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THE APRIL 12 NATIONAL ELECTION WAS ANYTHING BUT FREE AND FAIR

Statement To Press Conference Organised By The Lagos State Chapter Of National Conscience Party (NCP) On Wednesday 16th April, 2003 At The Party Secretariat, 36a, Acme Road, Ogba-Ikeja, Lagos

SEGUN SANGO

Chairman, Lagos State NCP

(Segun Sango is also General Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement)

 

Permit us to start this press conference by exploding two popular myths deliberately built by the PDP-control government, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the media. The first of these myths is the claim that last Saturday election into the National Assembly was free of violence and intimidation. With respect to Lagos State, this is not true. Series of violent conduct and intimidations by hired thugs and the police characterised the elections in many parts of Lagos.

The second myth is the claim that there was a massive turn out of voters in the election. Again, with respect to Lagos State, this is an unfounded claim. For instance, going by the results, just about 1.2 million voters were said to have participated in the last Saturday election. Against the background of the fact that over 4.5 million voters were registered in Lagos State, the fact that only about 1.2 million voters came out to vote cannot be scientifically and justifiably described as "impressive", "large", etc. It is important to come to terms of our realities rather than live under false illusion of democratic consolidation when actually the requiem of democracy is being sung.

BACKGROUND TO THE ELECTIONS

The preparation by INEC for the elections and the conduct of ruling capitalist parties in Lagos State i.e. the AD have made it clear to critical observers that last Saturday elections would not have been truly free and fair. Throughout the electioneering campaign preceding the elections, the ruling party was openly and recklessly using public funds, vehicles, officials, etc to campaign for the re-election of the incumbent AD government without the INEC for once condemning this brazen violations of the Electoral Act and the requirement of fair play. For instance, serving caretaker local government officials were placing adverts in the newspapers and television stations canvassing for the re-election of incumbent AD government in Lagos State. Again, INEC never murmured a word to condemn this abuse of official powers. Instead of INEC to give adequate attention to logistics required for a free and fair election, its officials were most of the time pre-occupied with issues that would only restrict and derogate the political and democratic rights of Nigerians.

For instance, INEC fought up to Supreme Court level to make sure that Nigerians cannot enjoy the freedom to form and belong to political party of their choice as contained in the provisions of 1999 constitution. When eventually the Supreme Court rejected INEC’s unconstitutional and undemocratic stance on party formations, INEC immediately came up with its so-called "processing fees", the outrageous and illegal fees that have to be paid before Nigerians can participate in elections.

Needless to stress, this so-called ‘processing fees’ was nothing but a device to ensure that political power within the country remain in the hands of the treasury looters in PDP, ANPP and AD. Good enough, the court also rejected INEC’s attempt to make politics the exclusive preserve of the rich and looters. Therefore, the fact that money was lavishly used by both the AD and PDP in Lagos State to win last Saturday election at all cost was just a practical continuation of the pro-rich, anti-poor disposition of the INEC leadership. In this respect, the fact that only the AD and PDP have been declared victors should not be a surprise to discerning citizens. It was all part of a design to keep power in the hands of the ruling parties.

CONDUCT OF THE ELECTION BY INEC

An examination of the key features at the last Saturday election only goes to confirm the above worrisome prognosis. Let us give some specific examples:

  • The election did not commence as at when due in many parts of Lagos State. Unfortunately however, the INEC did not make adequate provisions to ensure that voters caught in the trap of INEC negligence were adequately compensated for by being given enough time to cover up for the lost time. Through this process, tens of thousands of eligible voters were disenfranchised. This is most evident in Ajeromi-Ifelodun Local Government Area.

  • There were no provisions made for voters to make their choices and vote secretly as is the norm in normal democratic elections. Sadly, this made it possible for the AD and PDP merchants to ensure that those that have received their blood money voted according to their expectation.

  • The AD and PDP members were given unrestricted opportunity to stay around the polling booth in several places, openly using money to bribe voters to vote for their parties. Meanwhile, INEC’s rules require that persons that are not officials or voting should keep a distance of about 300 meters from the polling booths precincts.

  • There was no iota of independence on the part of INEC with respect to last Saturday elections. Instead of using government vehicles to convey vital electoral materials, privately owned buses were used – a phenomenon which gave rise to several abuses. In many cases, these vehicles are either owned or hired by AD and PDP supporters. In addition, balconies of private properties were used as polling centres, a situation which was used to the advantage of AD and PDP whose supporters and members own most of these properties.

  • There were shortage of materials in many places and this sadly is against the background of the fact that INEC knew the number of registered voters per polling booth.

For instance, in the House of Representative election, in Oke-Afa/Ejigbo polling stations 047 and 061, there are 730 and 626 names respectively on the voters’ register but INEC provided only 200 ballot papers at each of these polling stations. In polling station 066 in the same area, there are 702 registered voters but INEC issued only 180 ballot papers. Thousands of voters were disenfranchised by INEC as a result of this bizarre shortage of ballot papers.

In contrast, many polling stations were supplied more than the required amount of ballot papers. For example, polling station 019 in Ward 11, Oshodi-Isolo local government area has 146 registered voters but was supplied with 250 ballot papers for the Hose of Representatives election. Polling station 029 in Isolo was issued 300 ballot papers despite the fact that there are only 184 registered voters.

