The outcome of the 2023 presidential election sparked considerable controversies. GIFT HABIB writes on the postponement of governorship and states Houses of Assembly polls, reactions by parties, and the Independent National Electoral Commission’s preparedness for Saturday’s elections
The Independent National Electoral Commission, the beautiful bride days before the presidential election, has suddenly become the fall guy in the aftermath of the February 25, 2023, elections.
Bricks of different shades and colours have been thrown at the electoral body by many who previously applauded the commission’s preparedness for the elections.
What also excited the people was the fact that for the first time in the last three presidential election cycles, the poll was not postponed. It will be recalled that the presidential poll was postponed in 2015 to allow security forces to clear some areas under the siege of Boko Haram in the North East, while in 2019, the poll was postponed due to logistics issues.
But this time around, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC management seems to have got its acts right, not even the insecurity across the country could stand as a barrier to the actualisation of conducting the poll in February 2023.
However, the result of the 2023 presidential election has pitted INEC against those who have been praising its name for the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and its result viewing portal.
The declaration of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, as the winner of the February 25 presidential election by INEC on March 1 at the National Collation Centre did not go well with opposition parties.
According to the commission, Tinubu won after he polled 8.8 million votes, while main opposition candidates Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi had 6.9 million and 6.1 million, respectively.
Atiku and his counterpart, Obi, refused to concede defeat, vowing to recover their mandate in court.
At separate press conferences on March 2, the two candidates rebuffed the gesture of conciliation made by the President-elect, 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.
The Peoples Democratic Party said the integrity of the presidential election was compromised.
The PDP spokesperson Debo Ologunagba, claimed that some of the results were “manipulated.”
It accused INEC of deliberate refusal to upload all election results from polling units to the result viewing portal.
In the same vein, the Labour Party presidential candidate vowed to challenge the result of the election in court, saying he, rather than Tinubu, won the election.
He stated “It is a clear deviation from the electoral rules and guidelines as we were promised and did not meet the minimum criteria of a free, transparent, credible and fair election devoid of voter intimidation and suppression, and late commencement of voting in some specific states.
Also, the New Nigeria Peoples Party described the process of collating and presenting presidential election results by INEC as a “sham.”
The spokesperson for the NNPP Presidential Campaign Council, Ladipo Johnson, said “It was a sham. There was systemic rigging. We had an illegible logo in the ballot papers. The logo was illegible to the people.”
Expressing their grievances, both presidential candidates requested the Presidential Election Court in the Federal Capital Territory allow them to inspect materials used for the February 25 election.
Their request was contained in two ex-parte motions they filed at the PEC secretariat at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
On March 3, the Court of Appeal granted a request of Abubakar and Obi, to inspect documents used for the conduct of the recent presidential election in the country.
The permission was a sequel to two separate ex-parte applications filed by Atiku and Obi, who came second and third, respectively, in the presidential election won by Tinubu.
But INEC requested the Appeal Court vary the permission earlier granted to the PDP and Labour Party to inspect materials used by the commission in the conduct of the February 25 presidential election.
The request was a sequel to INEC’s plans to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System used for the presidential and National Assembly elections.
INEC said the request was predicated on the need to reconfigure the BVAS used in the presidential election before deploying them for the March 11 governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls.
However, on March 8, the PEC granted the request of INEC to reconfigure the BVAS it used for the presidential election.
In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of justices, the court held that preventing the electoral umpire from reconfiguring the BVAS would adversely affect the forthcoming governorship and State Assembly elections.
It dismissed objections by the Labour Party and its presidential candidate, Mr. Obi, against the request.
According to the court, allowing Obi and his party’s objections would amount to “tying the hands of the respondent, INEC.”