Candidates upbeat as INEC concludes Anambra guber

• I can still win this election, says PDP’s Ozigbo
• APC refutes plan to drag Soludo, INEC to court
• INEC adjusts voting time, rerun holds 10a.m. to 4p.m.
• APC woes self-inflicted, says Nwosu
• YIAGA Africa demands audit of BVAS to prevent delay, voter disenfranchisement
• Some collation officers not good at Mathematics, says INEC director

The three leading political parties in Anambra State governorship election, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), are upbeat for today’s supplementary polls in Ihiala Council called by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

For contest in today’s rerun election are about 148,407 registered voters in Ihiala, which the candidates would chase to either maintain a lead or improve their rating.

The Commission, yesterday, began mobilisation of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to ensure a hitch free exercise, even as joint security patrols increased in communities of the council.

Following the results declared by INEC on Sunday in 20 local government areas, APGA’s candidate, Prof Charles Soludo, is leading in 18 with a total of 103,946 votes, followed by PDP’s Val Ozigbo with 51,322 and APC’s Andy Uba with 42,942.

INEC, yesterday, announced a slight adjustment in the rerun election. According to the Commission, voting will commence by 10:00a.m. today and end by 4:00p.m. INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, made this known in a statement.

He said: “Following the suspension of collation of results in respect of the Anambra governorship election as announced on Sunday by the State Collation/Returning Officer and the decision of the Commission to hold election in Ihiala Local Government Area on Tuesday, the Commission, in line with extant rules and regulations, has made a slight adjustment to the commencement and closing time for the election.

“Accordingly, polling in respect of the supplementary election will commence at 10:00a.m. and end at 4:00p.m.

“This decision, which will be strictly complied with, has been taken following a careful review of the prevailing situation in the state and is being widely shared with the stakeholders including security agencies.”

An INEC official told The Guardian on condition of anonymity yesterday that efforts were in top gear to make the Ihiala election as transparent as possible. “We know what it takes and what is at stake, so we will not compromise on our integrity.”

A community leader in Uli, one of the towns in Ihiala Council, Chief Damian Okafor, said yesterday: “We are ready for the election. At the moment, voting materials are not in the ward but they may have brought them to the local government headquarters from where it would be distributed tomorrow (today).

“We are noticing increased patrol of joint security in the communities. The truth is that there was security already on ground even before Saturday’s election. We are hopeful that it will remain this way.”

The situation at Okija and Isseke towns, also in Ihiala Council, was calm yesterday, even as the alleged arrest of an INEC official, who attempted to compromise the election on Saturday, was discussed in various quarters.

The official, said to hail from Enugwu Ukwu in Njikoka Council of the state, was reported to have accepted a result written by a controversial politician and his cohorts, promising to submit it into the system but was caught in the process. New set of officials have been assigned to conduct the process.

PDP’s candidate, Ozigbo, trailing behind Soludo by over 52,000 votes, has, however, expressed optimism that Ihiala rerun poll is capable of upturning PDP fortunes, adding that all hope was not lost in the party winning the election. He secured the second highest votes in the election and won only one of the 20 LGAs where elections held.

Candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Professor Charles Soludo

Ozigbo expressed the confidence that the votes from the rescheduled election would improve PDP’s position. He told newsmen at a press briefing yesterday in Awka that PDP could still coast to victory in view of the number of registered voters in the area, which exceeded the number of votes APGA was leading with.

“In Ihiala alone, we have about 148,000 registered voters. Other areas where supplementary elections will be held such as Awka North, Orumba North, Idemili North etc, have over 100,000 registered voters. I wish to use this medium to tell all our teeming supporters, stakeholders and the generality of Anambra voters that it’s not yet over. Please turn out in your numbers to show us solidarity and support.”

While lamenting that the overwhelming percentage of voters in Saturday’s poll could not vote due to malfunctioning of the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, Ozigbo commended INEC for digitalising the voting process, and urged the electoral umpire to ensure voters were not disenfranchised in the rescheduled polls.

The state government, also yesterday, asked residents of Ihiala Council to go out and cast their votes, assuring that adequate arrangements had been made for their protection.

