The venue was London’s Chatham House in St James’ Square on the 27th of June 2011. Kick off 5pm. Only about 5 minutes of African time was allowed, a record.
Pastor Bakare billed it as an informative session and I duly took notes. You will recall that I was a passionate Nuhu Ribadu supporter in the last presidential (and I would do so again tomorrow and the day after if the race featured the same contestants) so perhaps it might be useful to read someone else’s account of events just in case mine lacks ‘balance’.
Bullet points are kind of nice when you are summarising stuff like this, so here goes
1. Pastor Bakare began by describing the events of the April presidential election, no point rehashing them here. He gave a pass mark to the voters registration process, the accreditation of voters on the day and even the actual voting. Where he, and by extension the CPC, say the problems began were at the collation centres. He showed us the now famous map of Nigeria showing the PDP beating the CPC into the core north with a spot represented by Osun for the ACN. He contended that while the map showed a divided nation, the reality was much different. Exactly what the alternative reality was, he didn’t say.
2. If you listened to the now famous sermon Pastor Bakare preached a couple of Sundays ago, you’d be familiar with the evidence or facts (depending on how you choose to view them) that were presented to us. A newspaper excerpt from PM News quoting Governor Amaechi complaining about low voter turnout on election day only for the final results to produce a 76% turnout was tendered. Mallam El-Rufai later described a low turnout election as somewhere between 10 and 30%, an assertion I think can be said to be fairly accurate. There was also the (unnamed) ward in Cross Rivers which purportedly had 6031 registered voters but on election day this same ward managed to produce over 76,000 votes, the vast majority (vast majority is hereby defined as 95%+) of whom shockingly voted for Mr Jonathan of the PDP.
3. Pastor Bakare and Mallam El-Rufai took turns in running us through a spreadsheet showing each geo-political zone’s number of registered voters, percentage turnout and the winning margin of the party which won the zone. It is of course not news that the zone which had the highest turnout was the South East very closely followed by the South South. The South West averaged a turnout of about 32% which Mallam El-Rufai put down to the Yorubas having no horse in the race partly because the ACN, according to him, had decided they had no candidate they were going to back, never mind Mallam Ribadu’s best efforts. Interestingly Mallam El-Rufai tried to make the case that a similar turnout should have been witnessed in the South East because, ahem, the Igbos too had no horse in the race.
4. One at least 3 or 4 different occasions, Mallam El-Rufai and Pastor Bakare said ‘it’s just not possible’ when trying to make the case as to why they were challenging the election results. General Buhari too said at one point they will be seeking to prove at the tribunal whether it is possible to get a 99% vote share on a 40% turnout (I am assuming 40% is what the CPC believes to be the actual turnout). Mallam El-Rufai later said what they were trying to prove was a bit ‘difficult’ to explain but they have since hired forensic experts, presumably to make it less difficult to explain. Pastor Bakare says Nigeria is running a ‘clique democracy’ and their task is to make our democracy more inclusive as the current arrangement is effectively a sham and hardly reflects the will of the people. They tried to show us a couple of videos of rigging in action but the projector sadly developed a ‘system failure’ and wouldnt show. One of the videos apparently showed an underaged lad doing multiple thumbprinting for the PDP, 2 offences rolled into one.
5. And so we moved to question time. Yours truly had the distinction of being the only person who asked a question without getting a directly reply from any of the 3 men. The questions were asked in batches of 4 and perhaps mine was a bit of a silly one so they politely ignored it. Anyway my friend, Tolu Ogunlesi asked them that given that the South South and South East have been pretty much 100% PDP zones since 1999 and the CPC was barely a year old at the time of the elections, what kind of results were they expecting from those zones, especially as they seemed to have zoned in those two zones as the epicentre of the April mischief they were alleging. None of the 3 men mentioned anything about the South West per irregularities or even the North Central, something I found curious. Strangely they have chosen to focus on the two strongholds of the man whose victory they are challenging. I had asked if the patterns of malpractice they had observed were also visible in the other gubernatorial elections as well as the legislative ones and if so, were they also contesting those elections as vigorously as they are contesting the presidential election.
6. Roz Ben-Okagbue asked if the CPC was guilty of no crime at all especially as there were several reports of underaged voting in the north seeing as by their submissions, it appeared the PDP were the only guilty party. To his credit, Pastor Bakare gave a robust condemnation of underaged voting and managed to make the case that if indeed it was true (he didn’t witness any such voting), then INEC would have rubber stamped an illegality and was further proof that the elections were flawed. Touche.
7. Finally Pastor Bakare delivered what was the whole point of the CPC’s challenge; there were millions of phantom votes in the election which were simultaneously stolen from the CPC and added unto the PDP. Please get your pen and paper, write down the number I am about to tell you and keep it in a safe place.
According to Pastor Bakare, there are (pen ready?) 11 million ‘make believe’ votes on which our current democracy is built. Why 11 million I hear you ask? Well the final presidential election results from INEC were as follows
Ah makes sense now. You see, when you take away 11 million from the PDP and add it to the CPC….
8. More questions were asked and one particular guy eventually said what perhaps many people felt but didnt want to say; he wasnt convinced by the arguments of the CPC especially in making the case exactly as to why the high turnout and/or vote share in the SS and SE were ‘just not possible’. My sentiments exactly. Of course the numbers look dodgy and they should be contested especially for the future because if the tricks used in April are properly exposed in court, they become difficult to replicate next time. Forgive my cynicism but I don’t think ‘it’s just not possible’ will pass muster with Justice Katsina-Alu, Justice Mary Odili and others at the Supreme Court if this case got that far. But let’s give the CPC the benefit of the doubt that perhaps they have something damning up their sleeves and are refusing to show their hands until they get to court. Mallam El-Rufai said once the results were ‘adjusted’, presumably for an alternative reality, the CPC will show up all the votes which ‘ought not to be there’. Meh.
