Former vice president and presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 presidential elections, Atiku Abubakarhas called for a coalition of opposition parties against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Atiku made the call in Abuja on Tuesday when he hosted the national executive committee of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) headed by its national chairman, Yabagi Sani.
IPAC is a platform of all Nigerian political parties, but the ruling parties have at each time excluded themselves from the group.
Atiku, who decried what he described as Nigeria’s gradual slide towards a one-party state, said opposition parties needed to unite to challenge the ruling APC and save Nigeria’s democracy.
He recently criticized President Tinubu’s appointment of APC members and loyalists as national commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), positions which the Nigerian constitution stipulates must be filled only by non-partisans.
“We have all seen how the APC is increasingly turning Nigeria into a one-party dictatorship. If we do not come together to challenge what the ruling party is trying to create, our democracy will be affected and the consequences will affect generations yet to be born,” Atiku said in a statement by his media advisor. , Paul Ibe, on Tuesday.
Coalition like APC?
The coalition Atiku is seeking should have members of opposition parties in the National Assembly jointly sponsor legislation “that advances the course of constitutional and electoral reforms.”
However, it is still unclear whether what Atiku has in mind also includes the type of coalition that gave rise to the APC, which was formed from the merger of the main opposition parties before the 2015 general elections.
The relatively new party had defeated the then incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan, thus ending the PDP government, which had been in control at the center for 16 years.
Atiku, as the PDP presidential candidate, ran unsuccessfully against the party on two occasions in 2019 and 2023.
His latest defeat in the 2023 presidential election has been partly attributed to his inability to get a coalition of major political candidates behind him to contest against President Tinubu of the APC in the February elections.
At the end of the election, the votes cast for Atiku and two major opposition candidates, including Atiku’s former running mate in the previous 2019 election, Peter Obi, were many more than the votes polled by Tinubu. The other opposition candidate who polled a substantial number of votes was Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
Analysts say the election result was an indication that a coalition of the three frontline opposition candidates would have given their joint candidate a victory over Tinubu.
Both Atiku and Obi unsuccessfully challenged Tinubu’s victory before the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal and the Supreme Court, which confirmed the president’s election in October and ended legal disputes over the February elections.
Atiku on Tuesday called for a formidable united opposition front, saying “the project of protecting democracy in our country is not about one man,” according to the statement issued by his media advisor.
“You have come here today to say that we must cooperate to promote democracy.
“But the truth of the matter is that our democracy is rapidly becoming a one-party system; and, of course, you know that when we have a one-party system, we must forget about democracy,” said the former vice president.
Atiku also reiterated his criticisms of INEC, which have appeared in his public comments since the results of the 2023 presidential election were announced, which he disputed.
He said that the electoral body held the worst general elections ever experienced in the country, referring to the 2023 elections.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission carried out the worst general elections in the country.
“Recently, again in the off-season elections in three states, INEC redoubled its disregard for the principles of our democracy.
“We can all see how INEC declared a result in Kogi State where the total number of votes cast is greater than the total number of accredited voters in a local government.
“We cannot have a healthy democracy in an environment where all INEC does is deliver to the ruling party at all costs,” he said.
Call for electoral reforms
Atiku also urged opposition lawmakers in the National Assembly to form a coalition for constitutional and electoral reforms.
“That is also why I will urge you all to call on legislators from the various opposition parties in the National Assembly to sponsor legislation that advances the course of the constitutional and electoral reform agenda that I shared in my recent conference press. The issue of electronic voting must be the urgent priority of the National Assembly because much less advanced countries like Nigeria are already doing it.
“Until our elections pass the test of transparency through electronic voting, it will be difficult for INEC to regain its credibility, and our democracy will be the first victim of such a situation,” Atiku said.
IPAC Chairman, Mr. Sani, speaking on behalf of the group, said they chose to visit Atiku because of his profile as a true democrat and political leader treading the path of detribalization and non-violent politics.
Mr. Sani observed that despite the obvious shortcomings associated with our elections, democracy remains the best form of government.
The former vice president is the “question of democracy in Nigeria,” Sani said, adding that “the journey has only just begun for Atiku.”
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He also assured that IPAC would be available any time he needed them as a group.
Atiku, a founding member of the PDP at the beginning of the current Fourth Republic, when he emerged as Nigeria’s Vice President, had left and returned to the party on different occasions since 2006 to contest for the presidency on different platforms.
He returned to the party after failing to win the 2007 presidential election and left again in 2014 for the then newly formed APC to contest the party’s presidential ticket to run for the 2015 election. He lost the party’s ticket to Muhammadu Buhari, who He defeated then President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election.
He left the APC in 2017 for the PDP. He emerged as the PDP presidential candidate and President Buhari’s main rival in the 2019 elections.
He lost the 2019 elections and lost the legal battles he fought before the Supreme Court seeking to overturn Buhari’s victory.
He again secured the PDP candidacy for the 2023 presidential candidate.
This time, the divided opposition front produced three formidable candidates, including Peter Obi, Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 presidential election.
The division in the opposition camp helped Tinbu’s APC emerge victorious from the closely contested elections in February.
The Supreme Court has dismissed separate cases brought by Atiku and Obi to challenge Tinubu’s victory.