IDEAS Radio Episode 27, 15 March 2019 

Rotimi Sankore: Welcome back to Countdown 2019 on Nigeria Info 99.3.  We now commence the IDEAS segment with Ayo Obe. Welcome Ayo.

Ayo Obe: Hi Rotimi.

RS: Ok.  So, as announced earlier, we are going to be asking the big question whether the governorship elections met the Integrity test.  As regular listeners know, the ‘I’ in the IDEAS is Integrity, and also whether, or how this impacts on the Democratic process, the ‘D” in the IDEAS is Democracy.

AO: And Rotimi I am also throwing in another ‘I’, because with the number of states where their result has been declared inconclusive, and the pattern of voting in those states, there’s also a question about the Independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission as well.

RS: Ok.  Alright, so … should we start with the six states that stand out first?  I know there are also questions about some of the other 22 states where elections, where results were actually declared, but  the six states where the governorship elections will be holding on the 23rd of March, I mean, those are really the ones that stand out: Kano, Sokoto, Plateau, Benue, Bauchi and Adamawa States.  So, should we first ask the question: What leads to inconclusive elections?

AO: Well, it’s actually under the law and the regulations that govern INEC, it’s actually a mathematical issue and that’s why you find that where … when a result is declared inconclusive, what INEC is supposed to do is to take the number of votes cast and the margin between the winning, or the leading candidate and the next runner-up and say: If those votes which had not been cancelled were all to be cast for the second … the runner-up, would they overturn the result of that election?  And where the mathematics of it shows that the gap between the two leading contenders, is smaller than the number of cancelled votes, then INEC would declare that result inconclusive.

RS: Ok, but what leads to the cancelled votes?  

AO: Well, it could …

RS: Or what votes are declared cancelled?

AO: Votes are declared cancelled where they’ve been cast –  and of course the, whether for violence of some other reason, the votes have … the ballot boxes have been, as we’ve seen happening in some cases, the ballot boxes have been snatched …  

RS: Hijacking  or snatched … 

AO: Or snatched, yes.  Then you’ve also got a situation where a vote may have been cast, but because the thumbprint or the fingerprint or the mark of the voter covers more than one box, it’s been declared inconclusive … 

RS: But is that not rejected?

AO: Well.  I think … I’m not sure whether it … it’s a rejected vote, but when you have rejected votes, and it’s looked at as: Well this this is more than … you know, it’s …   Perhaps I should say that the tendency of our own polling officers is to set the criteria for rejection or non-rejection with the agents as they start to open the ballots, whereas, a more …  a better procedure would be to give the scenarios, the possible scenarios and get the agents to all agree beforehand: Would this be a rejected vote or not, because sometimes agents reject the vote that’s … 

RS: Because they assume it’s for the other candidate.

AO:  And then it turns out that there are more that fit that same criteria as their … 

RS: … that affects their own candidate.

AO:  That affects their own candidate.  So. But when you do it before you even open anything, you have a better – it’s not that it’s better – but you have a more consistent approach.

Then, where a voter, where there are registered voters at a polling station, and the, for one reason or another, the voters are ready but the materials are not delivered, then in those situations, the INEC would be expected to say that … and this is even  against the background of an extremely low turnout for the governorship elections … but nonetheless, INEC would be expected to say that if all the voters registered at this polling station where we did not deliver materials were to turn out and vote, then, what would be …  would that be enough to change the result?

RS: Is it, is it suspicious in any way that in five of the six states where the elections have been declared inconclusive, plus Rivers where it’s been suspended; is it suspicious in any way that in five of those states, the  PDP was leading, because you asked the question about … or you added another ‘I’ to Independence, or you added another ‘I’, standing for Independence.

AO: Well I just picked out the ‘I’ in INEC.

RS: Yes, ok.  So, is it suspicious in any way … 

AO: Well , the thing is … 

RS: … or is it just that PDP is concerned that … 

AO: PDP is rightly concerned, and we have to remember that this is coming against the background of the rerun in Osun State where …

RS: What is called the Osun formula?

