By Emmanuel Aziken
The landscape in Abia State burst out in unbridled expression of joy last Wednesday evening after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC finally declared the outcome of the governorship election in the state. The joy was so effusive that even the outgoing state governor, Dr Okeize Ikpeazu under whose name some folks were trying to re-enact the Obingwa magic that brought him to power in 2015 easily caved in and congratulated the election winner, Dr Alex Otti.
The joy was not only in Abia. In Plateau and Zamfara where the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP won, the joy was also refreshing. In Borno State where the All Progressives Congress, APC retained its hold with one of the country’s most development centred governors, that is, Prof Babagana Zulum, the relief among many Nigerians was not less.
However, almost everywhere else, the nation is cast in gloom over the outcome and process that led to the declarations of victors in the federal and state level elections.
What we have now come to understand is the Stalinist theory that those who vote in an election do not matter. The ones who matter are the ones who count the votes.
It is in that respect that Nigerians are putting into perspective the roles played by the returning officers in the last rounds of elections.
It is in this respect that the role played by the returning officer in the Abia governorship election, Professor Nnenna Oti comes into perspective.
Midway into the collation of the results of the election it emerged that there were notable disturbances in the Obingwa Local Government Area office of INEC where some youths were alleged to have invaded to the purpose of altering the results.
At that point with 16 of the 17 LGAs reporting, Alex Otti, the Labour Party candidate was already leading with 171,747 votes to the 79,477 votes garnered by Okey Ahiwe of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Eight years ago, the situation was about the same with Otti leading Okeize Ikpeazu until the results came from Obingwa and swallowed the lead of the then APGA candidate.
However, this time, the BVAS machine had become an antidote to rigging. Even more, the people were more sensitized. It was alleged that the PDP was about returning 100,000 or so votes from Obingwa to swallow up the lead that Otti had.
However, one check was that the BVAS machines in Obingwa captured only 26,884 voters.
In many other states, the records of the BVAS machines were swept aside and returning officers looked the other way to allow figures worked out by election riggers.
However, Prof. Oti, no relation to Dr Alex Otti, stood her ground making the famous statement about her inheritance.
“I am Professor Nnenna Oti from Afikpo, VC of FUTO. The people’s mandate shall stand. I have spent all my adult life in pursuit of the ideals of good governance. We shall stand by the these principles.
“The Pastor in me and the mother in me will not permit me to do anything that will adversely affect the future of our children. I shall do right by God and by man!”
She stood by her words and allowed the vote of the people to stand.
That was what led to the joy that spread through the nook and cranny of Abia. Free drinks were declared as people danced through the streets in celebration of what many of them claimed as the liberation from the tyranny of a section of the political class over their state.
It was no surprise that Governor Ikpeazu in reading the handwriting on the wall congratulated Dr Otti and enjoined his party’s candidate and others not to go to the court. Indeed, even before the INEC resolved the INEC imbroglio some other candidates, notably, Prof Gregory Ibe, the APGA candidate called to congratulate Otti.
The exemplary conduct of Prof Ibe, and the returning officer, Prof Oti indeed are worthwhile positives that many of us are taking away from the election season that has generally been shadowed by gloom.
It is reflective of the integrity brought forth by Professor Oti that she has been rewarded with a brand new Prado Jeep by an Abia businessman. Besides the vehicle, many others within and outside Abia are pouring out blessings to Prof Oti for her courage in standing by the truth and declaring the correct result.
Prof Oti given her position as the returning officer could simply have kowtowed to the pressures and accepted whatever adulterated results were brought in from Obingwa and retorted “Go to court” as many other returning officers across the country did.
The same scenario was maturing in Kaduna the day before, that is on Tuesday. The streets of Kaduna were filled with joy as youths ran through the streets in celebration at what they alleged was the victory of the PDP following the independent collation of results. However, when the final results from Kudan LGA came in, and additions here and subtractions there, the PDP was declared loser. That is the power of who counts.
You can well imagine that if Prof Yakubu had done well in Abuja and ensured that the returning officers in the states did same, you could well have imagined the joy that would have been around the land at this time. Nigerians look up to the Supreme Court to wit, to ensure justice for all candidates irrespective of party affiliation.
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