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Oguta state constituency election: Matters arising

OGUTA Local Government Area of Imo State is one of the two oil producing local government areas in the state. It accounts for a good chunk of the oil revenue that comes into the state coffers on a monthly basis, both from the Federal Government and from the oil companies as taxes.

It also has its fair share of youth restiveness that has come to be associated with oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta region.Every single issue in these areas is a potential source of conflict –Ezeship, siting of NDDC or state government projects, appointments, name it.

Politicians employ varied means to exploit the volatile disposition of the youths in these areas to achieve political ends. During the 2011 elections in the state, there were accusations and counter-accusations between PDP and APGA over election results manipulation and the use of things as a means of achieving election victory.

This resulted in the repeat of the governorship election in Oguta which was reportedly marred by violence and therefore declared inconclusive.

The House of Assembly election which was also repeated and reportedly won by the PDP candidate, Eugene Dibiagwu, was challenged in court by APGA and annulled consequent upon which a by-election was ordered and scheduled for June 29, 2013. The controversy trailing the conduct of that by-election is now in the public domain. It was declared inconclusive by INEC.

Two days after the election, Governor Rochas Okorocha, as leader of APGA in the state called a press conference where he alleged a collusion between INEC and PDP against APGA. He claimed to have suffered untold humiliation in the hands of the PDP just because he wanted peace to reign, and repeatedly warned: “enough is enough”.

He also claimed to be in possession of a comprehensive result sheet of the Oguta House of Assembly election signed by the returning officer, and wondered why INEC should declare the election inconclusive when, according to him, the results of only eight out of the 129 polling units in the area were outstanding.

The Governor alleged that the returning officer was about to announce the results when she received a phone call “from the big Oga above” and immediately declared the election inconclusive.

In a quick reaction, the PDP in the state, through a release by their publicity secretary, dismissed the allegation of collusion but  instead claimed that there was no election in a total of 24 out of the 129 units in the LGA. This, according to them, was as a result of the activities of fake security agents trained and deployed by the Governor to disrupt election in those areas.

The Governor and his hirelings, they insisted, wrote and signed results for those areas before the day of the election, and querried if representatives of other political parties had copies of the said result sheet.

The PDP claimed that their candidate was leading in 16 out of the 17 booths whose results were available and described INEC’s action in declaring the election inconclusive as a step in the right direction but called on them to make arrangement as soon as possible for the conduct of elections in the areas where no elections were held.

As I watched Governor Okorocha complaining on TV, I laughed my head off because the Oguta case is almost a reharsh of the occurrence in Ohaji/Egbema and Oguta during the 2011 governorship election.

In that instance, it was the PDP that complained of a phone call which led to the inconclusive declaration by the returning officer as a result of which the governorship results in the state were declared without Oguta and Ohaji/Egbema. Rochas emerged as governor at the expense and much to the chagrin of the PDP and their candidate because of the non-declaration of results in those areas.

The governorship matter is still in court but I cannot but wonder why a sitting governor for over two years should still be complaining of being intimidated by a party that is out of power. The Governor is the Chief security officer of the state and he has all the paraphernalia of authority – the security apparatus, financial resources and, above all, the power to capture the electorate with the siting of development projects.

As an Imo indigene, I am aware that just two days to the election in Oguta, governor Okorocha announced the release of N500m to ISOPADEC for the development of the oil producing areas. Whether or not that amount was really released remains to be verified but granted that it was, why did he wait till the election period before remembering the area. Two little, too late.

Both the PDP and governor Okorocha’s APGA should accept INEC’s position in the Oguta state constituency by-election and prepare for the conduct of elections in those areas where the election body either declared that no election took place and/or that elections were marred by violence/irregularities. Oguta people on their part, should not allow themselves to be used by politicians to frustrate their representation in the Imo State House of Assembly.

They must, while resisting the foisting of a candidate other than their choice on them, give peace a chance so that the voice of Oguta can be heard in the State legislature and their interest protected.

Why then, not withstanding the intimidation and  despite the fact that the Secretary to the State Government and other top government officials are from the area, is Governor Okorocha struggling to deliver Oguta to APGA? The governor should feel a sense of shame in acknowledging that he was waylaid and attacked by his subjects in Oguta.

As a politician, he should know that, if it really happened, then his days as governor are numbered because it is a clear sign of rejection. It is also a manifestation of the level of acceptance or popularity of the candidate of the other party. If the governor thinks otherwise, then he should shame the PDP by steering clear of the contest and allowing Oguta people to choose between their two sons who should represent them.

In an advertorial published in the Wednesday 3rd July edition of Vanguard Newspaper apparently in response to the Governor’s allegation against their party, the PDP hinted of alleged plans by the governor and APGA to approach a court in Owerri to issue an order compelling the House of Assembly in the state to swear in the APGA candidate without a certificate of return. I doubt if any court in the land will associate itself with such illegality. It will be the height of judicial rascality so to do.

The governor must wait until INEC, the sole body charged with the responsibility to conduct elections and declare results concludes its work. After all it was this same body that declared him winner of the 2011 governorship election in the state despite PDP protestations or is it a case of “they are good when I am favoured and no good when things are not going my way?

The credibility level of INEC soared since the 2011 general elections in the country especially after the conduct of the governorship elections in Anambra, Edo and Ondo state where they arguably exhibited very high degree of impartiality.

Both the PDP and governor Okorocha’s APGA should accept INEC’s position in the Oguta state constituency by-election and prepare for the conduct of elections in those areas where the election body either declared that no election took place and/or that elections were marred by violence/irregularities.

Oguta people on their part, should not allow themselves to be used by politicians to frustrate their representation in the Imo State House of Assembly. They must, while resisting the foisting of a candidate other than their choice on them, give peace a chance so that the voice of Oguta can be heard in the State legislature and their interest protected.

Mr. FRED IKEDIALA, a political analyst,  wrote from Owerri, Imo State.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.