From Chuks Collins, Awka
Substantial ‘part’ of the much awaited Anambra state governorship election has come and gone, but the dust therefrom has continued to rage within and outside the state, seemingly unabated. It had become more volatile since the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) cockily fixed November 30 for the next phase of the concluding election it dubbed “supplementary election”. The reactions obviously underlines the expectations of majority of the candidates, key participants and stakeholders. Before now, many of them had spoken out, shouted, protested, petitioned, argued, cajoled, clawed and denounced, to no where. Acting as if their motion were being intensely propelled by some extraneous unseen hands, the commission’s egg heads after popping champagnes last week at Abuja for “job well done”, damned every contrary opinion and happily announced the much expected date, Nov 30. So be it.
As a result, reactions have been intensely mixed. Citizens from all walks of life had continued to speak, including Senator Annie Okonkwo who is also the Deputy National Secretary of APC has urged those who felt short-changed in the Nov 16 governorship election to take heart and work more assiduously towards next election in four years. He believed that with proper preparation and sincere relationship with their home bases their political fortunes would improve next time.
He condemned what he saw as I- must- win mentality, stressing it was part of what has been stagnating our political development. He believed the outcome of the election appeared fair enough to all.
A chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, Pastor Emma Obiorah described the election as free but not fair. But saw the outcome as a fair representation of the wish of those that had the opportunity to cast their votes. According to him, I am the leader of the masses within PDP, the chairman of the Fresh Congress committee of the party who few months ago written President Goodluck Jonathan to meet with and call all the troublemakers within the party to order ahead of the governorship election.
“He was on the verge of doing so when one godfather brought up someone and foisted him on all of us. We kicked, protested and pointed out out the Chris Ngige/Ubah, Mbadinuju/Offor experience both of whom were hamstrung because of people breathing down their nNecks. I suggest that all should accept the outcome of the Nov 16 election in the name of peace as cancellation in his view would affect them more.
Obiorah believed that anytime PDP allows the masses to chose their leader, they would win landslide but if they continue to pick from Abuja, they would have problem to deliver him. He went ahead to congratulate Dr Willie Obianor of APGA for his victory.
One of the local election monitors cum observers under the aegis of Independent Domestic Election Observers in a statement issued few hours after the election and signed by its national coordinator, Mr Boniface Okafor and Secretary, Comrade Lilian Cosmos, they noted with regrets that journey to sustaining our hard earned democracy has been threatened due to the grave irregularities in the recent Anambra State governorship election as declared inconclusive by INEC.
It stated that the outcome of the Anambra State election expressed doubt about the progress of Democracy in Nigeria, “The protest from some candidates in the election indentifies the fears earlier expressed and the activities of the staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission which is unfortunate; this ugly situation has necessitated the request for outright cancellation of the Anambra State Election result.
“we wish to observe, that the Anambra Governorship election has dealt a big blow to the avowed resolve of Mr. President to have a one-man-one vote system as enshrined in His transformational agenda. The election in Anambra was a sham, characterized by disenfranchisement of voters- occasioned by omission of names of eligible voters from the voters’ register.
“It is sad that despite repeated clamour by the Civil Society Groups in the past for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; to make provision for the timely dispatch of electoral materials to polling booths on election days, the reverse was the case in the on-going electoral macabre dance being orchestrated by INEC in Anambra State. We observed that in majority of the polling stations visited, INEC did not commence accreditation of voters before 4.00p.m, as electoral materials did not get to the polling stations at the appropriate time which was slated for 8.00am. These problems were more pronounced in Awka-North; Anaocha; Awka–South; Idemili-North; Idemili-South; Nnewi-South; Ihiala; Oyi; Orumba-North; Onitsha-South and Dunokofia Local Government Areas.
“It is pertinent to note that, voters’ accreditation did not commence at Ward 1 in Agulu, until 11.30am on the day of election and voting commenced at 2.30pm with the governor being the first to cast his vote.