AO: The Osun formula, but it’s the formula that actually has to be applied across the board.  And I think that what it reflects is that in the states where APC won, they won you know, with big margins in many cases, they won with big enough margins to overcome anything, for example here in Lagos  we know the margin of victory was quite a wide margin, and in many of the other states, the margin of victory that APC has won with has been quite large. But there have also been states that have been won by the PDP, and the margin of victory has been close, but not close enough to justify being set aside on the basis of cancelled votes.  So I think that while there is cause for concern, it’s actually because of the optics of it. I don’t think at this stage we can say that INEC is dancing to a particular tune.

I think that the continued failure to land one way or the other in Rivers State is deeply concerning, but that is because of the appearance that INEC did not carry out the necessary due diligence in appointing polling officers and so on.  And of course, now when you begin to have allegations that polling officers were card-carrying or declared adherents of one party or the other, then it becomes a question about: How did INEC get these staff. Now that’s not to say that in other states, that people who had allegiances were not also polling officers, but they were better,  probably better hidden. I think that even without declaring allegiances, there’s also the problem of being suborned. And at this stage, that election is also giving cause for concern, not least because leaving people in limbo, not knowing whether they are going for a rerun or not, is … is … a vacuum is to be abhorred by Nature. And I should also say Rotimi, that what’s happened in these elections  also underlines the importance for parties to have really well trained, on-the-ball party agents. There’s no point in treating the appointment of your party agent as your own chance to have a share of whatever is being shared. You have to get people who are ready … who understand that it’s not just about counting the votes, it’s about the whole electoral procedure.

RS: In other words, it is suggested that parties should have seminars or classroom style lecture for their agents to say, this is what the law says

AO: Yes, absolutely!

RS: this is what you should be looking out for, what the grey areas are.

AO:  Yes, because we’ve said before on this programme, that the integrity of elections, an observer can observe and make their comments afterwards, but when it comes being able to say, something is going, I want that stopped.  I want that attended to now, then the party agents – if they don’t’ know what’s happening, or if they’re just treating it as: I’m only there because it’s my own chance to chop as it were … 

RS: So actually, the results  in certain circumstances could also be a reflection of the ignorance or knowledge of party agents across the state or the country?

AO: Well I say that because … although I should also confess to my own ignorance and having misled the listeners about invalid votes and rejected votes, so you …  and to agree with you that you were correct about the difference.

But you see, I mention this issue about party agents because for example in Benue State, the PDP has really brought out its big guns, including a former Senate President, to act as the party agents, the agents to the party in their determination to make sure that their party is not cheated.  But even being a ‘big person’ does not mean to say that you know the rules. So you have to also know the rules.

RS: It’s about not being intimidated.

AO: No, well, it’s two things; not being intimidated and not being bought off.  Because many party agents, you know, when they see the money of the other side, and they sort of think …  But, so there are two elements to it. But no point in not being bought off if you don’t know what you’re there to do, so I would say that even for these big men of the PDP in Benue State, that it is still important to know what the rules are.

RS: Ok, when we finish this segment we’ll look at all the states in detail with Georges, but let’s look at these six states very quickly.

Georges:  She was making a point  concerning not being bought off.  You see, this ‘bought off’ … being bought off is not only in terms of cash, because we’ve seen  situations where … where the party agent, a particular party agent is … has been at the polling unit and … or voting point for …  since morning and he was unable to get water to drink or food to eat and all that, and at the end of the day, the other party that were taking care of their own party agent very well, he had to be begging them for a bottle of water or for the pack of food that they actually shared, and at that point he or she … 

RS: Your resolve weakened …

G : Exactly!  Yes, So it’s just like the Cane and Abel thing where he sold his birthright for a of pot of porridge.

RS: Ok.  That’s actually an important point because some of the candidates we had on Countdown 2019, the presidential candidates especially, before the elections.  When we asked about their capacity to deploy agents across, some of them said: Oh, we have volunteers! They’re going to volunteer, it’s a new way of doing things … 

AO: Yes.

RS: … which ideally is the way it should be … 

AO: And the volunteer will go with their pack of water and their pack of bread or whatever it is that they’re going to eat.

RS:  But then that has to be established well beforehand, that if you are volunteering you are volunteering.

G: Exactly.

AO: And that you’re not getting transport money.

RS:  And that you need to go with your water, your food, snacks and everything.  Ok, that would be a tough one for some people to … 

AO: I would say that with regards to last …  I mean in some ways you would say that the difference between what happened at the presidential level and what happened at the state level, I should say the national level and what happened at the state level, is actually …   it shows that the voters are thinking with more than just sentiment.

