By Tony Edike, Vincent Ujumadu, Henry Umoru, Charles Kumolu & Enyim Enyim
AWKA — The All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA yesterday claimed victory in last Saturday’s Anambra gubernatorial election just as the major opposition political parties in the contest kicked, alleging wide scale irregularities.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, however, alleged sabotage on the part of some staff of the commission who he claimed derailed the commission’s plans for smooth delivery of election materials to some sections of Anambra Central Senatorial district.
Meanwhile, the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and its candidate in the election, Comrade Tony Nwoye were divided yesterday over the conduct of the poll. While the PDP praised the poll for being well conducted, Nwoye at a press conference in Awka denounced the poll as rigged.
The muttering of the opposition parties nonetheless, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh claimed that the victory of the party in the gubernatorial election was well deserved.
He dismissed allegations by the candidates of PDP, APC and LP that the election was rigged as a non-issue saying APGA won convincingly because the people have absolute confidence in the party and its candidate.
Umeh addressed a news conference in Awka in reaction to the complaints by the three major contestants that the election was rigged by Governor Peter Obi with the support of some corrupt INEC officials who deleted names of their supporters from the voters register among other allegations.
Umeh told newsmen that he was surprised by the three parties’ claims that they were cheated in the election, saying their claims were untrue.
He said that unlike the previous elections in the state, there was no incidence of ballot box snatching, violence or other irregularities to warrant anybody faulting the exercise.
“As far as I am concerned the election is free and fair, those people crying blue murder have inordinate ambition. By tomorrow when the result will be out I will face them. I challenge anybody who cares to analyze the results carefully and they will realize that APGA won in those councils where it had won other elections in past polls. There is no need whatsoever for any of the candidates to fault the exercise,” Umeh said.
He said that APGA “is not scared of their threats to go to court because APGA had been in court since its inception and cannot be afraid of litigation.
“What Ngige is doing now is his stock in trade since he has become a serial gubernatorial contestant and as I speak to you now he is still in court over the 2010 election.
“For Tony Nwoye, he was not even in the race. This is a man whom the Supreme Court revalidated his candidacy in less than a week to the election. He only campaigned for four days in the whole of Anambra state and can not claim to have been rigged out of an election he was not actively involved,” the APGA Chairman who is the party’s State Collatting Officer, said.
Before his address, the three major candidates, Tony Nwoye, PDP; Ifeanyi Ubah, Labour and Chris Ngige, APC; had at separate press conferences denounced the conduct of the poll and called for its cancellation.
Opposition candidates in joint conference
The trio subsequently last night addressed a joint press conference where they made a joint call for the cancellation of the polls. They alleged that they would not accept any result from the election as conducted last weekend.
Ubah faulted the outcome of the election, saying that having won convincingly at his Nnewi North local government, which is the stronghold of APGA (the home of Ojukwus), he was confident that he would have won in the entire state had APGA not rigged the poll.
He alleged that APGA bought votes at N10,000 each within Nnewi and the money was distributed to willing voters by a principal officer of the State House of Assembly.
Rejecting the outcome of the election yesterday, Nwoye told a news conference in Awka that the “the election is far below average and cannot be said to be free and fair” adding that “it was heavily manipulated by INEC in collusion with security agents in favour of Governor Peter Obi’s preferred candidate, Willie Obiano.”
I’ve never seen this kind of rigging — Nwoye
Nwoye said: “I have been involved in many elections in this country since my secondary schools days and particularly in 1993 presidential election where Moshood Abiola emerged, I have never seen this type of rigging. I have never seen an election where the military men and police were harassing and intimidating voters, assisting the INEC and APGA agents to chase away the PDP members at the collation centres to write results.”
Nwoye was, however, countered by his party’s national secretariat which praised the conduct of the election.
A statement released by the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh while commending INEC for the good conduct of the election said: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hereby commends President Goodluck Jonathan for providing adequate security and the enabling environment for the conduct of credible, free and fair governorship election in Anambra state last Saturday in spite of any perceived hitch(es).
“In the same vein we commend the entire people of Anambra state and all stakeholders who played key roles in ensuring peaceful and orderly conduct of the process.
“While we now await the official result, we wish to express our satisfaction that the election was conducted without disturbances, despite the massive importation of political thugs by the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as their heinous plots to introduce violence to disrupt and rig the poll having discovered that they have been rejected by the people.
“We also commend the candidate of our great party, Comrade Tony Nwoye for his resilience, grassroots appeal and credible outing which brought him to the forefront in the race despite having only two weeks to campaign. This is evident in the results so far released in which he roundly defeated the candidate of the APC who has been campaigning for four months before our candidate. The PDP is indeed happy with Comrade Tony Nwoye’s performance so far.
“While we charge all our members to continue to remain calm and focused, we wish to state that our final position on the election will be made known when the overall result is declared by INEC.”
The APC meanwhile, in a reaction to the development called for total cancellation of the election result saying that delivery of materials to strongholds of the APC was sabotaged.
