- One controversy or the other has continue to trail the results of March 28 National Assembly elections in Abia State, writes Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu.
There is no dull moment in Abia, the God’s Own State. The centre of attraction is the National assembly elections. When it seemed that the controversy trailing the elections had subsided, the returning Officer for Abia North Senatorial District Dr. Ihekwaba Chukwugoziem, has disowned the result announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) saying he never signed the purported result.
The Associate Professor and Head, Department of Computer Engineering, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU) therefore called for a re-run of the election.
The Returning Officer, addressing newsmen at a press conference in Umuahia, said that he was not a party to the result in which INEC declared Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)winner with 40,027 votes, Chief David Ogba of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) who polled 28, 055 votes, and former Abia State Governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu of the Progressive People’s Alliance, (PPA) came third with 27, 002 votes.
He alleged that fake result sheets were used in some cases while ballot boxes got missing in some polling units.
Chukwugoziem said the atmosphere at the collation centre at the senatorial headquarters at Ohafia got so charged that the collation officers had to be evacuated to Umuahia under heavy security as thugs who allegedly invaded the centre threatened to attack them.
He said that he had in his report to the Resident Electoral Commissioner, recommended a re- run of the exercise following widespread irregularities.
He however said that the panel set up by the REC to investigate the allegations discovered that the manipulations were more pronounced in Arochukwu Local Government Area, adding that apart from Ohafia council, the results from other four LGAs in the zone were flawed.
The RO, who said he had been receiving threats from some anonymous individuals, called for the re- run of the poll “so that whoever emerges the winner can be declared”.
On whether he was sponsored to address the press on the matter, he said he was not working for any candidate saying he nothing at stake.
Reacting to the development, the Head, Voter Education and Publicity, INEC, Prince Edwin Enabor, said the RO absconded from his duty post, hence one of the Collation Officers was appointed to take over from him.
He said: “We are looking for him (RO) to ask him why he disappeared from his duty post , and if he is man enough, he should come forward and make his observations. Since we have been looking for him, he switched off his phones and another person had to be appointed to complete the job”.
It will be recalled that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Senatorial candidate for Abia North, Mao Ohuabunwa emerged winner of the senatorial election in the district.
This is as Uko Nkole of PDP emerged winner of last Saturday’s House of Representatives election for Arochukwu/Ohafia federal constituency.
After recounting of results were concluded, Ohuabunwa polled 47,000 to beat APGA and PPA with 28,000 and 27,000 votes respectively.
It will be recalled that the candidates and their supporters laid siege at the INEC state headquarters.
Also APGA candidate for Abia North Senatorial District, David Ogba Onuoha had petitioned INEC over the results and insisted that the zone’s result, which was brought to INEC to conclude because of the crisis in the area, be recounted in the presence of the candidates.
The process of recounting will also continue for Isuikwuato/Umunneochi and Bende federal constituencies.
The three candidates that contested the Abia North senatorial seat including the PPA candidate and former Governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, Hon Mao Ohuabunwa of the PDP and Chief David Ogba Onuoha of APGA had each claimed to be the winner of the election and had been at the INEC headquarters personally or through their supporters desiring that the result be formally declared.
PDP clinched all the three senatorial seats in the state. Earlier, Senator Enyinnaya winner for Abia South, while the incumbent governor, Chief Theodore Orji emerged winner for Abia Central.
Before the release of the results, over 2000 youths drawn from all the 17 local government areas of Abia State besieged the state headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Umuahia protesting the results of the National Assembly Election results.
The protesters maintained that he outcome of the National Assembly elections was not the true reflection of the voting pattern.
The youths who carried placards with the inscription, “Local Government Headquarters are Rigging Centers,” Stop Sharing our Votes,” “INEC, Our Votes Must Count,” and “Democracy is not all about Rigging,” insisted on hearing directly from the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Professor Selina Oko, but was barred by security agents from surging into the INEC premises.
Addressing the protesters after submitting their grievances to the REC, their leader, Nkem Nwosu, appealed to them to disperse peacefully after getting the assurance of the REC to look into their grievances.
