Lamentations of perennial presidential contender

eea atiku abubakar x
eea atiku abubakar x

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” —Abraham Lincoln


By Omoniyi Salaudeen


Emotion has been running wild in the polity since the release of the outcome of the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections, which some hardy perennial contenders like the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, have dismissed as the “worst” ever in the history of Nigeria’s democracy. That is a matter for the judiciary to decide in the months ahead.

Already, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal has commenced preliminary proceedings on the petitions filed by the former vice president and his counterpart in the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi. Nigerians can’t wait to see the final outcome of the legal firework that is about to commence. With an array of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) who have been conscripted into his legal team, Atiku is about to embark on another round of strenuous litigation battle. He is back again in the trenches, denouncing the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President-elect due to the refusal of the INEC to follow its guidelines to transmit the election results obtained from BVAS directly from polling units to the IRev server in real-time.

He also alleged other various infractions like over-voting, rigging, and deliberate manipulation of results, among others. By the provision of the Nigerian Constitution, the onus is on the petitioner to prove the ground on which the petition has been presented.

Thus, unless otherwise decided by the court, Atiku may have reached the nadir of his political career. Wittingly or unwittingly, his age-long ambition to govern the country has run a full circle. To underscore the sanctity of the outcome of the elections, notwithstanding all the perceived irregularities by both local and international observers, President Muhammadu Buhari has told anyone nursing the thought of aborting the transition process to either bury it or seek appropriate redress in court.     

The Chairman of the INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, as the Chief Returning Officer, had declared Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the election with 8,794,726 votes to defeat Atiku, who scored 6,984,520 votes, and the Labour Party’s Peter Obi with a total of 6,101,533 votes as the third runner up. The declaration was indifference to the unrestrained display of rascality by Dino Melaye, the irredentist and unrepentant overzealous PDP agent, who led a walkout on the commission while collation was going on at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. 

But Atiku didn’t take it lying low. While addressing a press conference shortly after the announcement of the results, he appealed to the emotional sentiment of the populace, saying his decision to challenge the results of the election was to defend the country’s democracy.

“I can still not understand why the electoral umpire was in such a hurry to conclude collation and announcement of results, given the number of complaints of irregularities, of bypassing of the BVAS, failure of uploading to the IREV and unprecedented cancellation and disenfranchisement of millions of voters in breach of the Electoral Act in the commission’s guidelines was indeed a rape on democracy.

“I call on all men and women of goodwill to join hands with us in the vanguard to defend our constitution from brigandage of anti-democratic forces. Finally, I urge Nigerians to remain vigilant and resolute,” he said. 

Penultimate Thursday, he stretched his resentment an inch further by leading other party leaders on a protest march on the headquarters of the INEC in Abuja, where he dismissed the commission’s inability to upload results on IReV as a “rape of democracy” and swore to upturn the result. 

One striking thing about all of these outbursts is that PDP appears to be so much more concerned about the breach of the guidelines set by the umpire than the allegation of irregularities and how they have substantially affected the outcome of the elections.

And that is a sublime irony because from the point of view of legal experts, focusing on the breach of the process rather than the real outcome of the election is like chasing a shadow. According to them, the process is a technical argument that has nothing to do with substance.

This is without prejudice to the petition already filed before the tribunal and the competence of his formidable legal team. Even then, all state actors know that the election is won and lost on the very day of the election. It’s Atiku’s familiar terrain. Going forward, he has thrown the charge to his legal team to establish the claim of illegalities observed during the conduct of the election and how to reclaim the mandate from the President-elect. But he knows as much as his lawyers do that the task of turning an already declared winner into a loser can be very beguiling, indeed. The judiciary is impressively on trial here. Perhaps, there could be a change of narrative. 


In terms of resilience, doggedness, and persistence, Atiku’s fighting spirit is legendary, representing a good characterization of Abraham Lincoln’s story of ascendancy to power in the US. If you want to learn about somebody who didn’t quit, look no further. Lincoln lost eight elections, twice failed in business, and suffered a nervous breakdown. Yet, he didn’t quit. In the end, he became one of the greatest presidents in the history of America.

Atiku too is such a hardy contender, but he lacks the courage to accept defeat and congratulate the winner. From 1993 when he set his eyes on the presidency of this country, there is no election he has not contested. So much so that he has traversed virtually all political parties, making people view his quest to govern as an obsession.

In this very last lap of his presidential contest, the venom with which he has been casting aspersion on the INEC rightly qualifies him as a sore loser. With his toga of democrat, he should have exercised some restraints and allowed his legal team to prove his case before taking the commission to the cleaners. Such a hasty condemnation is too presumptuous, reactionary, and hypocritical. 

The truth of the matter is that he and his party men knew they were taking a gamble even before the INEC conducted the elections. With the loss of G-5 governors in a row, the swirling threat of the Obidient Movement sweeping across the country, and the internal schism that had fragmented the party prior to the election, no one with the right sense of judgment could have predicted victory for Atiku in the five states of the Southeast as well as the South-South region, where PDP had hitherto held sway for almost two decades, but now effectively under the control of the Obi Movement.

It will also be much easier for the proverbial camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for his legal team to prove any allegation of rigging in Oyo, Benue, Enugu, Rivers, and Abia states, where Seyi Makinde, Samuel Ortom, Nyesom Wike, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu respectively are all calling the shots. It doesn’t add up.

Arguably, the election is not perfect, and there is nowhere an election is perfect on this planet earth. In fact, from the First Republic to date, there is only one single case of a time when a loser who lost an election did not allege rigging and intimidation. And that was former President Goodluck Jonathan who made a phone call to President Buhari in 2015 congratulating him on his victory. It was a one-off thing, an exception to the rule in this clime.

For crying out loud, Atiku is merely capitalizing on the young men and women who are saying on social media that the 2023 election was full of rigging and intimidation. These are the youths who have no knowledge of the past era of rigging and intimidation in Nigerian elections. At almost 80, Atiku should know better. Sometimes, you have to be on the right side of history and lose. Having opted for the judicial process, he should allow his case to run its course, while the electorate await the outcome.   

Atiku Abubakar is a former vice president under the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo for two terms. At barely 80, he can only give a kiss to his presidential ambition and take a bow out of active politics as youths are now poised to take their destiny into their hands, as well as “take back their country.”