TThe Edo State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Dan Orbih, speaks on the party’s grievances over the outcome of the September 28 governorship election, in this interview with ALEXANDER OKERE
he result of the governorship election announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission did not go down well with your party. What exactly are the issues?
The Edo State PDP has rejected the result as announced by INEC on the outcome of the governorship election. I must say that INEC must convince Nigerians that it has what it takes to conduct elections. I’m sorry to say that what we witnessed was not an election. For example, there was a returning officer for Etsako East Local Government Area, who came to the collation centre without a result sheet and he said that he had an accident, and that the screen of his laptop was broken. So, he did not even type anything to give as the result for that local government.
Somebody within the crowd offered him a piece of paper and he read the result from the paper given to him and that result was accepted by the state presiding officer. There was this other case of the returning officer for Etsako West Local Government Area, where Adams Oshiomhole comes from. They recorded 700 votes in his village and they wrote two votes for the PDP. The returning officer, on the prompting of the All Progressives Congress agent, said, “Let sleeping dogs”. But people insisted that he should talk. He came out with a very damning statement that the deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress was moving around with 10 armed thugs, forcing them (INEC officials) to be falsifying results in the various wards.
By the time he (INEC official) started speaking, the returning officer for the election from Ekiti State quickly stopped him so that he would not come out with more damning facts. But watching the announcement and the way they (INEC officials) were smiling and laughing, it was easy to reach a conclusion.
But one thing is clear with the Edo election; the future of democracy is bleak. Democracy is on trial and the only reasonable step this country must take to save democracy is to dissolve the present INEC and appoint men of proven integrity to handle future elections in this country. Only God knows what will happen if there is anything short of that by 2019.
Some people have described you (PDP members) as bad losers after you faulted the results, including the ones from Oredo and Ikpoba-Okha local government areas, where the APC was declared winner.
It is obvious that they (INEC officials) just sat down to write results. Before the election, you will recall that the (state) publicity secretary of our party came out with the information that the results had been written. Specifically, he mentioned the name of a national commissioner, who is from the North and had no business in the South, where the election was to take place. But because she had a job to do, she came even before others, so that she could perfect their rigging strategy in Edo State.
Interestingly, neither (Governor Adams) Oshiomhole nor the woman denied the statement that they had written the results earlier. So for us as a party, we were not surprised by what played out on Election Day. They showed total disregard for the process that took place in the various units and wards across the state and sat down in the collation office, with Oshiomhole as the commanding officer, and were busy writing results. When it was obvious that, in spite of their manipulation, it was going to be extremely difficult to get the figures that could make them declare their candidate, based on what happened on that day, they resorted to outright cancellation of results where the PDP won overwhelmingly.
When the collation (officer) was asked by our party agent why there was a discrepancy in the figures, all he could say was that some people might have done their accreditations and did not return to vote. Unfortunately for him, he did not know that it was an election where both accreditation and voting were done simultaneously. So, it was a theatre of the absurd. A lot of things that happened on that Election Day gave the impression that the present leadership of the INEC has taken this nation back to the pre-colonial era. It has shown quite clearly to Nigerians that it does not have the capacity to conduct free and fair elections in this country. To that extent, I am convinced that democracy is on trial.
Your party claimed that 88 per cent of the votes cancelled belonged to the PDP. How did it arrive at that?
We have video recordings of the ballot papers, which show clearly that those votes belong to the PDP. For example, in Etete (Government Reserved Area), the PDP won overwhelmingly and there was no violence. Results were announced and people were jubilating; everything was done in an orderly manner. But at the collation centre, the returning officer cancelled the election. He said that there was violence, forgetting that we recorded what went on in that place. There were so many other places like that. In Olokpon, the voting materials did not even get there, but they announced results for the place and several other riverine areas of this state. So, this and so many other cases have shown clearly that we have a long way to go as far as elections are concerned.
