IDEAS Radio 1 March 2019

Aghogho Oboh: All right, welcome to Countdown 2019.  And, we’re half way done, and we’re half way going to the next one which is a week, just a week away on Countdown 2019.  Countdown 2019 is your, is your political show where we discuss all the news and all the big and significant issues ahead of the general … ahead of now the governorship election.

We’re going to review the general elections which happened with the National Assembly and the Presidential election on Saturday.  You can watch us on Twitter as well as on Facebook. As well send us your comments, as well, if you’ve got any question, we’d love to see them here too.   Our handles: @NigeriaInfoFM @RotimiSankore, @AghoghoOboh and @SEzekwesili. @ideasradiong also too, with Ayo Obe which is the IDEAS segment comes up first before we get into the other part of it.

Hello Ayo, welcome to Countdown 2019!

Ayo Obe: Hello Aghogho and congratulations for the marathon session that you and Rotimi did …

AgO: We were watching you also too, as you were doing analysis.

AO: Pontificating!

AgO: Yeah, we were watching and saying: Ah, good, good  so everyone’s going to be like a dead man, dead woman walking the following day!

AO: No, no no no, Mine was only a short … mine was only a short stint, well after the elections, while the results were still coming in.

AgO: Good evening Rotimi, a fellow co-traveller.

AO: They call them the night watchmen!

AgO: Ok, so IDEAS segment first.

Rotimi Sankore: Yes.  So the Presidential elections have …

AO: The National elections.  I say that actually, Rotimi …

RS: Because the House, the National Assembly …

AO: Well, not simply because the National Assembly was also … elections were also taking place at the same time as the Presidential elections, but because when we’re looking to – as we do in this segment – when we’re looking for issues of integrity, particularly when we’re talking about the integrity of an election contest; being able to see what happened in some of the parallel races helps us to evaluate or to assess whether the overall presidential result was, had the necessary levels of integrity.

RS: Yes, it’s interesting seeing what happened both in the Presidential, which most people focused on, and for the National Assembly, and the races within the states.

AO: Yes.

RS: Because for instance, some Senate races went in one direction, while the Presidential went in the other direction.  And it shows that there is some nuanced voting going on …

AO: Absolutely, yes.

RS: Some people allege that it is magomago, but it looks more like nuanced voting.

AO:  Well, I should say that for the most part, I think it reflects a higher degree of sophistication on the part of the electorate than one would think.  But, I need to relate the incident that I experienced, or that I didn’t experience, but you know … you may know that one of my other hats that I wear, is that every Saturday, at midday, we try to turn out for the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, and we occupy  space at Falomo roundabout on their behalf. And one of my colleagues who is actually the publicity secretary of the KOWA Party, and was therefore on election duty around the Falomo area, had gotten to a polling station and found that the voters were being asked: Do you want the … to vote in the Presidential or do you want the other ballot papers?  And you can see how that could go, because obviously somebody could say: Oh, I’m just, it’s only the presidential. And then, but they would have been accredited, and ballot papers could be legitimately issued, but they would not be stamped by the voter. So, that apart – and of course, she stepped in and stopped that. That’s something that, to my mind, calls into question the integrity of the INEC staff involved, and if it were to have been repeated elsewhere, because obviously this was somebody who was observing elections in one particular area, one or two areas and if there had been a general attempt along those lines – not just in Lagos, but elsewhere, where people were desperate, and felt that the coat-tail effect was not going to carry them through, they would also, resort to these sorts of antics.

RS: So that kind of  scenario that you pointed out, whether by omission, whether through ignorance, or whether deliberate, by commission; if replicated along a certain pattern, could skew the …

AO: It could certainly skew the National Assembly results.  It wouldn’t necessarily affect the Presidential election because as you say, most people are focused on the Presidential election.  But it’s just that … you know, when we say that every … that when the hunter learns to shoot without missing, the birds learn to fly without perching.  There’s always some new means of evading the methods that are put in place by INEC, the Independent National Electoral Commission.

RS: But in this kind of scenario, what would have happened?  Someone would have accredited?

AO: Yes, and so then three sets …

RS:  And then said they’re only here to vote for presidential because that’s what they were asked, and they were not nuanced enough to say: What do you mean, it’s … I can see three boxes there, I’m here to vote for all.

AO: Yes, I’m just here for the presidential.

RS:  So if they are given just the presidential ballot …

AO: Then the two, the other two ballot papers could legitimately be stamped.

RS: For any party?

AO: No, they would be stamped as issued ballot papers, and then they would be thumbprinted or fingerprinted or marked …

RS: For any party …

AO: For the party of the choice.  Yes

RS: … if there wasn’t the vigilance

AO: Of course, you need the agents  that’s why we’ve discussed this in our previous …  the vigilance and depends so much on the integrity and the vigilance and the alertness of the political party agents, because election observers can only observe, but  party agents can legitimately raise issues and, you know, say things. I think, that’s just one, and I believe, and as I say, I really don’t know how widespread that was.  But you also have this situation of violence at the polling station. Now, in Lagos in particular, the complaint was that the violence was in targeted areas. Whether the violence was after the election and then to … because we did see pictures of ballot papers …

RS: You mean after the voting?

