The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) tried unsuccessfully to get the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to pronounce Muhammadu Buhari president-elect. Vincent Ikuomola, who witnessed the drama at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, reports.
The presidential election was full of drama. The agent for the opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Osita Chidoka, appealed against announcing the winner of the election.
Chidoka pinned his appeal on the purported disparity in figures reeled out from the total vote count.
He also raised issues about the non-use of the smart card readers in some parts of the country. Chidoka raised four areas which he felt the chairman should consider and stop the process of announcing the winner of the poll.
He said: “Mr. Chairman, I have four comments to make and I will sit down. Remember, what you just educated us on now, the number of voter register you published on the 21 February and the one that was used today for the elections, has a difference of 1.669million, it was 84million in February 21 and today for what we have seen as registered voter across the states put together is 82,334,107. So there is a difference of 1,669million missing from the voter register. So if you keep that one side and go back to the total valid vote cast, which you explained, particularly, Mr. Chairman, I will let you to note that in Oyo State, 137,000 people are missing from the register, in Imo State, 234,000 are missing from the register, in Abia, 139,000 and in Nasarawa, 108,000, and Lagos 256,000. These are the big states.
“For the total valid vote cast of 27million and the total invalid vote of 1.2million, we get a total vote cast of 28 million and a total accreditation of 29million, there is a difference of 750,000 and I hear you say it is about 2% . So we put that number on a second table.
“And then we go to the issue of the cancelled vote. Mr. Chairman, of the cancelled vote, the cancelled votes impacted 2.7 million registered voters. And if you look at the 2.793,819,6 registered voters that were impacted, the difference is 1.6 million, the 750,000 and the 2.7 million people that were impacted, it is about 5.1million votes. 5.1million votes is greater than 3.9 million votes. And I want you to know that from your summation, the APC candidate is leading by 3.9 million votes.
“I also want you to note Mr. Chairman, that as a fundamental root of this election what you told at the beginning of the process is that where there is no card reader verification, that election is null, it doesn’t exist and we have on record many states where there are votes without card readers. So Mr. Chairman, we ask you to review the votes in Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa and Katsina. We have detailed our local governments where this card reader was not used and it is at the fundamental of this election and there may be other states, we don’t want to go into details because we are of time, we don’t want to bug you with the 36 states.
“I also think that it is important when you mentioned that 35% voter turnout in this election, 35% is a fair number but it is strange to me that some state have 52% voter turnout, 55% in Jigawa, 40% in Yobe and there was a consistent over 40% voter turnout in some parts of the country. I don’t think it means they may be political aware and more conscious than the rest of the country but again, it forces us to look at the issue of the card reader. Where the card reader was used there were many issues that made it difficult for large quantity of people to vote. So I want to urge you Mr. Chairman, by the explanation I have given and the number I have brought together showing that there is 5.1 million vote in question, that you do not go ahead and declare the winner of this election. That you will call for a review of these areas and possibly call for a rerun in the areas where there was no use of card readers. This is why we asked you to bring out the data of what your card readers say. Our own tabulation told us that there is only about 23 million votes that possibly went through the card reader, maximum 24 million because we told our agents to tabulate for us those areas where they use card readers and our tabulation tells us about 24 million. With almost 29 million voters, again another 5 million is in question, we think did not go through card readers.
“So, Mr. Chairman, I would like you to give careful consideration to my thoughts. These views are made as you said they are preliminary because we are just gathering this data direct from our own situation room but as we progress, depending on what you decide today, we will be making available more detailed information about this process. But I want to say that the PDP, as their agent, I am requesting you that Mr. Chairman you should not go ahead to announce the winner in this election.”
Yakubu, however, said the votes cancelled were done in accordance with the law.
He stressed that in the areas where votes were outrightly cancelled, the law was not violated.
Besides, he doubted the existence of 5.1 million votes, which the PDP agent claimed existed.
