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Nigeria: Democracy From Ballot Box to the Streets, Opposition Party Vows Non-Stop Protests to Overturn Controversial President Poll

Atiku leads street demonstrations in Abuja against INEC

Despite taking its case to the court of law, one of Nigeria’s leading opposition parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has hit the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja to protest the results of the recently held presidential election. 

The election held on February 25, 2023, left much to be desired. In its wake, opposition parties, Nigerians, and international observers faulted the organizer, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for breaching its own rules and the Electoral Act to announce former governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All-Progressive Congress (APC) as the winner.

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Leading opposition parties, the PDP and Labour Party, the platform under which Peter Obi contested the election, have approached the Court of Appeal to contest the results of the poll.

In a surprise turn of events, the PDP appears unwilling to wait for the Court of Appeal, as its senior members joined presidential candidate and former Nigerian vice president, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku to protest the election result announced by INEC.

Alhaji Atiku was in the company of his vice-presidential candidate and incumbent Governor of oil-rich Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, the party’s National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, bigwigs of the party, and many other Nigerians on the streets of Abuja marching in a large convoy to the INEC head office.

According to Atiku, the street protest held on Monday was the beginning of more protests, which would be spontaneous across the country. 

Monday’s protest in the streets of Abuja could just be the start of more chaos in Nigeria

“Today, I led a peaceful protest to the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Abuja over the sham election of February 25. There will be no letting up until the fraud is reversed,” he vowed.

“The provisions of the Electoral Act have been contravened by INEC, so staging a protest today does not invalidate the case filled in the court. It is our right to kick against this injustice and we would keep protesting here every day,” Atiku declared.

Lambasting the Chairperson of INEC, Yakubu Mahmoud, Atiku labeled him a hypocrite who is now promising Nigerians a credible governorship election scheduled for Saturday, March 11, 2023, after messing up the presidential poll.

In a swift reaction, the Presidential Campaign Council of APC castigated Atiku, describing him as a serial contender, who had earlier vowed to contest the result in court, but turned around, and chose another tactic, by leading a protest to INEC in Abuja.

Bayo Onanuga, Director of Media & Publicity of the Council said: “When the defeated PDP presidential candidate told the whole world last week that he would seek redress in court over the outcome of the February 25, presidential election, little did we know that he did not plan to be guided by his own promise.

Truckloads of supporters joined Atiku and others on the streets to say no to INEC and Tinubu

“Going by his political antecedents, it was rather not surprising that Atiku, days later, led a band of protesters and nay jesters in Abuja, to the Headquarters of INEC. What was on display today by Alhaji Atiku and his motley crowd was a new low from the perennial election loser.”

Onanuga insists Atiku should stop staging a theatre of the absurd and make use of the election tribunal.

“We fail to see how a march to INEC by a scanty crowd will provide any victory window for him and his fragmented PDP,” he adds, explaining that Atiku’s time is better spent gathering evidence to present to the court.

The protest was colorful and promising in the street fight for democracy

“We wonder how Atiku and his party hoped to win when he himself admitted that Peter Obi, his running mate in 2019, ran away with traditional PDP votes from the South-East and South-South,” adds Onanuga. 

According to Onanuga, it is preposterous that while Atiku “is disturbing public peace, chanting phantom electoral victory, Peter Obi is making the same claim”.

Onanuga insists the complaints over rigging from both Obi and Atiku are embarrassing for the two since both cannot have won the election. The alternative explanation for three candidates in the same race all claiming a victory speak to a possibility of an election run so poorly that no one knows the winner.   

Atiku’s protest has received support and backing from one of the defeated presidential candidates in the election, Omoyele Sowore of the Africa Action.

The protesters were enthusiastic and courageous, promising more serious action ahead

Sowore said in a tweet Monday evening that it is good to see Atiku and his PDP fighting for electoral justice.

He also called on every one to engage in civil disobedience to extinguish the monumental injustice perpetrated by INEC.

A Lagos-based public affairs analyst, Segun Olaitan told Timescape Magazine Monday evening that Atiku and his party were exercising their right with the protest, which the world saw as being peaceful.

Olaitan recalled that most people in the APC in the past did what Atiku did when they were mobilizing Nigerians to oust former President Good luck Jonathan before the 2015 general election which Muhammadu Buhari won.

Even women marked the moment and led the charge

“Castigating Atiku for staging a peaceful protest was out of place because we know that Tinubu and other people who formed the APC did worse when they were deceiving Nigerians to oust Jonathan. Many times, they protested against the Jonathan government in Abuja and Lagos. Why are they jittery that Atiku is now doing what they know how to do.

“We know that the election was marred with glaring irregularities and INEC erred in disregarding the calls to stop the announcement of the results. The world is yet to see the crisis that will follow the theatre currently going on in Nigeria,” Olaitan prophesied.

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