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TMCNet:  The Burden of Proof [opinion]

[June 30, 2014]

The Burden of Proof [opinion]

(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Perhaps, the freest election in recent history, but the All Progressives Congress has said the victory of Ekiti State Governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose is still haunted by credibility baggage, some of which it is already canvassing in the court of public opinion. Unfortunately for the party, it has a burden of proof to deal with in a much complex scenario like the Ekiti election.


Even before the official announcement of the June 21 governorship election results, almost the whole of Ekiti was reported by major national and local media organisations as having gone into wild jubilation. This, observers had said was a celebration of the trashing of the outgoing Governor Kayode Fayemi's elitist administration, which according to sources, had refused to "tar the stomach" of the people in three years but had gone on tarring roads and investing in infrastructure development. Curiously, analysts, both local and foreign including the many respected columnists had though predicted a Fayemi victory based on evident performance, however a close race they all seemed to agree, obviously because of the popularity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Ayodele Fayose. But that was not to be. By the time the result fully came in and announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it was a tsunamic victory for Fayose. He cleared the entire 16 local governments without any to Fayemi's credit.

And then, suddenly, there was a restrained celebration overtaken by reasoned examination of what could have gone wrong. The prevailing submission now is that there could have been a high-tech manipulation which may not entirely exonerate the INEC leadership itself. Corroborating this school of thought is the alleged swirling photochromic theory, which is being explained away. The theory, amongst other things, discusses the use of a strange but special ink in an already patterned ballot paper, which takes the thumb-printed ink straight to the marked columns, regardless of wherever a voter must have put it in the first place. Now, certain reservations seem to underscore this somewhat impossible but practically unlikely theory. For instance, it was the first time in the history of elections that electoral officers would fold ballot papers in a funny bend before handing same to the prospective voter. Therefore, by the alleged photochromic theory, such a folding of the ballot paper is believed to have been done to prepare it ready for a swift movement of the ink, seconds after thumb-printing, to the desired column since the ballot is believed to have been patterned already.

It is also imperative to note that a few days to the election, a certain truck said to be carrying ballot papers was reportedly intercepted by security agents somewhere near Ekiti. INEC would later come out to dismiss those ballot papers as expired. For academic purposes, therefore, while it may be instructive to presume the ballot papers were truly expired, what indeed were they doing anywhere close to Ekiti, a few days to the election. In any case, who could have access to such classified materials apart from agents of the federal government or to be specific, INEC? Till the election was over, there was no further follow-up on the ballot papers and the truck bearing it. They both paled into insignificance as if it was nothing to fret about. A quick reference here is the case of Mr. Segun Oni, a former governor of the state and family, said to be numbering about 11, who claimed to have voted in their area but ended up with just one vote. That was a mystery that no one has been able to explain but justified the basis for the photochromic theory. The other crucial angle to the cleaning out of the Ekiti votes was the role allegedly played by certain individuals, who though are Nigerians and are entitled to free movement in any part of the social unit as guaranteed by the country's constitution but who truly had no business being in the state on the day of the very election. Not just that, they are prominent Nigerians whose presence would ordinarily elicit suspicion on a day like that. Indeed, some of them were said to have been in Ekiti a week before the election. Therefore, the question is: doing what? Imagine the roll call: Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; Minister of Police Affairs, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan; Osun State governorship hopeful, Senator Iyiola Omisore; former Senate Leader, Teslim Folarin; Anambra State PDP strongman, Chris Uba and South-west and Ogun State PDP financier, Buruji Kashamu.