He said: “I want to respond in two ways, first the assertion that there are 5.1 million voters who could not vote and did not vote simply on account of the failure of the smart card reader. And you are right that our guideline and regulations provide for repeat elections where card readers fail. And we did so in a number of states, in Abia for instance; we did so, and in Bayelsa, quiet a number of Local Government had to repeat the elections on Sunday, we did so in several other states. But based on the figure we have seen of cancelled elections, we have disaggregated and decomposed these figures and realised that quiet a number of those figures are from places where the card readers was deliberately circumvented plus 47 of our regulations and guidelines are very clear, where the card reader is deliberately circumvented you write zero and proceed with the election, then in that case you can’t consider the votes in those area truly cancelled votes. Yes they are cancelled votes but they are deserved cancelled votes and before we finalised on the guidelines and regulations, we threw it open to Nigerians and we received comments and citizens before finalising on that.
“So the figure that you quoted if it is from the process that took place on Saturday, if you carefully decompose these figures, you at our regulations and guidelines, and look at the provisions where the card reader is deliberately circumvented, then count zero and proceed, you may not arrive at that figure. Exactly, the commission has not arrived at that figure.
“Secondly, you raise issues about places where the voter turnout was 49%, 55% as against the national average of 35% . 35.6% is the national average but remember that in this matter, there is no sugar cube equality in terms of participation of citizens in elections across the federation.
“So in some places, you have 40%,50% but by the time we do the national average, it gives you what we call the national, so the 35.6% is the national.
So if you don’t like sugar cube equality, I will say Maggie cube equality, there is no Maggie cube equality in this respect.
There are other issues that I think since we are both speaking on the basis of preliminary findings; we better rest this at the level of preliminary findings. The work of making our electoral system robust will not end with these 2019 elections. In fact, from tomorrow, the commission will start work on 2023 general elections. So these suggestions will be very useful for the future.”
Yakubu noted that the cancelled votes were insignificant and would have no effect on the final outcome of the poll.
“In relation to the issues raised, there are specifically three of them that the commission wishes to make a preliminary statement on. We say preliminary statement because during collation we have not had all the time in the world to look at these issues in depth.
“The first one is that the figures of accredited voters in relation to the vote cast were not adding up in one or two instances. We have noticed that and our preliminary investigation and analysis revealed that there are a number of figures that were coming from the field and we’re adding up and states were also adding up for a hundred and seventy-six thousand locations nationwide as polling units and voting points. From there the figures were added up first at the ward level, which we have 8809 nationwide from there to the local government where we have 774 and then the state declaration or collation Centres and FCT, making 37 before coming up to Abuja. From what we have seen the disparity cumulatively is less than 2%. It is not that substantial really.
“Secondly, we also very strongly believe that the widespread incidence of ballot box snatching particularly in many areas after voting means that the data on the smart card readers but not backed up by actual ballot because the ballot are either hijacked, burnt down or destroyed. Therefore, the information on the smart card readers is likely to be higher than actual ballot.
“But this is only by way of preliminary investigation. Yes we believed that there have been cancellations, however, in the case of the presidential election, the cancellation does not affect the conclusion of the process.
On the number of registered voters viz-a-viz the figures released by the commission, yes we noticed that only in two states, Yobe and Akwa Ibom that the figures actually tally. But if you look at all the reports from all the states collation officers, they referred to total number of registered voters as collated, it is only written in bracket as collated not necessarily the total figure on the voter register we give to the states. So, because as I said they are taking from a process and that process keeps growing from one state to another, sometimes discrepancies of this nature are likely to happen. They happened in all the off season elections we have conducted, we have seen them but on the basis of observation that you have made, we looked at these figures very carefully, they don’t affect the total number of persons who voted in the election. They are well below the number of PVCs collected, in fact the voter turnout for the 2019 general elections, from the analysis we just conducted it is 35.66% that is the percentage of the voter national turnout.
“A request was made about opening up of the commission’s hard end so that information from the smart card readers, particularly accreditation of voters can be used to verify, cross check actual vote cast in the elections.
“And I am happy to note that the person who made the comment didn’t make the comment as a matter of right under the law rather he made the comment as a matter of openness and transparency. Since the law described the processes by which results are collated and transmitted and also the instrument conform to be used for that purpose, we believe that this discussion can continue after the conclusion of this process because you know something that should truncate this process until we are able to determine those issues.
“Now, if we are to continue to discuss all these issues we will continue to discuss them ad infinito, there is no end to all these issues and discussions. So, we have taken note of all the observations made; we will take them into consideration, but for the sake of the process for today, I crave your indulgence to go to the main substance of why we are gathered here today. “