By Emma Amaize, Festus Ahon & Godwin Oghre
FROM some tallied results of Saturday’s bye-election in Delta Central senatorial district, Delta state, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Chief Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, seemed to have coasted to an early lead in Sapele, Ughelli South, Ughelli North, Ethiope-East and Udu Local Government Areas.
The Democratic People Party, DPP, candidate, Chief Ede Dafinone, was understood to be leading in Okpe Local Government, but it was believed he was going to lose the senatorial election with PDP’s performance in Ethiope-West and Uvwie .
The former senator, the late Senator Pius Ewherido, won the seat in 2011 on DPP platform and his death, June 30, occasioned the bye-election
Former Minister of State for Education, Olorogun Kenneth Gbagi, told Sunday Vanguard that PDP trounced the other parties in all the units in his ward and in the entire Ughelli South Local Government.
“In Unit 2, Jeremi Ward 2, we scored 467, the other parties scored zero. We, the leaders, told them clearly who to vote for and they did not make a mistake about it. It is 100 per cent,” he said.
Chairman of the Delta State PDP Campaign Council and Commissioner for Housing, Chief Paulinus Akpeki, was said to have turned the tide against the DPP in Sapele, but the results were not confirmed at press time.
Akpeki reportedly lost three out of the 17 units results that were counted as at 4.00 pm.
However, the state chairman of DPP, Chief Tony Ezeagwu, in a statement, indicating that his party might have lost the election, said, “Today, (yesterday), the Urhobo people were violently denied the collective right to choose a senator of their own.”
“The proposed election to elect a senator is now emerging as a complete sham which we cannot associate with under any guise. The scale of impunity and violence by the PDP, thugs/cultists and ‘security agents’ is just unimaginable.
“The involvement of state security apparatuses is particularly questionable. We are at a loss why and how such violence and external interference have to be brought into Urhobo in the name of election. We dissociate ourselves from the so-called election”.
Our reporters, who covered the bye-election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Delta Central senatorial district, reported that it was characterized by late arrival of materials, dismal turnout of voters and threatening presence of security men, particularly soldiers, who barricaded roads.
At some of the polling units, accreditation had not been done as at 2.00 pm, while in some others, where voting materials arrived early, some people voted at about 12.30 pm and returned home.
Our reporters who went round the eight local governments in the senatorial district, namely, Uvwie, Udu, Sapele, Okpe, Ughelli South, Ughelli North, Ethiope- West and Ethiope –East, reported that voters, who turned out at the polling centres without their voter’s cards, were turned back by electoral officers.
and thuggery In all, INEC seemed not properly prepared for the polls. At about 9.00 am, Sunday Vanguard saw some electoral officials, mainly NYSC members and a policemen, searching for the polling unit at Our Ladies High School, Effurun Uvwie Local Government, an indication that they were not shown the unit before yesterday.
At about 9.20 am, both the PDP and DPP polling agents in Unit 004, Ward 1, Opposite Ovie Palace Gate, Effurun, Prince Emmanuel Edjekohure and Henry Ogedegbe respectively, said there was no problem, as voting materials came on schedule.
Lawyer and activist, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who is an APC chieftain in Uvwie, told Sunday Vanguard that he voted at about 12.30 pm under a peaceful atmosphere, but he learnt that thugs came to harass people after he left to vote for PDP.
In most of the polling units in Udu Local Government, there was no accreditation until about 12.30 pm, but in some units, materials came at about 9.00 am. In Unit 8, Ward 4, voting started early, a polling agent for one of the parties, Akpos Afon, said, “Everything is going well.” The DPP agent, Fredrick Akporerhe, also said, “Everything is okay,” while another polling agent, John Emgbeouke, said, ‘It is free and fair, security is okay.”
Coordinator, Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence, FJHD, Oghenejabor Ikimi, said, “As at 11.50 am, there was no voting anywhere in Udu”, but at 12.52 pm, he sent a text message, saying, “Accreditation just began 12.45 pm at the Ovwian town hall, it is chaotic here.”
