A new twist has been added to the agitations of Nigerians as they protest what is now known as the most reckless election manipulation in recent times. The people are increasingly expressing their determination to see that the February 25 presidential election is condemned permanently into the dustbin of history. Thousands of protesters thronged the streets of the Federal Capital City (FCT), Abuja Thursday, calling on the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, to set up an Interim National Government (ING) to manage the transition before leaving office on May 29, 2023.
The ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), adjudged the presidential election to be a free and fair exercise after its candidate, Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared winner ahead main challengers, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
A worldwide chorus of condemnation greeted the announcement by the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring Ahmed Tinubu the winner. Voices were raised both within and out of Nigeria calling on the electoral umpire to do the right thing or simply cancel the vote. President Buhari described the poll as free, fair, and transparent, and directed the Opposition towards the courts to seek redress to what they called large scale fraud and manipulation.
President Buhari’s call to resort to the courts is not being heeded, as on Thursday, March 23, the streets of Abuja were besieged by angry protesters who said the fraud committed by INEC must not be allowed to stay.
Under the aegis of the National Youth League for the Defense of Democracy (NYLDD), the protesters called for the putting in place of an interim government as there won’t be enough time to conduct another presidential election by May 29, when Buhari leaves office. They also demanded the immediate dismissal and arrest of Prof. Yakubu, Chairman of INEC by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Service (DSS) for high treason.
The protesters urged various diplomatic missions in Nigeria to place a visa ban on 15 of the State Resident Electoral Commissioners who they say aided and facilitated the alleged electoral fraud. The RECs are from Lagos, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Niger, Jigawa, Kano, Imo, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Cross River, Katsina and Edo States.
Taking questions from the press at the Unity Fountain in Abuja the convener of the protests, Dr. Moses Paul said putting in place an interim government was a necessary step to reforming the electoral system before the holding of a new vote. He also called for the immediate firing of INEC’s Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, and his entire team.
“We are citizens of Nigeria, lovers of Nigeria, standing on the path of our constitution and citizens’ rights. We are here particularly to address the greatest crime that has happened in the history of the world and in Nigeria. People were burnt in Kano, people were shot in Rivers, and we have seen the greatest inhumanity happen in Lagos state in the course of this election,” Dr. Moses decried.
He was not shy in making clear their resolve to right the wrongs of the past election: “Two demands we are making; we are asking the President of this country to immediately arrest and prosecute the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who has committed the greatest fraud in the history of humanity. We need him arrested and prosecuted.
“Our number two demand is that we are asking that an interim government be put in place. We are saying that, because we do not want President Muhammadu Buhari to continue, his tenure is ending, so as a father he should put in place an interim government so that the interim government will now appoint another INEC chairman who will conduct a free and credible election and produce a befitting President for our country.”
“We are here as frustrated Nigerians and the fundamental rights of Nigerians have been trampled upon by Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC and we are here calling for his immediate resignation. We have also requested that DSS should arrest him, and he should be prosecuted by the EFCC,” he said.
The embittered Youth League leader did not economize his words in reminding the country’s judiciary that it must play its role in bring justice to millions of Nigerians who saw their will overturned by INEC.
“We are calling on DSS to arrest Mahmood immediately, the EFCC should investigate him, and we are also calling on the Nigerian Judiciary because those concerned are already in court, particularly the presidential election of February 25, we are calling on the judges in Nigeria that we want justice to prevail.
“We have been to the US Embassy, we have been to the British Council in Nigeria, and we have also submitted a letter to the French Embassy, calling on them to advise the Nigerian government that the Nigerian people are not happy. We the young people of this country are not happy over what is happening in our country. We may be peaceful now but when you push even a goat to the wall, the goat may bite,” Paul warned.
A letter written by the protesters to the United States Embassy reads in part; “The conduct of the elections is in substance non-compliant with the existing legal framework.
“These criminal actions of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu have led to the dampening of the revived spirit of youths who in anticipation of a country that works for all, turned out in their large numbers to vote, some for the first time in their lives, for their preferred candidates only to be greeted with violence and subversion of their collective will.
“Based on the foregoing, we pray your good offices to amongst other appropriate sanctions, withdraw the visas of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, all the Resident Electoral Commissioners of states where these infractions were prevalent, particularly the RECs of Lagos, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Niger, Jigawa, Kano, Imo, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, parts of Cross River, parts of Katsina and Edo States,” the frustrated youths stated in their letter.
A co-convener of the protest, Anngu Orngu, said they will not relent until their demands are addressed by the federal government as they are ready to use every other civil and lawful means to ensure their demands are met.