Image via Wikipedia'Jonathan voted four times in 2007'
He was only a candidate for vice president then but in 2007, Goodluck Jonathan took matters into his own hands — literally. According to US diplomatic cables leaked to the whistleblower site Wikileaks, and which were made exclusively available to us, Mr. Jonathan helped himself gain the vice presidency four years ago by voting illegally four times. The astonishing accusation against Mr. Jonathan, now a president seeking validation at the polls next month, came from Edo governor Adams Oshiomhole, in a December 2008 briefing with US diplomats.
According to Mr. Oshiomhole, as reported in the US diplomatic cables, the court ruling voiding the supposed election of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for Edo governor and declaring Mr. Oshiomhole the legitimate winner would not have been possible without documentary evidence that, Mr. Jonathan, among others, personally rigged the election.
“Oshiomhole told poloffs (‘political officers’ at the US embassy) that it proved impossible to use forensic evidence because of the poor quality of thumbprints and that claims of intimidation also proved difficult to prove in a court of law, but documentary evidence, such as proof that the ‘vice president’ had voted four times, for example, proved decisive in the courts,” the cables revealed.
The content of the cables received an angry reaction from Aso Villa. Ima Niboro, the president's spokesperson, dismissed the claims as "stupid" and challenged anyone to come forward with evidence that linked President Jonathan with electoral malpractice. "Why should the president vote four times? Go and ask Adams Oshiomhole to come out and tell Nigerians. I can't respond to WikiLeaks," he said.
Several calls were made to Mr.Oshiomhole but both his phone numbers were unreachable. Further calls and text messages were made to Peter Okhiria, his spokesperson, but were also unreturned.
These particular cables from US diplomats stationed in Nigeria and reporting to the State Department in Washington are among a massive trove of documents made available to NEXT in a worldwide exclusive. The documents cover a whole range of people and events in our country from as early as 2003 to the last months of the poorly President Umaru Yar’Adua, whose death in office a year ago ended a constitutional crisis and resulted in the ascent of Mr. Jonathan to the highest office in the land. The cables provide an unusually unvarnished insight into the dysfunctional and ineffectual nature of our government at all levels, the various forces pushing and pulling at the country, and the vileness and rapacity of those we have allowed to govern us. Two unnamed political officers, or “poloffs,” in US diplomatic jargon, visited the governor on Dec. 17, 2008 shortly after his legal victory. It was during that meeting that Mr. Oshiomhole made his explosive claim, as dutifully recorded by his visitors. Their cable originated from the Lagos consulate. In the cable, dated Dec. 29, 2008, Mr. Jonathan, who was vice president at the time, is said to have violated the Electoral Act by voting more than once. The law stipulates a maximum fine of N1 million or 12 months’ imprisonment for violators. At a campaign rally on Thursday, President Jonathan repeated his recent declaration that neither he nor his party had any desire to rig the coming elections. He added that he would advocate transparent elections even at the cost of losing the election.
“I am assuring Nigerians that though I am contesting, nobody must manipulate votes in my favour. Our vote is very important,” he said.
Not so secret
The vote-rigging allegations against the president are known to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), according to a highly-placed source at the Commission. The source, who did not want to be named for fear of a reprisal, revealed that a petition had been filed at INEC since 2007 in which references were made to the fact that the former vice president and other public figures voted several times. The source said that the petition did not single out President Jonathan but used him as a high profile example of the rife multiple registrations that took place in Bayelsa, Mr. Jonathan’s home state, where he had served as governor, and other states in the broader Delta region.
“There was a petition which I was aware of dated November 2007 or so,” the source told NEXT. “It was filed by a pressure group in the South-South who named several people as being complicit in multiple voting. Jonathan was one of the people mentioned.
“We get hundreds of such petitions and most of them are without merit. Also, the truth is we just don’t have the time to look into all of them.”
Local and international observers condemned the 2007 election for being heavily rigged in favour of the PDP, with some classifying it as our worst ever. Even President Yar’Adua, in his inaugural address, acknowledged as much, promising to clean things up by 2011. Several cases are still pending in court over the four-year-old election, with successful upturns recorded in Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and Osun states. Mr. Oshiomhole, who is himself a beneficiary of a successful legal challenge in Edo state, is described in the diplomatic cable as a “refreshing reminder that Nigeria possesses competent and honest leaders”.
During the visit by the US officials, the Edo State governor said that approximately 2,000 volunteers in 120 different polling stations had gone through ballots, result sheets and voter registration records to identify documentary evidence of fraud.
A day before President Jonathan announced that “nobody must manipulate votes in my favour”, Attahiru Jega, the electoral commission chairman, revealed that several high profile individuals registered more than once in the recently completed voter registration exercise. Mr. Jega refused to divulge the names of the “high profile double registrants” but said that they could all face prosecution.
Several parties have responded angrily to Mr. Jega’s stark admission that influential Nigerians were planning to rig the forthcoming elections. Ibrahim Modibbo, a spokesperson for the Nuhu Ribadu presidential campaign, said that although the INEC chairman did not mention any names, almost all of the offenders were in the PDP.
“I don’t believe you will find ACN members in this act because we are disciplined people,” he said.
The party’s secretary, Lai Mohammed, denounced Mr. Jega’s decision to withhold the name of the culprits and demanded he publish them.
“If he has the names as he claims, what is he waiting for? He should publish their names and prosecute them,” he said.
The spokesperson for the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), Emma Eneukwu, said the offenders should be taken to court,
“It is a criminal offence,” he said. “If the penalty attached to these offences are handed to the offenders, it will serve as deterrent. There is no sacred cow.
“The issue of multiple registration has been a problem in the country and until somebody is punished we cannot have transparent polls.”
The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties(CNPP) spokesman, Osita Okechukwu, challenged the electoral commission boss to publish the names.
“We challenge Jega to publish forthwith the names of those involved and prosecute them in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act,” he said. “He should immediately ask all the RECs (Resident Electoral Commissioners) to audit the Authentic Finger Identification System (AFIS) so that they can separate the junk and the underaged.”