By Akin Osuntokun
On behalf of the Labour Party and the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation and also in consonance with the people, I thank you members of the Press, for your dedication and diligence, in continuing to cover the unfolding timeline of the tragic 2023 Presidential Elections, to logical and just conclusion.
It is fair to say, that so many of our national problems have gotten worse, because we as a people, have not adequately risen to the challenge of effecting the right solutions, when they recur, to put them permanently in check.
Given the extent of fraud, impunity, conspiracy, deceit, financial waste and democratic impediment, orchestrated and effected in the 2023 elections, and the increased interest, awareness and participation of our people in partnering practically, to bring genuine change to our country this time,
It is imperative, that we as a people, do not again fall to the complacent hopelessness, that has aided recurrence and deterioration, but that we pursue the required rectification and legal correction required, to ensure that the will of the people, as expressed in the 2023 elections, are firmly and rightly, upheld.
While it is often said that government is a continuum, and the administrative formalities following the bizarre declarations by INEC, have been put in place, the election, today remains under legal contest, and cannot be concluded, until the legal processes have been rightly and judiciously exhausted.
There is no doubt that these 2023 elections, represent a significant and overwhelming watershed in our country’s electoral, political and development history, and that this time, the entire nation and the international community also, stand determined to ensure, that electoral fraud and the manipulation of the true will of the people, will not stand – as the foundation for bad governance in the past, had been concretised, by the acceptance of such illegality and conspiracy.
Having concluded the hearing stage, at the Presidential Election Petition Court in Abuja, the attention of the people and the international community remains transfixed on the judiciary, and with it, the expectation that the glaring wrongs, as documented by all Observer groups, local and international, will be corrected, for the good of the nation.
We commend, in particular, without equivocation, the courage, sense of focus and clarity of thought, expressed by various Election Observer groups, local and international, that were duly accredited to monitor the elections.
The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, The United States National Democratic Institute (NDI)
– & International Republican Institute (IRI) Joint International Election Observer Mission, The European Union Election Observer Mission, Commonwealth Observer Group, The African Union AU, ECOWAS and all other regional and local Observers, all deserve commendation.
Their doggedness in field engagement, despite the onslaught of violence, inducement, manipulation and all manner of evil, as witnessed in the elections, will serve not only as an unbiased record of the tragic events, but as motivation for its logical conclusion and inevitable resolution, according to the will of the people.
In critically and broadly examining the independent reports of the various Observer missions, the consistency in their experiences and exposition, cannot be overlooked, as each and every Observer group, underlined the fact, that the elections fell short of citizens expectations, legal regulations and moral and international standards.
The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, the umbrella group for the majority of national NGOs
involved in monitoring the elections, described the elections, in its comprehensive report, and I quote, as ‘a missed oppurtunity in Nigeria’s democratic development’.. They further reported, that ‘credibility of the 2023 election was greatly tarnished by numerous pitfalls. The election suffered several lingering deficiencies in election administration, including inefficient management of permanent voters cards (PVCs) distribution, failure of operational and logistical arrangements, malfunctioning of election technology, inefficient handling of results management procedures, lack of transparent results collation and declaration process, and poor crisis communication”.
It further underlined that ‘public confidence in the credibility of the electoral process and the capacity of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections is gravely shaken, and that extraordinary efforts will be required to re-establish trust’.
It further posited that “Yet, on election day, Nigerians were deeply disappointed by the glitches experienced in the use of IReV. Situation Room observed that election officials in many polling units were unable to access the IRev portal and to upload results of the presidential election. There were reports of election officials who either refused or were unable to upload results.”
The Civil Society Situation Room, also emphasised “that NO presidential election result was uploaded to the IReV portal as at 8.00 pm on the election day. In instances where upload occurred, the results were not legible or was defaced. Some uploads were not relevant as pictures of individuals or scenes on the location were uploaded.”
Going further to state that, “The seemingly highhanded manner, in which the Chairman of INEC, who served as the National Collation Officer for the Presidential Election, handled proceedings during the results collation exercise, further eroded public confidence in the elections. The failure of the Chairman of INEC to properly consider appeals for review of results from some states, in the light of the malfunction of IReV, as well as the apparent haste with which the collation process was concluded in an unusual hour, provided the basis for some observers to question the credibility of the collated results”
The NDI-NRI International Election Observer Mission, whose parent bodies had, prior to the elections, deployed resources in voter education and so many other areas, in aid of a credible outcome, in their own report, submitted, and i quote “the 2023 elections in Nigeria fell short of citizens’ legitimate and reasonable expectations. Significant logistical, technological, and communications failures by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), divisive rhetoric by political parties, political violence, regional disparities in electoral integrity, instances of vote manipulation, and marginalization of key populations, marred the electoral process and disenfranchised voters negatively impacting on key aspects of the election process”.
