Sahara Reporters, a Nigerian online news portal based in New York, has released audio recordings purported to show how politicians in connivance with soldiers rigged the 2014 governorship elections in Ekiti State, south-western Nigeria.
Peter Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party won against the then incumbent Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress. Fayemi claimed that the election, which was held last summer, was rigged.
Sahara Reporters alleged that they received “unimpeachable documents and audio recordings providing substantial evidence” that showed how highly placed “Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders planned and successfully rigged the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State”. The news portal asserts that:
The audio recordings and affidavit were provided by Sagir Koli, a Captain in the 32nd Artillery Brigade stationed in Ekiti State, who has since fled the country for fear of retaliation. Capt. Koli recorded the conversation on 20th June 2014 when he was asked to accompany his Commanding Officer, Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh, to the meeting. The venue was held at Spotless Hotel in Ado-Ekiti.
The audio recordings depict the meeting as being attended by the eventual “winner” of the election, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti; Senator Iyiola Omisore; a man identified as Honorable Abdulkareem; the Minister for Police Affairs Caleb Olubolade; and Senator Musiliu Obanikoro who was at the time the Minister of State for Defence. Mr. Chris Uba came to Ekiti with huge stash cash and soldiers from the East to carry out the assignment.
The 37-minute recording details the conversation between these men as they bribed Brigadier General Momoh with a promotion for his assistance in carrying out election fraud in Ekiti. In it, Obanikoro is clearly heard informing the group of men, “[I] am not here for a tea party, am on special assignment by the President.”
Sahara Reporters also provided “the full transcript of the audio recording and some context to help listeners understand how the plot was implemented”:
Some of the figures who appear in Sahara Reporters reporting have already denounced it. Senator Musiliu Obanikoro vowed to initiate “legal action against Sahara Reporters in New York and Nigeria for defamation of character” in a statement:
1. That Senator Obanikoro wishes to state categorically and emphatically that you will never find him anywhere in the world talking about rigging an election in favour of anyone. The context of the conversation being reported by Sahara Reporters has been deliberately concocted, manipulated and misrepresented to achieve a predetermined narrative. Nowhere in the purported recording did Senator Obanikoro mention directly or indirectly a plan to rig the Ekiti State elections as the Sahara Reporters narrative suggests.2. That Senator Obanikoro’s team was approached by an agent of Sahara Reporters to pay for the doctored recording. Senator Obanikoro’s refusal to be blackmailed led to Sahara Reporters going ahead to publish the said recording.3. That it is an open knowledge that Sahara Reporters is a paid mouthpiece of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and as such cannot be taken seriously and credibly.
Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State claimed in a press statement that “his voice was recreated with the help of a software”:
Nigerians should be reminded of how the APC people lied in 2007 that they recorded how the governorship election was rigged even in the palace of the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe, but the party could not produce a single photo evidence at the tribunal because their plans to do what is known as Morphing and Syncing was exposed.
Nigerians should also be reminded of the existence of a technology called speech software, which is good at reproducing the sounds, inflections and intonations of a human voice.
Nigerian netizens are reacting to this scandal. #EkitiGate is trending on Twitter.
God punish anybody that deny the #EkitiGate the voices are real, this is not a software work, consider many sounds going at the same time
— #bringbackourgirls (@hanacanal) February 6, 2015
@OkikiolaBillz alleged that only paid Twitter users will dispute the authenticity of the audio:
MaiGida praised Koli, the whistle-blower:
— DOà or MaiGida. (@DaRealDOA) February 6, 2015
Some said President Goodluck Jonathan should be blamed since he is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces:
— CHANGE 2015 (@akinday_tunde) February 6, 2015
Rotimi Balogun ridiculed supporters of the ruling party who are known as GEJites:
This Twitter user thought change is needed in Nigeria:
Oladimeji Fayomi expressed concern about the upcoming general elections next week:
Not everyone tweeting was convinced of the report. Kay Baba did not see any maleficence in the audio:
This user did not trust Sahara Reporters:
— NIGERIA FIRST (@iam_paulmike) February 6, 2015
Writer and lawyer Ayo Sogunro wrote that the audio proves nothing:
Well, the audio doesn't prove rigging. No factual evidence there. The worst it proves is a conspiracy to get nasty. pic.twitter.com/noLdR0q1jL
— Ayo Sogunro (@ayosogunro) February 6, 2015
There is a complicated history between the Nigerian government and SaharaReporters, with the former accusing the news portal of either being a “discredited purveyor of falsehood” or telling “too many lies“. On the other hand, the publisher of SR, Omoyele Sowore - in an interview with Global Voices – alleged that the government tries “to silence or intimidate critics” and “have placed our names at the top of a [‘security threat’] list.”