By Kassim Afegbua
Without prejudice to the ongoing litigations on the 2023 presidential election outcome, it is important to call the candidates of the Labour Party, LP, and the People’s Democratic Party, Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar respectively to order. And very seriously so.
The two failed candidates DO NOT have the monopoly to call out Nigerians, either to protest or disrupt public peace. The fact that the President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has chosen the path of decorum and public discipline to maintain calm and quiet should not be mistaken for weakness and meekness. If Obi calls out his Obi-dients, and the President-elect calls out his BATified, there is the likelihood that there would be a breakdown of law and order. This is why Peter Obi MUST apply sense and reason to manage the situation we find ourselves to avoid any implosion.
Obi does not have following more than Tinubu, the President-elect, nor 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 function of maturity, leadership responsibility and respect for public order in the country. If Peter Obi takes 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 if there is another election to be contested in due course. Or perhaps, another Independent Natıonal Electoral Commission, INEC, has been born that would organise a “Peter Obi-friendly” election that would declare him winner to please 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 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 the electoral umpire, if the pendulum were to have swung in his favour. You cannot build something on nothing. How can you blame an electoral umpire on the one hand and attempt to profit from an election it conducted on the other hand, and for which you already wrote it off and called it 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 February 25th, we have since crossed the threshold.
For me, there is no harm in seeking legal redress where you feel your own hands are clean and you are entering the equity platform with clean hands. In seeking redress, you must be sitting on a moral high ground, such 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 Labour Party, having participated in the process of primaries of the PDP.
The new Electoral Act forbids anyone to participate in more than one primary 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 threshold was already in breach. 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, and 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 analysis in order to properly situate the voting pattern and the actual outcome that gave Peter Obi so much votes effortlessly. We have seen result sheets where other parties scored zero except Obi’s Labour Party.
Even in Imo and Ebonyi states that have governors of the APC, the outcome reflected similar pattern. It will make sense to interrogate and forensically analyse the results in Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Imo, to be sure they were earned by Peter Obi and his Labour Party. How possible Peter Obi scored over 534,000 votes in Anambra statte, a state that is notorious for low voters’ turn-out at elections; its recent gubernatorial election outcome is a point of reference. By the time all those results and bogus figures are forensically examined, Peter Obi might come 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 the 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, pulled out their support for the PDP candidate; a rehash of the 2015 scenario.
That, in itself, diminished its opportunity and chances at the election, which makes the claim of a mandate appears curious. What mandate does the PDP intend to claim? How can two candidates be laying claim to be the winner of an election they have so much complained about? While they condemned the outcome, they celebrate their party candidates that won senatorial seats into the upper chamber of the National Assembly as well winner is the lower chamber.
That alone puts a question mark on the propriety of their claim. If you score the Senate and House of Representatives election high, election that followed same process, same day, same hour, and you condemn that of presidential outcome, 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 outcome of the Senate and House of Representatives. The APC has more senators than LP and PDP. The party also has more House of Representatives members than the PDP and the LP. Will it now be logical to input that having won more seats in both categories, the party will then lose the presidential seat?
The truth of the matter is that there is no mandate that 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 its comic relief. At least, for the first time, I saw Atiku Abubakar doing “aluta continua” in a piece of T-shirt and jeans. That was good optics. Unlike in the 2019 presidential election, when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar 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 will learn to stand by its own rules and regulations, and its constitution.
When conspiracy drives a process, this 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 freely be on the transfer market. Those who value them sought 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 consensions 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 wild goose chase.
Certainly, there is no mandate to be claimed, not in the 2023 election any way!
•Prince Afegbua, a former Commissioner for Information, Edo State, writes from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.