He looked at the time; it was past 12 mid night. It was no time to answer any call. But it persisted, forcing him to pick it eventually, convinced that the caller needed to pass an important message across. Important, it turned out to be as the voice at the other end, a driver’s, was in a rush to deliver a message to a man he had learnt to trust even with his life. Obviously, holding on to it till dawn could spell disaster. He was barely audible, his words hardly decipherable as he spoke in a very hushed tone. But at last, the message got through.
“Oga, we are in a bush somewhere, thumb printing a Hilux van load of ballot papers for tomorrow’s election”, he said.
“What…how did you get there…where exactly are you”?, the receiver tumbled out incredulously.
“I drove the Hilux van to the place and met others waiting. We were instructed to thumb print all the ballot papers. I had to inform you sir, under the pretext of going to ease myself”
The phone went dead, not before giving the identities of both the individual that instructed them the instruction and party they thumb printed for. True to his claims, the said party was declared winner of the 2007 Edo governorship election even when it was obvious that it lost. That much was attested to subsequently by both the election tribunal and appeal court verdicts.
The incident referred to above took place on the night of April 13, 2007, a few hours before the April 14 2007 state governorship election commenced. As gleaned from the telephone conversation, the election was won and lost even before the any electorate cast the first legitimate ballot. Dubiously, the election umpire declared Professor Osarhiemen Osunbor, then of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, winner of the election.
The fraud was not lost on anyone as voters and observers alike, rose in condemnation. Prominently, the European Union Observer Group went ahead to describe the outcome as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”. They emphasized that it was characterized with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”.
Following from both internal and international outcry against its outcome, it was inevitable that ensuing legal battle for restitution would be interesting. Indeed, it was as evidences adduced were so evidently scrutable that the tribunal, led by Justice Peter Umeadi, had no problem in declaring Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, winner.
The case before the tribunal were indeed self-evident just as the case under review was self-explanatory.
However, they include ballot box snatching and replacing with already thumb printed genuine ballot papers with fakes. Evidences before the tribunal indicated that the party commissioned its foot soldiers to ambush polling stations with such brazen carelessness that even some members of the party were awe stricken by the act.
Other issues were listed as outright intimidation, thuggery and hijack of electoral materials which they executed with so much desperation, aware that the people had decided to cast their lot behind the opposition Action Congress, AC, and it’s candidate, Oshiomhole.
At some points, the party was said to have deployed its hatchet men with guns and other dangerous weapons to simply take away ballot boxes and other materials from areas they could not otherwise, manipulate.
As a result, the tribunal had no reason to hesitate in canceling votes in some local government areas, including Akoko Edo and Etsako Central. It also went further to establish 10 other local government areas as those that experienced embarrassing display of voting irregularities.
Crying wolf where no dog exist is not a new PDP game. It is a signature tune the party and its leadership sing each time they lose any electoral contest, no matter how credible it is acclaimed. The point to take home however, is that the 2016 governorship election in the state did not record any of the incidents that were manifest in 2007. Indeed, non of the anomalies could have repeated itself as the electoral system had gone through fundamental changes that effectively exorcised the process of lapses that made way for the brigandage in 2007.
Hence the basis for drawing any dubious similarity between the two does not exist. If any such similarity exists at all. It is that the real winner emerged without the benefit of the bizarre as experienced in 2007.
Indeed, there are profound differences between the 2007 incident and 2016 governorship elections in the state. In the first instance, it is not possible to conclude that the two are the same in terms of manipulations without being accused of mischief. One of the reasons is that both elections are light years apart in terms of both the improved electoral environment and operational modus.
For instance, while the lapses leading up to the 2007 election made it possible for thumb printed ballot papers to be admitted easily into original ballot boxes and counted as genuine, the introduction of card readers radically altered and reversed the trend to a point where it became practically impossible except when compromised by operators. It is on record that besides making it possible for incumbents to be defeated when the people so decide as was the case in the 2015 presidential election, the card reader also succeeded in reducing voters’ apathy having created the enablement for real votes to count. The reason is not far to seek.
Unlike the election in 2007, the card reader device came with certain automated features that retain voter’s biometrics, including information about record of accredited voters and actual number of ballot cast. With the information, over voting and voting without accreditation became easily detectable with or without detailed forensic examination because its memory retains the biometrics of only those it captures during accreditation as bonafide voters.
Secondly, unlike what transpired in 2007, the card reader, which many regard as game changer for obvious reasons, is able to recall original voters’ identity when needed. Effectively therefore, the card reader does not allow the perpetration of manipulations similar to PDP’s unfounded claims because it is one of the most credible device for sorting out grey areas in election.
Unfortunately, even in the face of the facts noted above, the PDP still seeks to create the impression that the 2016 governorship election went the same way as its 2007 counterpart in terms of manipulation. It is not difficult to ascribe the party’s fixation to the idea of manipulation having been the source of the most heinous electoral manipulation ever recorded in the history of the country’s democratic experience.
The party’s inclination to the manipulation theory is at best a reflection of an adage which states that a lie told too often tends to become true in the mind of particularly the originator. In all ramifications, the party seems to be haunted by the heinous cocktail of electoral malpractices it perpetrated in 2007 from which both the tribunal and appeal court saved the state and it’s people.
The party’s leadership is so much at home with such unwholesome conducts, archaic as they are, that it tends to overlook the changes wrought in electoral practices. It is from this stagnated mindset it reaches the conclusion that any defeat the party suffers any time must be as a result of manipulation, no matter how painstakingly untainted the process is.
Arguably, having failed to up their games and thinking process in order to prepare adequately for the 2016 election, leaders of the PDP still feel comfortable relying on old and outdated tricks. And so, they had no qualms explaining their failure in terms of some assumed wrong doings on the part of their better prepared opponents.
Little wonder they resort to blackmailing their opponent, the electoral umpire and every other individual or group that disagrees with their claims by creating the impression that the 2016 election was decided by or with the use PDP’s same old and expired methods. If there is any reason for comparison, it is that the real winner emerged after all. To assume otherwise is nothing short of an outright insult on the collective intelligence of every right thinking Edo citizen and resident alike who gave up every other assignment to be part of history that fateful day.