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EXPOSED!!! Conspiracy to reject my petition at the tribunal – Akwa Ibom State governorship candidate

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The governorship candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Iboro Otu, in the recent general elections insists that there is a conspiracy to reject his petition at the tribunal. In this interview BASSEY ANTHONY, he bares his mind.

WHAT is your grouse against the 2019 governorship election in Akwa Ibom State?

I went into the election, like every other candidate; got the forms and was nominated by my party, the ANRP. I did everything as allowed by law like rallies, town hall meetings and I even took the town hall meetings beyond the shores of the country, just to get broad support. A few weeks into the race, however, a lot of things happened. Nevertheless, I regard them as the normal political intimidation, which I was prepared for. I have a strong political background — even though I have not been in active politics for long, so I understand certain overt moves. But afterwards, things started getting off key. There were people coming to buy off members of my campaign/support team. Others, in the name of stepping down, were paid off. I expected this because we had 17 political parties in the contest; some of them are parties that have been around for some time. Some of them, like the Accord Party and the Labour Party stepped down and endorsed my candidacy. This indeed is very novel in contemporary African and Nigerian politics. The regular situation is always one where major parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) get smaller parties to step down for them. But for the ANRP, which is a very young party that is barely one year old, to receive this sort of endorsement raised serious eyebrows in certain quarters and I greatly benefitted from this strategic and intimidating moment. One week to the election, however, it had become obvious that only four major candidates were seriously in the race. They are: the APC candidate, Nsima Ekere; his PDP counterpart, Governor Udom Emmanuel; the Young Democratic Party’s (YDP) Ezekiel Nya-Etok and myself flying the flag of the ANRP. But, at the end of the day, the election was disastrous. There was vote-buying in many of the 2986 polling units in the state. People were intimidated and election violence was rampant. Those who would not sell their vote were stopped from voting and some of them that did vote had those votes voided. After comparing notes with Nya-Etok, we realised that our experiences were similar. We agreed it is our duty to share our experience with the people, to protect our young democracy. A press conference was held where I made it clear that I will be going to court. Nya Etok agreed support me in the process. We both agreed to approach the International Criminal Court, at The Hague, as well, because vote-buying is a form of political repression, which is a crime against humanity. We filed our case within the 21 days from the announcement of result as required under the law. Coincidentally, our lawyer met with the APC lawyer at the tribunal secretariat on March 30. He had also gone there to submit the APC’s petition. The APC submitted its petition successfully, but when it got to our turn to submit, on the same day, it was rejected on the grounds that our petition was late. The secretary/registrar of the tribunal said this, insisting that the window for such had elapsed. I could not believe my ears. My team reminded the tribunal secretary that he was not allowed by law to reject a petition; that it is a court that had this power. Even if our petition were to come in two months after the deadline, it was his duty to present it before the court regardless. We have written to the President of the Court of Appeal. We have written reminders and even gone there to see her in person in Abuja, all to no avail. We have written to the National Judiciary Council (NJC). We have written to the Chief Justice of the Nigeria. We have written to the President, the Vice President, the Senate, the Speaker, just so all arms of government will be aware what is happening. So far, we have not got any response.

How do you know you are not a threat, when your score was nowhere near the winner?

It is because of the data they realised we collected. When I asked my agents to go in for the election, 2986 polling agents, I told them to concentrate on collecting data. I told them: ‘when anybody fights you, don’t fight back, just concentrate on collecting data’. We have thousands of people willing to come forward with so much evidence. We have people that are in hospitals who were shot. We have scores that received machete cuts and the interesting thing about these people is that they mostly are not my supporters or those of my party. Most of them are from the APC or the PDP. Many of them were brought to the hospital for treatment by their parties, but were later abandoned.

I don’t care whether I become governor or not. I believe I have service to provide to my people and the law says I should be given an equal chance to sell my ideas. If my people don’t want me, that is fine, but the process to pick who is wanted has to be free and fair. Leadership is not for sale where the individual with the highest amount of money wins. This spells immediate doom as there’s no responsibility to people. Mind you, next year, we have councillorship and chairmanship elections coming up. The issue now is, where does the vote buying stop? When you start buying councilors and chairman positions, the people will have no voice. All sorts of people with questionable character will occupy every space. I am saying let’s do this thing again and let the process be free and fair. If the governor wins again, I will congratulate him and even tell him, ‘Oga let’s work together to grow the state’. My concern is to grow the state. If the process is flawed, then there is a very critical problem with the system. I am not very concerned about how it is going to end. I am concerned about the process.

How do you rate the performance of INEC and the police in the election?

