National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Chief Victor Umeh contested for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat in the last election. In this interview with journalists in Abuja, the APGA boss argues that the 2015 general election was a sham in the South-East and South-South. He accuses President Goodluck Jonathan of betraying the trust APGA had in him by allegedly using security operatives to rig in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He also speaks on other issues. JOE NWANKWO participated in the session. Excerpts…
What is your assessment of the last general election, especially in relation to your party, APGA?
My assessment of the elections is that the elections were not completely successful. For an election to be adjudged successful, the elections must succeed in all parts of Nigeria. In other words, the same standards, the same template, would be used in the conduct in every part of the country. The 2015 elections produced different environments for the elections. The INEC manual for the conduct of 2015 elections were not followed in all parts of Nigeria. So, to that extent, one can say that the elections were not conducted under the same circumstances. For example, where the elections were conducted with card readers in Northern Nigeria and South-West Nigeria, the exercise was fairly good. Card readers were not used in the conduct of the elections in the south-East and the South-South states on the 28th of March, 2015. So, it would be very difficult to measure the success of the election on equal parameters across the country.
Would you throw more light on this?
If you used card readers to conduct elections in some parts and use manual accreditation to conduct elections in other parts, you will see that the elections would be producing different situations. The use of the card readers were meant to checkmate the manipulation of election figures, particularly in the area of voters accredited to take part in the elections. In the South-East on the 28th of March, card readers were not used in any state. The non-functioning of the card readers in the south-east has a very big question mark. It was predicted that the card readers may not work in one polling unit or two, which INEC said they will provide replacements within an hour on the day of elections. But on that day, from the start all the card readers deployed to the South-East were said not to be functioning at all. It was a clear case of sabotage and connivance by INEC with the PDP to rig the elections for the PDP.
Was the scenario you’ve painted applicable to both the presidential and governorship elections?
What happened on March 28 happened on April 11, and in the supplementary elections. Like I said earlier, INEC, prior to the general election, was very emphatic that wherever the card reader fails to function, the election should be rescheduled. In the end INEC did not keep its own rules in the exercise. The commission turned a blind eye to its own rules. And this resulted to the farce called elections in the South-East.
?Did you not see this coming before the elections?
?How can we see this happening when INEC promised that they would be firm and would not be drawn to moves to get them do the wrong thing. INEC said they would never be compromised by anybody. But rather than keep to their words, electoral commissioners were collecting list of Ad hoc staff from politicians, precisely from PDP candidates, and deploying them. For instance, in my ward, the supervisory presiding officer, is the blood sister of my opponent in the PDP. ? So, when you look at such things, they are heart-breaking. And that was why on the 28th of March, elections were conducted at the polling units without card readers in the South-East. Ballots were counted and recorded in the prescribed polling units. But all the ward collation officers were nowhere to be seen. And it was like that in the whole South-East because the ward collation officers were nominated by the PDP candidates. Collation could not be done at the ward level. When the people were ordered to bring their materials to local government offices of INEC, the collation officers were also not found at the local government offices of INEC. The electoral officers started sourcing for people to collate the ward results at the local government offices. While they were in that process, in the evening of 29th, the soldiers arrived and took everything away, accompanied by PDP candidates. These were things that happened.
What happened to the working relationship that APGA had with the PDP?
We supported President Jonathan for the election; there is no argument about that. And up till today, the reasons for which we supported him are still germane. But, unfortunately, despite the promise that President Jonathan made when he visited us, that he would allow a level-playing field on the day of elections, we saw a different thing. On the day of the elections, he did not only make the field uneven, he made sure that the PDP candidates were empowered with soldiers, police and INEC to rig the elections. So to that extent, we are pained that despite our support for the President, he did not allow a free and fair election to take place, especially in our stronghold, which is the South-East.
Would you, please, expatiate on this?
In Anambra State where over 1.6million people collected their PVCs, the president got 660,000 votes. In an election in which card readers were not used, they had sabotaged the use of card readers to enable them resort to manual accreditation and laying foundation for writing the results in huge figures. They wrote for themselves and forgot the president. In Abia, with about 1.1million voters, PDP got 368,000 in the presidential election. In Imo State where the PDP candidate, like in other Igbo states, was in charge of the electoral process with the backup of the soldiers, Jonathan got 559,000 votes. It was lower in Enugu State and Ebonyi State. But compare this figures with what happened in 2011, where in Anambra State Jonathan got 1.45million votes, in Imo he got 1.3million votes, in Abia State about 1.3million votes. So they deceived him into taking over the apparatus of the election and instead of using it to deliver the President, they used it to deliver themselves. That was why he lost the election.