Options to Explore for Reclaiming Mandate Amidst Controversial Election Outcome
Nigeria, [Oct 9 2023] – The 2023 Nigerian presidential election has left the nation in turmoil, with concerns growing over the integrity of the electoral process and the voice of the masses. This sixth consecutive presidential election since the end of military rule in 1999 saw a historic shift, breaking unwritten traditions and sparking legal battles that now leave the populace searching for answers.
Historic Election Raises Eyebrows
In a historic turn of events, the 2023 election saw a Muslim-Muslim ticket securing the presidency, shattering the norms of power rotation between the north and south, and between Christians and Muslims. This unprecedented move was followed by controversy, including low voter turnout, violence, and allegations of rigging. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), only 26.71% of registered voters cast their ballots, marking the lowest turnout since the nation's return to democracy in 1999. Voter apathy, insecurity, logistical problems, and regional boycotts contributed to this dismal figure. Also, INEC was popularly accused of refusing to transmit results of presidential by BiVAS to create a chance for the ruling party APC and it's presidential aspirant to manipulate vote results.
Legal Challenges and Controversy
The aftermath of the election saw legal challenges filed by Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the LP, both claiming widespread irregularities and vote manipulation. Their petitions landed at the doorstep of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal (PEPT), where a five-judge panel presided over the hearings from March to August 2023. The PEPT ultimately dismissed most claims, ruling that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt. In a significant move, the tribunal upheld the eligibility and qualification of the elected president, despite concerns over academic credentials and alleged involvement in drug trafficking.
Final Verdict and Dissatisfaction
On September 6, 2023, the PEPT delivered its final judgment, confirming the election results and dismissing the petitions. The tribunal stated that the elected president secured the highest number of lawful votes and met the constitutional requirements for victory. This decision left the petitioners disheartened, vowing to take their cases to the Supreme Court, Nigeria's highest judicial authority. They have 21 days from the judgment date to file their appeals.
Masses Seek Ways to Reclaim Their Mandate
With uncertainty looming and rumors of financial influence circulating, the question that weighs heavily on the minds of Nigerians is, "What options are left for the masses to reclaim their mandate?" Several possibilities have emerged:
1. Appeal to the Supreme Court: Some hope rests on the outcome of the appeals at the Supreme Court, where they could anticipate a reversal of the tribunal's verdict or a call for a fresh election. However, this path may be protracted and uncertain.
2. Peaceful Protest and Civil Disobedience: Peaceful demonstrations, rallies, marches, sit-ins, boycotts, and strikes offer a non-violent means to express grievances and pressure the government and INEC for change. Nevertheless, this avenue may face resistance and the risk of escalating into violence.
3. Dialogue and Negotiation: Engaging in dialogue and negotiation with the government and stakeholders could potentially lead to a political solution that respects the will of the people and ensures credible elections. However, past attempts at dialogue have left many disillusioned. Was it not rigorous and protracted dialogues that led to reforms and amendments to the electoral laws and institutions that introduced electronic voting and transmission of results via Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), strengthening INEC's independence and accountability, and ensuring a level playing field for all party candidates? INEC simply did not play by the rules? And PEPT interpreted INEC's independence to mean impunity to flout electoral laws. This option may no longer be attractive to the civil society players for now
4. Resort to Violence and Rebellion: A more extreme path involves violent resistance, including guerrilla warfare, sabotage, assassination, or even a coup d'état to challenge the government's authority. However, this option may have severe consequences for the country's stability and security and may result in more bloodshed and suffering.
In the end, the choice lies with the masses themselves. Each option carries its own set of risks and consequences, and the decision must be made carefully while upholding the principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. As Nigeria stands at a crossroads, the actions taken by the people will determine the nation's future.