APC Lawyer Says Opposition Parties Must Stop Intimidating Judiciary
It has been reported that Lagos based commercial lawyer, Public Policy Analyst and member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Oluwaseun Faleye, speaks on the just concluded general elections and the fallout from the process. He spoke to CHIBUZO UKAIBE
What is your overall assessment of the 2023 election?
Speaking generally the electoral process has been largely successful.
Despite the negative attention on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I would commend them for running a largely successful and credible process.
You have to understand that first and foremost, elections are a logistic nightmare, and like all logistic-based processes with a lot of human interactions you are bound to have some shortcomings.
Those shortcomings are what sometimes explain late arrivals of electoral materials, INEC’s regular or ad-hoc staff, which are mainly usually caused by human elements within the process.
But we all saw the genuine desire of INEC to address those challenges in order not to leave people disenfranchised and that is a good thing which should be commended.
I am also aware that in some areas in Nigeria, for instance in Victoria Garden City, in Lagos State, INEC identified these logistic issues and conducted elections till early hours of the morning during the Presidential Elections and the next day during the Governorship and House of Assembly elections.
But how do you then explain the controversy that has been generated by the issue with BVAS and its usage during this election?
Let us be clear. BVAS has brought tremendous transparency and fairness to our electoral process.
We must also be clear that BVAS usage was largely successful during this election.
First is to of course understand the purport of the usage of BVAS, which is to function as an accreditation tool that is able to undertake both biometrics capture, facial recognition and transmission of election results from Polling Units towards ensuring that the right people are voting and we eliminate the problem of multiple voting that has plagued our elections in the past. APC Lawyer
BVAS also has the added capability, with its inbuilt camera, to take the pictures of the results sheets (EC8A) and send it to the IReV.
All of these functions it was able to perform and that will explain, to some degree, the numbers that came from certain places that hitherto brought out numbers that were more than accredited or registered voters.
So the technology worked. From our research and this can be independently verified for those interested in the truth and the facts, BVAS functionality rate for the 2023 election was 88 percent.
It means that BVAS worked without any issue whatsoever in 88 percent of the entire 176,606 polling units across Nigeria.
In nine percent of polling units, it malfunctioned and was fixed and another two percent it malfunctioned and it was replaced.
In essence there was nowhere that voting took place without BVAS and well-meaning persons will agree with me that the 88 percent functionality rate within the context of this election was a success.
Importantly is that it eliminated multiple voting, ballot stuffing and other electoral malpractices that had hitherto marred our election from 1999.
And people must not forget where we are coming from.
We need to cast our minds back to the elections of 2003, 2007, 2011 and other Presidential elections conducted by PDP and how they perpetrated electoral malpractices by multiple voting, voters’ suppression, vote buying, violence and other electoral malpractices.
This party, the APC led by President Buhari is responsible for sanitizing the electoral process that has allowed the most popular candidates to win elections and allowing the will of the people to prevail across the country.
You will see from the analysis of the results that emerged across the country that incumbent Governors were defeated by the opposition parties in some States. That could never have happened in the past during the PDP era.
Have we quickly forgotten? Indeed, during these general elections, the APC did not win the majority votes in 13 States where it had sitting Governors.
It is only through the reforms and technology introduced by this Party that made that possible.
It is this party that reformed the Electoral Act that has made the process better and we should be applauded for it.
Talking about voters’ suppression, and violence during elections there has been a lot of allegations that there was voters’ suppression during this process particularly in Lagos and the opposition seems to be convinced that this is the reason that a lot of numbers that were ascribed to them by various polling companies and their support base did not materialize during the just concluded elections. How do you respond to this?
Sometimes we need to focus on the numbers rather than the noise.
It is important for people to also see through the veil of the opposition as a set of people with an agenda to scuttle a credible process because they were beaten at the polls so they will make all sorts of allegations concerning the legitimacy of the victory of APC.
The fact is that those numbers did not exist and if they existed, they existed only in the imagination of their hired pollsters designed to hoodwink Nigerians to think they had a path of victory.
