By Sunday Ani

The senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Lagos West Senatorial zone, Deacon Segun Adewale has described the recent decision of Osun State Election Petition Tribunal as a travesty of justice. The Tribunal in its ruling had declared the former governor, Gboyega Oyetola as the winner of last year’s gubernatorial election in the state.

Adewale noted that the pronouncement against the incumbent Governor of Osun State Ademola Adeleke mirrors the height of the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) desperation to take over the reins of power.

In this interview, he spoke on various issues.

The Osun State gubernatorial election tribunal has just upturned the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) June 16, 2022, declaration of Ademola Adeleke as the winner of the governorship poll on grounds of over-voting and directed the electoral commission to withdraw the certificate of return from the incumbent governor, Ademola Adeleke of PDP and give it to former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of APC instead. How would you react to the development?

The travesty of justice from the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal has again exposed the APC as a party that is desperate to hold on to power by all means, despite its abysmal failure at all levels.

Suffice it to state that the APC has surpassed all records of electoral malfeasance in Nigeria. The party’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 Federal House of Representatives and the Senate in 2011 and 2015 respectively, I can boldly recount the way it all played out as a victim of the ACN/APC rigging machinery. I can boldly assert that rigging actually was perpetrated right from the polling units to the collation centres where my victory was eventually upturned.

With the latest development in Osun with regard to the tribunal’s ruling, what advice would you give to your party, the PDP?

Going to the next election, we must take lessons from the Osun judgment to counter the rigging machinery of the APC. It is unfathomable that the Judges rather than call for a wholesome audit of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) report for all the polling units used for the election, decided to focus on the areas faulted by the APC and the areas where votes were deducted from the PDP. Even with the evidence before the court, the worst scenario could have been to order a re-run in the affected areas but that was not to be. 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, collation and counting of votes are still done manually and are susceptible to manipulations. To forestall a repeat of what happened in Osun State, the opposition party’s polling agents should ensure that the collated and counted votes do not exceed the BVAS-accredited votes.

But is it not rather awkward to say that APC which had greater control of power as at the time of the election across the state, seemingly going by your take, lacked required popularity to win the election?

For the Lagos APC, despite having over 700 elected councillors, 57 elected chairmen of local government areas and local council development areas, over 30 House of Representatives members, three senators, and their national leader, Bola Tinubu’s several billions nationwide, his seemingly popularity and acceptance, one would have thought the party would rely on the strength of these elected officers to win elections. It is sickening to note, however, that rather than contest in a free and fair election, the party would opt for rigging and the rigging actually starts from the point of voter registration. At this juncture, it is important to expose different mediums and means, through which such infractions are perpetrated.

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You mean the infractions cut across many phases?

Yes, and I will try to enumerate them one after the other here for you.

Number one is the PVC registration and collection. During the PVC registration, the APC made spirited attempts to deny PVC registration of non-Yoruba speaking ethnic nationalities in a popular market in Lagos. 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. Even in the ongoing PVC collection exercise, there are reports of the PVCs of suspected non-Yoruba speaking Lagos residents being destroyed to decimate the voting strength of the opposition PDP and it is a no brainer that non-Yoruba speaking groups have always contributed largely to PDP’s votes.

Number two is the polling units and collation centres. At the polling units, the APC would usually deploy a lot of funds to bribe the polling agents of opposition parties, security officials, and any malleable electoral officer. Despite the introduction of BVAS and electronic transmission of results, the manual counting and collation of results, as witnessed in the Osun case, has only represented rigging, hitherto witnessed at the collation centres in another form. One wonders why the BVAS 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.

Number three is thuggery. Unarguably, 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 their campaign billboards and posters. The thugs unleash mayhem with reckless abandon, while the security operatives look the other way, putting the opposition party candidates and their supporters at risk of losing their lives.

Number four is the INEC itself. While not casting aspersions on the ability of the INEC to conduct a credible election, it is worth revealing that some bad eggs would easily compromise at the dangling of the APC’s 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.

Number five is the Police. The APC would sometimes use its federal might to influence an election through the appointment of the Commissioners of Police (CPs) and deployment of officers for the purpose of election assignment. Some police officers are sympathetic to their 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.

Number six is the judiciary. The APC plays its last card on election rigging through the judiciary. With a humongous unending vault, I want to also state unequivocally that the party (APC) would break the bank to get favourable judgment at the tribunal and 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 of Naira begin to fly around. Given the foregoing, I am bold to say that since 1999, the APC 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.

From what you have said, it is very clear that money plays a key role in Nigeria’s electoral process. So, going forward, what do you think your party can do to ensure that these electoral frauds are eliminated so that a clear winner would emerge at the end of the day?

These saboteurs decided to sell their birthrights for the peanuts offered to them by the APC at the polling units. However, the unfortunate thing is that we all have to suffer for it every four years. My clarion call on the PDP is to re-jig and rework its winning formula by changing the old polling agents it has 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 in tight grips of APC. The people’s yearnings for a Governor, Senator, House of Reps, and members of the House of Assembly of their own from the PDP will only come to pass if we keep our eyes on the ball.