9. I remember during the NN24 presidential debate, I got into a small debate with a friend as to whether or not General Buhari was standing behind his lectern or sitting down. Forgive me for being overly sensitive to the carriage and implied health of a man who wants to be President after the Yar’Adua debacle, but I really wondered then if General Buhari was up to the physical requirements of the job of the Nigerian president, something I imagine to be punishing on the body. When the moderator asked him to begin his opening remarks by standing up to address the audience yesterday, the General elected to sit down. No biggie, but I noticed. Mallam El-Rufai and Pastor Bakare both stood up when they were addressing the audience.
General Buhari also deferred to Pastor Bakare when it came to answering questions on at least 2 separate occasions. At one point he deferred to Pastor Bakare who then parried the question back to him with a return serve of which Roger Federer would be proud. The General then tried to explain the slight awkwardness away by saying Pastor Bakare was the chairman of the party’s presidential council committee (or something like that) so was better placed to answer the questions.It is not for nothing that the General has been severally referred to as ‘taciturn’ and ‘ascetic’.
10. The lady who asked the last question wondered why a man (General Buhari) known for his stern public disposition chose to break down in tears on the eve of the elections in Abuja. Was he making a play for sympathy votes she wondered and could he be trusted not to get emotional as president when confronted with tough decisions to make? Pastor Bakare chose to answer this question and he said the General wasnt the only one who wept on the day, he too wept and so did Mallam El-Rufai. There were thankfully no reports of any accompanying gnashing of teeth on the said day.
General Buhari thought he had dodged this question until the lady insisted that he answer. He got some laughs when he said he had intentionally tried to avoid the question at first. But he then proceeded to tell a story of how in the ’60s, students were selected from Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone to go on a sponsored trip to England. He explained that he’s always been a double minority in Katsina state given that Daura is the junior emirate compared with Katsina and he’s also a Fulani vis-a-vis the Hausas. He also said one of his classmates was from the titled Yar’Adua clan and another classmate was the son of a minister. But without lobbying or using any ‘connects’, he was picked to go on the scholarship purely on merit. Ergo, the sum total of his quest for power was a crusade for social justice, the kind he freely got as a youngster but which is no longer available in Nigeria today.
I will tell you this; when the General told this story, not without emotion, I believed him 100%. I cannot tell you why exactly but I honestly felt that he was speaking from the heart and he came across as genuinely sincere. Was there a flaw in the CPC’s campaign strategy in not weaving a human narrative of the General alongside the tough as nails guy who was going to paralyze corruption with a figure 4 leg lock?
11. Finally, I think the last elections exposed our leaders and would be leaders as exceedingly ordinary people. Perhaps it was all the social media and televised campaigns but yesterday at Chatham House, I got close enough to General Buhari to see the spots on his face. I remember when I was a kid growing up in Kaduna, General Babangida the then head of state came visiting to the Air Force Base where we lived. Along with other primary school kids, I was able to see him from about 500 metres away. I recall that weeks after he had left, the talk I overheard among most of the soldiers and our neighbours was all about how flawless IBB’s glowing light skin was. He was spoken of in terms almost mythical and you can see admiration or perhaps respect as people talked about him. In those days, leaders weren’t so ‘common’ and only you got to see them now and again. Things are different these days it seems. We have so much time to listen to these guys and pick out their inconsistencies, mannerisms and general flaws. What we are seeing is not pretty. This applies to ALL the people who aspired to lead us in April.
I do not think our leaders are meant to be viewed up close and certainly not to be placed under intense scrutiny. These men are too ordinary in my opinion. And they have collectively led us into a ditch that they couldn’t possibly get us out of. But to paraphrase Barack Obama; in the confounding story that is Nigeria, there is perhaps nothing false about hope.
We live in hope
Shame on me, I cannot facially recognise Dr Oronto Douglas. He was apparently at the event yesterday but I only found this out this morning when a friend mentioned it. But I did recognise Reno Omokri who joined us in the audience. He appears to have been given the task of ‘man marking’ Mallam El-Rufai for the next 4 years.
After the event, Mr Omokri and another lady took to distributing Mr President’s propaganda material (3 books in total) just outside the doors of Chatham House i.e. literarily on the street. These books were brought out of what I can euphemistically describe as a well-worn jute bag (GMG is no longer politically correct). I assume Mr Omokri was there on His Excellency’s Secret Service but the way he tried to force the books into General Buhari’s car as he was driving off and after being politely turned down, then faced Mallam El-Rufai and tried to force the same books into his hands (he also declined) left a lot to be desired.
I think these guys need to realise they are representing the President at such events and as such a bit more decorum on their part will not go amiss. Nuff said.
I can confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, there was no transport fare given at the venue, neither was lunch or dinner served. But I hear (do not quote me on this) that there was dinner later which I sadly missed as I left not long after we finished.
As it turns out, a friend of ours recently had a baby girl, and by way of a BB status update declared that she was craving Mrs FF’s jollof rice and chicken. Said jollof rice was delivered on time and on budget yesterday evening by the time I got home and, without trying to blow my Madam’s trumpet, I thought she delivered something dangerously close to perfection in the meal that she cooked.
I ate that rice instead. Every disappointment is a blessing as they say.