They pointed out that “the areas of flaws noted were as follows: It was observed that some polling booths were located in uninhabited areas such as Oba ward 2 which was located in swampy areas. In these places-Offia Umuagu, Ossomalla, Okpolodun, Obeagwe, Mgbo Odekpe all in Ogbaru L.G.A where red eyed young men obstructed the electoral process.
Apart from that, the November 16th gubernatorial election in Anambra was marred by the unpreparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC through their inability to make provisions for adequate Polling Officers to man each Polling centers. In most cases, you will find one young Youth Corper attending to voter register that contain over 900 names.
Moreover, there was low voters’ education on the new INEC guidelines leading to voters not being properly briefed on the voting arrangements.
Furthermore, majority of the electorates complained that the voters’ registers that was used for the election was different from the ones INEC pasted in their polling booths, before the elections and also different from the ones INEC gave to their political parties. As you are aware one of the major gladiators in the election and his family members were unable to locate their names in the voter register at their polling booth.
We also observed that at the cluster centers in over 40 cluster areas across the state, electoral materials were littered everywhere due to the refusal of protesting youth corpers to commence work, until they were paid their allowances. The consequence of this was that materials went late to polling units and also led to no-voting.
On the Election Day proper it was observed that there were flaws emanating from the shaky and inadequate preparations of the electoral body (INEC). Some armed security men deployed to certain areas for the election compromised the election
In most areas, it was observed that very sensitive materials were missing from the materials sent down to the polling booths. In most centres the INEC result sheets known as Form EC 8A were conspicuously missing, and the electoral officials feigned ignorance of such. This was noticeable in Idemmilli North, Idemmili South, Anambra East, Anambra West, Onitsha South, and Onitsha North. In some cases, the wrong forms were brought to the wrong places, thereby truncating the electoral process ab initio. It is worthy of mention to state that these flaws were committed in areas where perceived opponents had their strong hold.
In all these, they recommended the cleaning-up of voters’ registers- We recommend that the commission should as a matter of urgency and in-view of the forth-coming general elections in Nigeria, commence the immediate regularization and clean-up of all voters’ registers across the country. This is to ensure that this practice of people’s names being omitted in register is a thing of the past.
And that the level of Voters’ Education must be intensified to ensure it goes deep into the communities.” We recommend that in-view of the new INEC guidelines for the election and innovations like the voting points, cluster areas etc. INEC must embark on a massive voters’ education program”.
Mr Joe Igbokwe, a chieftain of the APC in his written response on the outcome of the election, stated, “it is unfortunate that all the things APC predicted at the national level and what I told Jega’s INEC came to pass. Had Jega’s INEC knew the State they were going to probably we would not have been entangled in this electoral mess today. Two days to election a chieftain of PDP from Uga area in the State converted his home in Awka to a voting centre. For two nights they were thumb printing ballot papers and nobody fished them out. Before the elections associates of some politicians and businessmen who do not like the audacity and courage of Dr Chris Ngige told us in confidence that Ngige will only get two LGAs out of 21. In the evening of Saturday November 16 2013 they started calling us and bragged that they have done what they promised. I want Jega to probe this criminality. We need to scrutinize every single vote cast on November 16 2013.
“To all intents and purposes I am stunned that critical stakeholders, leaders of thought, clerics, the academia, the professionals etc are keeping quiet in Anambra, thinking that the fraud of November will just fizzle out. A story that must be told never forgives silence. I have heard some well-to-do people asking APC to let the sleeping dog lie but we understand this game. Now everybody is talking about peace but nobody is talking about justice.
“Prof. Attahiru Jega owes Nigeria a duty to courageously tell the world what happened in Anambra on November 16 2013. Did INEC prepare very well for the elections? Did INEC officials betray INEC, Nigeria and Anambra people? Was the Voters’ Register doctored 48hrs before the elections? Did any staff of INEC run away with Result Sheets? Were Voting Materials diverted, and to where? Who and who did this to Ndi Anambra? Did the police do their job or did they compromise? I can go on and on but there is no need to continue.”
