The immediate past Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, has denied involvement in rigging the 2014 Ekiti governorship election as contained in a leaked audio recording of a meeting between him, Ayo Fayose, the state governor, ex-Senator Iyiola Omisore and a Brigadier General in the Nigerian army.
The recording, published by SaharaReporters Friday, provided substantial evidence of a meeting on the eve of the June 21 election where the then minister and others who were in attendance, hatched a devious plot to unlawfully win the polls.
Mr. Fayose later won the poll by defeating the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress.
But reacting Friday to the report and audio recording, Mr. Obanikoro said there was no way he was involved in election rigging and threatened to sue SaharaReporters for defamation.
A statement signed by Special Adviser on Media Strategy to the former minister, Ohimai Godwin Amaize, reads: “That Senator Obanikoro wishes to state categorically and emphatically that you will never find him anywhere in the world talking about rigging an election in favour of anyone. The context of the conversation being reported by Sahara Reporters has been deliberately concocted, manipulated and misrepresented to achieve a predetermined narrative. Nowhere in the purported recording did Senator Obanikoro mention directly or indirectly a plan to rig the Ekiti State elections as the Sahara Reporters narrative suggests.
“That Senator Obanikoro’s team was approached by an agent of Sahara Reporters to pay for the doctored recording. Senator Obanikoro’s refusal to be blackmailed led to Sahara Reporters going ahead to publish the said recording.
“That it is an open knowledge that Sahara Reporters is a paid mouthpiece of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and as such cannot be taken seriously and credibly.
“That the eventual timing of the release of the doctored audio coming on the eve of the ruling of the Osun State Election Petitions Tribunal makes it even more sinister. For all intents and purposes, it is a failed attempt to compromise the outcome of the Tribunal ruling and set the tone for public sympathy in the event of an unfavorable ruling.
“Old habits die hard. The APC is known for its manipulative antics in the manufacturing of forged certificates, hacking, propaganda and now the doctoring of audio recordings.
“That Dr. Kayode Fayemi and the APC have failed to explain how their gross unpopularity led to the loss of their wards and local governments to PDP’s Ayodele Fayose.
“That there was a Tribunal set up for the Ekiti Election. Why was this audio recording not presented to that Tribunal? Having lost an election woefully and at the Election Petitions Tribunal, this is nothing short of a lame after-thought and a futile attempt to pervert the minds of unsuspecting Nigerians against the PDP in the coming general elections.
“That the role the Nigerian Army played in safeguarding the elections in Ekiti and Osun States remains commendable, to general acclaim, locally and internationally.
“The APC and their cronies are the ones known for anti-democratic tendencies. Where was Sahara Reporters when free and fair local government elections were annulled by the APC in Lagos State?
“That beyond this statement, Senator Obanikoro will not dignify the immoral construct of the APC through its hired media platforms with any further response. Senator Obanikoro refuses to be distracted by the failed antics of the APC and is focusing on the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan.
“That Senator Obanikoro is initiating legal action against Sahara Reporters in New York and Nigeria for defamation of character”.