Voters’ turnout in Nigeria has always been a challenge and this election was even worse. Hardly have we ever achieved 50 percent turnout of registered voters in Nigeria since we began to keep records.
In 2015 the turnout was 43.65%, in 2019 it was 34.75% and in the last election it was abysmally 26.87%.
A detailed look at the numbers will tell us that voters’ apathy was all across the country so why is it that it is in Lagos that Voters’ suppression is being alleged? Only 12 States including the FCT recorded voters’ turnout of 30% and above.
Rivers did 14 percent, Lagos had 17.55%, Bayelsa had 18.11%, Abia had 16.97%, Imo came with 18.95%, Ebonyi was 19.86%. All disappointing figures given the expectations of Nigerians.
As a matter of fact, the North Central region was the only region that recorded an above 30% average.
Every other region had less than 30%. And that explains the numbers, it is just general apathy and when we tell people that voting is not done on social media that you need to get the voters out on election day they thought we were joking.
If there was any suppression of voters, we knew where it happened.
Go and look at the places where the Labour candidate won with over 99%, which was funny by the way, the voters’ turnout in the South East was 20.26% and the South-South was 18.72%.
Who had the motive and muscle to suppress votes in those places? It was the Labour Party and the reports we got was that indeed our party members were threatened and intimidated across those two regions.
But the fact was that the main cause of the low numbers was voters’ apathy and the reason is clear to me.
When the currency swap exercise was done weeks leading to the election, our candidate then and now the President-elect raised his voice in solidarity with Nigerians that the policy will impoverish Nigerians, negatively affect businesses and hinder the elections in a negative way.
The opposition parties led by their Presidential candidates were happy to impoverish Nigerians and Nigerian businesses especially small business owners on the altar of their self-interest but we stood firm on the side of Nigerians.
And we saw what happened, people had no money to feed, transport or do businesses.
How did we expect those people to be enthused to come out to vote? How did we expect those that spent hours queuing to enter banks and collect their money from ATMs to be so encouraged to go and queue the following morning to vote? They were angry and hungry.
They stayed away and we can only have the opposition parties to blame for that as well as misguided elements in the Central Bank of Nigeria that left their remit of economic management to be dabbling in politics.
How about the allegation of violence. The opposition and some observers claim that the general election was marred with violence.
What do we need to do to eliminate violence from our electoral process?
All parties must continue to do their part in eliminating violence in our electoral process, and I believe it is an important element of our voters’ education and enlightenment responsibilities as stakeholders.
I have had cause to tell people to really interrogate the numbers before we paint the entire election with a violent brush and taint an otherwise very peaceful process.
One exercise I urge you to undertake is to speak to 20 random people that you know voted at this last general election and ask them what their voting and overall experience was like in voting in their polling unit.
Please ensure that they are not telling you any experience gleaned from social media or other platforms, just their own specific experiences at their own polling unit and then collate the result.
You will see that their stories of electoral violence and other misconducts are overblown to discredit the process.
Which is a shame really because if we do not own a credible process, we will be unable to learn from it and build upon that success.
If we analyze the history of violence in our elections from 1965, we will see that the 2023 general election is the least violence in our history.
And the records are there for us to interrogate for those who care about these things.
As a matter of fact, electoral violence, voters’ intimidation, harassment and assault were only reported in about 5% of the total polling units which points to a downward trend given what we used to experience in the past.
It is important to state that every live does matter, we do not condone violence in any form and will continue to play the critical role in bringing the numbers down.
During the course of the 2023 general elections leading to the voting day, 13 people were killed in 36 incidents across Nigeria.
This number can be increased to 28 if we take into account all media reports of violence and deaths during that period, so let us regrettably say 28 lives were lost.
In 2019, we lost 150 persons, in 2015 it was 100, in 2011 it was 800, in 2007 the number was 300, in 1999 it was 80, in 1993 it was 100 and in 1964/65 it was 200.
So, that is the context within which we must see these figures and the attempt to paint this general election as steeply marred by violence and intimidation should definitely not be welcomed.