According to Igbokwe, “Lord Stephenson warned that ‘An election which is conducted in violation of the principles of an election by ballot is no real election and therefore should be declared null and void without any effect’ , insisting that INEC must not hide anything for the sake of Nigeria and 2015. If we cannot organize an election in one State out of 36 States in Nigeria then something is wrong somewhere. If INEC cannot handle Anambra elections then I can confidently say that it cannot do same even in a local government in Nigeria. INEC has the capacity to know whether what happened on November 16 was an election or no election. If Prof Jega finds out that things went wrong in such a way that the fraud cannot stand, he should have the courage to call for a repeat of the entire process. This is our irreducible minimum demand”, he emphasized.
However, a ray of hope on the election came from a direction many considered as unusual – the PDP national headquarters. The party’s national Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisah Metuh who incidentally is from Anambra state, commended the peaceful outcome of the election. The same line of commenadation was profusely toed by the state chapter chairman, Prince Ken Emeakayi. He went a step further as he commended the election and declared their willingness to actively participate in the proposed supplementary poll by INEC. Unfortunately the party’s governorship candidate, Comrade Tony Nwoye, vide his campaign organization has opted out of the supplementary election, insisting that nothing short of an outright cancellation of the election would be acceptable to him.
The campaign organization led by its Director General and former Secretary to the state Government, Prince Victor Osita Ezenwa described the election as a sham that should be dumped in the refuse can for a new, credible and acceptable poll in the state.
Emeakayi had in an interview thanked all the principal officers of the party, especially Metuh, President Goodluck Jonathan, Vice President Namadi Sambo, the national chairman-Alh Bamangar Tukur, Prince Arthur Eze, various election monitors and other stakeholders, among others including the citizens of the state for providing adequate security, peace and conducive environment for the election to take place. He noted that there can never be a perfect election anywhere in the world, but that the state branch of the PDP will not in anyway oppose the position of the national headquarters. He was happy that some of the electoral law offenders were instantly rounded up and handed over to the police and would soon be prosecuted. Investigations revealed that some of them were arrested in Ogidi, while some INEC officials who refuse to count the votes and be recorded in the open view of the voters in Ideani, also in Idemili North Council of the state ran into a ditch as they attempted to run off with the voting materials midway into the voting process; whereas voting materials or officials reportedly did not arrive most places at all in the state.
In his 3-page ten-point statement, Emeakayi noted that, “… we state categorically and unequivocally that PDP will participate in the supplementary election in the contentious areas of the state as announced by INEC, and we charge our members to continue to remain calm and focused.
“We shall also continue to remember in our daily prayers, the heroes of democracy from Abia state PDP who lost their lives in the pursuit of free, fair and transparent PDP primary elections in Anambra. Our heart goes out also to all those who lost their dear ones in the unfortunate Uke stampede as we call on the Inspector General of Police to investigate the cause of the death of innocent Nigerians at the Uke worship ground.”
But Ezenwa described the comments of the duo of Emeakayi and Metuh’s as unfortunate and should be disregarded by all. He said that only the outright cancellation of the November 16 governorship election in the state shall assuage the organization. He noted that as a top ranked party man, Metuh ought to have played a key role to see the victory of Nwoye and the party in the election but that records showed he didn’t even vote or participate in any way useful in the election at all. He came short of calling for Metuh’s conducts and comments an anti-party act that should be sanctioned.
The Director General stressed that, “We are calling for the total cancellation of the election as it was poorly conducted, organized and supervised. This much was also acknowledged by Prof Attahiruh Jega in a live national television”. They also urged Jega to,probe the state resident commissioner, Prof Chukwuemeka Onukogu. He was dismayed that policemen and soldiers were used to thumbprint serially the ballot papers and stuff them into the ballot boxes in the open view of the disenfranchised, intimidated, subdued and over-harassed fear-stricken natives who watched helplessly as their civic rights were brazenly being raped.
