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Presidential Polls: INEC voted against Nigerians’ choice – Edaghese

Barrister Mathew Edaghese is a chieftain of the Labour Party (LP), member, Peter Obi National Campaign team, and International Coordinator of the Obidient Movement. He spoke with OJIEVA EHIOSUN on the just concluded Presidential election, noting that the election was not free and fair as envisaged, accusing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of playing out a written script in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the President – elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Excerpts:

There is a general outcry by the electorate that the Presidential election was manipulated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, President – elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, do you share this same view as a chieftain of Labour Party (LP)?

I want to begin by saying that Labour Party won this election squarely as it is evident from the votes collated at the various polling units. Lagos State particularly was a classic case of suppressed votes. Obi won Lagos, yes, but the margin of which he won was far more than what they eventually declared. That was corroborated by our opposition even the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who told everybody through a televised programme that at their situation room that what Obi scored in Lagos was close to a million. But INEC for whatever reason decided to declare just over five hundred thousand figure for Obi. Labour Party candidate won Lagos with a wide margin not the fake results that INEC declared.

As legal practitioner I want to believe that you are talking with facts and figures because it is INEC that has the power to announce or declare results not social media propaganda. Do you have the facts and figures to back up this claim?

This is the erroneous argument by INEC to cover up their illegal act. They are governed by the law, the Electoral Act of 2022 as amended, and the INEC guidelines which they set for themselves. They are subject to it, they are independent but not to the extent that they are independent of the law, they are independent as long as they comply with the provisions of the law that gave them such powers and responsibilities. So they should not assert that section of independence now to act above the law. That erroneous notion that it is only INEC that can tell who and who did not win is not correct, INEC’s duty is to declare the winner, not to manufacture the winner. Election victory is at the polling unit levels, it is from the polling units that results are compiled and forwarded to the local, state and federal. Declaring a winner and declaring the results are two different things. Declaration of the winner should be anchored on the results declared at the polling units. If INEC results are at variance with what the people at the polling units recorded then such result is questionable. INEC has no power to declare results, they are to announce results.

Are you saying that INEC has failed in its responsibilities?

That is self-evident. INEC has even accepted that they failed in the system. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, was confronted right at the national collation centre in Abuja with proof, facts and evidence, but he ignored them, saying that whoever is not satisfied should go to court. INEC’s duty is not to direct people to go to court, their primary duty is to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. INEC shouldn’t act as a conductor directing people where to go to seek redress. INEC decided to go manual instead of electronically just to be able to manipulate the process. To ask if INEC failed is begging the question, INEC has failed Nigeria and the international community. In fact, INEC is the greatest enemy of democracy in our land. INEC operated in the dark for days, claiming that their server had problems. They did that to deceive Nigerians. Yakubu and his team should be held liable.

Is it that INEC acted out a written script?

Yes, the facts speak for themselves. If a man who knows what to do but chose to do the opposite, you don’t call it a mistake, it was a deliberate act. When they saw results tricking in, and they discovered that the candidate they wanted was not getting what they wanted, they had to go against the laws. So in this case, you don’t need a prophet to tell you that they knew who they wanted as President.

Some of world leaders had already congratulated the President-elect, and certificate of return given to him, what is your take on this then?

Anybody is free to congratulate the INEC declared winner, there is a difference between elected president and a declared president. Anybody can be proclaimed a leader, democracy is not government by proclamation, it is government by choice, and that choice is a choice that should be made by the people, the electorate. If people vote for a candidate, and INEC decided to hand pick another candidate as opposed to what the voters made as their choice at the poll that is no longer democracy, but authoritarianism. INEC was not expected to be partisan, they didn’t like the choice of the masses, so they decided to pick their own person as against the will of the people. INEC was not created by Heaven, they are creation of the law, and they are subject to the provisions of the law.

Going to court against the government that is in power will anything positive come out from it?

Every human action is judged by his previous action, I will not want to preempt what the court will do in the eventuality of the court proceedings. We have to look at history and records of our court system. Atiku went to court in 2019 against Buhari, but today I don’t think anything has come out of it. Buhari is on his way out. That is not justice.

Do you think the Presidency deserves commendation for being able to conduct the Presidential and National Assembly polls despite the doubts and misgivings trailing the outcome?

Why would anybody who is a believer of justice law and order give credit to somebody who failed in his duty to do the right thing articulated by the law? Let me tell you that President Muhammadu Buhari is complicit in this whole electoral fiasco and I will tell you why. Buhari may claim that INEC is independent, INEC is not independent of the law, INEC is acting in defiance and in contempt of the law. Is Buhari not the Commander –in- chief of the Armed Forces, and in control of the various security agencies which looked away when Nigeria electorate were brutalised during the election? For opposing the various malpractices that were conducted by hoodlums in the various voting units were ballot boxes not snatched away and voting papers of the opposition parties destroyed across the country. Has anyone been brought to book? The answer is no. You and I saw when media men questioned the Commissioner of Police in Kano State about an under aged voter, what was his response? He said there is no way anyone can know a child by looking at the child. That is an imbecilic comment coming from a high profile police officer. Is that man supposed to be a security agent if Nigeria is not a lawless country? Can you not look at an old man and know that he is an old man? Don’t you know a child by looking at the child’s face? Do you need a special training to know who is a child and who is an adult?

Do you think Nigerian leaders can guarantee a fair and free election in the future then given this present situation?

A beneficiary of a rigged election cannot guarantee you a free and fair election in the future. Nigerians must not allow this illegality to continue, because the consequence of allowing it to stand will be too dangerous to imagine in the future. The present INEC is criminal, they rigged the election in favour of their preferred candidate against the wish of millions of Nigerians. With what INEC has done and their candidate becomes the king, Nigerians should bid farewell to democracy. INEC shouldn’t kill competitive spirit of upcoming politicians. Democracy should be allowed to thrive in Nigeria.

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