“Follow rule of law”: Cardinal to Opposition Parties in Nigeria’s Disputed Election

Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke of Nigeria's Ekwulobia Diocese. Credit: ACI Africa

Nigeria’s opposition political parties need to “follow the rule of law” in their attempt to challenge the results of the February 25 disputed presidential poll, a Cardinal in Africa’s most populous nation has told ACI Africa.

On March 1, Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared the ruling party candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, winner of the presidential election, BBC News reported.

Nigeria’s main opposition parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) disputed the results, accusing the INEC of not uploading the presidential results from the polling stations.

INEC leadership announced that Mr. Tinubu garnered 8.8 million votes against 6.9 million garnered by Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Obi’s 6.1 million votes.

In a Friday, March 3 interview with ACI Africa,  Peter Ebere Cardinal Okpaleke said the electoral process was “marred with lots of loopholes” as well as “cries from different angles that the process was not as transparent as expected.”


“The new Electoral Act gives specifications on the process to elect a new president. We are so disappointed with INEC for not having followed that process,” Cardinal  Okpaleke told ACI Africa on the sidelines of the Plenary Assembly of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) taking place in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

He urged Nigeria's opposition parties who “failed during the process” to “take it easy and follow the rule of law in order to get their country on the right path where mistakes have been made.”

“There are opportunities to correct, especially through the courts or even the INEC can reflect and then highlight areas they have made mistakes,” the Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Ekwulobia Diocese said. 

He added in reference to INEC officials, “It is possible they can no longer recount or maybe name another person as a president-elect, but if they are honest and provide the materials available, the facts will speak for themselves.”

On Thursday, March 2, LP Presidential candidate, Peter Obi, said he will  challenge the result of the election in court, Reuters reported.

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“Let me assure all Nigerians that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to reclaim our mandate,” Mr. Obi told journalists at a press conference.

In separate interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese said, “All along the process of the elections, the church in Nigeria has been of the opinion that we needed to do all we could to pray to vote according to our conscience, to obey all the laws. And that whoever would emerge at the end of the day as a Church and as a people who believe in God would support him as God can make anybody work for his purpose and for the development of the country.”

With the announcement of Mr. Tinubu as president-elect, Bishop Badejo said, “The Church believes that there are opportunities for dissenting competitors to go to court.”

He called on Nigerians to remain “calm and wait for the outcome of the courts if there is any appeal against his (Mr. Tinubu) election.”

Whatever happens, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop said, “every Nigerian president would need our full and total cooperation as good citizens and as good Catholics.”


The Local Ordinary of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), an entity of SECAM, highlighted what members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) expect of the new president.

“The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria had a meeting just before the elections in Nigeria and we had the opportunity and privilege to welcome all three presidential candidates who were contesting in Nigeria and submit to them a list of demands and wishes for the country,” Bishop Badejo told ACI Africa March 3.

In the list submitted to the Presidential candidates, he said, members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) indicated that Nigerians want the head of the Federal government “to pay attention to the life of the young people, to create employment opportunities for the young people, provide an enabling environment to invest in education such that the incessant strikes that have affected the life of so many Nigerians would stop.”

The Nigerian Catholic Church leader who was appointed member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications in December 2021 further said that Catholic Church leaders urged the Presidential candidates to ensure that “all religions be given equal treatment so that wherever people live in Nigeria, they will be able to practice their religion freely.”

Catholic Bishops in Nigeria also asked the Presidential candidates to see to it that “the government would work on security because Nigeria has been going through a patch of very insecure times so that religious extremism would stop,” Bishop Badejo told ACI Africa.

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He said CBCN members want that the “government be closer to the people and listen more to the needs of the people so that people can exercise their civic rights wherever they are and that the government do everything possible to improve the economy of the country.”

With the economy improved and with the enabling environment, Bishop Badejo said, “The generally accepted capacity of Nigerians, their capacity to do things for themselves and excel at every level, will then emerge and we are sure that Nigeria can then respond to the general impression that it is the giant of Africa.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.