Magnus Eze, Enugu, Ndubuisi Orji and Okwe Obi, Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have renewed their fight over the 2019 elections, with each taking hard position on the recent report of the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM).
The EU EOM, in its report on the 2019 elections, raised some issue.
In its reaction yesterday, the PDP said the report of the EU EOM validated its position that the February 23 presidential poll was rigged in favour of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said with the EU report, it was obvious that it has not been crying wolf about the alleged manipulation of the polls.
The opposition party called for the prosecution of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials involved in the alleged sabotage of the electoral process.
Ologbondiyan said: “The world can now see that the PDP has not been crying wolf in insisting that the election was outrightly rigged with the cancellation of millions of PDP votes, alteration of results and allocation of fictitious votes to the APC.
“Nigerians are still in shock over the revelations by EU of how about 2.8 million votes were deliberately cancelled without sufficient accountability and how several returning officers gave no reason for the cancellations.”
According to the PDP added, “more shocking is the iniquity committed at the national collation centre, headed by the INEC Chairman, where the EU report exposed inconsistent numbers, distortions and ‘a large discrepancy of’ 1.66 million more registered voters, as announced by INEC on 14 January, compared to those announced by state returning officers during the collation of presidential results.
“Nigerians witnessed, on national TV, how professors and returning officers were unable to reconcile result figures due to heavy manipulations upon which INEC declared the APC winner.
“The EU report has further exposed the iniquity committed by the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC by listing how ballot boxes were compromised, how essential materials were missing, how “voter register was not always ticked as required” and how “manual authentication procedures were not correctly followed.
“The report also bared how figures on result forms did not reconcile, how result forms were not publicly posted, how ‘result forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelops as required,’ in addition to how the APC administration used security forces to intimidate voters, aid violence against our members and muzzled votes for the APC.”
In his response, spokesman, President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation for the 2019 elections, dismissed claims by the PDP, saying the o[position party’s claim was myopic.
He said PDP’s claim showed it does not have a good research team and as such could not study the report before commenting.
The campaign spokesman explained that the EU EOM report neither indicted President Buhari nor the APC for any irregularities in the presidential poll.
He said the report rather indicted the two major political parties for failing to rein in their restive supporters before and during the polls, thereby leading to violence in some areas.
Keyamo added that if the PDP was alleging that there were irregularities in the 2019 polls, it was invariably saying that it manipulated the polls in states hitherto controlled by the APC, which its candidates won.
According to him, “if the PDP says there was irregular about the election, it means there were irregularities in Imo, Bauchi, Benue and Adamawa, These are known strongholds of the APC before the election, which they won.”
Also commenting on the matter, Civil society Organisations (CSO) backed the European Union (EU), saying the last elections were marked by severe operational and logistical shortcomings.
Reacting to the EU report, YiAGA Africa said the report was in tandem with the submission of many CSOs.
Executive Director of YiAGA Africa, Mr. Samson Itodo, said the report reflected the true picture of what transpired during the election.
“What EU said is not different from what many CSOs said. It is an accurate reflection of what happened,” Itodo said.
Executive Director of Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), Ms Faith Nwadishi, said the report was in tandem with the one released by her organisation.
According to her, there was security challenges and suppression of women during the election .
“EU was right on most of the claims. We did report that there was security challenges during the election. We also reported the suppression of women.”
Nwadishi and Itodo regretted that the non-signing of amended Electoral Bill affected the outcome of the election.
“Transmission of election results would have been better if the electoral bill was signed before the election,” he said.
The activists advised that the recommendations contained in the EU EOM report and that of CSOs should be implemented. In addition to that, they called for the amendment of the Electoral Act to help address some of the challenges faced in the last elections.
On his part, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, said the EU EOM report vindicated him and others who had insisted that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not generate 2019 general elections result from server.
Speaking in Enugu, Okechukwu said he was glad to hear the Deputy Chief of the Observer Mission, Hannah Roberts, agreeing with the reality of relying on results that were released by INEC.
He said: “We had maintained that its trite law to build something out of nothing; accordingly, we agree with EU Election Observer Mission denial of knowledge of the existence of the so-called server used by INEC to conduct 2019 general elections.
“Therefore, Facebook Server or Twitter Server, the hard fact is that President Muhammadu Buhari has cult followership, which is only comparable to that of Mallam Aminu Kano or Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, both of blessed memory, in the North. Nobody can erase this hard fact.”
Regarding the report’s identification of systemic failings in the elections and the relatively low levels of voter participation and call for fundamental electoral reforms, Okechukwu lauded the Presidency’s assertion that “President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, civil society, the media and other experts to make sure that there will be proper electoral reforms.”
He, therefore, charged the electoral umpire to gradually commence the introduction of e-voting in the off cycle state elections, as preparatory ground for full implementation of electronic voting.
“We must commence e-voting as a matter of urgent national importance,” Okechukwu said.