The drama of the Nigerian presidential election could reach the courts: “The manipulations are unprecedented”

Failures with the new technology caused long delays and queues, which discouraged some people from voting (REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja) (TEMILADE ADELAJA/)

Third party candidate peter obi, announced on Thursday that he would challenge the outcome of Nigeria’s hotly contested presidential election after the official results handed victory to the ruling party’s candidate, Tinubu Ball. The candidate who came second expressed himself along the same lines, Atiku Abubakar.

“We will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate. We won the election and we will show it to Nigerians,” the Labor Party candidate told reporters in the capital Abuja.

Tinubu, a former Lagos governor, will succeed the two-term president Muhammadu Buhari, who resigns in May. He faces immense economic and security challenges in Africa’s most populous country.

Peter Obi (REUTERS / Temilade Adelaja)
Peter Obi (REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja) (TEMILADE ADELAJA/)

Almost 25 million people cast their vote on Saturday in a vote that was largely peaceful but marked by long delays and the slow arrival of results online, angering voters and opposition parties who say there was massive voter fraud.

Obi, 61, garnered the third-highest number of votes, with 6.1 million, according to results announced on Wednesday, a significant feat for a foreigner in a country where two established parties dominate.

Tinubu, of the ruling Congress of All Progressives (APC), was declared the winner with a total of 8.8 million votes and the required number of votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states.

Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 76, of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), won the second-highest number of votes overall, with 6.9 million.

Atiku Abubakar (Reuters)
Atiku Abubakar (Reuters) (AFOLABI SOTUNDE /)

Abubakar on Thursday denounced large-scale fraud and a “violation of democracy” in the ballot that proclaimed the candidate of the ruling party, Bola Tinubu, the winner.

“The manipulations and frauds of this election are unprecedented in the history of our nation,” said Abubakar, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), at a press conference in Abuja, the country’s capital.

“I don’t understand why the electoral authority was in such a hurry to conclude the scrutiny and announce the results, given the number of complaints and irregularities” registered, he added.

“This is a violation of democracy” in the elections, held on February 25, he stressed.

According to the opposition leader from Africa’s most populous country, the official results were “grossly biased” in favor of Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The current president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari and the recent winner, Bola Tinubu (Nigeria's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS)
The current president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari and the recent winner, Bola Tinubu (Nigeria’s Presidency/Handout via REUTERS) (NIGERIA’S PRESIDENCY/)

Candidates who want to file legal challenges have 21 days after the results are announced to take their case to court. At least four other parties join him in questioning the results.

But an election can be invalidated only if it is proven that the national electoral body largely failed to comply with the law and acted in a way that could have changed the outcome. None of the Nigerian presidential election results have been overturned by the country’s Supreme Court.

Tinubu called on his rivals and supporters on Wednesday to “join hands” with him, urging them “to come in so we can begin the task of rebuilding our national home together.”

Elections in Nigeria have often been marked by allegations of fraud and violence.

In an attempt to address some of those concerns, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) this year introduced the biometric identification of first-time voters nationwide, as well as IReV, a central online database for uploading results.

But some voters and opposition parties said the failures in the system when uploading the counts allowed the manipulation of the ballots and disparities in the results of manual recounts at local polling stations.

International observers, including from the European UnionThey also noted significant logistical problems, disenfranchised voters, and a lack of transparency on the part of INEC.

An umbrella group of Nigerian civil society organizations and observers said the process “cannot be considered credible”.

“Given the lack of transparency, particularly in the process of compiling results, there can be no confidence in the results of this election,” the Situation Room coalition said on Wednesday.

Peter Obi (REUTERS / Temilade Adelaja)
Peter Obi (REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja) (TEMILADE ADELAJA/)

Glitches with the new technology caused long delays and queues, which discouraged some people from voting.

With a number of registered voters at 93.4 million, INEC said turnout was just over 27%, even less than in the previous 2019 election.

Obi, who for many, especially young Nigerians, represented the hope for change, said the election “will be one of the most controversial elections ever held in Nigeria.”

“The good, hard-working people of Nigeria have once again been robbed by our so-called leaders whom they trusted.”

While the opposition yelled foul on Thursday, Nigerians were unusually indifferent. Unlike previous elections where people took to the streets to celebrate or protest, the streets of the capital Abuja were largely empty as daily life went on. Tinubu’s supporters believe he won fairly and will be sworn in as president on May 29.

“We have voted for him and he has been sworn in. Now it is your turn to help us and see how Nigeria suffers,” said Gbemisola Olabogun, a water vendor in the city of Lagos. “He should investigate everything and make life easier for all of us.”

Still, opposition supporters remain hopeful that the vote will be annulled.

“As far as I’m concerned, Obi is my president,” said Chima Ekwueme, a Labor Party supporter. “We’ll be here when he’s declared the winner,” he said.

(With information from AFP and EP)

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