A top consultant of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Olatubosun Adeniyi Kuku, has been caught on tape revealing that Bola Tinubu, the flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), would offer $170 million to the commission’s officials to manipulate the results of the presidential elections across Nigeria.
“Asiwaju is giving INEC $170 million,” Mr Kuku, who described himself as the number one consultant for the commission, told an official in the audio obtained by Peoples Gazette this week. “We will share it around; everybody will do the bidding.”
Among several other midsize businesses, Mr Kuku was identified by The Gazette as the owner of Winning Keys Consult Ltd., located at 9, Usan Street, Durumi, Abuja, which claimed to have helped candidates win elective positions.
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Mr Kuku, who said he visited Mr Tinubu when the former Lagos governor promised to bribe the electoral officials, disclosed that he had received N8 billion worth of election-related contracts from the commission.
“Last 2019, it is N7.8 billion the contract they gave me. Ask him who I am. They call me the Hembe Lembe of INEC. That’s what I do,” the consultant said.
In interviews, Mr Kuku repeatedly said he was not the one on the tape.
“It is not me,” the said by telephone on Friday morning. However, after The Gazette told him the voice was authenticated to be his, Mr Kuku abruptly hung up.
When The Gazette made another attempt to reach Mr Kuku shortly after his initial denial, he quickly said in Yoruba that the audio was recorded long ago and wondered why it could cause any troubles now. He failed to elaborate when pressed.
Whereas it could not be ascertained when or where the meeting Mr Kuku said he had with Mr Tinubu took place, his position as one of INEC’s biggest consultants was confirmed by The Gazette. INEC consultants have long been known to exploit their access to the electrical office towards personal inurement.
Yet, the electoral office strongly pushed back and summarily disowned Mr Kuku when asked for comments about the tape, which a pro-democracy activist described as “beyond disturbing.”
“The INEC chairman and national commissioners I know cannot accept money from any contestants,” spokesperson Rotimi Oyekanmi said this on Friday afternoon.
“The processes that have been put in place have assured that no single person or any group of persons at all can influence the outcome of the presidential election in Nigeria,” the INEC spokesman added.
An INEC official said Mr Kuku’s status as a consultant with the agency would be placed under immediate review.
Bayo Onanuga, the APC Presidential Campaign Council spokesman, did not immediately respond to the request seeking his comments on the audio.
But Mr Tinubu has strongly denied all charges of corrupt practices or any attempts to compromise existing democratic processes. He was among the presidential candidates who signed a peace and fair pact in the weeks and days leading to today’s presidential election, saying it was only a continuation of his pro-democracy activity that peaked during the 1990s military junta.
Still, the candidacy of Mr Tinubu, a top contender in the presidential race being a choice of the ruling party and a key ally of President Muhammdu Buhari, has over time been tainted with age falsification, ill health, corruption and drug dealing allegations.
Ahead of the party’s presidential primary elections in June 2022, sources told this outlet that Mr Tinubu offered delegates bribes to secure their votes as the APC flag bearer.
The delegates confirmed to The Gazette that the APC flagbearer induced Ogun delegates with $25,000 and Adamawa $10,000.
Voting rights activist Greg Adesuwa said Mr Kuku’s disclosure about what he did with Mr Tinubu was not entirely new to Nigerian elections, which have for decades been characterised by violence, ballot box stuffing and outright rigging often linked to candidates and their political agents.
“This INEC contractor said Tiinubu was looking to bribe officials to the humongous amount mentioned, that is beyond disturbing,” Mr Adesuwa told The Gazette. “I hope the security agencies will work to investigate the man’s claim and hold all his co-conspirators to justice in this country.”
Mr Adesuwa said Nigerian politicianss should move beyond seeing election as a violent and corrupt process and instead focus on polishing their ideas to make them sellable to the masses.
On Friday, the police in Rivers arrested a PDP lawmaker with about $500,000 cash that officers said was designated as bribery for electoral and security officers to compromise the elections in the state. The main opposition party denied any links to the lawmaker’s conduct.