Nigeria’s Electoral System On Trial In Abia –Onuoha-Bourdex | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigeria’s Electoral System On Trial In Abia –Onuoha-Bourdex

Posted: May 27, 2015 at 1:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Dr. David Onuoha-Bourdex was the Senatorial Candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for Abia North Senatorial District in the March 28, 2015, election. In this interview with journalists, including EMMANUEL NZOMIWU, the senatorial candidate explained why he has gone to the election petition tribunal to retrieve his mandate. Excerpts…

Many people did not know that you filed a petition at the election tribunal, why have you been silent after the election?



Well, you may be right to say that a lot of people did not know that we filed petition against the outcome of the March 28 National Assembly election as it concerns Abia North Senatorial District. However, it would be more appropriate to say that we were amazed by the level of intimidation of voters and manipulation of results that characterized the election in Abia State. I don’t know whether you have ever been a victim of robbery. Your immediate reaction is disbelief and shock. That was exactly how we felt because my campaign organization and I did a marvelous work. We reached out to the people and mobilized effectively with the essentials of the election. Apart from enlightening the voters, we also focused on the crucial issues about the election. We were the only candidate that had a clear programme and blueprint for effective representation of our people. The people saw our passion and commitment to make a difference and they believed in us. The outpouring of genuine love and public goodwill energized us and we went into the election with this confidence that we are on the same page with the people. Even when the election was postponed from April 14 to March 28, our supporters did not flag in their zeal. In all modesty I would say never before have the people of Abia North Senatorial district shown the kind of commitment and consensus they displayed for my senatorial election. It was for this reason that I dedicated my victory to God and the people. But the shocking thing was that those who wanted to prove to the outgoing President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that they are on the ground and justify the huge campaign funds given to them had other ideas. That is what led to violence, intimidation of voters and alteration of results at the collation centres. And contrary to the reality of people’s rejection these people decided to use underhand methods to produce an outcome that was at variance with the result generated from the polling booths.

Which underhand methods did they use?

They colluded with some officials and ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to twist the expressed will of the people. So we decided to absorb the shock and bear the pain quietly believing that there is an opportunity to prove our victory. It is the belief in the power of the election tribunal to right the wrongs of the election that gives us hope that we would retrieve the mandate given to us by the people. To answer your question, we have been busy gathering facts and data to back up our petition in the tribunal. That is why it seems we are silent. Above all, what was stolen is not like a physical object where you could report to the police like a car or missing person, where other people could help in the search. Rather the setting up of election petition tribunals envisages that mandates could be stolen and the victims should have the opportunity to prove ownership. We are in the tribunal to do just that!

It is generally believed that it is hard to prove cases of irregularities at electoral tribunals; what gives you the confidence that yours would be different?

It is indeed that wrong perception that has been encouraging some politicians and political parties to devote time and resources to rigging. But my case like similar ones in the past would show that there is nothing like a perfect crime. The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and Nigeria legislatures have been devising strategies and making laws to make our electoral system credible. You recall that INEC introduced the Permanent Voter Card and card readers as part of its technological approach to avoiding rigging. So it is my candid view that these strategies, innovations, and Nigeria’s electoral system are on trial in Abia Election Petition Tribunal.

In fact, all eyes are on the election petition tribunal to see how far the judiciary could remedy the widespread irregularities and monumental rape of electoral procedure that took place in the State during the elections. It is a well-known fact, both within and outside Abia State, that the momentum during the last election was with our party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA). So the reality was proved at the polling booths when most of the results showed that APGA was maintaining clear lead. But, like I said, the human element came in when agents of the ruling party, who wanted to justify their boasts to the outgoing president, introduced intimidation and inducement to manipulate the results. I hope that proceedings at the tribunal and the ultimate outcome of the petitions would reveal how far the operational strategies of INEC, especially the technological innovation of the PVCs and card readers, were able to check electoral fraud. For example, if the total number of accredited voters on the INEC mainframe differs from what was announced in Umuahia, it is clear evidence of manipulation. As such the 2015 election is like no other. More over the fact that the All Progressives Congress, (APC) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, won the election would afford the tribunal the freedom of interference and orders from above to pressure them into maintaining the false report card from the election. Voters in Abia State, especially in Abia North Senatorial District, are fully aware that they voted for APGA candidates. So, those are part of the things that give us confidence that we shall reclaim our mandate. I can tell you that our people are patiently waiting to see how the electoral panel would react to the juggling of votes that denied APGA victory. We believe the tribunal justices would do the right and proper thing in the eyes of the law.

But the candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, has been making similar claims that he was rigged out of the election, how do you explain these conflicts?

Well, the only explanation is that it shows that some of the political parties in the contest rigged the election and everybody knows which party rigged the election in Abia State. So, if the consensus of opinion is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) manipulated the result of the election, the crucial question then becomes who won the Abia North Senatorial seat election? This is where APGA comes in. APGA won the election due mainly to a combination of factors. The imposition of candidates in PDP compelled the popular candidates to move over en masse to APGA. Remember that a similar movement took place in Benue State where erstwhile PDP members moved into APC and won the Senate and Governorship seats. In our case, when it became obvious that the former Senator, late Comrade Uche Chukwumerije, may not have another term in the senate owing to the PDP zoning format, some highly placed members of the party handpicked a candidate for the PDP ticket. In fact a member of my research team brought information that a prominent cleric had prevailed on the leader of the party to handover the PDP ticket to his friend. So when it became obvious that there was not going to be a transparent primary election, most of us were enjoined to get into the APGA platform. So the injustice and obvious lack of internal democracy in PDP deflated its ranks. That is how APGA became a singsong and household name during the election. So APGA provided a credible alternative based on the caliber of candidates it was fielding. Then coming to claims by the PPA candidate that he was rigged out, that statement could only be true to the extent that as a candidate he was affected by the rigging spree of PDP. The actual tally of votes from the field indicated that APGA came first followed by PDP and then the PPA. Kalu knows there was no way he would have won the election but as a show man that has the capacity for media blitz and entertainment, he is entitled to his joy ride. There is no way a candidate for a major election could be junketing across Africa, Europe and Asia only to fly the flag of a moribund party and win the election. In one breadth he said he was in PDP, in another he said he has been prevailed upon to step down from contesting the presidency and just two weeks to the election he said some people filled his forms to contest the senatorial election. At least the fact that the PPA candidate is asking for outright cancellation suggests that he is convinced that he did not win the election.