Nigerian opposition leader urges calm before ruling on disputed presidential election

A top opposition leader called for calm Monday, the day before a court was to rule whether Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua's election victory should be annulled because of rigging charges.
Nigerian media also reported Monday that authorities had boosted security across Africa's most-populous country ahead of the ruling.
The ruling isn't likely to end the legal machinations, however. The opposition challengers, Muhammadu Buhari and ex-Vice President Atiku Abubakar, have said they would appeal if they lost, although Yar'Adua's lawyers said any such decision was premature.
In a statement printed Monday in Nigerian newspapers, Abubakar called on his supporters to remain calm no matter the outcome.
Yar'Adua was announced the winner of the April 27 vote, which foreign observers deemed deeply flawed. The European Union observer mission said the result wasn't credible.
In the six-month trial, Nigeria's top two opposition politicians, former military strongman Buhari and Abubakar, introduced evidence they claimed showed ballot rigging so pervasive that the results should be dismissed.
Yar'Adua's lawyers said Yar'Adua was the rightful winner. And lawyers for the electoral commission branded the case by the opposition politicians inconsistent and speculative.
If Yar'Adua lost, he would remain president pending any eventual Supreme Court decision. If he were to lose his job, Senate President David Mark would be in line to take over the reins of power while a new election is organized.
Mark, however, has had his own election overturned by a lower court. He's appealing that decision.
On voting day, armed thugs intimidated voters and stuffed and stole ballot boxes, observers say. Many Nigerians blamed Yar'Adua's party for most of the fraud.
In his inaugural address, Yar'Adua said he would work to bring Nigeria's electoral system up to international standards.
Many analysts have said the opposition faces high legal hurdles. They believe the plaintiffs must show not just that graft occurred, but that it was so widespread as to call into doubt Yar'Adua's win.
Judges in a similar suit filed by Buhari in 2003 ruled that he had established fraud, but not to such a large extent as to undermine the re-election of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The electoral commission _ which the opposition says is stacked with cronies of Obasanjo _ said Yar'Adua won by about 18 million votes over Buhari. Obasanjo, barred by the constitution from seeking another term, had picked Yar'Adua to run on his party's ticket.
Obasanjo's hand-over of power to Yar'Adua after the vote was the first peaceful transfer of power between elected leaders since Nigeria's 1960 independence from Britain.
That was supposed to mark a turning toward democracy after years of military rule in this nation of 140 million people, but many Nigerians say the elections have demonstrated instead how weak the rule of law is in Nigeria.
Still, the dispute over the vote has been peaceful and confined to the courts, unlike the violence that has followed a similar election dispute in Kenya.

Updated : 2021-04-18 22:34 GMT+08:00