RS: We’ll follow the party.

AO: Yes.  They’re not … as I said before, you can’t rely on coat tails.  You can’t just say; I’m in the party and therefore I’m going through.  And I think that by the end of these elections we should see some of that being played out, even though the …  there’s a sort of want to be a winner-take-all, a kind of return to the 2003 scenario that we saw in Nigeria.

RS: So, going by that, one of the more interesting states, now going into the six,  is Kano.

AO: Yes, strongly pro-APC in the presidential elections … 

RS:   in the presidential elections, reasonably wide margin for the President.  But in the governorship elections, as of the time that the elections were declared inconclusive, the PDP candidate had more votes counted for him.  

AO: Yes.

RS: So Abba Yusuf had 1,014,474 votes and Abdullahi Ganduje of APC had 987,819. 

AO: With 26,655 votes behind.

RS: Margin.  Yes. So PDP was leading at the time with just over 26,000 votes.

AO: But that in itself reflects the difference between what happened at the national level  and what happened at the state level, because even at the … even in the National Assembly elections, you don’t find this same closeness of the result.

RS: But interestingly, the cancelled votes are 128,572, so … 

AO: In Kano, 141 thousand … 

G : 128 thousand … 

RS: No, in Kano, the cancelled votes

AO: Ok, I have a different … 

RS: Ok, alright, but in any case, over 100,000

AO: Oh, absolutely.  I mean there’s no doubt that the cancelled votes if they were all cast for the APC, they would change the result of the election.  Now of course, there’s no saying that, and in fact, it may … sometimes when these things happen, the people decide that they want to make their point, and they come out in even greater numbers, because I think that another thing that we have to pay … to look at in regard to these elections is the extremely low turnout,  That by itself does not change the integrity quotient of an election, but those who stayed behind last time, may either give up or, they may feel: We have to come out.

RS: In terms of specifics, the difference in the presidential election between APC and PDP, was one thousand and seventy-three … 1,073,175 votes.  So that’s a very wide margin; APC won the presidential election by over 1,000,000 votes. In the governorship elections, the PDP has scored over 1,000,000 votes, … hang on … as against the 391,000 in the presidential.  So if we are to go by this, the PDP has added about 700,000 votes … 

AO: Yes.

RS: … between the presidential and the governorship.

AO: And there’s no getting away from the fact that the video which surfaced of the Governor, in respect of which the explanation has been almost brushing off …

RS: That’s the video referred to as Gandollar?

AO: Gandollar  I mean, it’s … The Governor may or may not have a genuinely valid  explanation, but even the way in which that explanation has been delivered, has been very off hand, and sort of like: I’ve said it, you have to believe me, I don’t have to …

RS: Including by the President …

AO: Yes.  Well, but the President is not running.  The President would be very sure he’s going to get what he’s going to get in that state, but when the Governor is acting as though once I’ve spoken everybody has to believe me, then the people may … 

RS: I’m mentioning the President because the President was asked twice about it   not being investigated because he has immunity

AO: Yes, we discussed that  and we said that we know … and you remember Rotimi,  because I did say at that time that the President cannot say that, because there has been judicial interpretation of the immunity to mean that that does not stop investigation.  And that once those investigations are ongoing, the results will almost certainly come to the eye or ear of Mr President, so even if we the people don’t know what those investigations are, he the President would certainly know.

RS: And in any case a lot of public commentators and the media have pointed out that there have been other sitting governors that had immunity that were investigated.

AO: Well this is the point, that’s why I say … 

RS: Because they were not from the ruling party.  Or at least, that’s what it seems like to a lot of people.  Ok, so we’ll see what happens to Mr. Ganduje … 

AO: Well, I should sign off on my …  Well, we certainly will, because we in the IDEAS section, we want to see whether Integrity,  issues of integrity actually play a part in the decisions made by voters. Because often it seems as though it’s all about identity rather than issues, but I think Kano is such a clear case that it would provide a very interesting exercise, and certainly something for us who are concerned about Integrity, Ethics and Accountability to see.

So I want to say: Thank you very much for waiting for the IDEAS section, and to please follow us on Twitter.  Check us out on our website. And also, you can see our uploaded videos. All our transcripts are up to date. So we’ll see you next week!

RS: Ok, we’ll take a short break for ads.