Amid allegations of voter suppression, Nigeria’s opposition candidates set to challenge presidential poll results

Opposition parties have alleged widespread voter suppression and intimidation in the presidential election in which less than 30% of eligible voters exercised their franchise. Opposition candidates Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar have said they will challenge the victory of Bola Tinubu

March 04, 2023 by Pavan Kulkarni
Bola Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared the winner of the Nigerian presidential election held on February 25. Photo: Xinhua/Guo Jun

On Friday, March 3, the Court of Appeal in Nigeria’s capital Abuja ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to allow the presidential candidate of the Labor Party (LP), Peter Obi, access to all poll materials for inspection. Bola Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has been declared the winner of the presidential election that was held on February 25.

The order was passed in response to an appeal filed by Obi on Thursday. Access was also granted to Atiku Abubakar, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who had also filed a separate appeal earlier on Wednesday.

Obi and Abubakar’s appeal was justified in court on the grounds that these electoral documents could be used in their petition to challenge the results of the presidential election.

Africa’s most populous country (200 million) has 93.4 million eligible voters. However, the voter turnout was less than 27% and less than 25 million votes were counted. Widespread voter suppression and intimidation are alleged to be the reasons for the lowest ever voter turnout.

On March 1, the INEC declared Tinubu as the winner with 8.79 million (36.6%) votes. Abubakar followed second with 6.98 million (29.1%) votes.

Popular among the youth and backed by the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), Obi, whose LP emerged as a potential third force in Nigeria’s politics hitherto dominated by APC and PDP, garnered 6.1 million (25.4%) votes. He won in both Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub and largest city.

“We won the election and we will prove it to Nigerians,” Obi told the press on March 2, alleging electoral fraud. “It will go down as one of the most controversial elections ever to be held in Nigeria.”

LP’s national spokesperson, Yunusa Tanko, told Peoples Dispatch, “Armed men were all over Lagos intimidating voters. They were telling people to leave the polling booth if they were not voting for the APC.”

Financial Times “witnessed armed men remove a presidential ballot box in Surulere, Lagos.” Channel Television reported that “Armed thugs.. carted away the ballot boxes and BVAS machines.”

“According to the tally from our situation room, we won Lagos with 900,000 votes. Not the allocated number of 582,000. And in Plateau state, we won by one million votes, far above the 400,000 votes that were allocated to us by the INEC,” Tanko said, adding that if all the votes had been counted, the result would have been different.

President-elect Tinubu maintains however that “the lapses that were reported..were relatively few in number and were immaterial to affect the final outcome of the election.”