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Flawed Election Regardless, Interim National Government Is A No-No!




2023 Election: Ethnic, Religious Sentiments In Nigerian Politics

One blowback of the hotly contested yet highly disputed presidential election is speculation about the installation of an interim national government (ING) to prevent the handover to the announced winner of the polls. Such illegal contraption only happened to Nigeria in 1993 when the retreating Ibrahim Babangida military junta imposed an interim national government which lasted only for 83 days. With the poor management of the 2023 political process particularly by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it has emerged that some highly placed Nigerians are working towards the reiteration of an ING, albeit the previous one declared illegal by a court of competent jurisdiction at the time.

INEC had at about 4 am on March 1 declared Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling APC as the winner of the February 25 presidential election. He polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar, who got 6,984,520 votes, and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi who garnered 6,101,533 ballots. The morning after, Atiku and Obi, at separate press conferences, rejected the outcome on the ground that the election was massively rigged. Both leading presidential candidates have since lodged petitions at the courts citing irregularities, even as PDP bigwigs staged a peaceful protest in Abuja against the polls. Two days ago, the Department of State Services (DSS) alerted Nigerians to plots by some political top-shots and their collaborators to bring an interim government into power and stop the president-elect from being inaugurated as Nigeria’s 16th president on May 29.

Before this release, some protesters specifically canvassed an interim government at the center over the brazen bungling of electoral processes. A coalition under the aegis of the Free Nigeria Movement while protesting in Abuja, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to annul the February 25 poll and set up an interim government. These persons were however countered by a group called ‘The Natives’, who stormed the streets of Abuja on Monday in support of the president-elect, warning against the imposition of an ING. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has also vowed to resist any attempt to stop the inauguration of Tinubu as Nigeria’s president on 29, May 2023.

However, Protests against the shambolic election also came from outside the shores of Nigeria with the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), of which Tinubu is a founding member, calling for a total cancellation of the election held across the 176,600 polling units in 774 local government areas of the country for being largely fraught with cases of fraud, intimidation, insecurity and vote rigging. The United States chapter of NADECO, while speaking through its general counsel, W. Bruce Delvalle, at the US National Press Club in Washington DC, said, “It (the presidential election) was riddled with blatant widespread corruption and democracy is doomed – bribery, intimidation, insecurity and vote rigging appeared to thrive all over the nation. They (INEC and other forces) were honest to skew the results. We call upon the people of Nigeria to act peacefully, but to demand that proofs be provided to them, that INEC prove the results they have announced.”

Featuring as a guest on Channels Television on March 23, the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, not to swear in Tinubu on May 29, pointing out that Tinubu failed to fulfill the requirements stipulated in the section of the 1999 constitution (as amended) for election to the office of the president. Although the APC candidate scored the 25 percent threshold of total votes in 30 states of the federation, he failed to have the threshold in votes cast in the federal capital territory (FCT).

Section 134 (2) of the 1999 constitution says: “A candidate for an election to the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being more than two candidates for the election: (a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.” Baba-Ahmed therefore argued that swearing in Tinubu as president amounts to “ending democracy” and a clear violation of the 1999 constitution.

Even in the socio-cultural milieu, the declaration of Tinubu as the president-elect also generated a ruckus. Pa Ayo Adebanjo-led Afenifere had affirmed that the February 25 election was fraught with irregularities, pointing out that Labour Party’s Peter Obi won the polls. “The results of the lawful votes at the Presidential election available to the Afenifere through credible sources confirm that Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, won the said election and we, thus, support his decision challenging the contrary declaration by the INEC,” he had said on March 27.

This position was however countered by Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the immediate former leader of the socio-cultural organization, who said, “Afenifere could not have asserted that someone, other than the person declared by the body duly authorized by the Constitution and other extant laws of the land, is the winner of the presidential election held on February 25, 2023 in Nigeria. The body mandated to conduct elections in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), after the completion of this year’s presidential election on February 25th, has declared the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as the winner of the said election.”

Before this time, former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, declared on Arise TV, “I thank all the foreign powers who commented on the election and condemned the integrity of the election. I do not believe that Tinubu my friend will be sworn in as president. If that is done, it would be a disaster but I think this thing has opened the eyes of Nigerians.” Fears and speculations about the smooth transition on May 29 are so rife that President Buhari and his government have repeatedly assured of being committed to a smooth handover of power to the president-elect with a transition committee already emplaced.

As polemic and strident as reactions to the election that produced Tinubu as President-elect is, Naija News categorically states that the claims are not enough to warrant the imposition of an ING. Nobody should capitalize on the expressed dissatisfaction over the election to plunge Nigeria into chaos and bloodletting. While Nigerians’ freedom of expression entitles them to publicly disavow processes and outcomes of any general election, those faulting recently-conducted ones must stay within constitutional bounds and not veer into the realm of treasonable felony.

Naija News however hopes that the alarm from the DSS is no red herring and that the very critical agency hasn’t been reduced to a propaganda machine. This was the same agency that accused the CBN governor of sponsoring terrorism without backing up the allegation with facts. We believe that the DSS has a broader strategy and their raising of the alarm is just to warn unsuspecting Nigerians who may be used as pawns by the subversive elements. We however warn that the rights of Nigerians must not be abridged under the pretext of threat against the state. Given that the DSS is a law enforcement agency and not a whistleblower, it should arrest and prosecute those it believes are trying to subvert the country’s democracy without unnecessarily heating up the polity.

The current tension in the land which portends disastrous consequences for the economy is what happens when a general election “is not a reflection of the minds of Nigerians” as pointed out by one of the top presidential candidates, Rabiu Kwankwaso. INEC cannot be exonerated from all of this. Without pleading the cause of the insurrectionists, there wouldn’t have been any sentiment for them to ride on if the election were deemed to be free, fair and credible. Not even in 2015 when an incumbent was sacked at the polls were there talks about imposing an interim arrangement. Naija News hopes that the judiciary saves the day by delivering justice not mere judgments in the cases filed before the courts. Lack of faith in the judiciary may well be the reason some interests are sponsoring and subscribing to calls for an ING.

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The courts have the burden of proofing themselves as the last hope of the common man. That is all those who strongly believe their mandates were stolen can hope on. The country’s Constitution makes no provision for an interim government, not even the doctrine of necessity can be invoked to address whatever anomaly that INEC has yoked the country with presently. As flawed as the election was, it has thrown up a president-elect in response to which the runners-up and their parties are already in court seeking redress. No one should cry more than the bereaved by plotting an ING. Nigerians must accept the incoming administration until the court rules otherwise. We agree with Tinubu that it’s time for national healing. Let the emphasis be on centripetal issues rather than centrifugal forces.