Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo State, has filed his petition at the election tribunal. In this interview with OSEMWENGIE BEN OGBEMUDIA, Benin City, he says the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a fraud and cannot stand, as there is overwhelming evidence against the party.
THE Edo State governorship election has come and gone, do you think you have sufficient evidence to prove your case at the Election Petition Tribunal?
You must understand that in as much I was the candidate in the election, I ran on the platform of a political party; people gave me their supports. A lot of people came out boldly to show that support. In accepting or rejecting the result of the election, common sense demands that you must look at the result, itself, and consult with the critical stakeholders on how your response should be. In this particular case, it was very clear that the result that was announced was completely at variance with how the Edo people voted. A lot of irregularities took place in places the APC said that they won. And the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chose to completely ignore such irregularities. In many places where we were leading, APC’s thugs were sent to disrupt the places, in spite of the promise of heavy security, and the police did not arrest anybody or stopped nobody.
How could there have been incidences of ballots snatching, violence and the police that was everywhere refused to arrest anybody; is it that those who carried out these criminal acts were invisible or have immunity? Financial inducement was the order of the day during the election; those places they claimed they won were like market places, where voters were told that if they vote for APC, this would be the amount of money they would get. Again, security agents turned blind eyes, even though they knew what the APC members did. It did not matter to them that those activities were electoral offences.
Many of your members also complained of harassment by security agents. Do you have evidence?
Of course; our leaders were deliberately harassed by security agents and thugs on the Election Day. There were instances we can mentioned where police went to the polling units to arrest our leaders on excuses that were laughable, and only for the security agents to take them to their police stations and released them after the election. It was a question of demoralising our supporters and members. It was a carefully planned script. And the police and the INEC gave their backing in ensuring that APC won the election by all means. We looked at these things and decided we cannot dignify the fraudulent result, which INEC announced in favour of APC.
Before the election, our people asked us: can you defend our votes? And we said yes. If we just walk away like that, it means we have helped to destroy democracy in our state; it means if there is election tomorrow, nobody will turn out to vote. The high turnout of voters you saw was a result of our appeal to our members to turn out enmass to vote. Fortunately, the INEC’s result did not reflect the massive turnout of voters at the end of the day. If you compare the result of this election with that of four years ago, you will conclude that more people turned out four years ago; but that is not true. There were more votes this time but the result did not reflect the voting.
So, what happened?
If you look at the result, you will find an uncommon situation where many people who were accredited did not vote. This even happened when INEC said that they will do accreditation and vote immediately, unlike the former situation where you did accreditation and return later to vote. People came to the voting centres, did their accreditation, they were given ballot papers, voted and at the end of the day, their votes were not counted. Clearly, INEC did a great disservice in announcing a man who did not win the election. As the real winner of the election, we put all these things together and our party said that it cannot stand. I agree with my party that the result INEC announced was fraudulent and that we won the election clearly. After the result was announced, Edo State was like a graveyard; if not for my peaceful disposition and that of my party, the whole state would have erupted in violence. I have always preached that on no account must anybody resort to violence. Under normal circumstances, if the election was free and fair, I would have congratulated the winner and appeal to Edo people to give him the necessary support. I cannot congratulate the man who robbed the Edo people of their votes.
Going by the results of the election in the three senatorial districts, it appears that the turnout of voters was very low in Edo south and Edo central, compare to the huge turnout in Edo North. What really happened?
That is the fraud we are talking about. Anybody who witnessed the election will attest that the turnout in Edo South was huge; the same thing in Edo Central. The turnout in Edo north was not as heavy as that of the Edo South. But if you check the result, you will think otherwise. It is not true; people just sat down somewhere and allocated figures to suit their intention. Having had the opportunity to receive our agents’ results from different polling units, and the official total result from INEC, it is very clear that the announced result was a fraud and it cannot stand.
Some people were of the view that many of Edo people sold their conscience; that they collected money before voting. What is your take on that?
