Following attacks on journalists and observers in Ihiala LGA and the declaration of the Anambra State Governorship election as inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, there is tension as the electoral umpire holds supplementary poll in the area today.
With results from 20 of the 21 local councils of Anambra State, the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, candidate, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, was coasting home to victory with 103,942 votes before the INEC declared the exercise inconclusive.
He had won 18 councils outright and got more than 25 percent of the votes cast in Nnewi North and Ogbaru local councils he lost to YPP’s Ifeanyi Ubah; and Val Ozigbo of the PDP, respectively.
His main challenger, Val Ozigbo has 51,322 votes, won one council outright, and got 25 percent of the votes cast in nine local governments — Ogbaru, Ekwusigo, Nnewi South, Onitsha South, Onitsha North, Anaocha, Idemili South, Ayamelum, and Awka South, according to results so far declared.
Also, the All Progressives Congress, APC candidate, Senator Andy Uba, who is yet to win any local council has 42,942 votes and met the 25 percent spread in five LGAs – Orumba North, Anambra West, Onitsha North, Aguata and Ayamelum.
The Young Progressive Party, YPP, candidate, Ifeanyi Ubah with 20,917 votes won one council and met the spread in the council.
Why INEC declared the poll inconclusive
However, in spite of the above results, INEC, in the early hours of yesterday, declared the poll inconclusive and fixed a supplementary poll in Ihiala for today.
Professor Florence Banku Obi, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar and Chief Returning Officer for the election, said: “As you all know, we have collated results for 20 out of 21 Local Government Areas. The outstanding result is for Ihiala Local Government Area where, for various reasons, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) could not deploy yesterday. Consequently, based on constitutional considerations, provisions of the Electoral Act, and the Revised Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections issued by the Commission, the supplementary election is indicated for Ihiala Local Government Area.
“First, Section 179 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) provides that to be declared the winner of the Governorship election, a candidate must secure both the highest number of votes cast and 25% of the votes cast in at least two-thirds of the Local Government Areas of the State. Therefore, it is important to complete the election in Ihiala Local Government Area in order to make that determination.
“Similarly, Section 179 (3) of the Constitution provides that a run-off election shall take place if no candidate meets the requirements of Sub-section 2 of that Section. Such a run-off shall be between the candidate with the highest number of votes and one among the remaining candidates who secured a majority of votes in the highest number of Local Government Areas in the State. This further underscores the importance of conducting elections in all the Local Government Areas before a declaration can be made.
“Secondly, Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) envisages the postponement of an election where there is a cogent and verifiable reason to do so, especially threat of breach of the peace. One major reason for not deploying for election in Ihiala on Saturday, 6th November 2021, is the security threat which led to staffing and transportation constraints, among others.
“Finally, Clause 47 of the Revised Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections provides that supplementary election shall be conducted where the Commission due to logistical challenges is unable to deploy on election day.
“Given the foregoing, it becomes imperative to bring Ihiala Local Government Area at par with the other 20 Local Government Areas in this election before we can make a valid declaration or take any further necessary action based on the extant law.”
She noted that in as much as APGA got the highest votes of 103,946 followed by PDP’s of 51,322 votes and APC’s 42,942 votes in 20 out of 21 council areas where election took place last Saturday, Soludo’s margin of lead is lower than the 148,407 registered voters in Ihiala.
in essence, there is a mathematical chance of Ozigbo, Uba or Ubah polling higher votes than Soludo and thereby forcing a run-off poll.
APGA’ll go to Ihiala to fulfil all righteousness — Umeh
Reacting to the development, former APGA national chairman, and party’s state agent, Chief Victor Umeh, who commended INEC for a job so far well done, said APGA was ‘’ready to go to poll in Ihiala to fulfill all righteousness after all APGA has already won in 18 of the 20 council areas where the election took place, which is more than 14 council areas required by law.”
In his reaction, the state APC agent, Chibuzor Obiakor said INEC should have extended the supplementary election to other local government areas where election did not hold in the 20 council areas of the state and not just Ihiala alone.
Obiakor and Dr. Alex Obiogbolu who is the state PDP agent refused to sign the result sheet issued to them by INEC as a sign of dissatisfaction with INEC in the overall conduct of the November 6 poll.
APC denies calling for poll cancellation
Meanwhile, the APC denied yesterday that it has called for the cancellation of the Anambra governorship election, saying the party could not have done so when the election was still ongoing.
Addressing reporters at the APC state headquarters in Awka, the state chairman of the party, Chief Basil Ejidike regretted that some people were issuing statements claiming such to be from the APC leadership.
He said there is still the outstanding Ihiala election and other places where the election did not take place on Saturday, expressing optimism that his party is still on course to win the governorship election.
Ejidike also said it was not true that the party had gone to court to challenge the results and asked how the party could go to court now when information about the exercise was still being compiled.
He however expressed disappointment at what he called the poor performance of INEC in the Anambra election.
He said: “Our party had high hopes about the preparedness of INEC to conduct a credible election, but with what happened concerning BVAS, we were surprised that most of the machines did not function appropriately to the extent that many voters were turned back and they could not exercise their franchise.”
He regretted that some of the areas in which his party performed well were surprisingly cancelled, alleging that votes were collated in areas where election did not take place and cited Idemili North, Idemili South, Orumba North and Anambra East as examples.
248,000 votes at stake, INEC must conduct poll in all areas not covered — Ozigbo
The PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, yesterday expressed optimism that he would win the ongoing governorship poll, urging INEC to ensure that election was conducted in all areas where the exercise did not take place on Saturday.
