The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, have refused to concede defeat in the February 25 presidential election, vowing to recover their mandate in court.
The two candidates rebuffed the gesture of conciliation made by the President-elect, Bola Tinubu, who in his acceptance speech after he was declared the winner of the poll on Wednesday, asked them to support him in the task of building the nation.
Atiku and Obi spoke at separate news conferences in Abuja on Thursday.
In the early hours of Wednesday, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Tinubu as the President-elect after the 70-year-old polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku and Obi who scored 6,984,520 and 6,101, votes, respectively.
Breaking his silence 24 hours after Tinubu was declared the winner of the hotly contested polls, an emotional Obi insisted that he won the election and he was ready to prove it.
He noted that the election in which Tinubu was declared victorious was controversial and programmed to deliver pre-determined results.
He pointed out that the election did not meet the requirements and could not be deemed credible.
The former Anambra State governor insisted that Nigerians were robbed of their true choice, adding was ready to challenge the results till he proved his argument in court.
“The election that we just witnessed had been conducted and the results announced as programmed. It is a clear deviation from electoral rules and guidelines contrary to what we were promised.
“This election did not meet the minimum standard expected of a free, fair, transparent and credible election. It will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever conducted in Nigeria.
“The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed leaders whom they trusted,” he said.
Vowing to pursue and recover his mandate, the LP candidate said, “Let me reassure the good people of Nigeria that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election and I will prove it to Nigerians.’’
The former governor said he believed the process through which people come into any position was important and there was a need for Nigeria to sanitise the process.
Obi added, “The process through which people come into the office is far more fundamental, more important than what they do (in office) thereafter.
“I believe that if you must answer ‘Your Excellency,’ the process through which you arrive at the office must be excellent.
“We must now require that we do the right thing to generate the right confidence and moral authority to lead. As you know, the structure of society begins and gradually retrogresses when we act rascally and deliberately in the manipulation of rule of law and suppression of the will of the people.”
He said he had challenged several election results and come out victorious and he would be approaching the court with the firm belief of getting justice.
“On this issue (presidential election) I am challenging the process. I will challenge this rascality for the future of the country.
“The court exists for this and they have asked me to go to court and I will be going to court,” the former governor assured his supporters.
Asked if he was under pressure, he said no one could put him under pressure for “challenging the rascality.’
“Datti (his running mate) and I remain absolutely undaunted and deeply committed to the project of a new Nigeria that will be built on honesty, transparency, fairness, justice, and equity. All the above starts with the process.”
He added, “We have to go through this darkness. The structure of criminality can’t go out overnight.
“All we need to show is commitment and resilience. I will be at the forefront and will work through this darkness until daybreak.’’
But in a swift reaction to the claims by Obi, the Director of Media and Publicity for the APC presidential campaign council, Bayo Onanuga, said the president-elect was ready to engage the LP standard bearer if he had concrete evidence to prove he won the election.
Reacting in a statement titled, ‘We will meet Mr Peter Obi in court,’ Onanuga stated that in an election where Obi emerged third, he found his allegation of fraud ‘very weird.’
He nevertheless stated that the LP candidate, like every Nigerian, was entitled to seek redress in court if he was convinced his team had evidence of the electoral fraud to present before the tribunal.
He said, “We welcome the decision of Mr Obi to seek redress in court as an aggrieved party if he is convinced of the evidence of electoral frauds he will present before the tribunal as alleged.
“Going to court is part of the electoral process and it is the most decent, statesmanlike and civilised course of action to take. We salute the decision. It is surely better than calling supporters to the streets and instigating social unrest.
“Before Mr Obi goes to court, we consider it necessary to challenge some specific claims in his press address. Contrary to his statement, it is not true that the election held on February 25 was not free and fair.”
According to him, the 2023 election was one of the most transparent and peaceful elections in the history of the country.
Continuing, the APC PCC media director noted that Obi’s Labour Party was able to record over six million votes contrary to the pre-election forecast because of the credible electoral process.
Onanuga further stated that the former Anambra governor and his party also surprised bookmakers by winning in strongholds such as Lagos, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta and Edo states where there were sitting governors of the APC or the PDP.
While stating that the affected governors had entrenched political machinery, the former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria disclosed that Obi’s victory in those regions further attested to the credibility of the electoral process.
“In those states, most of the sitting governors contested elections to go to the Senate and lost to little-known candidates of the Labour Party. The Labour Party also swept the entire five South-East states under the control of APGA, PDP or APC.
“We believe that the Labour Party presidential candidate contradicted himself and exposed himself to public ridicule by suggesting that the election was only credible in states and places his party won.
‘’We need to forewarn Mr Obi, that when he gets to court he should be prepared to tell the world how his party won over 90 per cent of votes in his region of South-East while other parties got almost nothing. We have evidence of voter suppression, intimidation and harassment in the South-East, especially of those who came out to vote for our party.
“Also when Obi gets to court, he will have to convince the court with his allegation of rigging in over 40,000 polling units across the country, especially in North-West and North-East where his party had no party agents and did not sign result sheets as required by law. We assume that Labour Party will enlist the PDP agents to prove its fraud claims since it is an affiliate of PDP.’’
“We want to state again for the umpteenth time that Mr Obi didn’t win the presidential election and could not have won under any circumstances. Obi anchored his presidential campaign on the failed strategy of ethnicity and religion, the divisive and dangerous politics that has hobbled the progress of our country for decades.
Obi’s campaign divisive
“His campaign also ran on the engine of ethnicity, inflaming strong Igbo sentiments. He also sought to cash in on the supposed youth discontent in Nigeria, as fuelled by the #EnDSARS protest in 2020.
‘’The lesson in Mr Obi’s defeat in the election is that no politician in Nigeria can win a presidential race by being a sectional and an anointed candidate of any religion,” he said.
The ex-vice president submitted that the presidential election presented Nigeria and Nigerians an opportunity for a reset but claimed that INEC “failed woefully.”
Atiku said that the electoral umpire’s failure was attested to by both local and international observers.
The PDP standard bearer wondered why the commission was in a haste to declare the result of the election, calling the process “a rape of democracy.”
This, he noted, was not the legacy the Muhammed Buhari-led regime wished to leave behind for Nigerians, adding that it is not late for Buhari to make a U-turn.
Saying that the poll was not about him but about the future of the Nigerian youths, Atiku, however, called on the youths to conduct themselves well.
He said the party’s lawyers had started studying relevant with a view to offering advice.
Also, the PDP in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said Atiku won the poll.
“Our party and its presidential candidate have commenced an action for legal redress to reclaim our victory in the 2023 presidential election,” he added.
‘Obi took our votes’
When asked if he was willing to work with Obi, Atiku said he is open to collaborating with the former Anambra State governor.
He said, “So, as far as I am concerned, Peter is welcome to dialogue with the PDP. We are ready to dialogue with him. I don’t think we will have a problem if he wants to dialogue with the PDP, whether for an alliance or not,” he said during the event.
Speaking further, he noted, “At the time Peter decided to leave the PDP for the Labour Party, we had not begun our primary process. So, the question of whether he was going to get a ticket or not did not arise.”
Asked whether Obi’s candidacy affected his performance at the poll, Atiku answered in the affirmative saying Obi took PDP’s legacy votes in the South-East and South-South.
But he argued that the Labour Party candidate couldn’t still have garnered enough votes to beat him in the contest.