I believe the police, for example, did not have enough resources during the last election. In every polling unit, we had one police man against thousands of people. The guys couldn’t do anything. In a unit where there was a little bit of fracas, the police couldn’t do anything. A rerun would have more security apparatus available. With the INEC, the sophistication of the vote buying process was beyond them. Sometimes the monies were paid in different places. In many places, votes were bought and sold in the open. In other places, election violence and destruction of polling units and voting materials occurred. We had places were voting did not take place at all. In majority of the areas where vote buying took place, it was so sophisticated and when you look at the pictures and the videos evidence we have, you will see some of them. In Oron, for example, there was a location where a commissioner had a gig overnight. Voters with PVCs were invited ate and drank until the next day of the elections and they moved and monitored from the location to their polling units. These are facts I want to show at the tribunal. We have loads of data. In some instances, the voters were given tickets with numbers and locations of where to pick-up their monies after they vote so and so party. These guys had so many ways. If these guys employed all these negative scientific methods for positive progress, this nation would not be struggling with backwardness. We need to stop this thing before it becomes an institutionalize process. The corruption and negative disruption these later day politicians are bringing into the system is destroying the fabric of society and corruption of the minds of people. These days it seems people feel that there’s nothing wrong with vote buying. Take for example my polling unit, almost everyone is my cousin. They are related to me. Some of them came to me to said, ‘Oga how much you get? PDP put down N1.1 million here o and APC did as much.’ They don’t understand how wrong it is, they think it’s a kind of business. Now when everyone has agreed to do something, they unanimously accept that it is the right thing to do and protect it. This is a very dangerous precedent. When you tell them what is going on is wrong, they feel that because they are part of the process, you are saying they are wrong. They become very angry with you. We need to make people understand what vote buying is all about, what it takes from them and how it affects them. This is why I want those videos and pictures shown to the world, Akwa Ibom State can be a case study. What we are dealing with, if not nipped, has the potential of having every drug baron, every 419er, looking forward to contesting election in 2023 because of the attractiveness of the fraudulent electoral process as it is at the moment.

Did the 17 political parties that adopted your candidacy want to experiment with you or they were genuinely working for your victory? What do you want to achieve in specific terms?

I am not God and even the governor or president cannot know if the people in his cabinet voted for him or not. You do the best that you can and leave the rest to God. I believe the 17 parties had my interest and the interest of the state at heart because my interest was their interest. It wasn’t me going out to invite them to come and work with me. It was them coming to me to say, ‘brother, we want to work with you because we believe you represent a different kind of idea and a different kind of vision that will take us to where we need to be economically and otherwise.’ I want to get my petition in the tribunals so I can seek for justice for all these people who stood behind us, sos we can tell Akwa Ibomites what happened at the polls and get justice. It is simple. I don’t want to get my eyes or the eyes of my people off the ball. We have approached the court to compel the tribunal to take our petition. The intention is to make sure this does not happen again. If we can’t do it nationally, then we have to go international, which is why I talked about the International Criminal Court. You had 21 days to submit a petition, you had prepared your agents to gather data for this eventuality, why did you have to wait till the last day to file your petition at the tribunal? Everybody has to work till the last week because the data collection process is very difficult. We have 31 local governments. You need to sift the data to find which one is very useful. A village person will tell you I have data and sometimes you look at what he has and it is only the back of a person’s head they were able to record. You have to go through all the data of the 2986 agents, witnesses and others and pick the ones you want. There is nobody on earth that can file the petition in less time. The data collection process is not scientific. You have to go one-by-one, using your own small team. They know this. They know there is no one on earth that can file the petition on the 18th day. Everyone always files within the last two or three days. Unless you are not serious and you don’t have data, then you can just stay with your lawyer and write a letter, which is not of much use without empirical evidence. Again, in many instances, you look beyond the data and look at the person presenting it. You don’t want to present somebody in court and the other party will prove that the person is an armed robber, it invalidates your data.

With the volume of frustration you have encountered already, are you still determined to press on?

It is unfortunate that I have to quote Nnamdi Kanu, but every day, I realize that Nigeria is tending towards becoming a zoo; it is a real jungle. Many people in a position of authority seem to use it to do all sorts of rubbish. My determination is to see to an end, this godfather syndrome killing us our society. Who created this godfather caucus idea? The confidence to commit crime and to break the law is so high. It has to end. The tribunal Secretary told me to my face that nobody will respond to my letters and petitions no matter where I go in this country. He is a court registrar, speaking on behalf of the highest rank. I have gone everywhere and he seems to be right. When you look at the value chain. If they are so efficient to pass down all this level of impunity, it means we don’t have a nation. It also means what they know and what we know are two different things. There is a Nigeria for us and there is a Nigeria for them. In the Nigeria for them, they have the right to do anything. Are these the kind of people that will take us to where we want to go? Is this the democratic process that will drive us to the promised land? Is vote buying what will help us? The more I go, the more I see. It gives me some kind of determination to make sure I do what I can in my capacity to see how these challenges can be done away with. Nigeria belongs to Nigerians. Of course my life has been threatened. I am not afraid because something must kill a man. source >thenationonlineng

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