At Okpare-Olomu, the country home of PDP senatorial candidate, Chief Emmanuel Aguariavwodo, in Ughelli South Local Government, there was no voting material at the polling units between 9.00 am and 2. 30 pm and voting did not start until about 3.00 pm to 4.00 pm after it finally arrived.
A member of the House of Assembly from the area, Hon. Taleb Tebite, confirmed to journalists at 12.12 pm that INEC had challenges with deployment of materials for the election, but said, “We are waiting for the materials to come so that voting will commence.”
Absence of polling officials
In Akperhe -Olomu at about 11.15 am, two of our reporters saw a vehicle fully loaded with voting materials for the 14 units in Olomu and policemen deployed to the area, the NYSC members supposed to handle proceedings were not there.
APC polling agent, Oke Akpomudje said, “We are still waiting for the NYSC members, the presiding officer is not here too, they are complaining of transport. You see, one vehicle was supposed to bring the electoral materials and the other, the officials, but no good arrangement was made.”
A chairmanship aspirant, Engineer Isaac Omafuaire, said, “The people want to vote but we are waiting for the electoral officials, as you can see, they are not here yet.”
PDP chieftain, Mr. Joe Unuame, corroborated the claim that absence of electoral officials was stalling voting at about 11.20 am.
However, fighting broke out later among members of the different parties over the voting arrangement, but with the deployment of more anti-riot policemen, voting later started at about 4.00 pm.
Aguariavwodo voted at about 2:15 pm in Okpare-Olomu, Unit 2. After casting his vote, he commended the people for the large turnout, describing the election as peaceful.
Deputy Governor, Prof Amos Utuama, SAN, who voted at about 1.05 pm in his country home, Otu-Jeremi, told reporters that the turn out in his area was impressive, though the exercise recorded a slow start.
Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege, one of the senatorial aspirants that withdrew for Aguariavwodo and widely campaigned for him, said, “The election is peaceful, free and fair and everywhere is calm except for pockets of violence in Evwreni and Uwheru orchestrated by the APC.”
National vice chairman, South-South, PDP, Dr Steve Oru, told journalists, “The election is very ceful and the turnout of voters in some areas is quite impressive.”
But in Ughelli North Local Government, the home turf of APC candidate, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor and LP candidate, Barrister Andi Osawota, things were a bit orderly, as ballot materials were dispatched to the various polling units at about 8:35 am, while accreditation and voting began at 12:15pm.
At Ethiope -East Local Government Area, the stamping ground of DPP leader, Chief Great Ovedje Ogboru, ballot materials were dispatched at 9:55am while accreditation and voting commenced at about 12 noon. Surprisingly, in Kokori, the people were shouting that PDP was their party.
In Okpe Local Government Area, ballot materials left the INEC office in the area to various polling units at 9:30am, and accreditation and voting kicked off at 12:12pm.
Chief O’Tega Emerhor, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, voted at about 1:30pm in Evwreni Unit 5.
In Sapele and Ethiope West Local Government Areas, security officials mounted water tight security throughout the period of the election. Movement was highly restricted as early as 6.00am with soldiers blocking major roads leading in and out of Sapele and Ethiope West local government councils.
The major Benin/Sapele dual carriage way was condoned off at Ologbo Bridge boundary of Edo Delta State as well as at Oghara junction in Ethiope West Local Government Area, such that motorists coming from the Benin axis of the road to Delta State were denied entry.
Motorists queued up static position from as early as 6am to 4pm when the road was eventually opened. There was heavy gridlock on the dual carriage way immediately after the road was opened for motorists. Dafinone, the DPP candidate in the election, voted in Unit 1, Ward 1, at about 12 noon. He said the voting exercise was going on smoothly and without hitch. He expressed satisfaction at the conduct of the election, adding that he was sure of victory.