The irony, however, was that while these men were believed to have fully enjoyed their constitutional rights as Nigerians to travel any part of the country without intimidation or harassment, the same federal government which guaranteed these rights reportedly bore its fangs and undermined, not just the All progressives Congress (APC) members but two sitting governors on some untenable grounds, which curiously did not disqualify the PDP stalwarts. Another allegation of compromise by security operatives has been located in the summoning of what the opposition was named Special Task Force comprising the military, police, SSS and NDLEA officers on the Friday afternoon preceding the election by Tantalisers, a fast food joint. Alleged to have taken place in the presence of AIG Bala Nasarawa, National Director of SSS, Mrs. Florence Ikhanone and Brig-General Momoh, who headed the military for the election - Fayose's Chief Security Officer - Kayode Adeoye and Uba were said to have addressed the officers and handed them briefs. That is yet to be disputed. It was the same team said to have gone round the state from the Friday evening and throughout the duration of the election, allegedly picking leaders of the APC in specially designated black buses with presidency number plate. APC leaders claimed that repeated calls to the Brigade Commander, the AIG Elections and Ikhanone yielded no response as the illegal arrest of their people continued. Over a hundred of APC members were allegedly picked up for no known offence and dumped at SSS HQ for the entire duration of the election, a development the APC believed had left their members and supporters disoriented and confused. Whether or not someone has answers to these posers, critics believed that the PDP and its agents might have successfully convinced analysts and observers alike that there was something fishy about the Ekiti election that gave victory to the PDP. The party, perhaps, had only prepared the grounds for what was to come by both playing up the dramatic popularity of its candidate as well as designed a groundswell of support base for him.

Quite understandably, the reason for doing that, analysts said was trite. Many believed it had only leveraged the prism that you cannot rig where you are not popular. Unfortunately, the approach was considered defective by some. The tendency for winner-takes-all, analysts say, took the better part of the alleged manipulation such that they did not think denying not just an incumbent but one deemed to have performed the opportunity of winning even his own local government was counter-productive. This is one election stigma that has refused to leave the trail of the Fayose victory. The PDP, in its strategic plan, is believed to have failed to analyse the human behaviour within the context of reason. Months before and even days to the election, the pattern of analysis did not change as significantly as was graphed in the eventual result. Bookmakers had it all laid out with palpable evidence that the race would be close though, it was a general submission that it was Fayemi's to lose. None had imagined that a Fayose would return much less envisage such a magnitude of victory. But while that is not enough to dismiss the chances of the PDP and its candidate since they were not in the election to lose, a defensible victory, observers say, was all that they needed with equal platform provided all. Again, not a few would reckon this but it has formed part of the issues. That Fayose went into the election without a clear cut manifesto of what he planned to do for the Ekiti people and how he intended to deliver, but yet coasted home to victory with such mesmerising votes is said to be curious. On the other hand, there is no gainsaying the fact that Fayemi too must have missed it in certain areas of his policy conception and execution. But that it would be this bad to not have won a local government is also another defeat not explainable in a political science class.

This again, many say, reinforces the question of human behaviour which may have been defined by that election result as incomprehensible and completely incongruous to analysis. Without prejudice to the PDP candidate, observers argued that the memory of Fayose that an average Ekiti person has is commonplace and nothing, even during the election has changed that. Therefore, to assume that the supposedly intelligent lot in Ekiti would vote on the basis of personal infrastructure as it was the fulcrum of the PDP campaign and justification of the results as against the infrastructure and institutional development of the Fayemi government is equally defective. This is why the many questions marks on the Fayose victory would tarry, especially now that the APC is considering challenging the results. The party claimed to have begun to gather evidence before proceeding to court. Now, the Zimbabwe Example For those who are yet to come to terms with this theory of photochromic ballot papers, research has given fillip to the insinuations that greeted the Ekiti election, using the controversial Zimbabwe presidential election as its anchor. The article below was written by Piet Coetzer of Garth Cilliers, whose analysis of the Zimbabwe election exposed the Robert Mugabe electoral fraud and the high level Israeli connection.

The riddle of how Robert Mugabe almost miraculously turned an election-loss in 2008 into a landslide win in July this year, might lie with a shadowy Israeli company with a footprint stretching across Africa, and including South Africa. The company, Nikuv, has often been surrounded by election controversies on the continent and in 1996 was taken to court in Zambia on allegations of election rigging. Shortly after the announcement of the results of the July 31 elections in Zimbabwe, under the headline: "Robert Mugabe's Made-in-Israel Landslide", Dave Goldiner of The Jewish Daily Forward reported: "...Nikuv was a vital cog in Mugabe's strategy to massively rig the watershed election and maintain his grip on power. "The strategy apparently succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams, with Mugabe and Zanu-PF running up never-before-seen vote totals in some areas. In some urban constituencies, Zanu-PF increased its vote 10 and 20-fold. In rural areas, some districts recorded more votes than the adult population." Apart from Zimbabwe, the company has made a fortune through its activities in Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho and Zambia. Nikuv, which Goldiner describes as "...a shadowy company headquartered in the Israeli town of Herzliya", is a subsidiary of Formula Systems, a publicly traded information technology group in Israel which specialises in identification and electoral and government systems.

