Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, on Sunday, lambasted Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, describing his promise to deliver credible governorship elections next Saturday as “medicine after death”. Atiku also called Yakubu’s assurances worthless and unconvincing, adding that they are a belated attempt at face-saving after conducting the “worst” election in Nigeria’s history.
The former vice president spoke in a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communication, Mr. Phrank Shaibu.
The statement came as the leadership of PDP and its Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) said they were still searching and consulting for a legal team that would handle the petition of Atiku’s petition at the presidential election tribunal. The party said the filing of his petition would start immediately after inspection of the election materials.
PDP said it had called a national protest for today in Abuja against the declaration of the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, as president-elect by INEC.
Yakubu had at a meeting with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) promised to ensure the strict use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the remaining polls. He said INEC staff found to be negligent during the presidential election would be barred from participating in the March 11 governorship election.
The INEC chairman said on Saturday, “All staff found to be negligent, whether they are regular or ad hoc officials, including collation and returning officers, must not be involved in the forthcoming elections. RECs must also immediately initiate disciplinary action where prima facie evidence of wrongdoing has been established.”
But in the statement, the former vice president described Yakubu’s assurances as useless and vain after supervising the most fraudulent elections Nigeria had ever witnessed since independence. He said Yakubu should not try to deceive Nigerians again after the “shambolic” performance of INEC in the February 25 presidential poll.
Atiku, however, commended the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, for admitting that the elections were far below the expectations of Nigerians.
The statement said, “The INEC chairman is nothing but a hypocrite. After promising to upload the results from polling units in real time, he allowed himself to be used, or he used himself in subverting the will of Nigerians. It will shock you to note that seven days since the election ended, the full results have still not been uploaded on INEC’s result viewing portal.
“The election was so bad that it failed to meet the expectations of Nigerians as restated by several foreign media outlets and observers as well as Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard of the US. Rather than apologise, the INEC chairman is trying to shift blame.
“After INEC’s abysmal performance at the scam election of February 25, he is now trying to save face, insisting that errant staff would be punished and would not be deployed in the March 11 governorship poll.
“This is arrant nonsense. Is INEC planning on training new staff within five days that will replace the so-called errant ones? Is he going to recruit new staff or deploy some from outer space?”
Atiku added that Yakubu should be man enough to admit his “failure”.
Atiku also said in the statement, “A fish rots from the head down, and that is what has happened at INEC. Rather than suspend any staff, the INEC chairman is the one that needs to step aside as his first act of contrition.
“Already, over 300,000 Nigerians have signed a petition on Change.Org to demand that the US, UK and Europe place a visa ban on the INEC chairman. This shows you the general feeling of Nigerians. Yakubu should hide his face in shame.”
Another spokesperson of the Atiku/Okowa campaign, Charles Ashiedu, told THISDAY that the party and its campaign organisation were still searching for a competent legal team that would handle the petition of Atiku and his running mate, Ifeanyi Okowa, at the presidential election tribunal.
Ashiedu said the Court of Appeal had granted PDP permission to inspect the election materials. “It is after this that Atiku/Okowa can formulate their petition,” he said.
INEC declared Tinubu winner of the presidential poll with 8,794,726 votes. But the PDP and Labour Party (LP) presidential candidates, Atiku, and Peter Obi, respectively, immediately filed separate ex-parte applications in court last Friday, accusing INEC of reneging on its promise to deliver transparent, free, fair and credible elections.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday ordered INEC to allow the PDP and LP presidential candidates access to inspect the sensitive materials the commission deployed for the conduct of the presidential election of February 25.
The appellate court will serve as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.
The panel of the appellate court, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, gave the orders when it heard two separate ex-parte applications the two aggrieved presidential candidates filed alongside their political parties.
The respondents in the matter were INEC, the acclaimed winner of the presidential election, Tinubu, and his party, APC.
The presidential candidates relied on Section146 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022, Paragraph 47 (1, 2 &3) of the First Schedule of the Electoral Act of 2022, as well as the inherent jurisdiction of the Court as referenced by Section 6 (6) A & B of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to file their applications.
The team of lawyers representing Obi and his running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, is led by Mr Alex Ejesieme, SAN.
The LP candidate is asking for six principal reliefs in his petition, while Atiku’s lawyer, Mr Adedamola Faloku, is seeking seven prayers from the tribunal.
The applicants are appealing to the court to compel INEC to allow them obtain documents in its custody that were used for the presidential election. According to them, the requested documents would assist them in their petitions against the outcome of the presidential contest that was declared in favour of the candidate of APC.
In another statement by PDP’s Presidential Campaign Director, Administration, Ibrahim Bashir, the party invited all Nigerians to a protest rally today in Abuja.
The statement read, “I am directed to respectfully invite Your Excellencies: The national chairman, Dr Iyrochia Ayu, the vice presidential candidate and governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Okowa, governors of Akwa Ibom and Chairman of PCC, Mr Udom Emmanuel, Sokoto State and DG of PCC, Rt Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and governors of Bayelsa, Edo, Adamawa, Bauchi, Taraba and Osun states; former Senate Presidents, Senator David Mark and Senator (Dr) Abubakar Bukola Saraki, BOT members, NEC members, PDP senators, and House of Representatives members, NWC members of the party, DDGs, Directors, Deputies and Assistant Directors of NCMC; members of the PCC; leadership of People Living With Disabilities and all other stakeholders, to a protest march to INEC Office.”
The statement said the protest, which would start at the Legacy House, Maitama, Abuja, at 10am, would see everyone sporting black.
Chuks Okocha and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja