Saturday, 23rd September 2023

Opposition must stop intimidating judiciary, says Faleye

By Azeez Olorunlomeru
16 April 2023   |   3:23 am
Speaking generally, the electoral process has been largely successful. Despite the negative attention on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I would commend the commission for running a largely successful and credible process.


Lagos-based commercial lawyer, public policy analyst and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Oluwaseun Faleye, spoke to some newsmen on the fallout of the just concluded general elections and why the sanctity of the judiciary must be protected, AZEEZ OLORUNLOMERU was there.

What is your overall assessment of the 2023 general elections?
Speaking generally, the electoral process has been largely successful. Despite the negative attention on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I would commend the commission for running a largely successful and credible process. You have to understand that, first and foremost, elections are a logistical 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.

How do you explain the controversy that has been generated by the usage of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) during the 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 (PU) towards ensuring that the right people are voting and we eliminate the problem of multiple voting that has plagued our elections in the past. 
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. The machine performed all these functions to some degree, certain places that hitherto brought out numbers that were more than accredited or registered voters could not do that.
So, the technology worked. From our research and this can be independently verified for those interested in the truth and facts, BVAS functionality rate for the 2023 election was 88 per cent. It means that BVAS worked without any issue whatsoever in 88 per cent of the entire 176,606 polling units across Nigeria. In 9 per cent of polling units, it malfunctioned and was fixed and another two per cent it malfunctioned and was replaced. In essence, there was nowhere that voting was held without BVAS and well-meaning persons would agree with me that the 88 per cent functionality rate within the context of this election was a success. More importantly, 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 mind 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 Muhammadu Buhari, is responsible for sanitising 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.

Talking about allegations of voters’ suppression, and violence during elections, particularly in Lagos, the opposition seems to be convinced that this is the reason that a lot of numbers ascribed to them by different platforms and their support base did not materialise during the 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 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 per cent turnout of registered voters in Nigeria since we began to keep records. In 2015, the turnout was 43.65 per cent, in 2019 it was 34.75 per cent and in the last election it was abysmally 26.87 per cent.
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 per cent and above. Rivers had 14 per cent, Lagos had 17.55 per cent, Bayelsa had 18.11 per cent, Abia had 16.97 per cent, Imo came with 18.95 per cent, Ebonyi was 19.86 percent, 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 per cent average. Every other region had less than 30 per cent. 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 Party (LP) candidate, Mr Peter Obi won with over 99 per cent, which was funny by the way, the voters’ turnout in the South East was 20.26 per cent and the South-South was 18.72 per cent. Who had the motive and muscle to suppress votes in those places? It was the LP 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, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu raised his voice in solidarity with Nigerians that the policy will impoverish Nigerians, negatively affect businesses and hinder the elections in a negative way.

How about the allegation of violence and what can we do to eliminate violence from our electoral process?
By way of solutions, Nigerians must cease to see elections as a do or die affair. We know that we are naturally very boisterous people. Just look at us when we have to queue for anything, or engage with one another. We are strong willed, determined and competitive even with fewer 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.

LP and its supporters have said they won and that the court should declare them the winner of the 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 is 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 per cent 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. 

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