Former Minister of State for Defence and chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), OluAgunloye, speaks with IMOLEAYO OYEDEYI on issues bordering on the conduct of the last general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) among others.
Following the outrage that greeted the outcome of the February 25 presidential election, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, disclosed that about 12.99 million cyber-attacks were recorded during the election week. Don’t you think this is a weak way to justify the non-electronic transmission of the presidential poll result by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
Isa Pantami is a high-ranking and influential figure in the Muhammadu Buhari Administration and should be taken seriously. His saying that daily hackers rose from 1,500,000 to 6,997,277 on Election Day, that is by 451 per cent should be believed. But I just find the figures interesting; for instance: 12,988,978 per week, 6,997,277 per day, with the latter on election day which meant that there were more hackers attempting to attack the Nigerian cyberspace than the number of people, 6,984,520 who voted for Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar. It is difficult to know exactly whether the honourable minister was trying to justify the non-electronic transmission of the presidential poll result by the Independent National Electoral Commission. But the minister admitted that all the cyber-attacks were “successfully blocked” including the cyber-attacks on Election Day. With my knowledge and background in physics, instrumentation, computerisation, and politics, I don’t think the 451 per cent jump in cyber hacking that was reported to have happened on election day could be traced to interest groups heading for INEC servers and its 176,846 BVAS mobile offline devices scattered all over the country. It would be something else. Hackers who target electoral matters don’t wait for D-day to emerge with hammers and pliers, they got things wrapped up well ahead of the day.
Again, considering INEC’s admission that there were irregularities in logistics, election technology and doubtful conduct of personnel during the February 25 presidential election, can we say the commission has justified the various allegations and claims made by the opposition parties regarding INEC’s conduct of the poll?
INEC was honest enough to so admit that there were irregularities in logistics, election technology, and conduct of personnel during the election. That is the stuff in which the chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, is made. He truly projects to be outstanding and upright. He announced ahead of time that he was fully prepared for the election and was ready with a process, new gadgets, a set of procedures, rules, and controls including a new Electoral Act. But a few weeks before the election it became clear that INEC was perhaps not more independent as its name implies. The commission needed fuel, cash, and security and it became glaring to INEC that it is not that independent, but severely dependent on other arms of the executive government. The INEC boss started shuttling between meetings with the Inspector General of Police and service chiefs, for security cover; holding meetings with the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria for the re-painted or old naira notes, and sitting with the lords of NNPC for fuel. At the same time, the professor at INEC was holding a series of meetings with leaders of the political parties with a view to forging cordiality and compliance.
It is important to note that, at this point, former President Abdulsalami Abubakar, GCFR, was also busy getting party chiefs and their presidential candidates to sign peace accords that no-one would respect. As the day got nearer, the political parties were hatching plans on how to corrupt the electoral officials with financial and political inducement, capture the conscience of groups and societies with religious and ethnic cards and destroy the powers of choice of the electorate by buying votes with SIM cards, US dollars, OPay transfer, Indomie, bread, rice etc. So why won’t there be irregularities in logistics, election technology, and conduct of personnel during the election across the country since the election technology and the election processes were in the hands of personnel who are not staff of INEC and are out of the control of Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, but are mainly “staff” selected and maintained by interest groups? Check for instance, in one state, these [other] staff crippled hundreds of BVAS devices so that the Yakubu accreditation process could be bypassed. These are certainly not Yakubu’s staff.
For an election that gulped N302billion, the highest in Nigeria’s history, in your own honest assessment, how will you rate INEC’s performance, especially when the commission expended about N117billion on anti-hacking software for efficient protection of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)?
Honestly, I have nothing to say about these billions of naira spent or quoted to have been spent. But I make bold to say that the election was the most well-prepared for, more situated to be transparent free, and fair in the last 24 years in Nigeria. The election had all the features of a free and fair event. It cuts off several common election shenanigans like fake thumb-printing by the Mike Tysons, Moses Orimolades, and Williams Shakespeare, who reincarnate and come for voting in multiple polling units, voting snatching, box stuffing, etc. It stopped the kind of practice where all the 2.3 million votes in one state would be delivered to one presidential candidate without any voided votes.
But the irregularities that we have seen were not caused by aliens. They were conceived, hatched and carried out by us, at the Polling Units Collation Centres or INEC offices using manual and electronic means. In truth, are we really better in the other sectors – banks, schools, hospitals, airports, or ministries? Do our leaders or rulers or lawmakers even keep any of their promises or follow the rules that they lay out?
Both the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, and the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, have proceeded to the court to challenge the outcome of the presidential election. But do you see the opposition parties making a headway at the court going by the antecedents of the country’s judiciary on such matters?
The reactions of Messrs Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi are good testimonies for INEC. They both claim to have won the election, proclaiming that INEC did conduct an election with three winners, with each “winner” accusing INEC of being partisan, patronising, or outright fraudulent. The court, and not self-help modes, remain the only option that is lawfully open. So, it is good that they have gone to court. I understand that the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu, too might take INEC to court to ascertain why the results declared by INEC in south-eastern states showed very low performances, contrary to what his party expected.
Whatever the case, the court remains the last bastion. I expect justice from the courts notwithstanding that I have read Professor Niyi Osundare’s recent poem [entitled] “My Lord, Tell me where to ….” I have been an old fan and admirer of Niyi Osundare since he was a young Research Fellow reading Elegede Poetry at the annual memorial events of the renowned insurance man, Mr Femi Johnson, at Bodija, Ibadan in those heydays. But bastions are bastions. The courts remain our last hope.
In a few months, President Muhammadu Buhari will exit the seat of power. How will you rate the former military head of state’s performance, especially in key areas, such as security and stability of the Nigerian economy, which formed the nucleus of his campaign agenda for the country?
Mark it. President Buhari had great credentials to be a great president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was the state governor of multiple states; he was a federal minister of multiple ministries; he was a former head of state, as well as executive chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). He cut for himself the posture of a humble, austere, and disciplined officer and gentleman. But he will be judged on two accounts: (a) how he has delivered on what he promised to achieve in 2015 before being voted into power; (b) how he delivered on the two-point responsibilities of Chapter 2 of the Constitution to provide welfare for the people and protect the territory to which he swore an oath to twice.
Do you believe Tinubu’s presidency will address Nigeria’s socioeconomic and governance challenges such as the huge debt burden, ethnic bigotry, calls for secession, and surging spate of inflation, among others? And what will be the immediate reforms you will expect from him in his first 100 days in office?
I have substantial hope and confidence in Bola Tinubu’s Presidency and his determination and ability to deal with all relevant national issues with all sincerity and tenacity. He is a proven astute administrator and manager of people and parties. If you go back a little, you will notice that his cabinet as Lagos state governor was similar to that of General Babangida’s federal cabinet. In the two cases, those cabinet members were men and women of high calibre and professionals. I expect him to do well both in reorganising and repositioning his APC party as well as healing and uniting the country, reorienting the polity, and leading our great country to social justice and sustainable economic development for peace, progress, and prosperity. However, I am worried about his physical health and the possibility of his being subsumed into conspiratorial sabotage by insider hawks.
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