A statement by Secretary to the State Government, Prof Solo Chukwulobelu, said: “This is to inform the public, particularly residents and voters in Ihiala that the state government is working with relevant security agencies to provide adequate security arrangements to protect life and property during the election. All are encouraged to come and vote for the candidate of their choice.

“As Ndi Ihiala may have observed, elections were successfully and peacefully held in the other 20 local government areas and INEC has duly announced the results. No incidence of violence or voter molestation was recorded on Saturday.

“As a reminder, IPOB had previously cancelled the sit-at-home order earlier announced and encouraged Ndi Anambra to come out and vote. Anambra will continue to remain the light of the nation.”

THERE were, however, reports of disenchantment in the camp of the APC, following alleged calls for resignation of the state chairman, Basil Ejidike, and the insistence by a faction of the party that it had no candidate in the election.

Responding to the allegations, the state Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Okeluo Madukaife, said: “I have not seen anybody who said that the chairman should quit. So that settles that.”

On allegations that the party had no candidate, he added: “It is always good to put some of these things in perspective, so you can take the facts away. What this simply means is that one of the aspirants who was aggrieved went to court and in the court, he is asking as a matter of prayer that the party should be delisted. The court has not pronounced but you can understand when people position their own views out of what they hope for.

“In this election, we are not giving up. It is an ongoing election. We are not scared despite the outcome in 20 local government areas. We are in the winning bracket. That is what is important and we intend to continue till the end.”

The party, yesterday, refuted claims that it planned to drag Soludo and INEC to court over alleged shoddy conduct of Saturday’s election. The state chairman of APC, Ejidike, who refuted the reports, wondered why the party should be quoted to opt for legal action to redress alleged shortcomings of INEC at a period the party should concentrate on the remaining elections where they did not hold.

Valentine Ozigbo as the Anambra State gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)

“We are not making categorical statement. There are issues we want to clear. Before now, APC had high hopes of preparation and expected everything would move on smoothly. But with what happened, especially with the BVAS used at various polling units, we discovered that most of the machines for the election could not function effectively.”

He denied denouncing the election and calling on INEC to conduct fresh poll, stressing that he could not have done so as at the time when the process is ongoing.

A chieftain of the party and former governorship candidate in Imo State, Uche Nwosu, has attributed the declining fortune of APC in the Southeast to poor reward system that undermined founding fathers and old members of the party in preference for new members.

According to Nwosu, APC leadership abandoned those that planted and nurtured the party in the region and instead handed over the structure of the party to defectors from other parties that never knew how APC was founded.

He maintained that except the party retraces its steps and conducts free and fair primaries without manipulation in the forthcoming general elections while also reconciling the aggrieved old members, it may not recover from the self-afflicted crisis before 2023.

On how to revitalise the party ahead the 2023 elections, Nwosu advised the party leadership to consult founding members of APC in the zone like former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha; Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige; Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonna Onu; George Moghalu, among others and open discussions that will engender genuine reconciliation.

“The party leadership can’t ignore those that worked so hard and invested their resources and time and expect to continue to win elections. The party can’t gloss over the fact that all is not well, but all hope is not lost if it can reconcile the aggrieved leaders. What happened in Anambra is a confirmation of the fact that the party veered off the original plan, but all that can be remedied.”

MEANWHILE, YIAGA Africa has called on INEC to immediately undertake an audit of its BVAS to ensure that all technological glitches with the device are resolved ahead of the rerun to prevent delays and disenfranchisement of voters today.

To enhance transparency of the supplementary election, YIAGA also called on the electoral body to publish the total number of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) collected in Ihiala and inform the public on the status of uncollected PVCs.

YIAGA Director of Programme, Cynthia Mbamalu, who made the call on Monday in Abuja while delivering the group’s preliminary statement on the election, regretted that the newly introduced technology meant to enhance the integrity of the electoral process turned out to be a disservice to the electorate.

According to Mbamalu: “By replacing the smart card readers with BVAS, INEC intended to enhance the integrity of the process by introducing additional checks to ensure only eligible voters could cast ballots on election day.

