By Emmanuel Aziken, Tony Edike, Vincent Ujumadu, Charles Kumolu & Okonkwo Eze
LAGOS — The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, yesterday ordered fresh polls in 208 polling units in Anambra State allegedly affected by malpractice in the weekend gubernatorial election in the state.
The three major candidates that ran against the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA’s Willie Obiano, however, demurred and threatened to boycott the supplementary elections as they insisted on total cancellation of the Saturday election which they alleged was completely marred by irregularities.
APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, nevertheless insisted that the party’s chances of retaining its hold on the Government House would not be affected by the fresh polls whenever held.
The boycott of the major candidates came as INEC, yesterday, commenced disciplinary action against the officer for Idemili North Local Government Area who INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega accused of sabotaging the election in the area. The officer who has been apprehended by the police was yesterday on his way to Abuja from Enugu under protective escort of the police.
Meanwhile, INEC has said it was yet to decide on a date for the supplementary election in the 208 polling units where it claimed that there were infractions last weekend.
The returning officer for the election, Professor James Epoke while announcing the results of the contest had, yesterday, declared the election inconclusive. The returning officer said that the runner-up, Comrade Tony Nwoye of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Senator Chris Ngige who came third after the weekend voting each could displace Willie Obiano of the All Progressive Grand Alliance who topped the voting if the cancelled ballots were taken into consideration.
At the end of the weekend voting, Epoke had placed APGA’s Obiano in the first position with 174, 710 votes, followed by the PDP’s candidate, Nwoye who polled 94,856 votes, and Senator Ngige of APC who polled 93,300 votes to place third.
Obiano won in 16 of the 21 local government areas, while Nwoye and Ngige won in two local government areas each.
The APGA candidate won in Aguata, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Anaocha, Awka North, Awka South, and Ekwusigo. He also won in Ihiala, Njikoka, Nnewi South, Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Orumba North and Orumba South.
The PDP candidate won in Dunukofia and Oyi, while the APC candidate won in Idemili North and Idemili South.
The returning officer, however, failed to declare a date for the supplementary election.
Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega told Vanguard yesterday that the decision on a date would be decided by the commission after national officers of the commission would have been debriefed by commission officials who supervised the election.
The INEC’s proposal on a re-run nonetheless, the three major candidates who ran second, third and fourth, Nwoye of the PDP, Ngige of the APC and Ubah of Labour Party all vowed to shun the supplementary election.
Nwoye told Vanguard yesterday that he cannot contest a poll where he, as a candidate has not been accredited to vote.
“I will not partake in the supplementary election. Partake in what? If there is no total cancellation, I cannot partake and if my supporters cannot participate I cannot partake,” he told Vanguard over the telephone.
“I will not, because the allegations we have been raising of multiple voting and massive disenfranchisement have not been addressed,” he stressed.
The APC in rejecting the plans for a supplementary election said only a complete cancellation of the whole election would allow it partake in another election as it charged Jega to name the official he claimed sabotaged the commission’s plans.
APC chides PDP
The APC in a statement issued by its Interim National Publicity Secretary yesterday, also chided the PDP for ecstatically lauding an election in which its own candidate and family members were de-listed from the voters register.
“We say, without equivocating, that a total cancellation of the election and the organization of a fresh poll, under the supervision of a credible Resident Electoral Commissioner, will be acceptable to our party,” the APC declared yesterday.
Challenging INEC to name the official or officials that caused the damage, the party said:
‘’It is not enough for INEC’s detached chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, to tell the nation that an INEC official sabotaged the election in a certain part of the state, he must tell the nation who this fellow is, who he/she is working for, what is the extent of the damage he/she has done to this and previous elections, and whether or not he/she has access to the commission’s database of voters’ register, which was apparently tampered with for Saturday’s election.
‘’Professor Jega must also tell Nigerians why 16 electoral commissioners who migrated to Anambra days before the election ostensibly to supervise things, could not ensure the success of an election in a single state, when even a polling unit behind the INEC office in Awka did not get voting materials till after 9 am on election day,’’ it said.
Chiding the national PDP over its position, the APC said: “In its inordinate ambition to humiliate our party at all costs, the PDP has ended up humiliating itself and embarrassing the nation. Or how else does one describe a bizarre situation in which a party will describe as free and fair an election in which its own candidate and his family could not find their names in the voters’ register? The joke is indeed on the PDP!
“It is now clear who the PDP is working for, and that the party has no qualms about sacrificing its own candidate and disgracing the nation as long as it will achieve its aim of humiliating the APC,’’ the party asserted.
Also rejecting the plans for the supplementary election, Labour Party speaking through its AnambraState chairman, Sam Oraegbulam, called for the outright cancellation of the entire election, stressing that the election in all ramifications did not meet the standard of free and fair election.
He said mere conducting a supplementary election cannot make the election that was marred with gross irregularities and fraud to be credible and only a total cancellation and conduct of fresh election will suffice.
Obiano’ll still win, says Umeh
The national chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, who was Obiano’s agent at the collation center, expressed optimism that his party would ultimately carry the day, describing the development as a mere delayed victory.
According to him, it would be difficult for any other candidate to upstage APGA in view of the gap already given the other parties,
He said: “Some of the places affected by the supplementary election were places where APGA won, adding that while other candidates would be striving to meet his party, the party would also be garnering more votes.”
He also said that the supplementary election would prove whether the number of voters often claimed to be in the register of voters is actually authentic.
Meanwhile, Jega’s spokesman, Mr. Idowu, yesterday declared that the commission was yet to fix a date for the supplementary election.
“We have not set a date. The commission is waiting for the field officers to return and the report that is made will be painstakingly interrogated by the commission because the commission is not sweeping anything under the carpet.”
“The field officers will be debriefed as they return, then the commission, that is the chairman and the national commissioners will meet and fix a date for the supplementary election.
On fate of the commission’s officer who allegedly sabotaged the election in Idemili North, he said:
“It is not only that he has been arrested, we have requested that the Police should begin investigations of him; we have also initiated a disciplinary action against him.”
Asked if he is the only one, he said:
“He is a glaring example, he is the anchor of what happened in Idemili North and in the course of investigation if there are others, it will come out.
He is with the police and was in Enugu and I think they are moving him to Abuja,” he disclosed yesterday.