Lagos lawyer and rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, has linked the shift in the dates of the general elections to the leaked audio recording alleging the rigging of the Ekiti State governorship election last year.
Speaking at the Black History Month and Dr. Beko Ransom Kuti Memorial Program in Lagos, Wednesday, Mr. Falana said some of those implicated in the plot, who were threatening legal action, should think otherwise.
An audio recording revealing how some Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, chieftains partnered with the army and other security agencies to rig the Ekiti State election was released by an army captain last week.
But some of the actors, who were caught on tape strategizing on how to rig the polls, including Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Defence Minister (state), and Ayo Fayose, who defeated the incumbent governor with a landslide, denied the contents of the recording, claiming their voices were manipulated using modern technology.
To further press home his innocence on the matter, reports emerged yesterday that Mr. Obanikoro had slammed a N1 billion lawsuit for defamation of character against online newspapers, Sahara Reporters and Premium Times. Also joined in the suit are Punch newpapers, Omoyele Sowore, publisher of Sahara Reporters and Festus Owete, General Editor at Premium Times.
Despite their denials, the Minister of Police Affairs, Abdul-Jelili Adesiyan, who also attended the meeting, confirmed the authenticity of the tape Sunday. He, however, disagreed with the context of the discussion, saying the meeting was never about plans to rig the Ekiti State election.
Speaking Wednesday, Mr. Falana said that none of the participants in the recording had successfully challenged the army officer – Capt. Sadiq Kooli’s account of the incident.
“I understand that Mr. Obanikoro (whom he described as a ‘thug’) says he will go to court. I can assure you here, I dare him to go to court. He can’t. It’s not possible,” said Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“One of the reasons they postponed the election last week is that disturbing revelation by that Captain. That is what they wanted to do for the entire country. That revelation has sent them back to the drawing table. They now have to re-strategize”.
Mr. Falana criticised President Goodluck Jonathan for “embarrassing” the country with his repeated trips to the Holy Land, instead of channelling such funds to job creation.
Since he became the President in 2011, Mr. Jonathan has travelled for pilgrimage twice.
“I was reading the papers yesterday, the president said in violation of the peace accord, that governors in the north have not been sending Christians to Jerusalem. In other words, they have been sponsoring Muslims to Mecca”, said Mr. Falana.
“Please tell the president that there is no provision in our law for sponsoring anybody to Jerusalem or Mecca.
“Section 10 of the Constitution provides that the Nigerian State shall not proclaim any religion as an official religion. Therefore, appropriating billions of Naira every year, wasting money to send people to Jerusalem or Mecca is illegal.
“If you must know, less than seven per cent of Israelis are Christians, so they make jest of us. When you descend on them, that you are there to worship Jesus Christ, they’ll be like ‘are these people Ok?’”
Mr. Falana also insisted that the general elections must be allowed to hold and whoever emerges winner should be allowed to govern the country.
“And I’m challenging Edwin Clark and others, all those old men with expired ideas. Femi Okurounmu and others”, he said.
“We never saw them when we went to the streets of Lagos and Abuja to proclaim Goodluck as acting President. You were in the streets of Lagos, where were these characters? They were nowhere to be found.
“In fact, quote me. Baba Clark called me in one of our protests, ‘Femi, my son. Please keep it up. We from the Niger Delta cannot join this struggle now.’ I said why sir? He said ‘because he’s our son.’ I said what has your son got to do with the quest for justice?
“Professor Wole Soyinka, at the age of 71 (he was actually 76 then) led us in the protest. Please tell them this country belongs to all of us”.
On the vexatious issue of deployment of soldiers for elections duty, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, pointed out that nowhere in the Nigerian Constitution, Electoral Act, or the Armed Forces Act was a provision made for soldiers to be involved in elections.
“So when they told Jega that they are going to be busy in the north east and they will not be able to secure the election. Please there is no provision for those Service Chiefs to police our election”, said Mr. Falana.
“Under Section 76, Section 116, Section 132, and 117, it is the exclusive responsibility of the INEC to fix dates for election. Only INEC. Not the president, not the NSA, not the security chiefs.
“Knowing that, they then came in fraudulently by saying that they cannot guarantee your security.
“They have not been able to crush Boko Haram in six years, what magic are you going to perform in six weeks? Please we reject their fraudulent claim”.
Mr. Falana maintained that it is the duty of the police to maintain law and order in peace time.
“Soldiers have no business in town in peace time. Their duty is to defend the territorial integrity of our country, not to police election,” he said.
“That is the business of the Police. As a matter of fact, even Boys Scouts can police elections in Nigeria. You know why? On the day of election, there is restriction of movement. It is illegal for you to leave your ward for another ward. Only journalists, observers, and election workers can move round.
“So if everybody is restricted, why do you need soldiers to come and help you? To do what? But I will tell you why they need soldiers. You know why they need soldiers? To rig the election. To manipulate the process”.