The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has said the decision of the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to challenge the outcome of the February 23 presidential election at the tribunal, is a move in the right direction.
Onaiyekan, a member of the General Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee (NPC), told Saturday Sun in Abuja that by resorting to court process, the former vice president has saved the nation from chaos. The former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) further said with the outcome of the 2019 election, Nigerians have been short-changed from electing their leaders, while also saying that it is difficult to know if anybody won anything in the election.
Disclosing his word for Atiku on the presidential election, Onaiyekan said: “I tell Atiku he has done the right thing. He has every right to go to court because if he doesn’t go to court, what does he do? Either he keeps quiet and swallows injustice or he perhaps incites his followers to start shouting and complaining and creating chaos. He has decided not to go in this direction, to go to court with his presumption that the court is the last port of call for any Nigerian who is aggrieved. They have started the process; we don’t know how far it will go.” He spoke further on this and more in this interview conducted by AIDOGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja
Your Eminence, what are your concerns about the 2019 election?
My feeling about the election is not hearsay. It is based on facts; it is based on the clear reports of the observation teams that we sent round the whole nation and it is also based on my personal observation of election in Abuja and what you hear from people. And whatever international observers may say and they have to say what they have to say, whatever the government may be feeling that everything went well because it went in their favour, the fact remains the fact that this election could have been done much, much better.
Up till now, I am still to know whether all the irregularities and the problems were inevitable or whether they were actually deliberate manipulation and the only reason why anybody should want to disrupt the process is that the person does not want the people to make their choice. And that is bad.
What do you think Nigerians can do to redeem the image of the country?
When you say Nigerians, I hope we are not going to start blaming the victims now? In all this, it is we Nigerians who have been short-changed, given bad names. How many Nigerians are involved in the electoral process? How many are politicians seeking elective office? They are a very small group and they are the ones causing all this trouble. So, the Nigerians as you can notice and as you have noticed everywhere and as we noticed on the 23rd of February, they went patiently, lined up in the sun in large numbers to cast their votes. That is all that they are expected to do. If you have a situation where they can’t even do that, where the very sight of soldiers frightens people, when you reach your polling booth and your name is not there or you get there and they say card reader is not working and worst of all, if you manage to cast your vote and at the end of the day, some people play with the figures, is it the fault of Nigerians? No! Don’t blame Nigerians for that. Those who are involved in these things are the ones who should change their habits.
What will you tell Atiku who has gone to court?
I tell Atiku he has done the right thing. He has every right to go to court because if he doesn’t go to court, what does he do? Either he keeps quiet and swallows injustice or he perhaps incites his followers to start shouting and complaining and creating chaos. He has decided not to go in this direction, to go to court with his presumption that the court is the last port of call for any Nigerian who is aggrieved. They have started the process; we don’t know how far it will go.
What do you tell President Buhari?
President Buhari himself has said that he is not surprised that Atiku has gone to court. After all, himself did it three times. Now, if you go to court, you expect that the result will go one way or the other. We have had many gubernatorial elections revised by courts in this country. That is why we have the situation we have right now. The only thing is that we have never had a presidential election cancelled and either redone or reversed. But that doesn’t mean it cannot happen. The very fact that there is provision for the elections to be challenged in court means it can be challenged.
With the PDP winning more states, what does that tell about the presidential election?
I don’t know, I don’t know. As you know, with the kind of election we had, we don’t even know if anybody won anything (he laughs).
Have Christian leaders failed in their responsibility of mobilizing the people?
No! We haven’t. I have told you already that people were mobilised. The people went. Didn’t you see how often we were shouting, get your PVC, get your PVC? And my experience here in Abuja is that many of my people were going to these PVC offices and didn’t get their PVC. They couldn’t get their PVC. They kept going and it was not ready. Is that their fault?