“The message has been handed over to INEC and they have promised to look into the grievances, I want you to disperse from here satisfied that your grievance has been taken to the appropriate quarters,” he said.
He continued: “We have articulated our grievance over the rigging in the last Saturday election; it’s put down on paper here. We have advised the REC what to do in the interest of peace and it has been submitted to her”.
In separate reactions, the APGA parallel governorship candidates in the state, Chief Reagan Ufomba and Dr. Alex Otti had given knocks to the results, while APC state agent for the election and the Coordinator of Buhari Campaign Organization, Dr. Emmanuel Ndukwe, said the party rejects the National Assembly results. He explained that he could not guarantee the authenticity of the result saying he could not explain the alleged mutilations on the result sheets.
Chief Reagan Ufomba, had insisted that the party won all the Senatorial and House of Representatives seats in the state but was short- changed in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Addressing newsmen at his country home,Ntigha, Isiala Ngwa North local government area of Abia State yesterday, he called on the electorate to defend their votes on April 11 to avert a repetition.
Ufomba said he has the record of the results in all the polling centers which indicate that APGA won all over the state in both the senate and House of Representative seats.
He said: “APGA under my leadership has collected reports from the 184 wards, eight constituents and 17 local government areas in the state and we feel sad at the turn of events; the situation where APGA will win and PDP announced as the winner will be challenged at the tribunal”.
He warned that the party would not tolerate the level of brigandage and sabotage seen in the first election in April 11 election.
Ufomba wondered how the Governor who from the declared results allegedly lost in three local government areas of Umuahia North, Umuahia South and Ikwuano , even in his polling unit, would be declared winner of the Abia Central Senatorial seat.
“We will do everything possible to ensure that the right thing is done, this is a warning to PDP and all the people who think they can hold down the people perpetually in a state where no industry exists, where the roads have all collapsed”.
He said that there were clear cases of multiple voting and PVC cloning by the PDP and urged the people to ensure that their votes were not stolen.
Speaking, Abia State Chairman of APGA, Prince Nnanna Ukegbu, said he personally monitored the election saying APGA won all the seats. He however observed that INEC flaws in the election were noticed quite early.
“For instance, the time of accreditation was too long.
He commended the support of the people, saying” they came out enmass for the election”.
Ufomba’s position came on the heels of Dr. Alex Otti’s claims that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) desperately manipulated the results of the National Assembly in some council areas after the early results had allegedly indicated that APGA was on the lead.
Otti, addressing newsmen in Umuahia threatened to reject the results if it failed to tally with the ones declared at the polling centers.
He also alleged that the Transition Committee Chairmen of some Local Government Areas were personally involved in snatching of ballot boxes and other election materials, apparently in line with the directive to win the election by all means. He said they snatched the result sheets in some areas with the intension to doctor the original result obtained at the various polling booths.
Otti hinted that most of the manipulations occurred at the collation centres at council headquarters where the agents of opposition parties were allegedly denied access. He warned that the attempt of PDP to manipulate the process would be resisted.
He identified Isialangwa South, Isialangwa North, Osisioma, Aba South, Ohafia, and Arochukwu as some of the council areas where the alleged manipulation was more pronounced.
Member representing Umunneochi in the Abia State House of Assembly, Prince Ikedi Ezekwesili has described the election there as a charade. Ezekwesisli told newsmen in Umuahia that APGA would submit all the relevant documents to INEC .
He alleged that the member representing Isuikwuato/ Umunneochi federal constituency, Mrs Nkeiruka Onyejiocha used the army and the police to intimidate the people and snatch ballot boxes a other materials with a view to manipulating the result in her favour and other PDP candidates.
Ezekwesili said there was a brazen case of breach of the peace and the election guidelines.
He was corroborated by the chairman APGA campaign organization for Umunneochi LGA, Mr Ike Orika who said the use of the army, police and other security agencies was not acceptable and in clear breach of the process. He also accused INEC officials for the election in the LGA of compromise.
The question remains:” Will the Abia National Assembly results stand amid these controversies trailing them. Only INEC can tell.