  • Outright manipulation of results was another major feature of last Saturday’s elections. Here we shall give few instances:

(i) In two wards in Oshodi-Isolo local government, INEC officials recorded 3 votes for NCP in each ward in brazen and criminal contrast to the results from the polling stations in these wards. For instance, in Ward F1 (Oshodi-Isolo 03), there are officially 30 polling booths. The INEC returning officer, one Mr. Adeyemi F.A. recorded 3 votes for us in the entire ward in the senatorial election. Meanwhile, in one polling booth alone, we scored 32 votes as against AD’s 27. In Ward F4 ((Oshodi-Isolo 010), the same Mr. Adeyemi recorded 3 votes for the NCP. But in one polling booth alone in this ward, NCP scored 27 while the AD scored 35. In another polling booth, 18 voters voted for NCP and 40 for AD.

(ii) In polling booth 015 located in Sango High School, Agege local government area, the 33 votes for NCP was instead credited to another political party, the NPC. In polling booth 019 (28, Kosoko Street), the 14 votes for NCP were not recorded at all.

(iii) In Ikeja local government area during the senatorial election, INEC claimed that 65,084 people voted while there are only 64,940 names on the voters’ register, which means that more people voted than those on the voters’ roll.

What all these means is that in many areas, INEC officials merely allocated votes to parties according to their whims and caprices.

THE POLICE AND THE ELECTIONS

Overall, the conduct of police in Lagos State in last Saturday elections leave much to be desired. In many cases, police turned blind eye to act of intimidations and violence being perpetrated by the thugs of the AD and PDP to have their way at all cost. In addition, the police in several cases actually indulged in acts of intimidation, harassment of NCP agents, supporters and ordinary well-meaning voters. In Lagos Island for instance, hired thugs had a complete control over the entire electoral process. Bottles were intermittently being used and broken on the streets of Lagos Island to scare away potential voters and NCP voters in particular by the hired thugs of AD and PDP.

When at the conclusion of the elections, ballot boxes were being taken away by INEC agents without the counting of the votes as stipulated by INEC itself and people protested against this blatant violation, the police resorted to shooting in the air to drive away those protesting.

In Shomolu local government area, several of our agents were prevented from performing their duties as a result of their arrest by the police on the basis of unscrupulous allegations of "armed robbery".

In Ifako Ijaiye local government area, (Iju Grammar School polling booth), one of our agents was arrested by the police on the basis of the ridiculous allegation that he "insulted" a police officer. In several instances, whenever our agent called the attention of police officer at the polling booth (where this is available) to malpractices or irregularity in the electoral process, the police often characteristically responded by warning our agents to keep shut or else they will be sent away from the polling booth for allegedly "disrupting" the electoral process, a case of the complainant being made the accused.

IMPLICATIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

The above-stated background and features of the last Saturday’s elections portend great danger to the consolidation of civil rule. Let nobody be deceived, the verdict brought by INEC which in effect give the impression that the Nigerian people endorse the continuation of the rot of the past four years of the AD, ANPP and PDP governments flatly contradict the realities on ground. During the electioneering campaigns, we encountered widespread complaints of millions of Lagosians. They complained of the deplorable condition of education and health services, bad roads, refuse heaps, stinking gutters, erratic electricity and water supply, fuel scarcity, joblessness, hunger, etc. Yet, INEC came with the pre-determined verdict that Lagosians want the continuity of these rot.

To those that may have forgotten, the present situation is similar to the 1983 electoral verdict where an unpopular and anti-poor government claimed a landslide victory at elections. Sadly however, when the military struck four months later to remove the newly "elected" government via a coup, not a single person out of millions the victors claimed voted for them 3 months earlier came out to protest the demise of the fraudulent democratic dispensation. Nigeria is at cross roads again.

On the basis of the contrived and predetermined verdict being given by INEC, the danger of the dark days of military dictatorship and even the break-up of the country as a corporate entity has become amplified.

THE WAY FORWARD

Only the working people of Nigeria through their conscious and concerted efforts can avert the looming dangers ahead of Nigeria. In this respect, we hereby urge all genuine change-seeking elements to come out en-masse on April 19 when the governorship and presidential elections will hold to vote out the looters in AD, PDP and ANPP by voting for the NCP candidates.

Decent and genuine change seeking should not just express their displeasure over the conduct of the ruling parties by abstaining from voting. Needless to stress, this kind of abstinence will only make it easy for the looters in power to buy their way back to power. Unfortunately however, if there is a backlash in form of a military coup or violent escalation of ethno-religious conflict or break up of the country, it is the ordinary people that will suffer the consequences. Most of the perpetrators of the prevailing rot will either run out of the country or ingratiate themselves to the military rulers or warlords with a view to continue their past time of prospering at the expense of the masses.

For us in NCP, we shall continue to fight all forms of injustices and subversion of every tenets of democratic rules without fear of favour and without compromise and collaboration with any segments of the ruling class standing against the economic and political needs and rights of the working masses. We shall use all legitimate legal and political means to redress all the illegal and criminal acts committed by the ruling parties, INEC and the police.

Finally, we giver special kudos to our members and supporters across the country who cast their votes for change by voting for the NCP in the last Saturday’s election against all odds of financial inducements, intimidations and official manipulations. You constitute the only irrefutable evidence that there is still hope for a change for a better Nigeria. We therefore urge you to redouble your effort by reaching out to more voters to vote NCP candidates in the remaining elections.

The struggle continues.

SEGUN SANGO

Chairman, Lagos State NCP

(Segun Sango is also General Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement)


For information on how you can be involved in the campaign and/or the struggle to create a better society, contact Lanre at 162, Ipaja Road, Agbotikuyo Bus Stop, Agege, Lagos.

Telephone 08023186845

Email: lanrecampaign@yahoo.co.uk.