Nigeria’s Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) does not have the power to disqualify Vice President Atiku Abubakar from competing in Saturday’s presidential election. INEC had disqualified the vice president, citing his indictment on corruption charges. Monday’s ruling came as more and more concerns are being raised about the conduct of last Saturday’s gubernatorial election, a prelude to the presidential election. It also came as opposition parties are discussing whether to form a united ticket against President Olusegun Obasanjo’s ruling PDP party. What’s next for Vice President Abubakar? Leaders of the party he represents, the Action Congress party are locked in meetings to decide their next move.
Lai Mohammed is Action Congress (AC) party spokesman. From the capital Abuja, he tells the Voice of America that the party has been optimistic that the vice president would be cleared for Saturday’s election.
“The Action Congress’s position on this is, is what we‘ve always said, that our candidate suffers no single disability, that he was free to contest and that we were very positive that the Supreme Court will vindicate us. And what this means is that not only is the vice president qualified to run, but also that some governorship that took place where lawful candidates were unlawfully excluded, could be also nullified,” he said.
Mohammed said the vice president assured his supporters that his future lies in the hands of the party’s decision.
“The vice president made it very clear today that the decision on what to do next, would be determined by his party. And the party will be meeting this evening to decide we will do next,” Mohammed noted.
He said the party is still contemplating forming alliances with other opposition parties.
“Without prejudice to what the party will decide today, I think the situation on the ground in Nigeria goes far beyond any alliance, because what happened on Saturday is a clear indication that this government is ready to rig to any length. But I will leave this decision to the party, and in a couple of hours’ time, the party will come out with a position on this matter. But definitely, alliances are not being ignored, it’s an option,” he pointed out.
Mohammed chided the federal government for what he termed a poorly organized gubernatorial election.
“We’ve made our position very clear, that this administration cannot organize a free and fair election. INEC under Iwu (Chairman of INEC) cannot organize a free and fair election. The police cannot organize a free and fair election. We have no confidence in INEC. We have none in the police. The entire election was flawed by irregularities from Bauchi to Bayelsa from Kanu to Kaduna from Kwara to Kogi,” he said.
Mohammed said abstaining from the election would be perceived as weakness.
“Coincidentally, we are not the only ones who are victims, but we are probably the only ones who are honest enough to really tell the world what is happening. If we did not participate in this election, it would be seen as if it’s an act of cowardice. But then we’ve gone in and the whole world has seen what is happening. It is not by coincidence that we have curfew in Kanu state. There is rioting in at least eight states of the federation. We are not responsible for this. It is the criminal manipulation of elections that is responsible for this, ” he said.