By Linus Aleke: Abuja
As the outcome of the just concluded local council election in Nasarawa state north central Nigeria continue to generate controversy over who win what council areas, the Peoples Democratic Party Chairman in the State Mr. Yunana Illiya in this exclusive interview with Linus Aleke in Lafia said that APC cannot win a single local government area in the state in a free and fair election. He also alleged that the security operative drafted to maintain security during the election collaborated with the ruling party to rub PDP of overwhelming victory at the poll. His excerpt;
Your party the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC) had serious disagreement over the just concluded local government election results, what is the true position of things?
Well let me be frank to you. I want to thank God almighty who had kept this party one till now and also believed that what had transpired in the local government election is a litmus test for both parties. Like you rightly observed election were conducted into councils on the 22ed of March 2014. In that election, we can say that the election was characterized by varieties of irregularities. But despite the wide spread irregularities PDP still held sway in the election. I say so with a high sense of responsibility because of the way and manner election was structured by NASIEC. It was structured in such a way that PDP will not make any impact in the election. Take for instance; election materials were distributed earlier enough from the headquarter here in Lafia to various local governments but on getting to each local government the electoral officers in each council area were mandated not to distribute the materials earlier than 1pm. Unnecessary beurocratic bottleneck was established at the local government headquarters where materials were supposed to be shared as early as 7am so that by 8am presiding officer should have been at their duty post but that was not to be in Nasarawa state. As if that was not enough, when the materials were later distributed to various units where real election took place. The election commenced and after the election, for the presiding officers to bring the results sheets because normally they are supposed to bring the result sheet for results to be collated at ward level. But at this point all the returning officers were nowhere to be found because they all discovered that PDP had won virtually all the local government area and what they now did was to withdraw all the returning officers. Luckily enough for us, you know some people could be smarter than the others. The six local governments that we won, we were able to manage the returning officers that were sent to those areas or may be, the information that were disseminated by chairman of NASIEC for them not to collate results did not get to these people and out of these local government that we won six local government returning officers were available. They were available and they collated the results entered the results and declared the winners of the said election in accordance with the electoral law in the state. Right now as I am talking to you we won with certificate six local governments. Now three other local government that we equally won the returning officers absconded and the results were not declared thereby giving room for manipulation by the ruling party. As we speak the results are still with the presiding officers of these respective local governments. We have one in Toto, Nasarawa, Lafia and Doma local government respectively, these are the categories. Other categories of local governments are Karu and Wamba were elections took place but they rigmarole and stage-managed the election and the whole thing went. We don’t even have case in those second categories. But the worst of it was the one in Awe local government where electoral materials were assembled in a vehicle that brought them from Lafia and before you know it the military started shooting sporadically around 2pm and the entire materials were smuggled out. The sporadic gun short left, right and centre scared people from following and protecting the materials and that was it. However the Divisional Police Officer in charge of the area and all other security operatives reached an agreement and said that since the electoral materials had disappeared, there was no election in Awe local government area. But to our greatest surprise Awe local government was declared in favor of APC by the electoral umpire even when there was no election in the area. So when you seat down to critically check and make analysis of all that transpired during the local council poll you will discover that under normal circumstances, APC would not win even a single area in a free and fair contest. That is the true position of things in Nasarawa state.
Which of the security operative did you alleged hijacked the electoral material in Awe local government area?
They were combined; there were police officers and soldiers who collaborated with electoral officials and APC to perpetrate such electoral malpractice. You know that there had been combined military operation in the area before the election due to the security challenges in the council area. There had been continued fight between thieve people and Fulani. They were all around there shooting and before you know it those who were guarding the materials could not see where the vehicle carrying the material went with the security operatives and that was how the entire election materials was siphoned from the place.
You also alleged that the returning officers absconded from their duty post so as not to declare PDP winners in the areas they had won on the instruction of the chairman of the NASIEC, does that not contravene the electoral Act?
Seriously and that is what we are talking about, it contravene the electoral law that stipulates that in each of the local government and unit were elections were held, there shall be a declaration at unit, there shall be a declaration at the wards but in coming to the wards we could not see any body. Now the chairman of Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC) has arrogated all these powers to himself and he is the one that is making declaration now. Even out of the six that we won with issued certificate, only four were sworn in two are still parading left and right with the certificate of return. The law said that the moment one had been declared a winner, it is only the competent court of law or a tribunal that could squash such election but in Nasarawa state that is not the issue, reverse is the case in our own state.
