23rd October, 2013
Delta Central Senatorial Candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Chief Ede Dafinone says Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not release or issue election result sheets and other sensitive election materials in most places. He also says there was no election in Delta Central in this interview with journalists in Lagos
Though you protested your loss in the election, you seem not to take cognizance of the fact that some DPP leaders defected to the PDP days before the election and these people may have defected with their supporters. Don’t you think so? Secondly, the leader of your party, Chief Great Ogboru was rumoured to have worked against your party in favour of the PDP before the election, how will you react to that?
Yes, I believe that people that defected to the PDP at the last moment might have defected with their supporters, but it is unfortunate that we do not have polls that are defective within the country to canvass public opinion before an election. If you canvassed public opinion within the DPP in the local before the election, you would have heard that those politicians have lost favour with the party. For example, there is someone in particular who moved two days to the election, but DPP members in his local government will tell you that he changes his phone number every two days and nobody can reach him. This is purely somebody who is not in touch with his people, not in touch with the grassroots. I will also argue that our party is popular with the grassroots and the party is what led to these people being elected, because they were elected on the platform of the party, because of the popularity of the party and not on their personal recognition. Yes I will agree that these politicians are popular in their own right, but in this particular case, I would say no.
Your other point was that it was rumoured that Chief Great Ogboru worked for the PDP in the election, but this I would describe as a fantastic story, Chief Great Ogboru as the leader of our party will have a zero benefit in working for the PDP against his own party. He is not just a leader in the party, but he is the foremost leader in the party and for him to work against the party will be shooting himself not just in the foot but in the heart. So it is not possible, it is not feasible.
You complained about many irregularities during the elections and you have rejected the result, but were your supporters disenfranchised at the election maybe through violence or intimidation, what might have happened?
If I should go back to my earlier statement, the voting materials arrived in most local governments after 3.00pm and in some cases 4.pm, the accreditation of voters was meant to take place by 12 noon and voting commences thereafter. But when voting materials arrived between 3 and 4pm, accreditation can’t take place on time and any voting thereafter is now invalid. Where voting did take place and where the materials were there on time, there was military presence. PDP thugs’ presence beat the voters, moved the voters out of the polling units where those were on the line and voting, those who were not going to vote for the PDP were asked to leave, some forcefully. This type of intimidation and coercion can never lead to a true representation of the will of the people. It is a sham, a complete sham. There was no elect ion in Delta Central.
When you saw the way things were going, did you make any conscious effort to report the situation to the appropriate authorities?
As we saw events unfolding, we compared notes across the eight local governments and by 2pm, we released a press statement that was signed by the chairman of the party in the state, that there was no election going on in Delta State. For that statement to be released by 2pm, it clearly shows that we were aware of what was happening. We could see that there was no election going on and we protested immediately. At the different polling units and the different collation centres , our party agents made submissions to INEC to show their protest that there was no election going on and that the materials were not arriving on time and that the collation of materials were not happening properly. These protests were filed with INEC and despite those protests; results were turned in from the collation centres at the wards and at the local governments. It was as if those protests never happened, but they were all documented and we shall furnish the tribunal with that evidence.
You are accusing the INEC and the Army of collaborating in the rigging, but do you really have evidence of this?
Well, in the case of the Army, the PDP people in office were riding around the town from unit to unit accompanied by military patrols. This was witnessed all over the eight local governments. In the case of INEC, the complicity can only be evident from the figures. We have applied for these figures and we believe that when the figures are examined closely, you will see that where three people voted, the collated figure will now be increased to eight or twelve and that pattern will be consistent throughout all the polling units, but we need to have the evidence first in our hands before we make categorical statement on that. But just clearly from the numbers, it is clear that there is some foul play at hand. I pointed out to you that low voters turn out will be expected in a bye-election, however we had over three hundred and fifty thousand votes cast in this bye-election, while in the general election in the district for the Senate, the number of votes cast was just two hundred thousand, so we are saying that for a bye-election where you will expect a low voter turnout, the number of votes actually doubled, it is not possible. We expect also the reports from the international observers to show these facts about low voters’ turnout and that voters were intimidated and coerced in the polling units.
You just described that election as a sham, because according to you, it was marred by irregularities. Based on this, you know that the government has just set up a committee to look into modalities for the national dialogue that is being put in place in Nigeria and a lot of issues have come up about INEC’s handling of election in the country and you know that if you go to this tribunal now, the onus is on you to prove all these allegations, whereas the burden ought to be on the electoral umpire, so what will be your suggestion as somebody who has been a victim of INEC’s irregularities, what will you suggest as the way out?
