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INEC must show true sincerity in Abia guber rerun —Alex Otti’s Director of Strategy and Planning

By News Express on 22/04/2015

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This Saturday, April 25, is scheduled for the rerun of the Abia State gubernatorial election, which was announced inconclusive after the April 11 poll. In this interview conducted in Lagos, a lawyer and Director, Strategy and Planning, Alex Otti Campaign Organisation, Carol Okorafor, says the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must show enough sincerity to convince Abia people that it wishes to conduct a credible rerun.

Question: What is the situation Abia State after the April 11 gubernatorial and House of Assembly election?

Carol Okorafor: The situation in Abia as at now is that the whole world must have heard how attempts were made to smuggle in fictitious and fraudulent figures, while the collation of the governorship election result was going on quietly. In the attempt to get these illegal results in, the Abia State Electoral Commissioner as well as the Returning Officer openly cancelled them. Shortly after, the governor and some of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftains invaded the INEC headquarters in Umuahia and after a meeting with these two people they came downstairs and said they were now reverting themselves.

Since then, a lot of problems have been going on in Abia State. There were, of course, some areas where elections did not take place due to one or two reasons, mostly violence, inability of the card reader to be used, malfunctioning card readers, among other challenges. But some were rescheduled for the following day, April 12, while some were not. Now, we have heard that there is going to be a re-run of these elections on Saturday.

But in the meantime, INEC has not come out clear with what is happening. It is one of the provisions of the law that once a decision is taken concerning the election result, an aggrieved party can only go to court, so that is why it is difficult for us to understand why INEC is not doing the same in this instance. If, for instance, those cancelled results did not favour PDP, what they should have done was to go to court, not storming the place, probably under threat or duress, to get INEC to say they are reverting because they are not permitted by law to do that.

Some groups as well as election observers have called on the total cancellation of results in four local government areas in Abia. What is the position of your party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)?

We stand by the provision of the law, which is that the four local governments stand cancelled. That is our stand and that is the right stand. That is why everybody insists that those local government areas’ results are cancelled because there were no elections in those areas.

There are two conditions, which can follow cancellation if it is due to maybe malfunctioned card readers and if it is due to nobody’s fault, then it could be rescheduled. But in those instances, the cancellations were due to fraudulent activities; people were not allowed to come and exercise their franchise. All they did was to get hold of result sheets and cook up results, which you can find from the way the results are, because anybody who is anybody knew that before the election the entire state stood behind Alex Otti for two reasons; first, he is a very credible person and, second, people of Abia were fed up that for 16 years, nothing was going on in Abia. Both the masses and the elite were behind Otti because, at some stage, it became a reproach to say you are from Abia without being made fun of.

So everybody in that state needed a change. If you look at some of the results they were posting in Obingwa, for instance, they said PDP candidate pulled 82,000 votes and Alex Otti got 1,000 votes. Of course, that is ridiculous. In the first instance, if you look at the result sheet, even in the stronghold of APGA, we never scored anything near 15,000 votes.

At the moment, who does the result of Abia governorship election favour, pending the re-run?

Of course, before the reversion, Alex Otti was leading with over 50,000 votes, and that is natural. If you look at the trend and the result sheets, you will see that in most places, even in our stronghold like Arochukwu, Otti scored over 11,000 votes, and true to type, PDP scored 3,000 plus votes. You see a situation where proper accreditation was done and you can look at the card readers; every polling unit used card readers. You could see where card readers were used and the results that came out of such areas. And this can be verified through the card readers, but this idea of someone sitting in his parlour and writing results and expecting it to stand cannot be allowed.

Results around the country showed that voters’ turnout was low. There was no state that experienced voters’ turnout above 35 per cent. But in these places, voter turnout was up to 95 per cent. So you could see that was not an election. And looking at it properly, two days before the April 11 election, the Chairman of INEC, Attahiru Jega, had come out to say “no card reader, no election.” He said so to the hearing of everybody, so why would anybody go and write result where they didn’t use card readers?

Of course, INEC should be able to tell us if any of the card-readers was used in those places. These are things that we would have expected the INEC to come out with.

With all you have said, does APGA still have confidence in INEC for a credible re-run on Saturday?

The truth of the matter is that Jega’s ideas are fantastic, but the problem is with the implementation of those ideas. Somewhere down the line, some of the INEC officials compromised their positions, and that is why we are where we are now because if these people didn’t have access to result sheets, they won’t be able to write results. If the card readers were not working in those local governments, we would have been waiting for the supply of new card-readers to be used. But how did they go ahead to write results?

Beyond calling for outright cancellation of this result, what message do you have for those in authority to ensure that credible rerun is held on Saturday?

As far as we are concerned, if elections are conducted in Abia 20 times over, we will be defeat PDP comprehensively and we are sure of that. We are not afraid of a rerun, but the truth is that if things are supposed to be done right, let us do them in the right way. That is why we are saying outright cancellation, otherwise if they insist on rerun, let them get adequate security because the problem in those areas is that certain individuals would not allow people to come out and vote; they would scare people with all sorts of violence conducts such as shooting and intimidation.

But if people are sure of their security, card-readers are used and proper electoral materials, not fake ones, are brought in and there’s no room for concocted results, I am very sure that Otti will defeat PDP comprehensively.

What has been the state of Abia in the last 16 years?

Why are the masses on the side of Otti? In Abia, there is nothing like development. In every assessment that has been done so far in the last 16 years, Abia comes last. Abia will always be 36th out of 36 as far as development is concerned. Aba used to be a place where most Nigerians visited for commercial purpose, but all that has disappeared. The commercial activities in Aba have completely paralysed, roads are impassable, there is no water, no drainages, and everything that made it the glittering city of 90s has suddenly died.

Then in Umuahia, the state capital, it is just like a glorified village. Nothing has happened there. The only difference I have seen in the past eight years is narrowing the roads by putting something in between. That is the only development I have seen in Abia for the past 16 years of the PDP misrule.

How would Otti turn around this pitiable situation you have painted?

Otti has the reach, he is exposed and he has been in the banking world. So he knows how to access the fund to get Abia back on its feet. Alex is an intelligent man with a fantastic concept on how to reposition Aba and make it competitive among its peers such as Onitsha, Lagos and others.

He has promised to transform Aba in just two years. His plan for the education sector is fantastic. Payment of salaries is always a critical part of his agenda.  Pensioners have not been paid their gratuities since 2002. Thirteen years after, I am told the last time I went to the pension board that they are concentrating on 2001 that they have not done anything from 2002 till date. This is the kind of state we are talking about. A lot of pensioners have died without getting their gratuities and pension after serving the state.

Every sector of the economy in that state is being owed. Alex, of course, has promised them that before the end of the year, anybody who is owed would be paid and I know he intends to do that and he can do that.

•Photo shows Carol Okorafor, Director, Strategy and Planning, Alex Otti Campaign Organisation.

Source News Express

Posted 22/04/2015 9:25:59 PM


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