By DAPO AKINREFON
…As Agagu seeks justice on alleged forged security reports
DR Olusegun Agagu is a former governor of Ondo State. In this interview, he speaks on the alleged falsified security reports obtained to oust him from office. While he is optimistic that justice will prevail at the end of the day, Agagu states that he intends to set the records straight hence his decision to petition the Chief Justice of the Federation.
On his party’s chances in the October 20 governorship election in the state, he says: “I think the PDP is doing well and I am confident that by October 21 when the election results will be announced, Chief Oke, our candidate, will be voted in as the next governor of Ondo State”. Excerpts:
You said recently that the security reports obtained to remove you from office as governor were forged. What is your position on this issue?
The origin of this is that during the tribunal hearings in Akure in 2007 and 2008, some security reports were tendered by the Labour Party which said there were election irregularities in 10 of the local government areas where we won. There are 18 local government areas in Ondo State, the Labour Party won in seven, while the PDP won in 11. As per INEC results, the PDP won but the Labour Party went to the tribunal to raise objections as to the fairness of the elections in the 10 local government areas where the PDP won.
The Labour Party did not have any cogent case to make except that they tendered some purported SSS reports saying the election was manipulated, that there was violence, ballot snatching in those 10 local government areas where the PDP won. Our lawyers objected to those reports because they were tendered across the bar and the judges said they would look at the merits and demerits of whether to give considerations to the reports or not.
To cut the long story short, we found out that, in their judgement, they wrote clearly that the election should be cancelled in Okitipupa, Ilaje and few other local government areas. Specifically, they said the election was manipulated based on the SSS reports.
Our lawyers objected to the reports at the tribunal and the Director of SSS was subpoenaed to come and give evidence; and the legal officer of the SSS in Ondo State was sent to come and give evidence and he said clearly at the tribunal that those reports did not emanate from the SSS. Based on that, we never knew that the judges would take any consideration and make any judgement based on the documents. Alas, when the judgement came, it was written that results should be cancelled in a number of local governments based on the reports at the tribunal.
Hostile witness We appealed, objecting to the declaration, especially because the SSS official came and denied that such reports emanated from their system. Again, we thought the Court of Appeal judges would hold our view, because that was the truth; unfortunately, the court again ruled that they would uphold those reports. The Court of Appeal actually said that the officer of the SSS must have been a hostile witness. How they arrived that he was a hostile witness, only God knows. That was how we were removed from office.
Painful as that was, I decided to take it as the will of God. About a year later, I think it was on May 19, 2010 because we were removed from office on February 23, 2009, I thought that I might not have to go and fight to be governor of Ondo State but it would be wise to put the records straight for the sake of posterity. And that our democracy will be at risk if people deliberately concoct security reports and use them to obtain judgement in cases where they have lost election.
So I wrote to Mr President complaining and that I will want the case to be investigated. I wrote first to the late President Yar’Adua, who didn’t respond to my petition until he passed on. By the time President Jonathan came on board as Acting President, I sent another letter to him and I must thank him very much. Within a week, he instructed the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the matter. The matter was investigated, I was visited by the SSS personnel and I was also invited to Abuja to write a statement.
The long and short of it is that at the end of the day, the police officers in the Special Investigation Unit told me that they found out that the SSS confirmed that the reports were forged and that they were going to prosecute the Labour Party chief who, the tribunal, tendered those documents. That is where we are. For about two years now, the matter has been laid to rest.
I, therefore, decided about two weeks ago, that for posterity and for one’s name, the last thing I want people to think about me is that I stole somebody’s mandate. And the Labour Party people never cease for one minute to keep saying that the mandate was stolen.
Whereas, they are the people who stole somebody’s mandate by forging security reports. I thought this matter should be made clear to all and sundry, so I wrote a petition to the Chief Justice of the Federation that the matter should be looked into so that the right decisions can be taken by the system. First is to exonerate me, secondly is to expose people who procured judgement in a fraudulent manner so that the whole world can see.