It went on to report that “the portal was not in compliance with open election data principles and did not provide the information in a complete, bulk, or machine analyzable format, limiting the ability of citizens to verify results at the LGA, state and national level or to fact check contradictory narratives. A significant percentage of the results uploaded to the IReV were unreadable. Furthermore, at the time of publication, INEC had still not uploaded more than 9,000 presidential polling unit results to the IReV and did not clarify how many of these units were canceled.”
In conclusion, the NDI-NRI Observer Mission held that ” INEC’s lack of transparency and communication regarding the cause and extent of these problems, undermined confidence in the process, especially in those zones and among parties that considered those areas their strongholds.”
The NDI-NRI also recommended that “INEC, the police, and the courts, should identify and prosecute those responsible for electoral violence or manipulation, during the 2023 election. Further recommending that, “The international community should sanction and name government and party officials who orchestrated, tolerated, or encouraged electoral violence or manipulation during the 2023 cycle.”
The European Union Election Observer Mission, also presented a most comprehensive and analytical report.. It stated clearly and i quote, “The 2023 general elections did not ensure a well-run transparent, and inclusive democratic process as assured by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Public confidence and trust in INEC, were severely damaged during the presidential poll and was not restored in state level elections”.
It went further to state that “Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field” and that “Public confidence gradually decreased and was severely damaged on 25 February due to its operational failures and lack of transparency.” and that “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”..
The EU OM report further underlined and i quote “On 25 February voting was critically delayed by the late arrival of sensitive materials, and during the early stages of the collation, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed real-time on the IRev as
committed to by INEC and anticipated by all stakeholders. A critical failure in the entire election process manifested at collation stage on 25 February, due to widespread disorganisation, a lack of adherence to prescribed procedures, and an unsuitable environment. By the time of the declaration of presidential results, one quarter of result forms were still missing from the IReV, and a significant percentage of the forms uploaded on IReV, often needed for comparison with manual results, were not legible”.
Finally, in Paragraph 17, page 7 of its own report, the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission stated that “incidents of violence, killings and disruption, were recorded in several states. The mission deplores the unfortunate incidents that occurred in the lead up to E-day, leading to loss of life in some parts of the country. These include the murder of the Labour Party Senatorial Candidate for Enugu East, alongside five of his supporters.”
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, I have gone into detail, in highlighting the consistency in the
observations of different independent Observer groups, and the severity of their condemnation of the election process, because of recent mischievous attempts to discountenance the uniformity of all reports, on the level of manipulation and illegality executed at the last elections.
The Labour Party and the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation condemn vehemently, the negative and jaundiced responses on the EU Report and other Election Observers’ reports, by the Spokesperson of APC administration and other ill-informed persons, which are totally in discord, with the mood of the nation, at this time, and which also, present an embarrassing contrast, to their selective celebration of the 2019 Election reports, from these same Observer groups.
We advice that those who have deployed hired ‘protesters’ to the offices of the EU, in respect of their election report, desist from any further wastage of public funds, as the objective of intimidation is without basis, and has failed, from the beginning – because indeed, the irregularities in the election, were so excessively glaring, with bitter personal and reported experiences, by the overwhelming majority of Nigerians.
The EU Election Observation Mission, as well as the Civil Society Situation Room, NDI -IRI, YIAGA etc are all INEC accredited observer groups, as well as very credible and long standing international and local stakeholders, in the Nigeria democratic process, whose reports are an essential contribution towards strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.
We would like to point Nigerians, to the fact, that the EU Observer group report, is in tandem with the reports of other international and domestic observers, duly accredited by INEC, and also in tandem, with public opinion and the experience of the majority of Nigerian citizens, who participated in, or observed the 2023 general elections.
At this juncture, there is no doubt that Nigerians and the International Community expect the Judiciary, to critically examine the evidence, the law, and the processes of these flawed elections, in arriving at a legally correct, and overwhelmingly acknowledgeable verdict.
We urge the people of Nigeria – youths, elders, voters and all citizens, to continue to follow the legal process patiently, keenly and peacefully.. to final resolution.
In conclusion, we commend the International Community and Civil Society, for their continued support, in growing and consolidating our democracy. It is now only logical, bolstered by the final Observer Group reports, that the International Community take immediate and appropriate punitive action against Prof Mahmud Yakubu, Barrister Festus Okoye and other top administrative and field staff of INEC, directly complicit, in the desecration of these elections.
We also demand unequivocally, the immediate dismissal from Office and prosecution of Prof Mahmud Yakubu, and the commencement of forensic financial investigation, into the expenditure of budgeted disbursements and Donors’ funds received by INEC.. not least of which is the N300 billion appropriated from the National purse, as well as other funds and materials, received from International Donor Agencies.
Once again we thank you, the Media, in all facets, for your continued dedication in reporting this extended resolution, and Nigerians all over the world, for their alertness and steadfastness.
On February 25th 2023, we came out to draw the line, and halt our country from the putrid domination of bad governance… by voting for vision and for competence.
A New Nigeria is possible.
▪︎ Being text of a press conference by Director-general the Labour Party and Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Organisation.