everal lawyers and civil society activists have urged the Nigeria government to embark on a thorough investigation of the audio recording revealing how some Peoples’ Democratic Party chieftains connived with security agencies to rig the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.
At the meeting, as evidenced by the recording, prominent officials of the PDP were heard discussing strategies for rigging the 2014 Ekiti governorship election, a poll in which the party eventually won by a landslide.
But some of the actors, including Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Defence Minister, and Ayo Fayose, who defeated the incumbent governor, denied being a party to the plot to rig the election and questioned the authenticity of the recording.
Despite their denials, the Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan, who also attended the meeting, confirmed Sunday that the tape was authentic.
He however disagreed with the context of the discussion, saying the meeting was never about plans to rig the Ekiti State election.
Speaking in separate interviews on Monday, lawyers and activists said they were convinced the recording, which was leaked by Sagir Koli, a Captain in the Nigerian Army, is authentic.
Debo Adeniran, Executive Director of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, said he believed the incident actually took place.
“When people do such things, they normally do it in secrecy with a view to denying it when they are busted. Which is what Obanikoro and Fayose have done,” said Mr. Adeniran.
“But that will not deny the fact that the voices and mannerisms were for those whose voices were recorded, especially Obanikoro and Fayose. Their denial should not be taken as final. They should be tested in a court of competent jurisdiction so that at the end of the day people should not force themselves on the citizens.”
Mr. Adeniran urged the relevant authorities not to sweep the matter under the carpet, noting that the incident “portends a great danger for the future of Nigeria.”
“A democracy whereby people can stage a coup and get away with it. This time around, the police and DSS (Department of State Security) should promptly arrest those ones not covered by immunity, extract more information from them, and charge them to court. Those in the military should be made to face a court martial.
“If it is true that the election in Ekiti State was rigged, because the governor had no reason to win it in the first place, the situation should be reversed and impeachment proceedings instituted against the governor.”
In addition to Messrs Obanikoro and Fayose, others who participated in the alleged rigging plot include Iyiola Omisore, a former PDP gubernatorial candidate in Osun State, and Aliyu Momoh, a Brigadier General, among others.
Festus Keyamo, a human rights lawyer, said that the leaked tape was not meant for entertainment.
“That incident that was recorded is an incident that touches and goes to the very root of our democracy. It’s a tape that will dictate the survival of our democracy or otherwise.”
Mr. Keyamo called for a thorough investigation of all the dramatist personae involved, including the officer who recorded the conversation, and for the findings to be made public.
“Whoever is found culpable must be punished. The matter must not start and die with the denial of the people involved. There must be a thorough criminal investigation.”
Another human rights lawyer, Ebun Adegboruwa, however, said that the release of the audio recording was belated and therefore no longer useful to the Election Petitions Tribunal.
“I believe that the responsibility is on the person making the allegation to make himself available for investigation,” said Mr. Adegboruwa.
“Why did he wait until judgment was delivered at the (Election Petitions) tribunal? Having waited for the tribunal process to be completed it is of no relevance to the judicial process.
“It can’t be used for appeal because the Court of Appeal is not a court of evidence. It only reviews the judgment delivered by a lower court, you can’t smuggle in evidence at that stage.”
Mr. Adegboruwa also called for the arrest of those involved in the incident.
“If these allegations are true, it casts a shadow on the integrity of this government and that of the electoral process. I suspect that there may be more to it than meets the eye.”
In his reaction, Chino Obiagwu, National Coordinator, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, said that the development has justified calls for the setting up of an independent Electoral Offences Commission.
This Commission will be saddled specifically with the task of investigating incidents such as the one in the leaked audio tape, according to Mr. Obiagwu.
“If the meeting held, then all those involved must be prosecuted effectively such investigations should be the basis to annul that election for reason of premeditated interference and a use of power in the process.
“Only an independent prosecuting agency can handle it.”