• Monday, April 15, 2024
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How INEC can regain confidence of Nigerians in Saturday’s poll – Peterside

Atedo Peterside is the founder of Stanbic IBTC and Anap Business Jet Limited. In this interview, the outspoken activist examines the conduct of the February 25 presidential poll and what INEC must do right in Saturday’s gubernatorial and House of Assembly poll. BusinessDay’s Iniobong Iwok monitored the interview and here are excerpts.

Why have you not spoken since after the presidential poll and why have you agreed to speak now?

By my nature, I find it difficult to speak without doing my homework, I needed time to do my homework, and get information that is available in public spaces from all over the country. Nigeria has 36 states, now I believe I have done my homework, so I can speak a little.

Are you still a member of the SDP?

Yes, I am still a proud member of the SDP.

But you publicly endorsed Peter Obi and did you vote for him?

Yes. I said I was going to vote for Peter Obi and I voted for Peter Obi. I was one of the luckiest people who came out on Saturday morning to the polling booth near my house on Victoria Island. I saw the crowd, the youth I joined, they told me to go to the front and vote that I was an elder and I was accredited successfully by BVAS and I voted and left.

I put up a tweet that it took me five minutes to vote. Later on, I came back to get the result, at the end when they had counted, and I believe you have the result of my polling unit, using Nigeria parlance, I am among those who managed to deliver their own polling unit.

What I will call Exhibit 1A and which I present to you today, is the result of my polling unit. My polling unit had just about 100 voters, Labour Party had 51, APC had 26, PDP had 15, AP had 1 and ZLP had 1 and three votes were voided.

The Labour Party got almost double the votes of APC and that was in VI, the polling unit was the one called Ozumba Mbadiwe, polling unit number 240801031.

Afterwards, I checked the results when the results were uploaded on the INEC website; I saw the results sheet there, and it was the same result that I saw on election day. I don’t have any problem with my polling unit.

I wish this was the experience all over the nation; I would be the first person to say there is nothing to discuss.

Unfortunately, evidence shows that I was one of the luckiest ones, in terms of being able to vote early, in terms of voter suppression, and no delay start, the results that were published were the same as what we counted. So everything was ok.

With the kind of results uploaded by INEC, how satisfied are you with the presidential election results declared by INEC?

I am not satisfied because I saw too many irregularities, and please, all information I am using is in the public space.

The information I am using is in the INEC website, in terms of the IREV and the results sheets versus what in some cases, parties and the polling agents insist is the true results, I would give a few examples.

Exhibit 2A here, shows you that somebody from Rivers State as an example, I could have started anywhere else, Rivers State is my home state, they have my telephone number, they have my contact, they have a right to scream to say, oga come and see what is happening here, in my polling unit in Rivers State, Labour Party got 223 votes, APC got 8 votes and the other parties got little votes. That is what the Labour Party agent is screaming they got.

When you go to exhibit 2B as published by INEC on the IREV, it is possible this agent is wrong, but the results are reversed in Rivers State, where he says, Labour Party got 223, INEC has uploaded APC 223 votes, where he said APC got 8 votes, and INEC has uploaded for APC 223 votes.

What people don’t know is that one important thing about BVAS is that all the votes must add up. So, you must always make a minimum of two changes, if you make one change it would not add up, unless it is someone that scored zero and even then if you change zero to zero only then would you have the same results. This particular agent is screaming that they reversed the results; INEC is showing the exact opposite for the two parties.

The votes are balanced when you look at the image that INEC actually uploaded on IREV, you can see on the right-hand side where they put the words, and you can see that the words had been altered and the eraser had been used.

I am not a criminal investigator, I invite people to go and look at the information for themselves. This is a polling unit with number 321507031, you can see that besides the APC, the figures in words have been changed, if you look at the one for the Labour Party they have erased all the figures in words and it is thoroughly changed. On the face of it, I am unable to dismiss what the polling agent was screaming that something seems to have gone wrong here. Also I should mention that because I have been involved in opinion polls and so on for years, you don’t just look at 175,000 polling units results, if you have been looking at election results since 2011, you would know where the dead bodies are buried.

