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Sunday, 16 October 2016
Edo guber election was daylight robbery -PDP Chairman
The Edo State governorship election, which was won by the All Progressives Congress (APC), has come and gone, but allegations of fraud and rigging have continued to trail its outcome. In this interview, Dan Osi Orbih, the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State, said he was optimistic that they would reclaim what he called “our mandate.”
What is your take on the Edo State governorship election, which was won by the APC? The election was a fraud and daylight robbery. Before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) went on break during announcement, which to us was to have time to perfect the manipulation of the results, we noticed that the results declared at the polling units were at variance with the one they were announcing. And we quickly called a press conference and rejected the results. So we were not surprised when the result came out and they allocated figures to Obaseki and declared him winner.
My take on this is that if INEC knew that at the end of the day they would just sit down and allocate figures to whoever they wanted, there was no need to contest the governorship election. All they should have done was to tell political parties to submit names of those who were interested, and just allocate votes and announce a name. Going by the outcome of the election in Edo State, I want to call on the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, alongside his national commissioners who were involved in the fraud, to resign.
Why are you calling for INEC chairman’s resignation? It is because of their role in the manipulation of the results. From the election proceedings, it is clear that the future of our democracy is bleak if these people remain in office. The Edo governorship election was a test case for INEC to demonstrate under its present leadership that they had the capacity to conduct a free and fair election. But at the end of the day, they failed woefully. They should resign and save the country from further crisis. At the moment, Nigerians are going through economic crisis, so INEC should not inflict further burden on them by way of political crisis. I don’t see this present INEC conducting 2019 general elections and you expect something good to come out of it. They will throw the nation into crisis, so it is better to save the nation from that situation by asking them to either resign or be disbanded. With what we have seen so far, INEC should be reconstituted with men of proven integrity who would defend their names rather than submit to the dictates of external interest.
Are you saying someone was giving directives to INEC during the Edo election? Yes, the events leading to the election indicated that. First, the government redeployed commissioners of police across the country. The commissioner of police in Edo State, Chris Ezike, was redeployed too, but Governor Adams Oshiomhole said no because he wanted to use him for the election. He took the next available flight to Abuja and the man was asked to stay. But few weeks to the election, he discovered that the man may not do his bidding and he asked for his transfer, and he was eventually transferred. After that one, it was election postponement because of security challenges. I granted a press conference where I said if Governor Oshiomhole said 8,000 militants were in Edo from Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa states, then that was an indictment on the police and other security agencies in the state. From the issue I raised, journalists confronted the police commissioner, saying that if it was true that militants invaded Edo without being detected by the police, it meant that nobody was safe in the state. Even Napoleon Bonaparte, at the heart of his military exploit, did not go to some of the wars with 8,000 soldiers. That was the reason they put off the election, coupled with alleged threat of Boko Haram that would cross several boarders, River Niger and Kogi State to come to Edo for reasons that we don’t know. They could not give a convincing reason, but we now know that the reason for the postponement was to give INEC enough time to manipulate the election with the state government and the APC. The interesting thing was that the national chairman of INEC was in Edo holding a stakeholders meeting, and I was there. While in the meeting, somebody sent a message from Abuja that the election was being postponed, and when the chairman got the message from Abuja, he said the election must hold.
Are you saying INEC was not consulted before the election was postponed? Yes, because after assuring us, he (INEC chairman) later called us back for another meeting and said he would go to Abuja for further consultation. The issue here is that the law establishing INEC said it is an independent commission, responsible for taking decisions concerning conduct of elections and declaring results. But the election was postponed without the knowledge and consultation with the INEC chairman. What I am saying is that they should resign since decisions are taken for them, or they should go back to the parliament to amend the law to say it is a department under the police, presidency, or a department under the party in power. Until that is done, it is wrong to still refer to it as independent electoral commission. But there was a postponement under the PDP-led federal government… When it took place during the 2015 general elections, the then INEC chairman, Mahmud Jega, was not in a meeting telling Nigerian how prepared they were for the elections. He was not saying one thing and different announcement coming from elsewhere. The decision to postpone that election was conveyed to Nigerians by INEC, but in this case, the chairman was holding a meeting saying he was not aware of the postponement and that the election would hold.
Is that why you alleged that the results were manipulated? Don’t forget that in less than 48 hours to the election, we got the information that results were already written, and our publicity secretary, Chris Nehikhare, addressed a press conference on it, where he accused a national commissioner and one lady at Edo INEC of being the arrowheads behind the manipulation and writing of results even before the election was conducted. And N2 million was given to be shared each to those who perpetuated the fraud. The INEC only denied that no money was shared but did not deny that results were already written. Also, they did not deny that the allegation was not correct and that they would conduct the election within the rule of the game. So, that alone, and subsequent events that happened, confirmed what we said. You claimed the results were written well ahead of the election, but the electoral officer alleged that your agents signed the result sheets. That is not true. I have never seen a bunch of characters given a very serious national assignment but reduce it to home video. If you watch the procedure, a returning officer responsible for the result of a local government came to the collation centre without a result sheet. He said he kept the result in his personal computer and that the screen had broken, hence he was going to use his discretion to read what he could remember. Then, somebody from the audience gave him a paper and said, “Does the figures in that paper agree with what you saw during the collation?’’ He said yes, and started reading from the paper. Such was the level of drama witnessed on that day. Another case was when the APC said they should be given more votes for Etsako West Local Government and the returning officer said, “I thought we should allow a sleeping dog to lie.’’ And the state returning officer asked him to continue, unknown to him that he was going to open a can of worms. He said, “You are asking for more votes, are you not aware that the APC running mate came with eight armed thugs? I did not mutilate any result, we acted with gun on our heads. As for me, I don’t even know the criteria they used in chosen the electoral officers that conducted the election.’’
You said you would go to the Election Petition Tribunal? There is no doubt about that; at least for the sake of Edo people who feel so bad about the injustice done to them. As far as the result is concerned we would challenge it in court.
Don’t you think it would also go the same way of Bayelsa, Rivers and Kogi states? We have a responsibility to the people of the state to avail ourselves of all legal avenues as prescribed in the constitution. The outcome of our effort would be determined by the tribunal, and until we get there, I don’t want to talk about the way of Rivers. All I can say is that what happened in Edo State was different from what happened in Rivers and Bayelsa. In the case of Edo State it was outright robbery by those who are supposed to be unbiased umpires. They turned key actors to manipulate and upturn the will of Edo people.
But some of your party members have called for your resignation, saying that going to the tribunal would be a waste of fund because the election was free, fair and credible? Nobody takes Oshiomhole with his bags of lies and deceit seriously. If you are aware of his lies and propaganda, you would not even ask this question; maybe you are new here. That statement was written from the Government House. Money was given to somebody who is not a member of the PDP to issue that statement. Every PDP member in Edo State and even non-members want us to pursue this matter to a logical conclusion. No PDP member would say we should not go to court.