By way of solutions, Nigerians must cease to see elections as a do or die affair. We know that we are naturally a very boisterous group of people.
Just look at us when we have to queue for anything, or engage with each other. We are strong willed, determined and competitive even with less things at stake.
I think we generally up the ante when things are at stake and that is why we must take the view that elections and contesting for elective positions are not a matter of do or die as to now resort to violence. It is an opportunity to serve.
We recall that some of the reasons adduced for the currency swap was for security reasons as well as the integrity of the electoral process to ensure that money bags did not hijack the process and thwart the will of the people. Do you think that was achieved?
To put it on record again, currency swap exercise was ill thought through and it wreaked havoc on our economy and the psyche of our people, the ramification of which may not be glaring now and we may well grapple with for the foreseeable future.
I have always thought that the professed reasons behind the decision by the actors responsible for it cannot justify the damage that it did to our economy.
Having said that, it is also a blessing in disguise that the legitimacy of the victory of the President-elect cannot be questioned on the basis that the APC induced voters with money. So the integrity of the electoral process as it relates to money playing a part in the emergence of a winner was eliminated.
But like I have said in the past, and which speaks to my statements about voters’ apathy earlier, money is an integral part of the electoral process and is required by all parties involved, INEC inclusive, to guarantee a transparent process.
Parties will hire and pay agents to man the various polling units, INEC will hire ad-hoc staff as its workforce cannot undertake the magnitude of the logistics required on election day, the security agents will be on ground to ensure law and order.
All of these workers were most likely going to be paid in cash.
If you remove the ability to do this in a seamless manner like it was done by that policy, you will ultimately be jeopardizing the integrity of the entire process. But we will learn from this and hopefully perform better in the 2027 general election.
The Labour Party and its supporters have said they won and that the court should declare them the winner of the 2023 General Election. How do you see this playing out in court given that they have filed their petitions?
It is a good thing that they have gone to court as it is their right to do so. You must understand that approaching the court in the aftermath of an election as an integral part of the electoral process.
It is as important as the primaries that selected the candidates, and the election itself so we welcome that.
What we however hope for is that since they have approached the court, they should then allow the court to do its job based on evidence and facts before it.
What we are seeing is the intimidation of the judiciary and mudslinging being thrown the way of the court even before the hearing of the petition gets underway. This should not be encouraged.
We have seen and heard some commentators sympathetic to the oppositions’ cause already casting aspersion on the integrity of the judiciary and the court, setting the groundwork for their eventual loss as they will surely lose because I cannot see where a candidate that came third in a general election is claiming that he won and should be declared the winner.
You did not win in Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Bauchi, Borno, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Jigawa, Adamawa, Oyo, Ekiti, Ondo, Ogun to mention but a few.
You did not even meet the constitutional requirement of 25% in 25 States and the FCT and yet you claim you won. Haba. Are we so gullible in Nigeria to be taken for a ride by a Donald Trump wannabe?
What we see is a group of people that are ready to bring the country down once a process does not go their way no matter how credible that process is.
They are the same guys that are quick to approach the court, praise it to high heavens when the decision of the court is in tandem with their wishes and castigate the court when it comes to a decision contrary to their wishes.
It is important at this juncture to advise otherwise respected senior members of the bar and a section of the press to be circumspect and desist from heating up the polity by making unguarded and unprofessional comments.
Most especially members of the fourth realm must know that they have a sacred duty to protect our hard-earned democracy and guard that duty with all sense of responsibility.
Making blatantly partisan commentaries on the sanctity of our electoral process and our democracy should be discouraged. What we must all collectively do is to continue to deepen our critical institutions.
What we are grateful for is that under the President-Elect, Nigerian institutions will grow stronger and such act of denigrating reputable arm of government like the judiciary will not go without an invitation to substantiate such bogus allegations.
We must all subject ourselves to the sanctity of the judicial system.
What is important is to lay the facts and put the evidence before the court for its review. In our own case, we are ready to defend the mandate freely given to the President-elect by Nigerians as you can see by the legal team assembled by the President-elect and the Party.