You would from all the results, opinion polls, and trends you would know whether Labour Party is supposed to do well in Rivers State or whether APC is supposed to do well in River State or not when you suddenly see people screaming, that the two numbers were switched. APC’s small votes were given to Labour and the latter’s huge votes were given to APC, so the whole thing balances.

I am just projecting information, I saw it on INEC website and I looked at the information, it was altered. I am answering your question, if I am satisfied with that of course, I am not satisfied, I would like more investigation.

Let us examine another case which I call Exhibit 3A from Bauchi, you see a polling unit result in Bauchi State, forget about all the results announced by INEC that Labour Party scored nothing in Bauchi, this polling unit the agent was on social media screaming that at his polling unit Labour party got 199 votes, APC got 78, PDP got 95 and so on.

The same agent is screaming that what he saw on Channels TV or something is not correct for if in one polling unit Labour Party got 199 votes how can the same Labour get only 185 in the entire local government in Bauchi according to the result published by INEC? According to him, the results declared in the LGA for the Labour Party are less than what the Labour Party scored in the whole Local government.

I am not just throwing this up, because it is available on social media, this is the result people have put out and I have gone to INEC website to check the polling unit results and see that yes indeed Labour Party got 199 votes there and it was the highest in the polling unit.

I am going round to different parts of the country, because this information is available everywhere. For exhibit 4, this is a polling unit result from Imo State, it was from INEC website, it was uploaded there, and the polling unit number is 162406002. What is unique about the results that INEC uploaded is that it was not signed by any party agent.

The earlier ones I showed you, we saw it was signed by party agents. In Rivers State, the complaint was that after they signed someone altered the results.

In this one from Imo, not a single political party agent signed, it was only signed by an INEC official and put on the INEC website. The result showed that APC got 600 votes, Labour Party 4 and PDP 16 votes. If it is possible INEC can explain that, maybe the original results script got lost and it was their own official called Mbakwe that filled that out for himself.

If he filed that out for himself with the votes, with no other political party agent signing it we have a problem. There are polling agents in Imo State screaming about those results.

Exhibit 5A, is from Lagos State, two result sheets from the same polling unit saying this is the results of the election, the first one has no alteration, the one on the left is what INEC posted with massive alterations and you can see that the results totally changed in the other one. It is either somebody is lying, the polling unit agent is right or INEC is saying for whatever reason after that clean copy they have made adjustments all over the place and it is the same results.

Votes going to the Labour Party disappeared or shrunk and we know who the beneficiaries are because it was balanced at the end of the day. This is the trend that is worrisome; I don’t want to go to other states.

As you review the results of the presidential election, would you say BVAS and IREV were helpful at all?

BVAS was helpful because it established the total number of voters who were accredited. Whatever you are altering, you must add and subtract and we can see you doing the alterations.

IREV was helpful because you must post the results for us to see, this hurriedly altered result sheet that I am calling exhibit five, which the parties are rejecting, is not the correct results. These things were built to give us transparency and I am happy INEC has posted these results for the whole world to see and everybody can go and check on that particular polling unit results and compare it to what the polling unit agent is saying. I am saying that something is wrong somewhere.

How do you rate the chances of the PDP and the Labour Party in court?

I am not a judge, I can only talk about the results. I spent time scanning through the results sheets. There is a pattern and it is disturbing, all the examples I showed you where votes of the Labour Party transferred to APC and PDP votes were left untouched.

It is about magnitude overall, was this done on a huge scale all over the place. Let’s be careful, this is an election with a low turnout and the sum total of such incidents which I have presented can be vital. Let’s say the sum total was 1.5 million votes, that is the total that was transferred from Labour Party to APC, if you go back and look at the INEC declared results, they said APC had 8.5 million votes, if you deduct 1.5 million votes from that it would be down to 7.3 million.

If you add 1.5 million votes to Labour Party’s 6.09 million, the votes jump to 7.6 million votes. The point I am making is that what the court has to do is to look at these incidents carefully and see if there is a pattern that shows that in the aggregate something like 1 million votes or 1.5 million or even more votes were modified like this from results sheet to tempering.

