LEADERS of the Southern and Middle Belt Forum have announced their rejection of the outcome of the 25 February 2023 presidential poll.
Their position was announced through an open letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari. It was signed by Ijaw leader Edwin Clark; elder statesman Chief Ayo Adebanjo; one-time Anambra State Governor Ayo Adebanjo, Dr. Pogu Bitrus and Ambassador Okey Emuchay.
They claimed that the election was neither free, nor fair and urged President Buhari to act.
Their rejection come a day after the immediate past British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Lang, rated the presidential and National Assembly elections above average.
The envoy, during her farewell visit to the leadership of the National Assembly, praised the Independent National Assembly Commission (INEC) for conducting a keenly contested election and urged Nigerians to be proud of the February 25 polls.
Other observers have also lauded the outcome of the presidential election, which has been adjudged the most competitive since 1999.
In the run-up the presidential election, the elders pitched tent with the Labour Party (LP) and its candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, and his running mate, Datti Baba- Ahmed.
Obi came third in the election behind the winner, Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The leaders were representing Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Middle Belt Forum and Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.
The letter reads in part: “We have elected to write this letter to you, in the spirit of national patriotism, after conscientious review of the State of the Nation, since after the February 25 presidential elections. Mr. President should note that there has been an uneasy calm in the land and that the polity is laden with uncertainty orchestrated by the conduct and outcome of the Presidential election.
“It’s hoped that Mr. President will carefully reflect on the issues raised herein and act accordingly, not only in the interest of Nigeria’s unity and stability, but the sustenance of our democratic journey as well.”
On Saturday’s governorship and State Assembly elections, the group called on INEC to be consistent and to ensure that irregularities observed in the presidential poll does not reoccur.
They said: ”Mr. President, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be told, in unequivocal terms, to ensure that the inconsistencies and irregularities observed during the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25 will not reoccur in the Governorship and State Assembly elections, holding on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Elections belong to the people; it’s their decision and the people’s decision must be respected.
“Though the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System may have mitigated the concern of ghost or multiple votes and the February 25 election resulted in a national assembly somewhat reflective of the extant political viewpoint of the country, the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to strictly follow the Electoral Act 2022 marred the credibility of the election.
“The sanctity of the ballot must be upheld by the electoral umpire and results of the elections must truly reflective the will of the citizenry. We are not sure that pretexts of ‘technical glitches’ with regard to uploading of results from the BVAS to the iREV immediately after collation at the polling units shall be tolerable in the Governorship and State Assembly elections. The elections must be free, fair and credible!
“In conclusion, Mr. President, while we acknowledge the resilience of all Nigerians, particularly the youths, for keeping faith despite the provocative actions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) amidst the subsisting difficult socio-economic situations; it is imperative to underline that those who seek to serve the people in a constitutional democracy must imbibe the tenets of democracy – the values of freedom, respect for the rule of law and human rights, inclusivity, fairness, equity, justice, etcetera, in the interest of the peace, unity and progress of our dear country, Nigeria.
“Let us allow the judiciary to do its job, without interferences and relieve Nigeria from any political crisis.”