By Chukwudi Nweje

Deacon Segun ‘Aeroland’ Adewale is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Lagos West Senatorial Candidate in the 2023 general election. In this interview, he bares his mind on several issues including the recent judgement of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the election of Senator Ademola Adeleke as Governor of the state, the BVAS machine, and other national issues.

The Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal has nullified the election of Senator Ademola Adeleke, what are your thoughts?

 The travesty of justice from the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal has again exposed the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party desperate to hold on to power despite its abysmal failure at all levels.

Suffice it to state that the APC has surpassed all records of electoral malfeasance in Nigeria. The APC’s rigging machinery has become infamous for its brazen and pervasive use of state institutions to perpetrate its evil agenda in the last eight years.

Having contested for the House of Representatives and Senate election in 2011 and 2015 respectively, I was a victim of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) now APC, rigging machinery, which was perpetrated right from the polling unit to the collation centres where my victory was eventually upturned.

Even when I filed a petition at the tribunal, the CTC copy of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) result declaring me the winner was stolen in the Judge’s office.

The Lagos APC, despite having over 700 elected councillors, 57 elected Chairmen of Local Government Areas (LGAs) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), 24 House of Representatives members, three Senators, and the National leader, Bola Tinubu’s several billions, and purported nationwide popularity and acceptance, one would have thought the party would rely on the strength of these elected officers to win elections.

Are you saying that the APC has never won election by votes cast?

Rather than contest and win in a free and fair election, the APC opts for rigging. The rigging starts from the point of voter registration where different mediums and means are used to commit and perpetrate such infractions. From the registration and collection of permanent voter’s card (PVC), the APC make spirited attempts to deny non-Yoruba speaking ethnic nationalities in Lagos registration. We also have it on good authority that the APC connived with some unscrupulous INEC officials to take registration machines to their private residences for the registration of their members and loyalists.

Also, in the ongoing PVC collection exercise, there are reports that non-Yoruba Lagos residents are denied the opportunity to collect their PVCs, there are also reports that PVCs belonging to non-Yoruba indigenes are being destroyed to decimate the voting strength of the opposition PDP that has many of its supporters among non-Yoruba speaking groups.

The APC also usually deploys a lot of funds to the polling units to bribe the polling agents of opposition parties, security officials, and any electoral officer they can compromise.

Then there is also the issue of thuggery, and the Lagos APC harbours and deploys the highest number of touts and thugs for election purposes. These thugs are deployed to attack the opposition parties’ campaigns and destroy campaign billboards and posters. The thugs unleash mayhem with reckless abandon while the security operatives look the other way, putting opposition parties’ candidates and their supporters at risk of losing their lives.

The Osun Election Tribunal judgement raised some concerns regarding the BVAS machine, said to be the antidote to election rigging; the machine was used to accredit voters, and will be used for the 2023 general elections. What are your concerns regarding the over-voting reported?

 Despite the introduction of BVAS and electronic transmission of results, results are still manually counted and collated, and as witnessed in the Osun State case, it represents rigging, hitherto witnessed at the collation centres in another form.

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One wonders why the BVAS machine cannot print out results on election day. The BVAS only becomes useful as evidence in court where the APC has perfected the act of manipulating justice.

The basis of the Osun judgment has shown that the BVAS technology may not be fool proof after all. While accreditation of voters and transmission of results are done electronically, counting and collation of votes are still done manually and are susceptible to manipulation. To forestall a repeat of what happened in Osun, the opposition party polling agents should ensure that the collated and counted votes do not exceed BVAS-accredited votes.

 Do you think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the capacity to conduct free and fair polls?

 While not casting aspersions on the ability of INEC to conduct a credible election, it is worth revealing that some bad eggs would easily compromise at the dangling of APC carrots. It is therefore expected that polling agents would insist that the elections are conducted by the INEC officials in accordance with the electoral laws any time an infraction is noticed.

 What about the security agencies, the police for instance, what is your experience with them?

 The APC sometimes uses its federal might to influence the election through the appointment of Commissioners of Police (CP) and deployment of officers for the purpose of election assignment.  Some police officers are sympathetic to the cause or have a link with an influential member of the ruling party.  Some of these police officers go about arresting opposition politicians before, during, and after the election.

 The judiciary for some time now has played a prominent role in the election, why is that?

 The APC plays its last card on election rigging through the judiciary. With a humongous unending vault, the party would break the bank to get favourable judgment at the Tribunal up to the Supreme Court. Only men of integrity and good conscience, ready to dispense justice without fear or favour would stand up to be counted when the billions are flying.

I make bold to say that since 1999, from their days as Alliance for Democracy (AD) to Action Congress, Action Congress of Nigeria and now APC, the party has never won an election in Lagos without rigging.

Unfortunately, the APC has always done it with the support of some PDP saboteurs who have been compromised as polling agents. These saboteurs decided to sell their birth rights for the peanuts offered to them by the APC at the polling units. The unfortunate thing is that we all must suffer for it every four years.

What is your advice to the PDP?

 My clarion call to the PDP is to re-jig and rework our winning formula by changing the old polling agents we have used in the past eight years to avoid compromise by the APC. We must remain vigilant and focused to put an end to the inglorious era of the APC.

For us in Lagos PDP, we owe Lagosians who have suffered the lack of qualitative leadership and representation at the hands of APC. The people’s yearnings for a governor, Senator, House of Representatives, and member, House of Assembly of their own from the PDP will only come to pass if we keep our eyes on the ball.

Going to the next election, we must take lessons from the Osun judgment to counter the rigging machinery of APC. It is unfathomable that the judges, rather than call for a wholesome audit of the BVAS report for all the polling units used for the election decided to focus on the areas faulted by APC and areas where votes were deducted from the PDP. Even with the evidence before the court, the worst scenario could have been a re-run in the affected areas but that was not to be.