Chief Athan Achonu is the PDP candidate in the recently held re-run election for the Imo North Senatorial District. In this interview, the PDP chieftain described the result announced by the electoral umpire as a big charade, saying that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can’t guarantee free and fair election.
From IHEANACHO NWOSU, Abuja
There are claims that you petitioned the National Human Rights Commission and other key democratic institutions over the outcome of the last election.
It is not as if I petitioned the outcome of the last election, because the outcome is well known to the entire universe. On that day by 4pm, voting had ended. People turned out massively, unexpectedly, because voter apathy was expected because people have been waiting for that rerun for a very long time and it wasn’t coming. Even though there was a reasonable turnout, it wasn’t as I had expected. But they had come. And by 4pm, voting had ended and there was no collation officer anywhere in the senatorial zone. We got worried. We got calls that the collation officers were driven to the governor’s residence by two INEC officials. I didn’t take it serious.
By 6 pm, I called the REC to ask him where the collation officers were; he said they were coming. By 7pm, I called him again, he said the same thing. The information that I was getting was that they were ensconced somewhere at the governor’s residence.
So, I now alerted all the news agencies. By 10 pm, Silverbird came to interview me; I told them what was happening. They called the REC, for an election that ended by 4pm; the REC said they were on their way. When they arrived, they went to the local government headquarters. They didn’t collate at the ward. When agents go there, police and army chased all of them out. They chased PDP agents out of the collation centres. In fact, they threw some over the fence.
The most worrisome thing is that even the press, international observers were manhandled. They couldn’t cover what was happening. It was then that they introduced the report that has already been written.
What happened in Imo North rerun election, I am sorry, but I fear for this country; because Buhari came with a promise and many people believed him. My wife had voted APC almost all her life. She is a strong supporter of Buhari. But everything has changed now.
This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that we have had permanent rerun elections, inconclusive elections. And the impunity that came. How can military and police be aiding a political party to rig elections in Nigeria? It is unbelievable.
When you noticed this thing, did you go beyond the REC?
I went on air. I called all the television stations. I raised alarm. I called on Obasanjo, Babangida, Gowon and Abdusalami, I said please let them come and help Nigeria. They should come and help Nigeria.
We fought against military dictatorship. We can’t have civilian dictatorship. It is not possible.
Did you in get across to the leadership of INEC to tell them what was happening?
The chairman didn’t take my call. I called him dozen times. He didn’t take my calls. I spoke with the REC over ten times that day alerting him “they are in government house”. He said “no sir. Wait, they are coming.” Until after 10 pm, that was when they arrived.
But did he confirm that they were in the Government House?
How can he confirm that? He didn’t confirm that, because he was in the office. But we have evidence to show.
How can he explain that? From INEC office to the 64 wards in Imo North senatorial zone, you can’t spend one hour to get to them. From 4pm, 5pm to 10pm. How can he explain that? There is no explanation for that. He can’t explain that, because he wasn’t with them. But there were two INEC officials who were identified who took them to where they went. At the right time, we will bring all the evidence.
But your petition to the National Human Rights Commission; is it about the maltreatment of the voters or your agents? What are you actually asking for?
What is happening now is that on Monday, we applied for the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the result; after their Sunday announcement, they gave us the CTC. They gave us the form EC8Bs and the form EC8As. The form EC8As shows clearly that we won, which is the booth by booth result. From every calculation known to man, arithmetic, mathematics, we won. Geometry, whatever you use to calculate the result.
Then you come to FormEC8Bs, you see the manipulation. The results were written outside and brought in. We have evidence to show.
We submitted the CTC they gave to us to the PDP and asked them to forward it to INEC, that they should not announce Ben Uwajimogu as the winner, because he didn’t win the election. So, after that, all hell broke loose. They closed INEC to us. Since then all the other sensitive materials we asked for have not been given to us as I speak now. What they are trying to do now is to try to see how they can justify the results as announced. But it is not possible. The result is known to the entire universe. We published that result from 4pm that day. We have the CTC of the Form EC8A and EC8B. Everything they are doing now they are wasting their time. The whole world knows the truth. But there are some sensitive documents that will show the extent of the impunity and manipulation that they have refused to give to us. But they will eventually give it to us.
Were you satisfied at the level of the conduct of the election?
The election was conducted properly. But there were massive rigging in so many places. There was a journalist from Wazobia, who was in the house of a particular House of Representatives member, whose father is a traditional ruler, and he saw them thump printing. As a matter of fact, they disallowed journalists.
America was the most corrupt country in the world; it were journalists that salvaged it. I expected journalists to come out shouting, because they were there and saw what happened, especially NTA, they are not talking; because they are a government agency. It is wrong.
Where is the freedom of the press? Where is the freedom? The human rights laws, are they not applicable to Nigeria? I am shocked and disappointed.
NTA crew was there; even on Thursday election, they didn’t allow them to go into sensitive places where they were accredited to get into. Police commissioner and Garrison commander, they were there. They were in charge of everything. Everything that happened in the Imo North senatorial election, the Imo police commissioner and Garrison commander were involved.
But the Election Monitors, they did not come out to say what happened.
Criminal elements; including the INEC leadership?
My friend, I am telling you the problem is this: when we were having the stakeholders meeting, my APC opponent was insisting on FUTO, he said he wanted those people and I didn’t object. Because I believe that they are credible people. Professors, these are men and women, who teach our children. If you can’t trust the people who teach your children, how can you let your children attend these educational institutions? I said anywhere they want, let them decide where those collation officers should come from. I didn’t object.
But it became clear to me that they did not confirm the appointment of the FUTO vice chancellor; that they want to do it after the election by his performance. They want to check his performance in this election. That was why they are holding on his confirmation. You will see they will soon confirm him. All the collation officers came from FUTO.
There was something that happened in Okigwe, and I was shocked. The Returning Officer was told that one of the collation officers who represented a particular local government was answering another person’s name. They were thugs, who were fronted to impersonate the real people. We raised the issue. The man, a professor, I don’t know what he is called, said he didn’t care. He didn’t take any action. So, that thug impersonated somebody, submitted results and he accepted it.
With your own experience, are you saying that there is no indication that this APC government is capable of giving Nigeria, free and fair election?
My brother, I am shocked. This professor, the day he came to us; we had discussed him before he came. Everybody had respect for this man. I am shocked at what is going on. They said that this man will bring a breath of fresh air into INEC. But this man came with reoccurring rerun elections, inconclusive elections. I have never seen anything like this in my entire life. I don’t think he is charge at INEC.