It has been active in Zimbabwe for several years and developed a close relationship with the country's Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, whose office controls the production of all identity documents, such as national ID cards, passports, licences and voter registration forms. Mudede is thought to have been instrumental in the original hiring of Nikuv to computerise the central registry, birth certificates, passports and national identity documents, when Dumiso Dabengwa was still the Home Affairs Minister in 2000. The company actually operates from the second floor of the Registrar General's office building but investigations revealed that the company also runs a greenhouse warehouse elsewhere in Harare, where security agents often assemble for important meetings. According to some sources, Nikuv officials also worked out of army headquarters at KGVI, where there is a "situation room" in which they converged with Joint Operation Command (JOC) chiefs to map out election scenarios and the way forward. Mudede, also, sometimes sits in JOC, which brings together army, police and intelligence chiefs! In the meantime, The Zimbabwe Mirror reported that a private South African-based intelligence organization, Nasini Projects, has allegedly unearthed an almost breath-taking fraud in the July 31 elections. In what might sound far-fetched allegations, the chief executive officer of Nasini Projects, Ms Lucia Mordi, is reportedly claiming that a "delicate ballot paper" was used to rig the election. "From our findings so far we are 99.9% convinced that the election was rigged via a ballot paper. A special watermarked ballot was used to give President Mugabe a resounding victory. The ballot had a watermark X against President Mugabe's name such that if any ink is placed on the paper the substance on the paper will react and remove the ink and activate the watermarked X into print. If you look at some ballots you would see that Xs are very straight and identical," she reportedly said. According to Ms Mordi, Nasini Projects was established to deal with issues related to serious fraud across the world and has branches in more than 100 countries. In the case of the Zimbabwe election, she claimed that after "a tip from our China Branch, we moved in to evaluate the situation". But there are grounds for suspicions that Ms. Mordi's seemingly far-fetched allegation might be a deliberate red herring aimed at discrediting election fraud allegations as part of a much wider massive cover-up operation. It turns out that Nasini Projects actually has close ties with Nikuv. According to the Zimbabwe Mirror report "... unconfirmed reports show that after completing the Zimbabwean Project, Nikuv forwarded to Nasini all the information containing evidence of rigging. Nasini will then aid the opposition to find evidence of the fraud. Once the opposition is in power, Nikuv through its subsidiary, Nasini will begin to strengthen the relationship helping the company get huge government contracts. The organisation operates under various names in different countries." Interestingly, a fairly extensive internet search revealed no information on Nasini Projects except for repeats of the Zimbabwe Mirror article. It is also in reference to these articles that Ms. Mordi's name crops up on the internet. It is also interesting that Nikuv apparently hastily relocated its offices in Harare three days after the elections in what sources claim is part of a cover operation as rigging allegations intensify. The operation seems to involve President Mugabe's spokesperson, George Charamba, who claimed that two suspected Nikuv officials who visited Mugabe the day before the election were actually South African-based Group Five executives. Group Five is currently involved in the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe's highway network but the company's business development manager, Greg Heale, who is based in Johannesburg, denied any of their executives met Mugabe during the week before the elections. Other high-level sources claimed that Nikuv's local Zimbabwean representatives like Ron Asher and Eli Antebi operate from different places across Harare and that Asher and colleagues were in charge of a voters' roll that included very many duplications, people from outside the country, deceased people and other irregularities which could have been used by Nikuv-supplied software to engineer results. "Nikuv ran the show since they handled the voters' roll and election results. That is why the company's bosses were in Harare last week. They came and flew back to Tel Aviv last week after doing the job and perhaps with a lucrative new contract in their pocket - signed, sealed and delivered," another source claimed.

