•Obiano in early lead
•Soldiers arrest seven thugs
By Kingsley Omonobi, Vincent Ujumadu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Dennis Agbo and Enyim Enyim
The governorship election in Anambra State passed off yesterday with minimal violence albeit multiple reports of voters trading their votes for cash as the major political parties sought to best one another for control of the commercial and industrial epicentre of Nigeria’s South-east.
The ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, was, last night, said to be doing well in early results in the face of strong but a divided opposition mounted by the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as early returns showed the party to be acquitting itself across the state. The PDP was also faced with internal strife upon accounts of internal dissent as prominent chieftains worked against the party’s standard bearer.
There were allegations of election fraud made by some of the parties in the election that witnessed much apathy in the urban areas. There was, however, good turnout in the rural areas.
Some of Anambra’s leading politicians, nevertheless, acquitted themselves by delivering their polling units for their preferred candidates.
Early results showed the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Dr. Tony Nwoye, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Mr. Oseloka Obaze, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, pulling away from the crowd of 37 candidates who stood in the most contested governorship election in the country’s history.
Sentiments towards the late Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, prevailed in his Umudim Central School polling unit despite the defection of his son, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu Jnr., to the APC last Wednesday.
Results from the three polling units in the primary school saw APGA winning with 261 votes, APC scored 98 and PDP 80.
Emeka Ojukwu Jnr was absent at the polling unit, but Bianca Ojukwu, the widow of the late Biafran leader, stood firm with a vow to sit through to the end of the election.
Posters of the APC candidate, Nwoye; his running mate, Ikedife, with Ojukwu’s picture inserted, littered the frontage of the Ojukwu family house in Nnewi.
A former National Chairman of APGA and Obiano’s campaign manager, Chief Victor Umeh, won his polling unit at Uzuanunu in Aguluzoigbo ward by 68 votes with APC scoring 8, PDP 1.
Umeh said he expected the votes margin to be wider in the rest polling units. “We insist the INEC should maintain what happened here in the day time to also take place at night when the rest of the results will be collected,” the campaign manager said.
He commended INEC and security agents for maintaining peace, adding that the election went well except the initial hitch when few card readers malfunctioned but were resolved.
At Ekwueme Hall polling unit of Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA, home of Prince Arthur Eze, a patron of the APC candidate, the results showed APC scored 409 votes, APGA 102 and PDP 15.
The Minister for Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, also delivered his Nkwoide Ward 1 to his party with APC scoring 152, APGA 68 and PDP 22.
The PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, swept the votes in his Ward 6, PU 001 polling unit, scoring 370 votes with APGA 11, APC 5 and UPP 1.
There was, however, apathy to the election in urban areas of the state, notably, Onitsha and Nnewi. Voters, in some cases, took to playing and, where not, watching children play football in open places.
At the Urban Girls Secondary School, Fegge, Onitsha, an electoral official, George Chukwuma, in Ward 5 Unit 012, said that out of 628 registered voters, only 61 persons voted. Also in Ward 5 Unit 011, the presiding officer, Obodo Jester, said 74 persons voted out of a total of 616 registered voters.
Sorting and collation of the final result from the 21 local government areas of the state were proceeding last night at the different local government area collation centres.
Voting began early in most polling units across Anambra and except for a minor incident recorded at Nsugbe, the hometown of Nwoye, the APC governorship candidate, where a man disrupted voting and was arrested by the police.
The apathy in the urban areas was blamed on the fact that many of those resident there registered in rural communities or outside the state.
Obiano voted at about 9.27 a.m. while Nwoye voted at about 1.pm. Obaze voted about one hour later.
Addressing reporters after casting his vote, the APGA candidate and incumbent governor commended INEC and security agencies for ensuring that the exercise went on smoothly.
Obaze, who also spoke after casting his vote, said although there were reports of apathy in many places, INEC should be commended for conducting a peaceful exercise.
Nwoye, after casting his vote at Ofanta village square polling unit 002, Nsugbe Ward 1, accused security agents of collaborating with APGA even as he expressed confidence that he would win the election.
The APC candidate spoke of reports of violence in Abatete and Ikem Nando in Anambra West local government area.
“I wonder the interest of the Nigeria Police and the military in this election. Before the election, Obiano was crying, alleging that other parties had plans to rig the election. But it has turned out that he is the person using the police and military for terror”.
Ngige also accused APGA of election fraud in APC strongholds like Idemili North, Idemili South, and Ogbaru local government areas and threatened that the party would ask for a re-run if nothing was done to correct the anomalies.
The claims were dismissed by Umeh, the APGA candidate campaign manager, who described the allegations as baseless and unfounded.
Most people waited patiently after voting until the votes were counted and, in many places, the results pasted on the walls. Unlike situations in the past, there were no incidents of ballot box snatching or firing of guns anywhere.
There were, however, widespread reports of vote-buying with the three major parties outbidding one another for votes with money ranging from N500 to N5,000 depending on the location.
The scramble for money, however, spilled into pandemonium at Enem Hall, Otolo Nnewi ward II, Nnewi North local government area at about 2 p.m. when four gunmen allegedly pulled their guns and started shooting sporadically while voting was ongoing at about 2 pm.
Sunday Vanguard learned that the incidence arose when a prominent Nnewi politician stormed the polling unit and threw money at voters as he was about leaving.
It was at that point that the four young boys emerged from the crowd and pulled their pistols, picked the money and ran into a nearby bush, a development that caused chaos.
At Obi Okpuneze Uruagu Ward, a voter complained that ballot box 0017 was missing from the materials sent to the polling unit at about 11:30 am, and voters there insisted that they will not vote until the ballot box was returned.
Commenting on the election, Bianca Ojukwu, who voted at St Stephen Ward 2, Umudim, commended the process as free and fair.
The late Ojukwu’s widow also lauded Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, officials for their professional conduct, even as she regretted that the turnout was low.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Innosons Group, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, also commended the INEC for a peaceful election and appealed to the people to conduct themselves peacefully.
Soldiers arrest seven in Onitsha
Meanwhile, troops of 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, deployed as back up to the police and other security agencies tasked with ensuring a hitch-free governorship election, arrested seven thugs for attempting to disrupt voting in Okpoko, Onitsha South local government area.
Security sources told Sunday Vanguard that with the arrest of the thugs, and adequate deployment of security agencies, threats from groups like IPOB and MASSOB warning residents against coming out to cast their votes were nipped in the bud.
Consequently, Anambra residents came out to vote for their next governor.
The sources said the strict adherence of the security agencies was not unconnected to the warning given by the General Officer Commanding 82 Division, Major General Adamu Abubakar, on Friday night, when he silently entered Onitsha and held a meeting with Service Commanders on the need to keep to their assigned roles.