By Bolaji Buhari
Lagos – The South West Zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Friday said it was fully in support of the party’s presidential candidate in the Feb. 23 elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, on his decision to challenge the polls result in court.
The National Vice Chairman of the party (South West), Dr Eddy Olafeso, gave the position at a news conference in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on Wednesday declared President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the election.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, while announcing the results in Abuja, said Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), polled 15, 191, 847 votes to defeat his main challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who polled 11, 225, 978 votes.
Atiku has since rejected the results as declared by INEC, vowing to challenge it in court.
Some prominent Nigerians and groups including a former Minister of Information, Chief Tony Momoh and Arewa Consultative Forun(ACF) have appealed to Atiku to concede defeat to Buhari and congratulate him.
Olafeso, however, said the decision of Atiku to seek legal action against the results was a necessary step.
He claimed that the Feb. 23 was one of the worst elections in the country’s history, being characterised by irregularities and malpractice.
Olafeso said there were many cases of violence and intimidation of voters across the country, apart from the cases of card reader failure which he claimed disenfranchised many.
He said that INEC employed double standards in the different geographical zones of the country to favour the APC.
The PDP chieftain said it was the right of Atiku to challenge what he called a sham, adding that all believers in true democracy should encourage the candidate to fight “the fraud”.
“We are all witnesses to the abuses that characterized the general elections of Saturday 23rd February and the double standards which ensured that electoral guidelines adopted for the election guaranteed different approaches to its conduct both in the Northern and Southern parts of our nation.
‘While it was compulsory that card reader be employed in the South and absolute requisite for ballot casting, it was put in abeyance in the North.
“Yet, the election was meant to produce the President of the Federal Republic; this is double standard and totally unacceptable.
“This clearly confirms that INEC was obviously ill-prepared and equally did not set out to conduct a credible election.
“In this respect, we query whatever rationale that will make it accept mutilated results from States like Nasarawa, Kano, Yobe and Bornu amongst many others.
“We are particularly amazed when due credence is given to the fact that the number of votes surpassed accredited voters, even more surprising is the many vote cancellations in places where the PDP won.
‘Borno State, the main centre of strife, acrimony and war, put to lie every demographic principle and returned more votes than Lagos, a state at peace, in this election.
“We also note the violence that characterized the elections across the South West, particularly in Lagos, Oyo and Osun States.
” It is important to state loud and clear that those crises were perpetrated by members of the APC who were so scared of the defeat they would have suffered in those places where they prosecuted their violent agenda.
‘The recourse to violence was dictated by the reality that they were set to lose the elections to the PDP and quickly resorted to hooliganism and thuggery in those states to abort the will of the people.
“It is a great disservice to the nation that security agencies mobilised and deployed for elections in those places remained lethargic and failed to protect the ballot, this is disappointing.
“We also condemn the prosecution of violence elsewhere across the nation, particularly the fact that the military descended massively into the partisan fray; we find this absurd,” he said.
According to him, the military and indeed the security agencies should not be politicised.
“They remain crucial and critical institutions of State that must continue to command respect, trust and confidence of all Nigerians.
‘Sadly, their current outlook will deny them all the aforementioned and that portends great danger for our democracy and country.
“The party leadership in the South West thus firmly declare that His Excellency, Atiku Abubakar and the National Working Committee of the Party must immediately commence diligent prosecution of actions to expose the fraudulent elections with a serious view to reclaim the stolen mandate.
“We cannot be taken serious as a people when leadership does not give due credence to the electoral desires of the people and respect their franchise”, he said.
Olafeso said the gains recorded in the conduct of the 2015 elections had been eroded by what he called the poor conduct of the Feb. 23 election.
He warned that the PDP, particularly in the South West, would resist any form of violence on voters in the next round of gubernatorial and state assembly elections.
The PDP official called on security agencies to live up to expectation to protect not only votes, but also lives during the March 9 elections.
Olafeso commended the people of South West for the massive votes they gave to the PDP in the region.
“We therefore call on our people across the region to vote massively for the PDP in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States.
“This election also presents an opportunity for the people of the three States, particularly Lagos, to get freedom from the vicious grip of those who have held them hostage”, he said
Olafeso promised the party would not disappoint the people of the South West if given the opportunity to govern states in the zone.
Also speaking, a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George decried what he called the massive irregularities of the Feb. 23 elections.
George said the results of the elections did not reflect the will of the people as supporters of PDP were intimidated through violence, while others were disenfranchised.
He, however, called on supporters not to be discouraged by incidents of Feb. 23, but come out en masse to vote the party ‘s governorship candidate, Mr Jimi Agbaje, and state assembly candidates of the PDP.
George expressed the optimism that the PDP would become victorious in the March 9 elections and that the state “would be free from bondage”.
NAN reports that Agbaje and Chief Ebenezer Babatope, a chieftain of the party, were also at the news conference.(NAN)