“However, in practice and as observed by our observers, BVAS malfunctioned and slowed the process, resulting in long queues and extended waiting time for voters in contravention of INEC guidelines and regulations. We express concern with INEC’s framework for adopting new electoral technologies.”

She called on INEC to sanction all its staff accused of complicity and conspiracy with political actors and security agents to falsify election results, especially Mrs. Comfort Omorogie, electoral officer for Orumba North Council involved in compelling the returning officer for the LGA to declare false results under duress.

Mbamalu further urged the commission to terminate its contractual relationship with road transport unions, especially those notorious for breach of contractual obligations, adding that INEC must seek legal remedies against transporters who are liable for breach of contract.

Earlier, YIAGA Executive Director, Samson Itodo, who acknowledged that election day was peaceful, regretted that the pre-election period was characterised by violence, intimidation, and arson resulting to poor voter turnout.

THE Director, INEC Voter Education and Publicity, Victor Aluko, has lamented that some collation officers of the Commission are not good at Mathematics. Aluko stated this while reacting to the conflict between two officials of the Commission in Orumba North council on Saturday.

Recall that the Returning Officer of the LGA, Michael Otu, said he nearly lost his life when thugs attacked the Local Government Collation Centre during the election.

“I am lucky to be alive. I was tear-gassed and as a BP patient, I nearly lost my life. I was forced to sign a result, which wasn’t collated by me. The Polling Officer, Comfort Omoroge, who worked with me, compromised,” Otu had said.

In her reaction, Omoroge had stated that Otu was confused and didn’t know the difference between casting of vote and collation of results.

“This man (Onu) has not been involved in an election and it is obvious from the way he behaved on election day. His actions put us at risk,” she had said.

Speaking yesterday, INEC Director, Aluko, said both officials would be interrogated by the Commission to unravel what actually happened. Aluko, who spoke on ‘NTA Good Morning Nigeria’ breakfast programme, also said though many of the ad-hoc officers recruited for the election were trained, some of them find Mathematics challenging.

He said: “We were not there in Orumba North when the rural rumble was taking place between the Collation Officer and INEC Electoral Officer but what we could see when the Returning Officer was collating that she did the right thing by setting up an emergency team to review what was submitted by the officer.

Candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) Andy Uba

“For now, we would not really know what happened until we interrogate the collation officer who was making the allegations and until we interrogate the Electoral Officer who was alluding to the fact that the Collation Officer was inexperienced.

“We recruited many Collation Officers and of course, we recruited intellectuals from the academic for local government ward collation position but sometimes when people have to perform such important duties, some people may not be so good in Mathematics or Arithmetic.”

The INEC official also defended the declaration of the November 8, 2021 in Anambra as “inconclusive”, insisting that elections did not hold in Ihiala LGA due to “security threats”.

Aluko said it was better not to deploy electoral officers to Ihiala than to deploy officials and later mourn them.

“As an electoral body, INEC managed the situation the way it should. What happened was that the Returning Officer simply postponed the collation and the declaration of the winner pending the time we would conduct election in Ihiala where due to security threats, we had staffing and logistics constraints and we could not deploy.

“And of course, INEC rightly relied on the sections of the Constitution and the electoral act and the Commission’s guidelines for the election and in order to be fair, we need to bring Ihiala at par with the other 20 councils before we can move further. That’s the simple situation.”

Aluko further said though the candidate of APGA, Charles Soludo, won 18 of the 20 LGAs where election held, he cannot be declared winner yet because the total votes in Ihiala were more than the margin of votes that the ex-Central Bank of Nigeria governor was leading with.

“Currently, the margin of lead is 52,624 votes between the candidate of APGA and the PDP. The total votes in Ihiala is 148,407. Mathematically, the margin of lead is lower than the outstanding votes in Ihiala. So, to be fair, we need to conclude that election in Ihiala before we can move forward.”

According to INEC, over 2.5 million registered voters were eligible to participate in the governorship election in Anambra with a population of about five million people, but fears of worsening security situation in the Southeast and threats by the proscribed separatist group over the detention of its embattled leader, Nnamdi Kanu, have been said to be responsible for the low voters’ turnout on Saturday.

Source: Guardian.ng

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