But another reaction came from the member representing Idemili North and South Federal Constituency, Hon Charles Chinwendu Odedo who described what happened within his 17- towns constituency on the Election Day as “very frustrating”. He said that no election material or official came to any part of the council area in Idemili North, which has the highest number of registered voters, apparently in the country-173,832 voters, until around 3.30pm. Those who got materials this late was even in isolated areas. And as a result nothing much was achieved as most of the potential voters waited in vain and left for home sad. “I therefore call for the removal,of the REC, Prof Onukogu, because the same thing happened in 2010. It’s disturbing that four years on, the same thing happened again. The REC has shown clear bias against people of the area. They are my people and I represent them. I love my people. They are peace-loving. More so, the run off which was hurriedly fixed for the next day was without anyone ‘s consent or discussion of input. We had told him that next day-a Sunday was not an option in this part of the country as we do not joke with Sunday devotion.
“I heard Prof Jega and his Commissioner, Nuhu saying it was an agreement with the people. I represent the people here, as well as Senator Ngige and I say without fear of any contradiction that they did not discuss with anyone. The records are there for all to see. Not even up to 12,000 out of the more than 50,000 registered voters in Obosi turned out to cast their votes. At Nnobi, at the Agbom Primary School centre, polling Unit 014, only less than 15 persons out of all the 500 registered voters saw their names and actually cast their votes. The same thing happened four years ago.”
He therefore suggested outright cancellation of the election, the removal of Onukogu and for Prof Jega to come and supervise things personally to avoid allowing his subordinates to taint his record.
In a letter to Jega which was submitted late evening of the Nov 16, day of the election, titled, Complaint On The Conduct Of The Anambra State Governorship Election by Senator Chris Ngige who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Anambra State Governorship Election of 16th November, 2013, stated that, ” We wish to bring to your notice serious breaches of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) in relation to the conduct of the election as reported to us by our accredited agents in areas where the party has overwhelming
1. IDEMILI NORTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: As at 2 p.m. when most of the voters ought to have cast their votes, election materials were yet to arrive the local council. Idemili North Local Government has the highest number of registered voters in the State at 173, 832.
2. IDEMILI SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: Several qualified voters were disenfranchised, as their names were not on the voters’ register. Indeed, the voters’ registers used in the local council were different from the voters’ registers given to the participating political parties. Idemili South Local Government Area, my home local council, has 85, 731 registered voters.
3. AWKA SOUTH LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: The names of a lot of eligible voters were expunged or missing from the Voters’ Register. The voters’ registers used in the local councils were different from the voters’ registers given to the participating political parties, for instance, Awka South Local Government Area which is my strong hold and has 118,312 registered voters.
4. IHIALA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA: Massive fraudulent practices at Umuchima Polling Unit 14, Uli Ward I.
Aside from Ihiala Local Government Area, the three local councils above comprise 377,875 of the total 1,784,536 registered voters. Instructively, these are areas where I have very high voter support base.
We note that these developments are very worrisome, and will seriously impact the outcome of the election. Even more instructive is that contrary to assurances by the INEC Chairman at the stakeholders’ forum held in Awka during the week, the numerous cases of disenfranchised voters clearly indicate that voters’ register is far from “clean.”
We recall that these irregularities were recorded massively during the 2010 Governorship Election and to an extent the 2011 National Assembly Elections in the state and for which repeat elections were held in certain areas. We further note that following discovery of a systematic plot to disenfranchise areas where we have strong support base, we called for the removal of the current Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra State for his apparent partisanship and lack of grip on the electoral process. Albeit our call was neglected, the Tribunals upturned several of the elections supervised by that same Commissioner. We again repeated this call more recently in the run-up to this election. Regrettably, and for inexplicable reasons, this call has not been heeded. It is therefore not surprising that these irregularities have manifested again.
