By Kassim Afegbua
Without prejudice to the ongoing litigations on the 2023 presidential election outcome, it is important to prepare Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar for the inevitable; and very seriously so.
The two failed candidates DO NOT have monopoly to call out Nigerians either to protest or disrupt public peace. The fact that the President-elect has chosen the path of decorum and public discipline to maintain calm and quiet should not be mistaken for weakness or meekness.
If Obi calls up his Obi-dients, and the President-elect calls up his BATified, there is the likelihood that there would be a breakdown of peace, law, and order. This is why Peter Obi MUST apply reason to manage the situation, and avoid any implosion. Obi does not have more following than Tinubu, the President-elect, or does he have a better street sense than the Jagaban himself; a man who was a pro-democracy activist in the years of the military.
That the President-elect has elected to maintain peace and order amongst his numerous followers is a show of maturity, leadership responsibility and respect for public order in the country. If Peter Obi takes the law into his hands, the necessary sanctions would apply. He needs to have a country first and foremost, before thinking about leading it.
Talking about a mandate to reclaim makes me ponder whether there will be another presidential election before Buhari’s handover to be contested in due course; or perhaps, another INEC has been born that would organise a “Peter Obi-friendly” election, that would declare him winner to please him and his followers.
Having run down INEC with all manner of foul language, some libellous and scandalous, others very profane and unguarded, I am wondering if Obi would accept another election contest under the INEC as its umpire.
Having condemned INEC in such whimsical manner, derided its Chairman with so much vile and bile, I am wondering if Peter Obi would accept the outcome of an election supervised by this same electoral umpire if the pendulum had swung in his favour. Nothing can be built on nothing. How can he blame an electoral umpire on the one hand and attempt to profit from an election also conducted by them on the other hand, and for which you already wrote them off and called them unprintable names. That is pure hypocrisy, self righteous indignation, another name for double standard. There is no mandate to claim anywhere. The mandate was freely and truly given to the rightful winner in line with the laws of the land. Obi and Atiku, need to search further for their own mandate, but if it was the election of 25 February we have since concluded that matter.
For me, there is no harm in seeking legal redress where you feel your own hands are clean and you are going to the equity table with clean hands. In seeking redress, you must be sitting on a moral high ground that would free yourself and your party from any accusation of incredulous conduct.
The first point at issue is the fact that Obi’s candidature would be subjected to the crucible and will fail the integrity test flatly. Peter Obi was not a candidate in that election. He left the PDP when he saw that his chances at clinching the ticket had become impossible. He joined the Labour Party having participated in the process of primaries of the PDP. The new Electoral Law forbids anyone to participate in more than one primaries for the same election. The Law also requires that a copy of the Party’s register of members be domiciled with INEC not later than 30 days before the primaries. By the time Peter Obi joined the Labour Party, this deadline had elapsed. The party had submitted its register of members in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act. By that time, Peter Obi was not a member of the Labour Party; so, how he emerged later as its Presidential Candidate without being its member has since become another kettle of fish. That would be an interesting angle to the whole process of jurisprudence. Interrogating the processes leading to the outcome will be another way to deepen democracy and the Rule of Law.
The other issue for me has to do with self examination. Has Peter Obi done a clinical analysis of his party across board to be sure the party is not culpable of the same issues he is raising in court? From some of the amateur videos that we have seen on social media, the voting process in the South East raises more posers for any discerning mind than expected. It will be good to subject the outcome of the election in the South East to forensic analyses in order to properly situate the voting pattern and the actual outcome that gave Peter Obi so much votes effortlessly. We have seen results sheets in which other parties scored zero except Obi’s Labour Party. Even in Imo state that has a Governor of the APC, and Ebonyi state, the outcomes reflected similar patterns. It will make sense to interrogate and forensically analyse the results in Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Imo, to be sure they were genuine and favoured Peter Obi and his Labour Party.
How possible is it that Peter Obi scored over 534,000 votes in Anambra state, a state that is notorious for low Voter turn-out at elections; vide its recent gubernatorial election results . By the time all the results and bogus figures presented by Obi’s defence are forensically examined, his votes might fall short of the figure already announced. Litigations on election outcomes are usually very herculean and the months ahead would be very interesting.
I have only concentrated on the Labour Party because the PDP and its beleaguered candidate contested against the run of play. The zoning principle in its party’s constitution was too sacrosanct to be ignored. The party apparatchiks wore its conspiratorial garment and twisted the whole logic of the propriety of the zoning formula. At the end of the day, Five Governors of the opposition PDP easily called G-5, withheld their support for the PDP candidate; a rehash of 2015 scenario. That, in itself, diminished its opportunity and chances at the election, which makes the claim of a mandate appear curious. What mandate does the PDP intend to claim? How can two candidates be laying claim to being the winner of an election they have so many complaints about? Also, while they condemn the conduct and outcome, they celebrate their party candidates who won senatorial seats into the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly and those who won seats in the Lower Chamber. That alone puts a question mark on the propriety of their claim. If you score the Senate and House of Representatives elections high, which elections were conducted concurrently with the condemned one, following the same process, you are at best trying to hide behind a finger. The truth of the matter is that, the victory of the President-elect and his party follows the pattern of the outcome of the Senate and House of Reps. The APC has more Senators than the LP and the PDP. It has more House of Reps members also, than the PDP and the LP. Will it now be logical and congruent to posit that the APC, having won more seats in these two categories, would then lose the presidential election?
The truth of the matter is that no mandate was stolen. There is certainly no mandate to be reclaimed. The trajectory of the election does not support the scramble for reclaiming any mandate you never got ab initio. But there is good optics for comic relief. At least, for the first time, I saw Atiku Abubakar doing “aluta continua” in T-shirt and Jeans. That was good optics. Unlike in the 2019 presidential election when he ran away to Dubai, thus exposing some of us to the security goons for harassment. This time, he seems poised to do some “aluta continua” probably before he escapes again. Next time, PDP would have learnt to stand by its own rules and regulations, and its constitution. When conspiracy drives a process, that is what you get. How can Alhaji Atiku Abubakar claim to be seeking electoral redress when he shot himself in the foot ab initio, allowing the G-5 to be available on the transfer market. Those who value them sought and got their support. Simplicita!!.
Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar, should bury their pride and behave like sportsmen for once, by congratulating the President-elect; In the interest of the country, they should grab the opportunity given to them by the President-elect to negotiate some concessions for their parties and followers in the spirit of Government of National Unity- GNU. This to me, is a better way to extract a commitment from the process than wasting precious time in the Tribunal, up to the Supreme Court, in a wild goose chase. Certainly, there is no mandate to be claimed by Obi or Atiku; not the 2023 election any way.