It is also not only in Zimbabwe where there is a cloud of controversy over Nikuv. Its offices were recently raided by authorities in Lesotho in connection with a suspect $30 million passports contract amid allegations of bribery. In Botswana, Nikuv won a controversial $9,42million contract from the Home Affairs and registry offices and in Ghana it was a bidder in a $60 million national identification card project in 2004 that became entangled in a web of corruption in neighbouring Nigeria, which led to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo axing some ministers. The company, in fact, made its first appearance on the African continent in 1994 in Nigeria and now has offices in Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Its presence in Zambia goes back to 1996 when then President Frederick Chiluba hired it to prepare the voters roll and it allegedly was also asked to clandestinely help influence the election outcome, working closely with the Zambian Security Intelligence Service (ZSIS). It is also alleged that since taking power in 2011, President Sata and the PF have used the experience of Nikuv to rig some of the recent Zambian by-elections, winning seats that were formerly safe opposition strongholds. The Sabotage Theory Put differently, the allegations that the PDP perfected the "scientific rigging" that saw Fayose through to another coming as governor, there is yet a tetchy amongst the ranks of the APC of a likely sabotage from within. Here lies the theory. Fayemi is believed to have gone wrong with a section of the party's leadership long before the election over what most people considered "family affair" but others, pecuniary.

As such, where the leadership would have ordinarily picked up the gauntlet, given the collective implication of losing Ekiti, it was said to have left Fayemi to his fate, a disposition believed to have affected things significantly. Aside that, a cabal in the APC leadership, believed to be working secretly with President Goodluck Jonathan was also said to have brokered a multi-billion naira deal with the government at the centre less than a week to the election, a development a majority of members thought was sheer betrayal since whoever pays the piper is likely to dictate the tune. This angle, many an APC member and observer alike believe contributed in some small measure to the trashing of the party's candidate in the June 21 governorship election. While some members of the party are aware of this development and others said to be investigating it in addition to other factors believed to have contributed to the failure of the APC in Ekiti, they have also resolved to forestall any more of such disaster, especially as they look forward to the August 9 governorship election in Osun State. PDP Not Perturbed Although the PDP was impressed by Fayemi's spirit, who despite losing the election was quick to congratulate Fayose, it has since come down heavily on the national leadership of the APC for not accepting the processes and outcome of the Ekiti election. PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the position of the APC national leadership over an election widely accepted as one of the freest, fairest and most credible in Nigeria, and in which their candidate, Fayemi had also conceded defeat, demonstrates their 'preference for anarchy and blind homage to nihilism and destruction of the democratic order". "The APC has once again confirmed that it is nothing but a chaotic organisation, totally averse to democracy and orderliness. It has shown that it is a party of desperate, frustrated and violent individuals promoting a Janjaweed ideology. "This is a party that is fully aware that it was trounced in all the local governments of the state and even lost in the polling units and wards of its campaign Director-General and that of its Deputy National Chairman, yet it is bent at fomenting trouble to disrupt the peace in Ekiti State apparently out of frustration that it did not get the chance to rig the polls. "We restate our commendations to security agencies for the roles they played in maintaining law and order and providing level playing ground for all parties before, during and after the election.

"However we wish to alert of an orchestrated plot by the APC to now use the instruments of wild allegations and spurious claims to set the stage to unleash mayhem on Ekiti State using imported armed thugs. We therefore urge Nigerians to note this and hold the APC responsible should there be any breakdown of law and order in Ekiti State," the party said. Osun's Fear of the Unknown Much as the Ekiti dust is yet to settle, attention may have shifted somewhat to Osun State, where the next governorship election is billed to hold on August 9. It is a two-horse race between the incumbent, Rauf Aregbesola and PDP's Omisore. It is going to be another battle of the titans. While the Ekiti episode was essentially between an academic and a politician, Osun is to be slugged out between two politicians, both of whom are said to be on the ground with staggering following. However, there is the fear that the PDP has developed a template already, coming from the Ekiti experience. With the many theories flying around, coupled with the fact that there is no push-over between the two candidates, Osun poses a lot more threat and would most likely be militarised more than Ekiti. The APC governors and their leaders had met last week to review the situation before deciding on what to do with Ekiti. But while that is in the works, the Osun election is what will either put a lie to the many theories on Ekiti or affirm the victory of Fayose as truly representative of the wish of the people. It is expected, therefore, that the two candidates will come to the election with record of performance and promises of what they are able to do with clear cut evidence of its feasibility. While Aregbesola has continued to sell his re-election on the basis of performance alluding to the many development initiatives he has brought to bear since he assumed office some four years ago, Omisore, having been a former deputy governor and prominent member of the senate is running on the strength of test and trust. Aside, the two are strong politicians with huge support base across the length and breadth of the state. Aregbesola is optimistic of his reelection and often refers to the 2011 election, where he not only cleared the votes for his party but remained the only party in the South-west that rejected the Goodluck Jonathan candidacy, despite alleged understanding with the party leadership.