In its reaction articulated by the party’s Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said:
“After consultations with our agents as well as with local and foreign observers, we have discovered that what we earlier complained about was a child’s play, compared to the widespread disenfranchisement that was orchestrated by the same body given the responsibility of ensuring a free, fair and creditable election on Saturday.”
Jega meanwhile yesterday alleged sabotage on the part of its officers during the election.
Speaking on AIT yesterday, the electoral chief said that a particular officer who masterminded the derailment of the distribution of election materials to Idemili North Local Government Area of the state has been identified and would be prosecuted.
“We made all the preparations and decentralised the process of distribution of materials in order to ensure that they get to the polling units in time for the commencement of the election. That was before Saturday.
“Unfortunately and regrettably – we are humans. We can do all the preparations, but if people are determined to subvert the process, one way or the other they will subvert it.
“So, they used our staff. I think we should be very careful when we have a staff of about 12,000 in INEC, when one person has committed an offence and then you use it to generalise or condemn everybody in INEC.
“Our Electoral Officer in charge of Idemili North Local Government, for inexplicable reasons, messed up the distribution of ballot box papers and result sheets. That was the cause of the delay in the distribution of materials in Idemili.
“All materials were to have been distributed by Friday evening, but for some odd reasons, they made sure that they held onto some of the result sheets, and they also gave wrong result sheets to different polling units.
“For Anambra election, as we did in Edo and Ondo, every polling unit has a unique result sheet. So, you cannot take one result sheet to a different place, because it will not work.
“I assured the stakeholders when we met in Awka that materials must get to the polling units before commencement of election.
“So, when we discovered at about 1am that there was this mix-up, and we tried to reach the Electoral Officer and the supervisor and there was confusion, and we knew something was fishy, we said there would be no deployment until we sorted out the problem.
“As I speak, we have handed over the Electoral Officer to the police because clearly what he did is a sabotage of the electoral process, including the Local Government supervisor.
“It took us until about 1pm to be able to sort out what they had jumbled up. We communicated with the community as at 1pm that we were ready to distribute to all the other wards, and materials were distributed.”
The three opposition candidates of PDP, APC and LP, at a joint press conference vowed to reject whatever result that would be announced by INEC from the elections in AnambraState.
The three candidates had earlier in the day expressed their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the election which is yet to be announced by INEC as at press time last night.
Ngige who was flanked by the other two and spoke on behalf of the trio said: ”Our stand is that Saturday election was characterized by fraud, malpractices and massive irregularities and we call on INEC to put in place another process to conduct a fresh election to enable the people of Anambra elect their governor that will take over from the present governor on March 17 next year.
“The irregularities clearly noticed included the omission of the names of many voters in the registers presented for the election in the over 4,000 polling units.
We were assured that the process will be free and fair during the stake holder’s meeting with the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, but little did we know that they had planned to disenfranchise many of our supporters by deleting their names from the register everywhere in the local government areas. It was so massive and we hereby reject the voters registers used for this election.
“We were assured by the INEC chairman that the electoral process would be transparent but we experienced was to the contrary.
“Thirdly we discovered that result sheets were translocated other than the purpose for which they were meant. For instance some result sheets meant for some polling booths in Idemili were taken to another area even when they were coded.
“There were massive. harassment and intimidation of voters and our party agents. The party agents’ accreditation cards were described as fake and they were hounded out hence we had no agents at most poling booths.
“There was massive deployment of money by APGA through its serving commissioners, party chieftains, contractors and some other individuals who were deployed to pay each voter as much as N10,000 to vote for APGA.
“Having noticed the various flaws …we have come to inevitable conclusion that this commission is determined to go back to its old ways and that the much gains made in 2011 election is being reversed.
“We, therefore, urge the INEC to cancel the charade called election conducted in Anambra and deploy transparent officials including a new Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC to conduct a fresh election in the state.
“No election result should be announced as the elections have not been concluded. What they are doing now is an exercise in futility.
“We are peace-loving people in Anambra state and they should not provoke the people to violence. A word is enough for the wise.”
Both Ubah and Nwoye said they all agreed to take a common position on the issue, insisting that the election should be cancelled.
TMG faults calls for cancellation
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) said yesterday that it would not subscribe to total cancellation of the Anambra Governorship Election.
The TMG is one of the observer groups that monitored the election held on Saturday across the state.
The TMG Chairman, Malam Zikirulahi Ibrahim, who was reacting to the problem in Idemili North where the election did not hold on Saturday and was rescheduled for Sunday.
In a telephone Interview, Ibrahim said that in spite of the problem, INEC performed well in some other areas where elections held.
“From our observation, we know the commission tried, but we also know areas where elections need to be repeated.”
“We, however, believe that INEC could have done better by holding the re-scheduled election on a working day instead of a Sunday, considering the religious belief of the people of the area.
“Our concern is that anything worth doing is worth doing well.”
Ibrahim advised INEC to let the entire World see that the issues arising from the Anambra poll were appropriately addressed.