We have documented evidence of areas where the PDP won overwhelmingly. But those results were cancelled. In one of such, the returning officer shamelessly announced a staggering figure of over 30,000 disallowed (void) votes for no just cause. He announced that votes he rejected were over 30,000.
Then, how would you react to the allegation by the state governor that the PDP was the party that rigged the election and induced voters with cash gists?
I am surprised that you are talking about Oshiomhole. I want to categorically state here that the PDP did not have any money to give to voters. We are not in government at any level. We had no support from the Federal Government, the state government or local government. What we did that shocked the APC and its leadership was that we were able to run one of the most effective campaigns ever embarked upon by any political party in the history of Edo State. We were able to campaign on issues. All these were further reinforced by the current economic hardship in the country.
The members of the APC are still finding it difficult to believe that we were able to mobilise so much support without the type of resources they brought to Edo to lure voters. In fact, it is common knowledge that Oshiomhole boasted that the people were hungry and that, with money, he would buy their votes. That was why they brought out billions of naira to lure voters. Even at that, the election still did not go in their favour.
But why did your party accuse the APC and INEC of alleged connivance to rig the poll without substantial evidence?
It (the rigging) was obvious. I said it three days to the election. The (Edo State) Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chris Nehikhare, came out with the information that the party had received very reliable information that the results of the election were already being written, and that the results sheets were being given to the governor to write the results in favour of the APC. Interestingly, neither Oshiomhole nor INEC nor denied it. So, it means that both of them admitted that the information was correct and that was exactly what played out on the day of the election.
At a time the country is facing great economic challenges, INEC ought not to compound our problems by throwing this nation into political chaos. We cannot afford to put further burden on the socio-economic development of this country by causing confusion as a result of INEC’s gross incompetence and inability to assert its independence as a body empowered to conduct elections in the country.
How would you rate the role of the police and other security agencies in the conduct of the poll?
There was a general redeployment of commissioners of police before the election. Then, the Edo State Commissioner of Police was redeployed. The governor boasted that he had concluded arrangement with the (former) Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, on how he wanted the election to be conducted. He (Oshiomhole) went to Abuja and came back to say that the police commissioner would not be transferred. Indeed, the man was asked to stay back in Edo State.
As the date for the election drew closer, it appeared that the police commissioner was not ready to risk his profession for a pot of porridge. He then said that the man must go. He was transferred and another commissioner of police was posted to Edo. In a matter of days, following the fallout of my statement that if it was true that 8,000 armed militants had invaded Edo State as Oshiomhole claimed and that it was an indictment on the police command and other security operatives, the commissioner of police, in all sincerity, said there was no such invasion by militants.
Of course, that was at variance with earlier claims that there were security threats in Edo State, which was used to postpone the election. And that to the governor was not a good sign. Again, he went to Abuja to say that the commissioner of police, who claimed to be a Christian, should be posted out of Edo State and probably should be sent to a church to practice his faith. Surprisingly, the man was transferred barely 48 hours after. On the request of the governor, the current commissioner of police was brought in.
While this drama was playing out, prominent leaders and members of the PDP were victims of intimidations, arrests, harassments and violent attacks from the APC. At the end of the day, many of our members and supporters ended up fatally wounded in hospitals. Reports were made but no effort was made to bring those responsible for the crimes to justice.
Are you aware that some election observers lauded the conduct of the police during the election? Why is it so difficult for your party to agree with that?
We have documented evidence – pictures and videos – of police officers putting their thumbprints on ballot papers and putting the papers in ballot boxes. There are also pictures of INEC officials and National Youth Service Corps members doing the same thing. These pictures were taken by PDP agents, who were driven away from the polling units. From a distance, they were able to get the pictures of policemen and INEC officials putting ballot papers in the ballot boxes. Were they supposed to do those things under our law? We also have evidence of money being openly shared to voters by APC members in the presence of policemen. That is an electoral offence. So, what exactly were the roles of the police there? Were they there to aid and facilitate the process of subverting the will of the people?