noble speaks on a matter like this. The work of human endeavour is never perfect; Tinubu and his minders, including Alake purport to say that the elections were perfect. They were never perfect, as they were riddled with irregularities, including voter suppressions.”
However, reacting to the report, the Labour Party said that The Labour Party, in a swift reaction to the federal government’s position on the conclusion of the European Union over the 2023 election, described the Presidency’s comment discrediting the report as medicine after death.
The party in a statement signed by National Publicity Secretary of the Labour Party, Pastor Obiora Ifoh said the report from the EU was one out of many international observers who had submitted that the election was rigged in favour of the ruling party.
The Statement reads: “The leadership of the Labour Party has noted with dismay the statement by the Federal Government discrediting the European Union’s conclusion on the 2023 General Election wherein it faulted the modalities by which the conclusion was reached.
“We see this face-saving measure by the Federal Government which is coming days after the submission of the report as feeble and medicine after death.
“It will interest the government to note that the European Union’s report is only one out of numerous submissions by other international Observers who have described the outcome of the election as a sham and an exercise that did not reflect the will of the majority of Nigerians.
“Labour Party stands by the position of the EU observation mission. We have always said that this election was massively rigged in favour of the APC and their candidate.
“What the FG is saying is just an afterthought and a shameless effort to mask the obvious. Even the blind can see, the deaf can hear and they know this election was manipulated.
“Huge pieces of evidence are abound for even the deaf and the blind to hear and feel. We are only hoping that the judiciary will dispense justice without fear or favour in the interest of the nation and posterity.
“Nigerians already know the true winner of the 2023 presidential election and no amount of slandering, denial, or rebuttal can change the fact that the party in power has no mandate of the electorate.
“We must also note that whatever position the INEC has taken is with active connivance with the Federal Government to deny the electorate and it clearly shows that INEC is not in any way independent.
“The Commission’s action is at the whims and caprices of the government and we know it. But Nigerians are looking up to the Judiciary for justice. That’s where we stand,” Obiora stated in the statement.
Also, the PDP’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in a statement through his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Phrank Shaibu, has thrown his weight behind the report alleging that the election was rigged in favour of Tinubu.
He corroborated the report that the election was marred by irregularities and failed to meet minimum standards of credibility.
In a statement by Shaibu, Alhaji Atiku stated thus: “Even the dead knew that the last elections lacked credibility. Even the electoral body has not been able to explain nearly five months after the election, why it has refused to upload the full results on its viewing portal. Even primary school children who did not vote know that INEC failed woefully and that Tinubu rigged the last elections.”
Shaibu expressed surprise why the government would receive billions of dollars from the EU as an election fund but rejected the body’s comment.
In his words: “the EU not only provided training for the INEC staff, but it also donated equipment for the INEC to conduct the polls. So, why would Alake claim that the EU has no right to speak when it was the largest single donor to the INEC? Mr. Alake should be quiet rather than try to defend the indefensible.”
However, the controversy, hullabaloo and accusations continue as on Thursday, July 6, supporters of the All Progressives Congress staged a protest against the European Union (EU) in Abuja. The protesters besieged EU office in Abuja demanding the withdrawal of EU report on the 2023 presidential elections. The protesters under the name, Coalition of Civil Society Organisation and Political Parties for Good Governance (CCSOPPGG) held up placards warning the EU not to ignite war in Nigeria through its “biased” report on the victory.
Addressing officials of the EU, who attended to the protesters, the convener of the group, Lillian Ene Ogbole said;
“How on earth can just less than fifty people from the European Union come to Nigeria to observe an election where you have over 176,000 polling units and then they go to less than 1000 polling units of election centres and they draw conclusions? “As you can see, we are here with thousands of patriotic Nigerians who have come specifically to raise concern about the presentation and the reports of the European Union concerning the just concluded elections.
“We have come to register unequivocally that we are not satisfied with the report of the European Union as a matter of fact, we think that the report is not just ridiculous but a deliberate act to the Nigerian entity and of course by implications our leaders and the government of Nigeria. We are all Nigerians here. We were all here during the just concluded election.
“I would like to say to you very clearly that there is nowhere election in the world that is devoid of crisis and hitches. Every election in the world both in the United States of America, in Great Britain Ireland and even the European Union countries.
“Yes, we are aware that the world is a global village therefore, people from different parts of the world converge in various countries during elections to monitor, observe and make presentations like the EU has done but what we found unnecessary, what we found not worthy is how the report was made.
“The election that just concluded in Nigeria that produced one of Nigeria’s most competent men alive today, in the person of His Excellency, Distinguished Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu was one of the most transparent elections in the history of Nigeria. We were taking back when the report came, the media was washed with the report of the European Union carefully and specifically saying that the election was fraudulent; that the election fell short of the requirements of every credible election in the world.
“I don’t know where that one is coming from. If it is the election that we were all part of, that we all fought vigorously with our lives and everything as patriots and well-meaning Nigerians to ensure that the election is held. If it is the same election that the European Union spoke about, what we read then it means that something is fishy somewhere.
“You would also agree with me that the report of the European Union is enough to trigger a national problem, is enough to trigger national chaos, our security is at stake, our sovereignty is at stake, our unity is at stake.
“Nigeria is a great country in Africa, the most populated country in West Africa and the pride of the African countries. If the European Union is beginning to address our election the way they have presented this report then we are scared. We are scared, not that it is just going to affect Nigeria as a country but is going to affect the whole of the African continent.
“We understand the role they played but again there comes a time when we have to stop. They should know where to stop and they should know where to continue. Why on earth should they take the report of this election to the tribunal? Is there a report that should be received? There are procedures and they have procedures in their counties, when they come to Nigeria, they act out of protocol. They must begin to have protocols, they must begin to respect our rule of law, they must begin to respect our Nigerian People.”
Maintaining that Tinubu was voted in based on his track records and capacity, she said;
“We are saying enough is enough. We have a President that is doing very well. We have a President that has started on the right footing, we have a President that is doing what several Presidents in Nigeria have not been able to do. All that we need at this point is to support him. He is our Son, and we are his children, he is our leader and we willingly voted for him.
“No man, no woman, no country compel us to vote for him. It is our right to vote for him. It is our right to vote for the candidate of our choice and that was what exactly what we exhibited in the last election. The election we all witnessed was free to an extent which was almost 100 per cent free.
“It was an election that was devoid of many things we use to witness in the past. Our democracy is growing to an accelerated rate and we must warn the international community to take cognisance of that”
The EU officials promised to convey the grieviances of the protesters to the appropriate authorities