a. We strongly reject the decision by the Commission, as announced by the Resident Electoral Commissioner, to conduct re-run elections tomorrow (Sunday, 17th November 2013) in 65 Polling Units at Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area as all the electoral wards affected in Idemili North Local Government Area are affected and also in some other Local Government Areas e.g. Okopoko Ward IV in Ogbaru Local Government Area and Wards 8 and 9 of Awka South LGA.
b. The Supervising Polling Officers (SPOs) of nine (9) Wards of Obosi, Abatete, Nkpor I, Nkpor II, Ogidi I, Ogidi II, Uke, Eziowelle and Umuoji that have already affirmed to your National Commissioner (Operations) that no election took place in their wards as we write.
c. We demand that elections be conducted not only in Obosi but also in the entire Idemili North Local Government Area electoral wards, as no election held in all parts of the Local Government Area. We request that this repeat election be held on a date that will be conducive to the voters who are in the main Christians as a Sunday date (tomorrow) is completely unsuitable and will conflict with their religious obligations.
d. We demand that the results for Uli Ward I Poling Unit and Uli Umuchima Polling Unit 14 be cancelled due to obvious gross irregularities and non-compliance with the electoral codes.
Further, we strongly request that your Commission does not declare any results relating to the Governorship Election until repeat elections are held in these areas where these irregularities occurred and in consonance with the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and laid down guidelines of INEC’s Electoral Manual, more so as most of our supporters have been disenfranchised in these areas.
We further implore you to improve on the conduct of the repeat elections so that the true wishes of the people of Anambra State are expressed through the ballot box as doing anything to the contrary will further damage the image of your commission. It is imperative to also let you know that most of the abandoned elections were caused by poor logistics deployment and the fraudulent removal of results sheets by your staff, a situation we regard as criminal and shameful and in total contravention of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).
We urge your urgent attention on this matter.
Besides, the trio of Ngige, Dr Ifeanyi Ubah and Tony Nwoye in a rare show of comradeship, in a joint press conference Sunday evening (Nov 17) called for outright cancellation of the election.
Dr Ubah had in an interview observed that contrary to the stipulated minimum of 30 days in the electoral Act for INEC to provide the voters register to the parties, only three(3) days was allowed them. This alone did not give them ample opportunity to cross-check the new register which was brought down from Abuja and delivered by Jega on Nov 13,2013.
The administrative officer who demonstrated and explained the aphorism of “computer-generated error” as Jega put had disclosed to journalists that the error was “peculiar” to Anambra state. Why? How?
Chief Victor Umeh, who is the national chairman of APGA hailed INEC and the citizens for voting massively and convincingly for the party. He saw the call by those who lost as coming from bad losers, hence laughable.
He threw his hands and that of the party wide open to receive and welcome anyone who would toe the line of honor and good sportsman by coming over to APGA. He said that the masses have spoken with their votes.
But in his reaction, the governorship candidate of the Advanced Congress of Democrats, dr Ifeatu Ekelem debunked being part of the comment credited to the Party’s state Chairman, Mrs Oby Okafor that her party has accepted the results of the elections noting that as far as he is concerned Mrs Okafor was not speaking or working for his party, but for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
ACD is one of the parties reported to have accepted the November 16, 2013 governorship elections results as announced by the INEC so far. But Ekelem denounced her.
He accused those he referred to as “big parties as the ones making the electoral process difficult to clean up.”
Ekelem however alluded to a proposed ‘meeting to decide at the party level before anyone can claim to speak for our party’ He however noted that he will continue to be part of the cleaning process.
He said, “As I am now people like me did not recognize Mrs Oby Okafor as the chairman of our party in Anambra State and that is obvious because she represents more of the interest of the PDP’.
On whether he would prefer a supplementary election or a total cancellation as demanded by the generality of Anambra State people, Ekelem said ‘ Does it change anything if you do a fresh election as long as the big parties are not prepared to change their mentality of compromising elections. Let us just note that there is a lot of work to do to clean up this system, and I believe I will be part of the effort’
Said he ‘As it stands now, Anambra State elections is like the survival of the fittest in a lion’s den and the APGA lion seems to have out-rigged everybody now’