Romanus Ugwu and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has rejected the result of the February 23 presidential poll.
In a statement, yesterday, he vowed to challenge the result in court to recover his stolen mandate.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had in the early hours of yesterday declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari winner and issued him certificate of return after scoring 15,191,847 votes to defeat his major opponent who polled 11,262,978.
While Atiku, in the statement entitled “Democracy Will Not Be Emasculated in Nigeria,” thanked Nigerians for coming out enmass to cast their ballot, he vowed not to allow the emasculation of democracy in the country.
The statement read in part: “With regards to the presidential elections that took place on February 23, 2019, it is clear that there were manifest and premeditated malpractices in many states which negate the results announced.
“One obvious red flag is the statistical impossibility of states ravaged by the war on terror generating much higher voter turnouts than peaceful states. The suppressed votes in my strongholds are so apparent and amateurish that I am ashamed as a Nigerian that such could be allowed to happen. How can total votes in Akwa Ibom, for instance, be 50 per cent less than what they were in 2015?
“Another glaring anomaly is the disruption of voting in strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party in Lagos, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and diverse other states, with the authorities doing little or nothing and in some cases facilitating these unfortunate situations.
“The militarisation of the electoral process is a disservice to our democracy and a throwback to the jackboot era of military dictatorship. In some areas of the country, such as, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo states, troops deployed for the elections turned their guns on the very citizens they were meant to protect. This is condemnable and should not be associated with our electoral process in the future.
“I am a democrat and there are democratic avenues available to present the truth to the nation and the watching world. Already, many international observers have given their verdicts, which corroborate our observations. I am sure more will come in the coming hours and days.
“If I had lost in a free and fair election, I would have called the victor within seconds of my being aware of his victory to offer not just my congratulations, but my services to help unite Nigeria by being a bridge between the north and the south. “However, in my democratic struggles for the past three decades, I have never seen our democracy so debased as it was on Saturday, February 23, 2019. 2007 was a challenge, but President Yar’Adua was remorseful. In 2019, it is sad to see those who trampled on democracy thumping their noses down on the Nigerian people.
“Consequently, I hereby reject the result of the February 23, sham election and will be challenging it in court.
“I want to assure my supporters and the entire Nigerian people that together, we will not allow democracy to be emasculated.
“I hope and pray Nigerians will someday summon the courage to defend democracy. That is the only way we can move away from being the world headquarters for extreme poverty.”
Speaking later during a press conference, Atiku insisted that President Buhari’s victory in a poll he described as the worst in the country in the last three decades, cannot stand.
The former vice president noted that the “electoral fraud” perpetrated during the election cannot produce a government of the people as it didn’t reflect the wishes of the electorate.
Atiku who was accompanied to the briefing by the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his running mate, Peter Obi, party chairman, Uche Secondus and other leaders, stated that there was voters’ suppression at PDP strongholds nationwide during the election, as well as other electoral malpractices
He, however, urged his supporters across the country not to be dismayed, as he would emerge victorious at the end of the day.
“This is a long journey but I am confident of victory. All hope is not lost, stay strong. By the grace of God, we shall triumph,” he declared.
Walking out of the collation centre after refusing to sign the result sheet, the opposition party insisted that the announcement of Buhari was an aberration.
Led by its collation centre agent, Osita Chidoka, the opposition had deployed every weapon to stop the electoral commission announcing President Buhari as winner, including making reference to the number of cancelled votes across the country and other electoral maleficence.
“The PDP does not accept the result as representing the valid votes of Nigerians. We have made three issues: first, after all the investment in technology, we expected that INEC, after spending N27 billion in this year’s budget alone for technology, would have for the purpose of transparency, not just for law, projected to us the result of what the card reader that they used displayed about the people that went through the card reader verification. That singular act has put a dent on the image of the election.
“The second one is the issue we raised about the number of registered vis-à-vis what the chairman now calls collated voters, which means that 1.6 million people are missing in the voter register. We think that issue is substantial enough to require a resolution.
“We also believed that the difference between the accredited voters and the votes cast which came to about 750,000 is an issue to be looked at. Finally, we believed that the cancellations that took place in the election impacting 2.7 million voters required to be looked into seriously.
“So, in our view, this election required to be reviewed, looked at again and possibly, we have a rerun.”
But INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, had argued that the difference between the valid and the cancellation votes were insignificant to impact the general outcome of the election, even as he assured that all the observations raised would be needed for future reforms, especially in the 2023 elections.
However, there was wild jubilation in parts of the suburbs of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, following the declaration.
Although business activities were not disrupted by the celebrating youths, many business owners that came out cautiously either left the doors of their shops ajar or shut them for fear of the activities degenerating into attacks or vandalism.