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December 21, 2004


PRESS RELEASE


CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO AND THE BURDEN OF LEGITIMACY

The Judgment of the Court of Appeal in the suit filed by Major General
Muhammadu Buhari and the All Nigeria Peoples Party against the
re-election of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the President of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria is a landmark decision in the history of electoral
contests in Nigeria. The Judgment no doubt is a confirmation and
validation of the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) in its Preliminary Report on the
Gubernatorial and Presidential Elections held on the 19th day of April
2003 and its Final Report on the 2003 General Elections titled 'Do the
Votes Count?'

The Judgment also underscores the fact that faith and fidelity in the
rule of law, due process and independence of the judiciary are
indispensable components and ingredients of electoral contests and
democracy. The judgment also shows that an independent judiciary with
the right mix of personnel can check the antics of electoral
fraudsters that do not believe in elections as a means and mechanism
of leadership change. The Transition Monitoring Group commends the
Justices of the Court of Appeal for their far-reaching findings and
conclusions in respect of this electoral petition.

Some of the findings and conclusions by the Court of Appeal are
matters already in the public domain. The fraud and manipulation of
the Electoral Act and the electoral process perpetrated by the present
government in connivance with the leadership of the National Assembly
are part of a well-orchestrated and pre-determined process to subvert
the right of the Nigerian people to choose their leadership through
the ballot box.

Given the enormity of the fraud perpetrated during the 2003 elections
and the damning findings and conclusions of the Court of Appeal, the
Transition Monitoring Group once again condemns the brazen corruption
and manipulation of the electoral process that brought the Obasanjo
administration to power and states as follows:

1.   The Transition Monitoring Group demands the resignation of Chief
Abel Guobadia as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral
Commission. The Court of Appeal in its judgment condemned the refusal
of the Commission to comply with its order as an act of recklessness
and questioned the purported independence of the Commission. The
indictment by the Court of Appeal of the Commission headed by Chief
Guobadia casts a dark spell on its credibility and impartibility.
Nigerians want, desire and deserve an electoral umpire that believes
in the rule of law and due process. Nigeria cannot have an electoral
umpire that treats court processes and court orders with contempt. The
judgment has also raised the urgent need for a comprehensive and
progressive electoral reform. The reform Nigeria needs should free the
Independent National Electoral Commission from illicit and
unprincipled romance with its appointing authority. The reform should
guarantee financial independence and autonomy to the electoral body.

2.   The Transition Monitoring Group also demands the arrest and
prosecution of the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ogun State
during the Presidential Elections. The Nigerian people deserve to know
how and with whom he perpetrated the massive electoral fraud in Ogun
State. The present government must therefore have the courage and the
will to apprehend culprits of electoral corruption even if they are
the beneficiaries of the electoral fraud.

3.   The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria must come out
openly and condemn the electoral treachery that took place in Ogun
State. He must distance himself from the fraud perpetrated in that
state of which he is a beneficiary. The fact that the fraud took place
in his own state has cast a shadow of legitimacy on his moral right
and authority to govern the people of Nigeria. In different climes,
circumstances and orientation where principles matter, the President
of the country cannot govern under the prevailing moral burden of the
proven fraud in Ogun State and the widespread manipulation of the
electoral process in other parts of the country. The President must
come clean and condemn the fraud in Ogun State that way he came out to
tell what he knew about the charade in Anambra State.

4.   The National Assembly must conduct open, transparent and credible
public hearing on a new Electoral Act for Nigeria. The present
Electoral Act that that was used in the conduct of the 2003
Gubernatorial and Presidential Elections is a product of fraudulent
manipulation and doctoring by the President and the then leadership of
the National Assembly. The new Electoral Act must be acceptable and
find favor with the political parties and major stakeholders in the
electoral process.

We are therefore convinced that the judgment of the Court of Appeal
although affirming the 2003 Presidential Elections has dented the
credibility and legitimacy of Olusegun Obasanjo as the President of
the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We therefore call on the President
and the National Assembly to restore the faith and confidence of the
Nigerian people in the democratic process through fresh, transparent
and credible elections.

Festus Okoye Esq.
Chair
Transition Monitoring Group (TMG)

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