April 26, 2024

LP, PDP kick as US report says 2023 poll reflected Nigerians’ will

One year after 2023 polls: How to make future elections credible — Atiku, others

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, John Alechenu & Omeiza Ajayi

ABUJA — The opposition Labour Party, LP, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, expressed shock over how the United States 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices arrived at its conclusion that the 2023 polls reflected the will of Nigerians, despite widespread irregularities.

However, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Presidency hailed the report but said the party did not need external validation of its victories at the polls.

The report published by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, US Department of State, highlighted human rights practices and violations in different countries, including Nigeria.

It said the last general elections in Nigeria reflected the will of the populace, despite widespread irregularities.

Picking holes in the conclusion, LP and PDP said they are committed to deepening democracy in Nigeria and averting a one-party state.

Highlights of report

The report stated that supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, suppressed votes in Igbo-dominated areas during the March 2023 governorship election in Lagos.

“National elections were widely reported to have reflected the will of voters, despite technical and logistical difficulties, and some irregularities.

“Many independent observers who assessed the results of the presidential, legislative, and state-level elections during the year reflected the will of voters despite reports of voter suppression and vote-buying, campaigning at polling stations, lack of ballot secrecy, violence, and intimidation.

“During the March 18 state election in Lagos, All Progressives Congress (APC) supporters reportedly intimidated and suppressed voters in Igbo-dominated areas, which Labour Party Presidential Candidate, Peter Obi, won in the February 25 national election.

“Viral videos on social media showed APC supporters in Ojo (LGA in Lagos) threatening to attack ethnic Igbo voters presumed to be pro-Obi.

“In Eti-Osa, APC supporters also attacked journalists and, in some cases, shut down voting and prevented non-Yoruba voters from accessing polls. They similarly destroyed property and physically blocked voters in Amuwo-Odofin.
“According to videos posted on social media, police officers were present but failed to respond to attacks,’’ the report read.

It said there was no evidence that individuals who perpetrated violence in Lagos during the election were arrested or prosecuted.

Corruption in govt

The report also stated that the Nigerian government has not “consistently” implemented anti-corruption laws.
It said there was “widespread” corruption across the country, including the judiciary.

“In August, President Tinubu appointed former Governor Abubakar Bagudu, the Minister of Budget, despite Bagudu’s widely reported history of helping then-President Sani Abacha steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the government in the 1990s,’’ the report stated.

We remain committed to democracy — PDP, LP

However, the two main opposition political parties, the PDP and the LP, in reaction to the report, restated their commitment to the development of democracy in Nigeria, despite its shortcomings.

National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, in a telephone chat with Vanguard said: “I am yet to read the report but one thing we, as a party, can assure Nigerians is that we remain committed to the advancement of democracy in our country.
“We are also committed to ensuring that our country does not become a one-party state or slide into dictatorship.”

Speaking in a similar vein, his counterpart in the Labour Party, Obiora Ifoh, said: “With all said and done, we take solace in the fact that the report was fair enough to admit that there were irregularities, including but not limited to vote buying, ballot box snatching, intimidation and physical attacks on our party supporters, especially in Lagos.

“The report was magnanimous enough to note that supporters of the All Progressives Congress, APC, suppressed votes in areas dominated by our supporters during the March 2023 governorship election in Lagos.

“To say the outcome of such an election reflects the majority view of Nigerians is left for the people to judge. Our commitment to the development of democracy in Nigeria remains unshakable.”

Report is welcome devt, but… —APC

On its part, the ruling APC said while it welcomed the report, it does not need any external validation in that regard.
Deputy National Organizing Secretary of the party, Nze Chidi Duru, told Vanguard that the party had since moved on, concentrating on developing Nigeria’s electoral democracy.

He said: “It (report) is a welcome development but I want to restate that we do not need any external validation on the outcome of the 2023 general election.

‘’That election, as far as the party is concerned and as far as the people of Nigeria are concerned, is now behind us and we are looking forward to the 2027 general election.

“All the infrastructure of government at all levels, whether it is at the federal, state, local government or ward level, are already in place. Our councillors, National Assembly members and governors have been elected and are in place.
‘’Where there are issues arising from that election, those elections have been contested at the courts and we know that the courts have heard and given their well-considered ruling. So, we have gone beyond that.

“We also believe improvement, development and change are constant things and then as a government, we will continue to encourage and fund INEC in a way that empowers them to be able to further improve the electoral process in Nigeria.
“As we continue to march on the path of democracy, we hope to continue to conduct elections that would reflect the will of Nigerians.

“So, in a nutshell, as much as this is welcome, we do not need any external validation. Elections have been conducted and those elected have assumed offices and where there are disputes, they were taken to courts and the issues have been resolved.”

We don’t require any foreign validation to make our election free, fair — Presidency

Speaking in like manner, the Presidency through the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, said INEC “conducted a free and fair election.’’

He noted that there is nowhere in the world the electoral umpire conducted a 100 per cent error-free election.
His words: “INEC conducted a free and fair election. We don’t need any foreign country to validate or make our election free and fair.

“The report doesn’t require any validation. As far as we are concerned, it was a free and fair election. We (the All Progressives Congress) won the election.”

The presidential aide also debunked the allegation of voter suppression in Lagos State.