Abuja, Nigeria – Three of Nigeria’s opposition parties have called for the cancellation of the February 25 presidential and parliamentary elections as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has firmly taken the lead in the ongoing ballot process.
Preliminary results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states put APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu ahead of Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labor Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
On Wednesday, the LP, PDP and African Democratic Congress called for new polls at a joint press conference in the capital, Abuja, saying waiting for the final result to be announced would be “like waiting to treat a corpse”.
“We followed with dismay the mockery of democracy displayed at the INEC Assembly Center. It is a rape of democracy to say the least,” said Julius Abure, the LP chairman, alleging widespread manipulation.
“We are therefore compelled to state that INEC compromised the integrity of the election even before the collection began… We have therefore concluded that the election has been irreparably compromised.”
The parties also called for INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu to step down and be replaced by “a credible person from outside the committee”.
“Election results are still manipulated in government houses,” Abure claimed. “If you send your child to school and they fail exams, they will repeat the lesson. INEC has failed,” he said. “The results announced by INEC to date show monumental differences between the actual results reported by our party agents and indeed millions of Nigerians on Election Day.”
“What we have seen is the allocation of votes and not the collection,” added Dino Melaye, a PDP politician and former senator who led the press conference.
Since Saturday’s election, observers, voters and civil society leaders have complained about logistical challenges in conducting the polls and the slow pace of uploading results sheets from polling stations to a new electronic portal designed to improve election transparency.
That has left room for manipulation of results, say the critics, without giving specific names so far.
“Collation in Nigeria is a black hole – nothing that comes out can be trusted without a means of verification,” Ayisha Osori, former executive director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, told Al Jazeera. “As a low-trust society, we welcomed IReV (the Results Viewing Portal) as a way to verify the results of our polling places. Without this transparency, results written by a few men become difficult to accept.”
Anthony Adejuwon, head of the Osogbo-based community advocacy group, Urban Alert, blamed INEC for the parties’ agitation for canceling results.
“Uploading results and the iReV was supposed to make the election more transparent,” he said. “And lack of transparency is the main reason behind the agitation for cancellation by the opposition parties.”
The APC has rejected the opposition’s allegations and urged INEC to announce the result quickly to defuse the situation.
Meanwhile, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote an open letter to outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday, alleging that INEC officials had been compromised and the results manipulated.
He urged Buhari to “cancel any election that fails the credibility and transparency test”.
“Let me appeal to the President of INEC, if his hands are clean, to save Nigeria from the imminent danger and disaster that is about to happen,” Obasanjo added.
Also on Monday, the European Union Observer Mission said INEC “lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the election process”.
The opposition also spoke of the need for Buhari to cancel the disputed election, even as the nation awaits the announcement of the results and there are growing concerns about possible post-election violence.
“We don’t want Nigerians to take the law into their own hands, and we representatives have a responsibility to take this action,” said former Nigerian Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, the president of the PDP.
The APC said it was “particularly concerned” by what it described as “calls for violence by some opposition spokesmen” and called on security forces “to immediately contain such individuals”.