Against this background, Osun is believed to have a history of election pattern, even though it does not stop the equation from changing. But whatever would change, observers say, must be within the confines of decency with empirical evidence to corroborate. Above all, he has warned the PDP not to cross its boundary proclaiming to be ready for its antics. The governor who spoke recently at a campaign rally in Ikirun, Ifelodun Local Government Area of the state, specifically said Omisore could not threaten him in any form, adding that "as Aregbesola, I have come to rebuild the state for another good four years." Aregbesola claimed he had not completed his mission in the state and therefore, Omisore should behave well before, during and after the election. He contended that the next four years would be enough to send the PDP and Omisore packing from the state. "If anybody thinks he can destabilise the state, he would be joking." On his part, Omisore has said in clear terms that he was going to take over the Government House in August. Omisore, who was still basking in the euphoria of Fayose's victory, said the PDP showing in Ekiti connoted total rejection of the APC in the South-west. "We are taking over the government of Osun State in 49 days. I can assure you that by God's grace, on August 10, we will have cause to celebrate. Obviously, you can go and see what is happening in that state now. There is total rejection of APC in my state. Today, APC has only been able to touch about five per cent of peoples' lives. "All you see on papers and televisions are not on the ground. Bad roads everywhere - no water, no facility - nothing to show for it! Workers are not being paid, schools are closed, teachers and pensioners are not paid, retirees are not paid. So, there is a general consensus of exit of APC in Ekiti and Osun States for now and probably in South-west in the next few months more," Omisore stated. Endangered INEC Whichever way any election goes, INEC remains the one to take either the credit or the blame. In the case of Ekiti, it has begun to take the flaks already for what many are beginning to see, perhaps, erroneously as conspiracy at the highest level, especially given the scientific slant to the theory of electoral manipulation. Ekiti election is no doubt an improvement on the Anambra election; the success is however believed to have been tainted by an alleged skewing of the platform more in favour of one candidate at the expense of another. Indeed, INEC, many believe has a lot of answering to do as far as Ekiti is concerned. It must start by explaining away what happened to the "expired ballot" said to have been intercepted a few days to the election on the way to Ekiti. It must, in addition, explain what the ballot papers were doing along that route for starters. INEC owes it a duty to explain why the ballot papers used in the Ekiti election were allegedly folded by electoral officers before they were handed prospective voters. These noted, the federal government must also explain the rights Mr. Uba had to have met with security operatives on the evening of the Friday preceding the election and in what capacity. It was bad enough that the state was completely militarised, the service chiefs were also said to have been handed strict instruction to deliver Ekiti at all costs. Apart from the Police IG, MD Abubakar, who was said to have cautioned on the approach, the other service chiefs were said to have been stupefied at the instruction handed them while other senior cabinet members with affiliation to security portfolio were allegedly advised to leave town for the period of the election that weekend. Much as Fayemi has taken the honourable path by conceding defeat and in good spirit, his party has resolved to challenge the results of the election as a result of its many reservations. No doubt, a dual mandate and as such, while Fayemi has fulfilled the responsibility of personal example by congratulating Fayose, the party is pursing the responsibility of institutional ideals for which it represents by seeking to unravel what went wrong at the poll. Therefore, as part of the democratic process, it is the belief of many that such a posturing by the APC to challenge the result would strengthen the nation's democracy for as long as it is done without any ulterior motive of distorting the facts as well as tampering with evidence. But it must bear in mind the fact that it would be doing such against the backdrop of serious burden of proof, being where the PDP stands. It is not impossible though, observers reckon, it could however be difficult because Fayose's victory left behind a strong impression of credibility and fair play, being two major ingredients of any acceptable election. But how the APC intends to unravel the mystery and bring to the fore with verifiable evidence, the allegations that the victory was flawed remains its responsibility. Most instructively, observers reckon it must do so without losing face because any attempt to play to the gallery or merely grandstand would backfire and that could have a backlash on the Osun election slated for August 9.

Copyright This Day. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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