What was your initial reaction when you read the police report stating their findings?
Honestly, I knew those security reports were forged.
Because I was still governor when the reports were found out and I invited the Director of SSS in Ondo State and he came and swore with everything he had in life that those reports were forged and showed me what a normal SSS report would look like. So, we were clear in our minds that they were forged, but the judiciary refused to see it that way and used them to rule us out. So, we were aware.
The police investigation and eventual report only went to vindicate our position and I want to thank the hierarchy of the police and the SSS for the excellent job they did, coming out clearly that those reports were forged. It is a criminal offence and they have vowed to charge those people who were behind it to court.
How optimistic are you that justice will prevail at the end of the day?
If one will dispassionately look at the judiciary in the country and its role in the last ten years or so with regards to election matters, one would see between 2006 and 2010 that judgements were a bit unusual in a number of cases. In a number of places like Osun, Ekiti, Edo and Ondo, you could see question marks in some of those judgements. A lot of protestations have been going on in the some of the states mentioned.
Such expositions will want to make one doubt the judiciary as to whether we can get justice or not, but I think the judiciary itself, since the period of the last CJN, has been looking at itself with a view to trying to cleanse the system and ensure that the judiciary stands above board as they are supposed to be. I have had some comments about Justice Mukthar that she is a no-nonsense woman and that she would always stand on the side of the truth. That is what encouraged me to write to her to see her views about the matter.
But what do intend to make out of this?
I am not keen on going back to be governor of Ondo State but I am not happy about people who have procured some judgement by fraud to be enjoying that unquestioned. I also think that Nigerians should know about this, our electoral system should know about this so that we can start to expose and deal with and guard against people who have fraudulent intentions from derailing our nascent democracy. Those are the things I expect and all I need to hear is that: we know that this is phony and I will go and rest in my house.
How would you react to the warning from the Labour Party that you should desist from your quest?
This is not about abuse, there are simple questions: were security reports tendered? The answer is yes. Who tendered them? The answer is Labour Party. Are the security reports real or fake? We know now that the reports are fake. The purported owners of the security reports, that is the SSS and police, have said that those reports are fake. These are clear facts, but what happens after that, depends on the judiciary. I am happy if the world knows about these things.
The governorship election in Ondo State has been tagged a three-horse race. Do you think your party stands a chance to win at the polls considering the incumbency factor?
When people talk about incumbency, it is a double-edged sword. When you are an incumbent, you have power to manipulate by influencing the police and other security agencies and INEC. We think that the umpire will not allow themselves to be used, so we expect the police, the SSS and INEC to create a level-playing ground for all. The other side of incumbency is that the occupier of the seat now will be viewed and judged by all as to how their government is performing, if possible in relation to previous governments. So the person on the seat is like in the witness box.
We don’t think if a level-playing ground is maintained that our party is at any disadvantage and we urge everybody who is to play the role of an umpire to do so according to law. From what I have seen, because I have gone out with Chief Olusola Oke on one of his campaigns, in terms of enthusiasm of the people, I think the PDP has the brightest chance of winning this election.
The reasons are clear not minding all the propaganda in the newspapers, it is clear that the PDP is very much entrenched in terms of structure all the way to the grassroots in the state. We have a candidate who is well known because he has been in the politics of Ondo State since 1991.
People say it loud and clear, especially PDP members, some members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and non politicians, that development today in Ondo State is not as good as it was when the PDP administration was in government between 2003 and 2009. And Chief Oke keeps singing it that he would bring back the good old days of progress that the PDP gave to the state.
It is clear that the present administration is not impacting enough in terms of infrastructural development, wealth creation, and employment generation. They saw something expansive when the PDP was there and they believe if the PDP comes back, the good time will start to roll again. So, the chances of the PDP are very bright and for good reasons. I think the PDP is doing well and I am confident that by October 21 when the election results will be announced, Chief Oke will be voted in as the next governor of Ondo State.