Is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Nasarawa state prepared to seek redress in court or they intend to ventilate their anger and frustration through other means?
The PDP had already gone to court, we had filed all our papers and we are waiting for the day that we will be called upon to come and defend our case. We are compelling the governor to swear-in the remaining two before we will then know which direction to take about the remaining others.
It had become an established tradition in Nigeria that the ruling parties in every state always win all the available positions in the local council election, what is really responsible for these undemocratic tendencies among ruling parties at state level?
I will not agree with you that it is a tradition; it is not a tradition because if you say a tradition it means it is a norm that has been there on ground. It is not a tradition all those states where the ruling party gets away with all it means there are no oppositions in such states. If there is opposition parties in those states that could fight gallantly with the ruling party in such states what happened in Nasarawa state could happen in those states. That is what we are saying that in Plateau, PDP won all, in Jigawa PDP won all, in Ebonyi and other PDP states. Now the question is what is the strength of opposition in Plateau and Jigawa? This is the first time in Nasarawa state where we have a political party that is competing favorably with the ruling party in the state. We have twenty member of the state assembly, we have two senators in the national assembly, we have three members in the house of representative, and we have the deputy governor on our side.
How will somebody now come and compare the trend in Plateau state with what is happening here? How many state assembly members do opposition parties have in plateau state? How many seats do the opposition parties in plateau have in the national assembly? That is the issue that you should have at the back of your mind. In the thirteen local governments that we have in this state it is only two local governments that we don’t have members of state assembly, Lafia and Keffi area councils the remaining eleven we have members of state assembly from those local governments so what are you talking about. So for somebody to have a day dream that because the ruling party won all in plateau and Jigawa states that it is going to be the same in Nasarawa I am telling you it is not true. I want to tell you that PDP in Nasarawa state is bigger in number, is higher in strength and it is powerful to the extent that in 2015 we will just tell APC to give us chance. The government house is for PDP.
What advice do you have for all the interesting parties in the state to ensure that the peace witnessed during the local council poll will be maintained?
If not for the fact that we are peace loving people in Nasarawa state the state would have been boiling by now because our patience has been pushed to the wall. I know what the governor wanted is a kind of renewed crisis in the state and we already know where he is going because he no longer has future. His future is no longer guaranteed in government house and he want to make sure that anyone who is coming after him will inherit crisis. Take for instance in Lafia local government, Lafia local government is the seat of government and this is the local government where he come from and PDP won Lafia with 180,000 votes to defeat the APC the party of the governor in his own local government. The local government he goes about bragging that he has done a lot of work with 48,000. You can see the gap, the landslide victory and the people that won in Lafia local government are Egon people. Now if an Egon man had ventured into reacting negatively then it will be on new Egon people are tagged either the Kambari or Bolafia people we told them no because we are the one that had been cheated here let’s keep our cool. Between now and February next year is not a long time Gods willing we will meet again. So I have already told our member to keep their peace we have now known the nature of his politics. The nature that he could conduct election and the security foul he go about meandering himself into. We will know how to re-strategize and combat him in the nearest future by the grace of God.
They said that ‘he who pay the piper dictates the tune’ and PDP is in control of power at the centre while Nigeria police is a federal police, how can the state government that has no control over the police and the army collaborate with them to rub PDP of their victory in Nasarawa state?
How can they not, who is the chief security officer in Nasarawa state I am asking you? The number one aim of a government is to provide security of lives and property and the welfare of the citizenry with that answer I think I have answered your question. That we have seen this is not the first time, I was just telling you that in Awe they connived with the military and even the police officers there shooting on the air sporadically scaring our people and they ran away with the materials that was what happened. Today we have a result for Awe local government.
Has there been any petition to that effect to the military and police high commands?
There are petitions and that is why our legal adviser is here as soon as you leave we will be discussing that issue.
What measures are you putting in place to ensure that similar incident do not repeat itself in the nearest future?
Such measures will be made known to the press soonest.