The truth is that people will always capitalise on the poverty of our people; the present government in Edo State had deliberately impoverished our people to put them in a position they can buy their votes and conscience. Many people who took their money and voted for them were not enough to give them the victory they are claiming. Because we had told the people during our campaign that APC was going to give them money; that if they cannot refuse their money, they should collect it but vote against them. And many young voters told me they collected their money but voted against them; they voted for PDP. It was the realisation that people collected their money and voted against them that they started to collude with INEC’s ad-hoc staff to change the result in various polling units; did illegal massive thump-printing and destroyed many of our votes. You can see what happened at the George Idah Polling Unit in Benin-City; where one of their notorious thugs, Osakpomwan, having lost his unit and realising that his world was gone, attempted to disrupt the collation of the different results from polling units. He had tried it at a polling unit but he was resisted by the people and it is on video tape. He later moved to the collation centre, and we have it on good authority that a police officer in that unit opened that gate for him at the collation centre where you have over 20 armed mobile policemen, he was allowed to move in with armed thugs, started shooting and seized a lot of the election materials. Luckily for us, a lot of the results had already been collated. He did that and nobody arrested him. Till today, the police have not declared him wanted for that criminal assault that he personally led. Who gave Osakponmwan the right to carry arms? But he did it openly and nothing happened. Yes, some people voted because they were given money but how many were they? Yes, there was huge financial inducement, but the result APC got was predicated on irregularities, over-voting, voting without accreditation, ballot snatching, writing of fake results, illegal mass thump-printing. I will also tell you what we discovered: they paid some youths corps members to deliberately void many of our votes. In this election, over 30,000 votes were deliberately voided. More so, in trying to sort out the ballot papers, they deliberately stained PDP’s votes. Nearly 90 per cent of our votes were voided in that situation. APC was able to carry out these criminal acts as a result of the collaboration of the INEC’s ad-hoc staff and the police. I am sure you read in the newspapers that some of the ad-hoc staff recently protested at the APC’s state secretariat in Edo Statedemanding to be paid for the work they did for APC. And the whole world is not asking question. The level of irregularities and fraud was unbelievable. But we have confidence in the judiciary.
It is like you trusted the INEC and the Nigerian police to conduct a free and fair election. Are you now disappointed?
I am very disappointed in them; because if we don’t trust INEC, the only option was to boycott the election; we don’t have right to conduct the election, and we can’t call foreign agencies to conduct the election. It is only the INEC that is charged with the legal right to conduct elections in Nigeria. We had to also trust the Nigerian police; if not, we would have resulted to self-help like they did in some states, and that would have led to bloodshed of innocent souls. How long are we going to continue with carnage because of election? The police and INEC disappointed the entire people of Edo State. We had cases where police targeted key leaders of PDP across the state; illegally arresting them, just to make them leave the polling units so that APC could manipulate the election. APC’s members were moving with thugs, police and the army on the Election Day, sharing money and giving instruction on how to manipulate the election. In many areas where election did not take place, fake results were announcedlike Ikpoba-Okha, Ward 10 in Ologbo. Election did not take place there but result was announced and INEC shamefully accepted the result. There were many instances like that across the state. But we have faith in the judiciary; we have faith in the Almighty God that justices will be done at the end of the day.
With what is happening in the judiciary, do you still think the institution is still the last hope of the common man?
God remains the last hope. But in a legal sense, the judiciary is the place to go for redress. I also believe that the present harassment of some judicial officers is in bad taste. We applaud the fight against corruption, nobody can query that; but corruption is not just a fight against financial crimes. Corruption is also about subverting the due process. So, when DSS started arresting judges in the mid-night, even the DSS is being corrupted and subverted to do what they are not statutorily empowered to do; the institution is being corrupted. And of course, there are due process and when you don’t follow it, the process is being corrupted. If there are alleged corrupt practices against some judges, there are procedures to follow in dealing with the matter. There is an institution constitutionally empowered to deal with issues of corruption and indiscipline against judges; that is the National Judicial Council (NJC). Even if they wanted to arrest them for alleged financial crimes, the police and EFCC are there to do their jobs and it is not the job of DSS. We are not against the fight against corruption but let’s do it within the context of the rule of law.
Since PDP is already at the election tribunal, some people are wondering why your members are still protesting in Edo and Abuja?
People don’t understand that a mandate that is stolen is not for the candidate alone. It is just because the level of our legal jurisprudence is still very low, otherwise, an electorate can go to court to challenge the announcement of fake results. People are protesting because they believe they have been robbed of their electoral judgement; they believe an impostor has been announced as governor-elect of Edo State. The protest is beyond Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. In 2007 when Adams Oshiomhole was not declared winner in that election, was there protest? Even when he was at the tribunal, was there protest? The answer is yes. These are not protests by thugs; I saw serving senators, former members of National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly, doctors, lawyers and others, who felt cheated during and after the election. And the protests are peaceful. Even the APC that claimed it won could not celebrate.
Many of your members appear to be losing hope in the system. What is your message to them?
I want to appeal to them not to lose hope; they should be prayerful; I will do everything to ensure the actualisation of the mandate they gave to me. I cannot be compromised; I cannot be bought; and I have faith in the judiciary; I have faith in God. Edo people should also have faith, and on no condition should they resort to violence. It is going to be a long road and in the course of this journey, a man who did not win will be temporally sworn in; but we must not leave the state. The will of God will be done at the end of the day.