By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor & chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI, the Imo State capital was last night engulfed in palpable tension over the continued delay in the announcement of results of the gubernatorial election concluded last Tuesday.
The tension sparked off by the continued delay in the announcement of the final result was believed to have provoked the interest of the national headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which has now stepped into the matter.
Vanguard learnt that INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega is to make a declaration on the development in Imo State today.
As at Wednesday evening when results in all but four local government areas were declared, the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA candidate, Rochas Okorocha, was leading Governor Ikedi Ohakim, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate with about 20,000 votes. It was at that point that the State Returning Officer, Professor Enoch Akobundu, announced that the results from the remaining four local governments were inconclusive.
Returning officer’s claim
He claimed that the returning officer for Mbaitoli local government area, Mr. Franklin Matthew, had no result to present for the area. But Vanguard gathered that his assertion was contrary to claims by party agents who claimed to have results.
Yesterday, tension swelled around the capital city and especially around the office premises of INEC along the Port Harcourt – Owerri road as aggrieved youths took up positions and mounted barricades stopping free movement of vehicles into and out of the INEC premises.
The vigil by the youths forced travellers to and from Port Harcourt to take diversions within the town to avoid the restive youths.
At least two vehicles were reportedly damaged yesterday by the youths who succeeded in scaring away the policemen that were sent to reinforce security at the INEC office. One of the vehicles smashed was reportedly conveying the spouse of a former senator. Electoral materials including thump printed ballot papers in support of one of the major parties were found in the vehicle provoking the ire of the youths.
The second vehicle which allegedly conveyed one of the returning officers from the local government where voting was declared inconclusive was also smashed.
The youths who at press time were still cordoning off the INEC premises were searching all vehicles entering and leaving the premises. The youths believed to be supporters of the APGA candidate protested loudly when the Police reinforcement came as they shouted, “Police go away, soldier stay.”
Inability to vote
In declaring the voting not to be conclusive last Wednesday, Professor Akobundu, the returning officer had said that some 12,000 voters were unable to vote in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area because voting did not take place in some wards in the council.
He said: “Because of the number that was not able to cast their votes in Ohaji/Egbema local government area, polling in the area is adjudged inconclusive. There was no polling in Ngor Okpala. There was no election in some wards in Oguta and Ohaji Egbema. The results so far received shows that two parties were running neck to neck. In view of the fact that the gap is too narrow, the governorship election in Imo State is, therefore, incomplete.”
The angry APGA youths who believed that their candidate was in the lead were, however, calling on the INEC to declare the result it already had. A number of them complained that the delay was to enable their rivals to bridge the gap through smuggling doctored electoral materials.
Meanwhile, the National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, yesterday, admitted a high level of conspiracy against the party in the state even as he affirmed the party’s readiness to accept the gubernatorial results from parts of Orlu senatorial zone, “despite the obvious lapses experienced in the area.”
Metuh who made the stand of the party known during a post_election press conference in Owerri, said: “PDP is willing to accept and has actually accepted the results from Orlu, despite some glaring irregularities in the conduct of the poll in the area.”
He called on INEC to immediately conduct the run_off to avoid running into any constitutional bottleneck, adding: “The remaining areas of Ngor Okpala, Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta, where INEC said were inconclusive, are PDP strongholds. INEC should please conduct the run_off elections in these areas immediately, so as not to run into any constitutional bottleneck.”
He warned that All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, has mobilized its loyalists to cause mayhem in the state, stressing that they should remember there is a sitting government in the state.
Reminded that the INEC returning officer in Mbaitoli said he had no result to submit from the area, Metuh said PDP was not bothered by the development. He said: “It does not really matter if PDP lost the area. We have no problem with Mbaitoli. INEC should have accepted and released the results where polls held in Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema and Mbaitoli.”