Unfortunately, people have had time to temper with the results sheets. You see the last time I checked, INEC had not even finished uploading presidential results on the IREV; they had like 94 percent, I don’t understand why it takes seven days or ten days to post a results sheet. What are you altering that it takes four or five days to post it there?

You explained about doing your own work before commenting on the results.

Yes because there is another election coming on Saturday and we cannot or we should not repeat this nonsense. The last time they said it was because there was a problem with communication. Can we please on Saturday finish counting and immediately upload the results so we can all see it?

Instead of holding it back for two, three, four or seven days and bringing out altered sheets, we start arguing that this is fortified, this is not. It is important for everybody in INEC to know that the examples I have given everybody can trace it now. We know which INEC official signed the results sheet that no party agent signed. If people really fortified results, it is a criminal offence; we are talking about forgery and fraud.

So they should not go free, it is possible that the candidate is not involved, but fraud is fraud. It does not matter if your agent carries out that fraud even if the candidate should say I reject that fraud.

Some people say irregularities are normal practices in Nigeria’s elections, what is the scale of irregularities, and what impact do they have on the outcome?

Let’s look at the scale, I have shown you single polling units results in Imo State with 600 votes. I have a single polling unit result in Rivers State with 223 or more votes and Lagos the same. Let’s even imagine that the average was only ten votes per polling unit nationwide, 176,000 polling units multiplied by ten is 1.7 million votes.

If it was an average of ten votes that was transferred from left to right, it changes the result because when you add 1. 7 million votes to Labour Party and deduct 1.7 million votes from APC; it means Labour party has the highest number of votes.

It is not true that the magnitude of what you are looking for is so high, if it was an average of ten votes per polling unit, it changes the election results. This election was three horses, it is even possible that after you make those adjustments that PDP will get the highest results, but I don’t know.

I see results that a blind man can explain were tempered which explains why PDP and Labour Party walked out from the collation centre; everybody should go and do their homework, the result sheets are available for all to see.

Read also: INEC server records 12m cyber-attacks during presidential poll – Pantami

Do you agree with those clamouring that the chairman of INEC should resign?

I don’t think so, because the chairman of INEC is in Abuja, I had given you examples in Imo, Rivers if there was fraud carried out in Rivers and the state REC bring the results to Abuja and said it is the correct results, the INEC chairman hands are tight to some extent because he was not even there.

The parties are saying this is a fortified result, the INEC official is saying no, everything is OK. If it is a case of fraud you have to go to court to prove fraud, because fraud is about criminality. You need to go to court, you need investigation, and the INEC chairman cannot make himself the investigator, the judge, the jury and overrule Rivers State results.

I can understand if he is telling the parties to go to court, take this evidence and put it to the judges, let the judges look at it and tell the whole world from what we can view from the INEC portal that there was no distortion of results. Let the judge look at results from Imo State signed only by one INEC official and no other political party agent and say it is ok. People have to know that these things are now available publicly.

Would you support those who feel aggrieved and want to hold street protest?

It is premature; I would always advocate in a society, I am a disciplined person; aggrieved individuals go through all the processes. I don’t play God, take all this evidence that even a blind man can see and take it before the court, let the judges tell you it does not matter, at that time if you want to go to the street, I may join you.

But not now, give people an opportunity to do their work, no matter how much you distrust them, and let them look at the evidence the whole world is seeing. We have made ourselves the laughingstock across the world.

Your colleagues in the higher echelon of society have congratulated Bola Tinubu. What is your take?

If they go through this process and the judges convince us that everything was done correctly, whoever is the winner I would congratulate the person, for now, it is premature.

What I can see with my eyes is what INEC has uploaded, what they have uploaded is an insult to anybody intelligent. People who are rushing to congratulate him have not taken the time to look at the evidence or information.

What is your expectation in Saturday’s gubernatorial and State Assembly Poll?

It is a chance for the INEC chairman and others to redeem themselves; they should insist that everybody should upload the results immediately after voting, rather than giving excuses claiming they could not transmit the results, INEC cannot fail twice. The first time you can say they were trying out a new system, but they can’t repeat the same mistakes.