The first recommendation will be for a truly independent national electoral commission. Our case will show that INEC is not independent. Secondly, the use of the military to provide security for election is fairly controversial, more so where that military is under the control of one political party participating in the election. The military actively participated in the coercion of voters and in some cases actually participated in the tearing up of ballot papers through the day, they cannot have been said to be independent or neutral in the process. So, for a free and fair election, we need an independent umpire, without that the process can never be just, it can never be concluded fairly. I dare say that without all those things in place, one will wonder how the elections of 2015 will conducted, because we are approaching those elections just about a year away and if at this stage we are regressing to the election style of 2003 and 2007, where voters are intimidated, where there is no voting and just come up with figures, then we should be all concerned.
You talk about irregularities, yet you had agents in all the polling units who were supposed to sign the result sheets, did your agents sign the results and if they did, were they coerced into signing, did they protest the anomalies or were they bought over? What really happened with your agents?
It is a combination of all of those. Where the military and thugs are present, our agents were scared away from the polling units by thugs, some of our agents were clearly bought over, but you will find as the record will show that most of the results were not signed by our agents, from the polling units up to the collation centres, they were not signed. Okpe Local Government was a particularly bad case where from 11-12.0’clock in the morning, protest was coming from that local government that they were being beaten and driven away by military personnel. It led to them protesting immediately, so there was no election in Okpe Local Government, in all the polling units. That protest was submitted to INEC, no result sheet was signed by our agent in Okpe Local Government to my knowledge.
Now, what will your counsel be asking for in the tribunal, is it a total cancellation of result, a fresh election or to declare you winner?
Our counsel will proceed to the tribunal and ask for a complete cancellation of the sham of an election. We do not believe that it is possible to declare a winner based on what happened on the 12th of October. There was no voting, voters were intimidated, the results that were written are all fictional, I make bold to make that statement, therefore to declare any winner from that process will be again false. We need a fresh election to decide the senatorial seat in Delta Central.
And you are sure this kind of thing will not happen again?
Well, we had called on the authorities before the election to warn of potential irregularities, but it seems our cries were not heeded to at all. I will want to believe that with the further cries we have made after the election that we will now get a fairer election. I said in my first press release that we are a fledgling democracy and no Nigerian will expect a 100 percent free and fair election, infact there is nowhere in the world that you will get a 100 percent free and fair election, you will expect a few irregularities to mar the process in a few location, but to the extent of what we saw on the 12th of October leaves us with no option but a complete cancellation of that result.
Based on what you said, what gives you confidence that you are going to get justice in the tribunal, because it seems they are all the same, be it INEC, Police, Army and even where you are headed?
I like to say that I am a believer in God and that if we all sit back and feel that nothing can be done right in our country, that justice can never be obtained; we will be like Lemmings flying out into the sea without any hope of finding somewhere to perch when they are exhausted. I believe in this country which is why I stood for this position. I believe there is some hope for this country, there is hope for justice in this country and there are many Nigerians who want to do the right thing and are willing to make sacrifices by doing the right thing. So no matter the popular view that there will be no justice and that going to the tribunal will only lead to more irregularities being thrown up. I keep my faith in God, justice will be served in this case.
What makes you so confident that you ought to win this election and that if there is another election that you will win?
I campaigned aggressively for three months around the eight local governments. I campaigned on the back of the programme of Urhobo unity, a programme of development, a programme of youth empowerment. My antecedent shows that I have been empowering young people in Delta Central since 2006, through free skills acquisition programme, through micro credit loans, through sponsorship of university programmes per session and that credential has put me forward to Deltans as somebody who has the mind for the people and I believe those credentials are enough for me to be a front runner.
But, some PDP leaders are saying that their victory is a result of the decision of the Urhobos to dump opposition and move into the mainstream and the loss of the DPP is a fallout of this decision, how will react to this?
Well, it is one possible scenario. If this was truly the case, why will the PDP be going from polling unit to polling unit offering voters up to N4, 000 to vote for PDP, if they were really sure that Urhobo people wanted to move into mainstream politics? I watched the Channels Television programme last night when Chief Paulinus Akpeke was criticizing the DPP in the same light, saying that Urhobo people wish to move into mainstream politics as opposed to opposition politics and that that is a reflection of the vote. I want to recall in January 2011 when we had the rerun election in Delta State when one of the leaders putting up such argument was personally caught carrying a ballot box on that day of the election. So, for such a leader to be one of those to criticize the DPP as not being popular when he was caught red handed with a ballot box in the January 2011 rerun. I have no evidence of that leader participating in this particular election, apart from him riding around with Military escorts all around the place, but in 2011 he was caught with a ballot box and I see no evidence that he would have changed his style. That the PDP feels that there is a need to win election this way, belies any other credible reason for their victory.