I have tried to carry out some background checks on Professor Izuchukwu Innocent Ibeawuchi, the Returning Officer for Imo West Senatorial District and I can confirm that he is a full fledged Professor in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. What I cannot confirm however is his soundness of character and intellect. He stuttered all through the secret press conference he granted to select ‘journalists’ after he had declared governor Rochas Okorocha winner of the election.
I can confirm that Professor Ibeawuchi is with the School of Agriculture and Animal Science of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. I have contacted some of my friends who went through his class and also a few of his colleagues. Apart from a few partisan friends who knew the political implication of any opinion on him at this moment, other students and colleagues of his were unanimous in their opinion of him as a man with a prize. Someone unambiguously alleged that he was paid in Dollars to sabotage the election process. There are tales from female students of the department of Animal Science about his alleged ignoble escapades with money and pants. Some allege that if you are not lucky enough, you will have to discuss your grade in dark hotel room, but if you are a little luckier, you may just part with some money through his P.A. I found a whole lot of sleazy nonsense on our man, but that won’t be the focus of this brief essay. Our focus would be on his repeated claims that he was under duress when he declared the result.
Professor Ibeawuchi was said to have been nominated to serve as the Returning Officer for Imo West Senatorial District by a henchman of Senator Hope Uzodimma, who was at a time a Personal Assistant to Late Professor Celestine Onwuliri and currently an electoral fraud hatchet man for the current Senator representing Imo West Senatorial District. This matters a lot.
One does not need to be a professor or even an academic to know the schedule of work of a Returning Officer in an election. The job of a Returning Officer is not to decide whether certain figures are correct or not, but simply to declare results as having been recorded and collated by different officials responsible for such duties. A Returning Officer is mostly an honorary job given to people who are thought to be of high social and professional standing. They are not to interfere with the jobs of the Collation Officers at different levels of the electoral process, but to declare results as cast, counted, collated and computed by the Polling officials at different levels.
A Returning Officer is not also a staff of the Electoral Commission and must not necessarily be an expert in electoral matters, hence, he or she cannot examine or nullify any election result that has come to the returning venue. It is simple enough to understand the job of a Returning Officer by merely checking out the meaning of the word ‘return’. You are to return figures already collated by the officials in charge of that and not to investigate if those figures are accurate. Anyone who has grievances over the figures may either forward a petition to the Resident Electoral Commission, who will in turn direct him or her on what steps to take. Otherwise, any other grievances arising from the declaration of the result may be addressed in a law court or a tribunal set up for such purpose. A Returning Officer who attempts to extend his powers beyond the declaration of a result is a suspect.
It is curious that Professor Ibeawuchi refused to grant interviews to accredited journalists who covered the election processes, but had to secretly to talk to some yet to be identified people who recorded him on video and put it out for merely propaganda reasons. Who convinced him to grant this interview after the real journalists had left and what purpose does he think he could have achieved with such falsehood ridden interview? Someone claimed that he was simply trying to retire whatever money he was given in order to subvert the electoral process or explaining himself to his paymasters on why he couldn’t deliver on the deal? Could that be the pressure he was under?
You may at this point agree that Professor Ibeawuchi was actually under pressure as he claimed, but you must understand where this pressure was coming from. Have you ever seen a thief caught in the act? He or she would create all kinds of scenes to try to either claim innocence or at draw sympathy. Ibeawuchi obviously had a game up his sleeves, which was nipped in the bud through the vigilance of Orlu women and youths. If we had not insisted that the result was announced in the legally designated venue for such exercise, then we would by now be crying while he will be somewhere enjoying the proceeds of his fraudulence. Yes, Orlu zone voters put him in a position where it was impossible for him to do the wrong thing. He was a thief whose plan to steal the mandate of Orlu people was aborted and for that we owe him or his acolytes no apologies. Let me say that he was also very lucky to escape alive. Next time he is giving such job in Imo State and he tries to execute a coup against the people, he will be taken to the morgue, if his body is lucky enough to escape in one piece, if not his family may have to pack up the ashes of his bones.
In Imo, electoral fraudsters are not tolerated. We did not set up the Vote Protection Unit for the ceremony of it, but because we want to ensure that our votes are not stolen by anyone. Those who are relying on vote manipulation, especially as it concerns this coming election should be ready for whatever they receive in return for any attempt to subvert the will of Imo people