By Bayo Onanuga
We watched with dismay today’s press conference addressed by the Presidential candidate of Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi where he made very weird and wild claims about the outcome of the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections, an election in which he emerged a second runner up, according to the result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
We welcome the decision of Mr. Obi to seek redress in court as an aggrieved party if he is convinced of the evidences of electoral frauds he will present before the tribunal as alleged.
Going to court is part of the electoral process and it is the most decent, statesmanlike and civilised course of action to take. We salute the decision. It is surely better than calling supporters to the streets and instigating social unrest.
Before Mr. Obi goes to court, we consider it necessary to challenge some specific claims in his press address.
Contrary to his statement, it is not true that the election held 25 February was not free and fair.
The 2023 election is one of the most transparent and peaceful elections in the history of Nigeria. It is because the process was credible that made it possible for Mr. Obi’s Labour Party to record the over six million votes it got contrary to pre-election forecast.
That Labour Party and Mr. Obi surprised bookmakers by winning in Lagos State, Nasarawa, Plateau, Delta and Edo where there are sitting governors of either the All Progressives Congress or the Peoples Democratic Party. Those governors have entrenched political machinery. That Obi won attests to the credibility of the election process. In those states, most of the sitting governors contested election to go to the Senate and lost to little known candidates of Labour Party.
The Labour Party also swept the entire five South East states under the control of either APGA, PDP or APC.
We believe that the Labour Party Presidential Candidate contradicted himself and exposed himself to public ridicule by suggesting that the election was only credible in states and places his party won.
We need us to forewarn Mr. Obi, that when he gets to court he should be prepared to tell the world how his party won over 90% of votes in his region of South East while other parties got almost nothing. We have evidence of voters suppression, intimidation and harassment in South East especially of those who came out to vote for our party.
Also when Mr. Obi gets to court, he will have to convince the court with his allegation of rigging in over 40,000 polling units across the country especially in North West and North East where his party had no party agents and did not sign result sheets as required by law. It is our assumption that Labour Party will enlist PDP agents to prove its fraud claims since it is an affiliate of PDP.
We want to state again for the umpteenth time that Mr. Obi didn’t win the presidential election and could not have won under any circumstances. This is because he had no path to winning a national election in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria where a candidate running in a national election must appeal to the cross-section of our pluralistic society.
Mr. Obi anchored his presidential campaign on the failed strategy of ethnicity and religion, the divisive and dangerous politics that has hobbled the progress of our country for decades.
Nigerians simply rejected an ethnic and religious bigot through their ballots.
Mr. Obi all through his campaign presented himself as the candidate of the Christians and the Church, who wanted to help ‘take back their country” from the Nigerian Muslims.
His campaign also ran on the engine of ethnicity, inflaming strong Igbo sentiments. He also sought to cash in on the supposed youth discontent in Nigeria, as fuelled by the ENDSARS protest in 2020.
While Labour Party positioned its candidate as the harvester of the youth votes, its planners forgot that Nigeria does not have a homogeneous and monolithic youth population that can deliver bloc vote to any candidate.
All the major parties that contested the election also have strong youth appeal and supporters.
The lesson in Mr. Obi’s defeat in the election is that no politician in Nigeria can win a presidential race by being a sectional and an anointed candidate of any religion.
God created our country in a way to make it impossible for any part of the country to exist without the other. The framers of our constitution also worked to bind our country together with provisions that will make it impossible for a section of the country and any religion to have political domination over the other.
What this means is that any aspiring politician for the presidency of Nigeria must have a Pan Nigeria appeal and strong support and must be embraced by adherents of other religions.
Mr. Obi and his party knew why they failed. They knew they had no path to victory with their negative and dangerous campaign.
We owe Labour Party and Peter Obi the blunt truth: They failed in the election. No amount of red-herring and misinformation about the election and the outcome can obliterate this reality.
The President-Elect who was the candidate of our party won a Pan Nigeria mandate in a free, fair and credible election.
He is ready and prepared to assume office so he can serve the people of our country with sincerity and honour.
@views exclusive rights: Bayo Onanuga
Director, Media and Publicity, APC Presidential Campaign Council, March 3, 2023.