Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, in this interview by BANJI ALUKO, says the governorship election recently held in the state was rigged in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC), allegedly in connivance with INEC, police and some other stakeholders.
the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), lost the governorship election in Edo State despite the confidence exuded before the election. What happened?
From available information, the election was won by PDP but Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) announced the result in favor of the APC candidate. I must confess that the Edo governorship election was a major test case for INEC. It was not just about Edo people, but democracy in Nigeria. It was an opportunity for INEC to show and demonstrate that it has the capacity to conduct free and fair election. It obviously failed that test woefully. One thing that has come out of the election is that the future of democracy in Nigeria is bleak. There is no doubt that democracy is under threat from people who are supposed to be unbiased umpire but have decided to play the role of willing collaborators with those who have taken the path of enemies of true democracy.
With what happened in Edo State, I make bold to call on the INEC chairman and all his commissioners to resign forthwith so as to save democracy in Nigeria. There can be no democracy when the electoral process is flawed in a manner that those who are participating in the process no longer have confidence in it. For me, if there will be 2019 as regards elections in Nigeria, politicians must come out with a common voice to call for the resignation of the present INEC chairman and his commissioners.
Specifically, what were the irregularities that allegedly characterised the election?
You will recall that before the election, the state publicity secretary of PDP, Chris Nehikhare, at a press conference, informed that reports reaching PDP showed that results of the election were already written by INEC. He named other officers of INEC who were privy to the unholy arrangement. It may interest you to know that the publicity given to that press briefing was far-reaching, but till date, there was no statement from INEC denying the fact that the result of the election were pre-determined and already written. The only person who came out with something was one lady who said she didn’t share money that was alleged to have been shared. What I am saying is that there was no official denial by the principal officers of INEC who were neck-deep in subverting the decision of Edo people.
Your party claimed that results collated by INEC were different from the one announced. Do you have facts to substantiate these claims?
We have made our statement rejecting the results of the election. We have observed that the results that were issued by the presiding officers from the various units across the state were not the same as those announced at the collation centre. Details of our findings will be made known at the electoral tribunal. You will agree with me that watching the proceeding at the state collation centre that day will convince you that there is an urgent need to effect a desired change in INEC. So many things that transpired between INEC and APC have further reinforced the call for the resignation of all the principal officers of INEC.
You will recall that in the election, which was initially fixed for 10th of September, INEC chairman, with all the principal officers, assured Edo electorate of their preparedness to conduct the election. In fact, at the stakeholders meeting, words got to us that the election had been postponed.
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 throwing us into confusion as a result of their gross incompetence and inability to assert their independence as a body empowered to conduct election in the country.
How do you see the role played by the police and other security agencies in the election?
As I said, the future of Nigeria’s democracy appears bleak. There was general redeployment of Commissioners of Police before the election. The then Edo State Commissioner of Police was redeployed. The governor boasted that he had concluded arrangement with the police 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. As we progress toward the election, it appeared that the Police Commissioner was not ready to risk his profession for a pot of porridge. He now 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, it was an indictment of the police command and other security operatives.
What about the performance of the police and other security operatives on the election day?
We have documented evidence, pictures and videos of police officers thumb-printing ballot papers and putting them into the ballot boxes. There are also pictures of INEC officials and 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 capture the pictures of policemen and INEC officials putting ballot papers into the boxes. Are they supposed to do these things under our law? We also have evidence of money being openly distributed to voters by the APC people in the full glare of the police. That is an electoral offence. So, what exactly are the roles of the police? Were they there to aid and facilitate the process of subverting the will of the people?
It was said that both APC and PDP were involved in the the distribution of money to voters. How correct is that?
I want to categorically state here that 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, the state or the local governments. What we did that shocked 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 the people are passing through. The APC people 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 a common knowledge that Oshiomhole boasted that the people were hungry and that, with money, he would buy their votes. That was why they rolled out billions of naira to lure voters. Even at that, the election still did not go in their favour.
We have documented evidence of areas where 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 votes for no just cause, PDP votes. The drama at the collation centre was such that the key actors behaved as if they were at a home video location. There was this case of the Etsako East Returning Officer who came to present results without result sheets. He claimed that the screen of the computer he used to enter the results got broken; hence he had no result sheets and resorted to using figures from his head. Following the embarrassment, because it was shown live, somebody stood up and handed him a piece of paper which he read figures from. To my surprise, those figures were recorded as the actual result from that local government area. Such was the unfortunate display of inefficiency on the part of INEC.
So, you are now left with the judiciary to redress the situation. Do you have faith in the judiciary to get justice?
Under our constitution and under the law, when this type of thing happens, the place to go is the election petitions tribunal. We are going to follow that process logically until justice is done. To show you how unpopular the award of votes by INEC was, there have been demonstrations on the streets on daily basis. I want to use this opportunity to congratulate the PDP candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, for his maturity. I have no doubt that, if not for his timely broadcast appealing to people not to take the law into their hands, we might have had a serious issue on our hands. I also want to appreciate the good people of Edo State who, despite the intimidation, harassment and financial inducement, still voted for PDP because they believed there was the need to have a real change in Edo State. I want to assure them that the party will do all within its powers, through the legal process, in order to ensure that the injustice is reversed. At the end of the day, the popular will of the Edo people will prevail.