AO: After the voting, that we saw pictures of ballots destroyed and scattered …

RS: … scattered, set on fire …

AO: … and so on and so forth.  But INEC was supposed to have done re-run elections.  It’s not clear that that took place. So, particularly as we look forward to the next election it’s something that is particularly important.  I think that some of what this reflects is the old saying that “All politics is local.” And the reality is that the people who have … even though the size of the prize at the federal level is so enormous, the people who have an interest in whatever they want to do, are the people at the local level, they want to make sure that they … because they feel that they can affect the outcome of the election.

RS: Well, talking about the local level, so we saw something which, I mean, Aghogho and I when we were on the night shifts for several days as the results were coming in, were noticing what seemed like a pattern, where in some local governments in some states, there would be voting, but for whatever reason – violence, people being chased away – as some of the SCOPEs the State Coalition Officers for the Presidential Election themselves were reporting, because in fact it was what the SCOPEs were reporting that was drawing our attention to it: that people would vote, but as the results were being … as the votes were being counted …

AO: Collated

RS: Collated.  There would be violence, people would be chased away  and therefore, there would be no result even though people voted.  And it seems that in those instances there were no votes taken into account from those places.

AO: Yeah.  Well this is …

RS: And it ran into hundreds of thousands of votes!  So in the PDP’s estimation as their official, Chidoka, was saying, you know, like past midnight on the last day, he said that in their estimation, that this would amount to about 5.1 million votes, which they claim is more than the gap …

AO: The margin of victory.

RS: … the margin of victory.  It’s not clear how vigorously INEC disagrees, but the INEC Chair has always said that once the results are declared, you can free … you are free to go to court, and if there is evidence, it can be overturned.  I mean, what happens in those kinds of cases? I raise this because as we can see in Osun State, there was a rerun in some polling units when this happened.

AO: Yes, I mean, I think that INEC has to be challenged on its failure to run the rerun elections.  Because I think that we, I’m putting on my lawyer’s hat here now: the fact is that the jurisprudence in Nigeria is that an election result will only be set aside for irregularities, if the irregularities were widespread enough to substantially affect the outcome of the elections.  Now, the … that’s a legal … and when I tell you that the elections of 2003, and the election of 2007 which even the winner was embarrassed to have been declared the winner of …

RS: That’s President Yar’Adua.

AO: Yes.  They still passed that bar, of not substantially affecting the outcome.  So it’s not a high bar. And I think that for those of us who are looking for higher degrees of integrity, you’ll remember that we said that what we expect from INEC is – not that low bar – but that they should not do worse than previous elections.  And there are two ways you can look at this.

One, you can say that: Well, considering that this is the first election where we had simultaneous … or well

RS: Accredit and vote

AO: … where you had accreditation and immediately voting, and the last time we did that was 2007, it’s obviously an improvement on that.  But when you compare it to the way that the 2015 election was conducted, then it’s obviously not an improvement. There were more cases of INEC simply still showing that it was not prepared for the election, and more cases of people finding that they could not vote, or that their votes were being, were not being counted.  And I think we should also bear in mind that even though INEC’s original guideline was that once the card reader is not working the voters, should be, if the card reader is not replaced by 2 pm, then the voters should come back and vote the next day. In fact what happened in many cases, was that the election officers resorted to using the manual register to accredit voters.  Now, you have to ask yourself …

RS: Which was not uniform.

AO: It was not uniform, but it was something that INEC said was not going to happen.  And that was one of the reasons they gave for not counting votes that were cast where the accreditation had been manual.  Quite frankly, you mentioned figures of 300,000 from SCOPE. PDP is talking about 5 million. Well, I … I mean, I’ve heard a lot of people saying that the runner-up in the election should take it, and should not challenge the result in court and so on.  But to me, it’s one of two things. You either challenge the result in court, in which case people can then, you can then produce your evidence which will support your challenge to the result; or you concede defeat. But this half-way house, whereby you are not conceding defeat, but you’re saying:  I leave it to God, I’m not taking it … No. I think that the Nigerian people who are looking for increased levels of integrity, deserve to have a better … to have the result tested in court, if it’s to be tested, or … but not to be left neither fish, nor fowl, nor good red meat. We want to, and I would say that I don’t think it’s a matter of heating up the polity or anything, I think that we …

RS: Well, it’s every candidate’s right to challenge, legally …

AO: Exactly.

RS: Well, we have to take an ad break and we’ll be back in a few minutes, please stay …

AO: Well we should say that the IDEAS section would come to an end here, because, I mean yes, I’m happy to talk about the other aspects, but I think that if we’re talking about the Integrity quotient of this this election, that it did not measure up to the Integrity quotient of the  last election, even though it may have done better than the 2007 election, so that’s – if I can say – “My Verdict”!

RS: Okay, Alright.  Thank you so much Ayo Obe.  Please stay tuned we’ll be back in a few minutes after the ads.