By Ononye VC
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has questioned the transparency of elections after Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner of the presidential contest on Wednesday.
Tinubu is the candidate for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the 70-year-old got 8.8 million votes—about 36.6 percent of the total—edging opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar and the rising star in Nigerian politics, the Labour Party’s Peter Obi.
Nigerian law requires that for a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential poll, that candidate must get a plurality of the votes and should also record 25 percent of the vote in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the capital, Abuja.
Tinubu fulfilled both conditions and said he was “humbled” by the result.
Opposition parties and other observers have described the election as a sham, and are calling for a fresh poll.
In a press statement Tuesday, the CBCN expressed disappointment with INEC over its conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections.
“For a very long time now, we have prayed for peaceful, transparent and credible elections as well as an accurate transmission of the results,” said Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of Owerri, the president of the conference.
Noting that both the government and INEC had for long assured Nigerians that “the sovereign will of the people would be accurately reflected in the conduct of the elections,” Ugorji regretted that “the experiences of many voters on the election day were a far-cry from the hitch-free exercise that was repeatedly promised. In many places, the human element is alleged to have compromised the gains that were expected from the innovations of the new electoral Act. ”
“In addition, the delay in the electronic transmission of the results of the polling units to the INEC results viewing portal before their announcement at the collation centers raised suspicion in many minds about the transparency of the entire process. There is, therefore, palpable tension in the air and agitations not just by some political parties but by a cross-section of the Nigerian population,” the archbishop said.
“We, therefore, urge INEC to promptly take adequate steps to address the issues of concern in order to diffuse the tension and in the interest of the common good. No matter how long it takes, INEC has to ensure that it does the right thing now to ensure that the sanctity of the collective will of the electorate is not violated, so as to restore the confidence of the citizenry in our government and its institutions. As the saying goes, it is no use running when one is on the wrong road,” his statement reads.
Caritas Nigeria, which deployed over 6000 observers in all 36 Nigerian states, questioned the conduct of the poll.
In a Feb. 27 statement, it noted that it was “with deep regret that we announce our total disappointment with the snail-pace deployment of sensitive and non-sensitive materials in more than 50 percent of the 176,606 polling units across the country.” The statement noted that there were reports of “sabotage and crass complicity” as some state officials made the arrival of materials difficult in order to gain political advantage for their parties.
It said roads leading to some opposition strongholds in Kogi State were destroyed, noting that this “not only amounts to subliminal crime of some sort but must be treated as an economic sabotage of the highest proportion designed to derail the electoral process.”
Caritas accused INEC officials, some state officials and the police of collusion “to massively thumbprint ballot papers unhindered” in Lugbe, Abuja; Apapa, Lagos; Obio/Akpor, Rivers; and in some parts of Katsina, Kano, and Gombe states.
“In some instances, sensitive and non-sensitive materials were burnt by thugs; voters and observers were beaten to stupor in the full glare of security personnel who not only watched these happen, but participated in the charade in some Polling Units in Lagos, FCT, Delta, and Rivers States. Additionally, cases of underage voting were noted in most parts of Gombe, Kano, and Katsina States under the handling of trained INEC officials,” the statement claimed.
“This is not the path we have desired having risen from the shattering wreckages done by the Military rulership before 1999. ..we recommend with immediate effect, that ballot audit, fresh conduct of elections in areas where overwhelming violence took the day, and the seamless overhauling of most of the Commissioners of the INEC must happen to avert civil disobedience,” Caritas said.
Nigeria’s Catholic bishops have called on Nigerians to remain calm and prayerful. They also urged restraint on the part of political parties, “while we all give INEC the time to prove that it is still worthy of our trust.”
“At this time, Nigeria is standing at the edge of a dangerous precipice, INEC must live above board to avoid plunging the nation into an avoidable crisis.”