Addressing reporters in Awka, Ozigbo said although the Ihiala supplementary election is important, it is not the only place where elections failed to hold.
He said: “We have the statistics, and we know the areas where INEC could not conduct the election on Saturday, and we call on them to ensure that they do so.
“After Ihiala, other places where elections did not take place will follow, and the INEC must obey the electoral law and conduct election where it did not hold.
“The party has all areas where election did not hold and will be happy if election is held there.”
According to him, with over 248,000 votes at stake in Ihiala and other places where election did not take place, PDP still has hope of producing the next governor.
He appealed to the people of Ihiala and other areas to come out en mass to vote.
He insisted that for now, the party was more concerned with the supplementary election in Ihiala and would decide on its next line of action after the completion of the exercise.
Battle for Ihiala
Incidentally, two governorship candidates hail from the local government. They are Nze Akachukwu Nwankpo of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, and Dr. Obinna Uzor of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
Ihiala local government was created in 1976 during the regime of the late General Muritala Mohammed with headquarters at Okija. It is made up of 10 autonomous towns namely; Okija, Ihiala , Uli, Amorka, Azia, Isseke, Mbosi, Orsumoghu, Lilu and Ubuluisiuzor. It has 20 electoral wards and is divided into four quarters namely; Okija Zone, Ihiala Zone, Uli/Amorka Zone and Ebonesie Zone.
It has a total registered voting strength of 148,407 and over 326 polling units, making it one of the largest local government areas in the country.
In the past few months, Ihiala, which shares boundaries with Imo State has been vulnerable to attacks by unknown gunmen and it was gathered that many ad-hoc staff earlier posted to the area did not report for duty for fear of attacks.
The local government has a federal constituency and two state constituencies. Ihiala LGA is located 48km north of Owerri and 40km south of Onitsha and covers an area of 304 square kilometres. It is bounded by Ogbaru local government on the west, Ekwusigo and Nnewi South in the North, as well as Egbema / Oguta, Oru and Orsu in Imo State.
Vanguard gathered that the top political parties have been busy trying to get the electorate to turn out en mass for today’s election.
Anambra govt woos Ihiala voters
The Anambra State government, yesterday, urged the electorate in Ihiala LGA to take today’s supplementary election in the area seriously to complete the ongoing process.
Secretary to the State Government, Professor Solo Chukwulobelu in a statement assured the people that adequate security has been provided in the entire local government.
He said: “This is to inform the public, particularly residents and voters in Ihiala local government area of Anambra state, that the INEC has fixed Tuesday, 9th November 2021 as the date for the 2021 Anambra Gubernatorial supplementary election for Ihiala local government area only.
“Anambra State Government working with relevant security agencies hereby assures Ndi Ihiala that adequate security arrangements have been made to protect life and property during the election.
“All are encouraged to come out and vote for the candidate of their choice.
“As Ndi Ihiala may have observed, elections were successfully and peacefully held in the other 20 local government areas of Anambra state and INEC has duly announced the results.’’
INEC adjusts voting timeline
Meanwhile, the INEC, yesterday, adjusted its timeline for the conduct of today’s supplementary poll.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, in a statement, said: “Following the suspension of collation of results in respect of the 2021 Anambra State Governorship election as announced yesterday, November 7, 2021, by the State Collation/Returning Officer and the decision of the Commission to hold election in Ihiala Local Government Area on Tuesday, November 9, the Commission in line with extant rules and regulations has made a slight adjustment to the commencement and closing time for the said election.
“Accordingly, polling in respect of the supplementary election for Ihiala Local Government will commence tomorrow at 10 am and end at 4. pm
“This decision, which will be strictly complied with, has been taken, following a careful review of the prevailing situation in Anambra State and is being widely shared with the stakeholders including security agencies.
“We urge political parties, voters, election duty officials, election observers, the media and the general public to note this slight modification. We also appeal to citizens to conduct themselves in an orderly manner to ensure that the election is brought to a peaceful conclusion.”
Journalists, observers narrowly escape death in Okija
Meantime, fear of security for the election reigned, following multiple attacks on journalists including Vanguard Photojournalist, Chijioke Nwankpa and election observers in Ihiala.
Some journalists in Anambra State alongside election observers from Abuja on Saturday narrowly escaped death in the hands of some youths at Okija, Ihiala LGA
The journalists, Afam Aminu Chimezie, Onitsha reporter for Business News Newspaper, Gloria Anaeze and Eche Nwobasi of Daily Independent Newspaper, Onitsha, and Anambra State-owned Newspaper, National Light, respectively, had travelled to Okija home town of the governorship candidate of ADC, Nze Akachukwu Nwamkpo on election coverage.
Narrating their ordeal, Chimezie said that after meeting with Nze Nwamkpo, to ascertain the state of things in his area and decided to visit some of the polling centres in the town where election materials arrived late at about 1:15 pm at Okija Central School, the team of journalists and three election observers comprising two male and a female decided to visit one of the illustrious sons of the community, Dr. Daniel Chukwudozie, who was said to be away from the community.
Chimezie said: “While we were returning from Dr. Chukwudozie’s house a gang of hoodlums had barricaded the same road we came from, wielding machetes and clubs, and ordered the occupants of the vehicle to disembark
“The hoodlums numbering about 20 in their bid to extort us and the observers, demanded N100,000 as their own portion of the money they felt we may have been given by politicians.
“They also accused us and the election observers of carrying huge sums of money meant for distribution to party agents, but we pleaded with them that we were just journalists monitoring the electron and not politicians or party agents distributing money for politicians. They demanded for our handsets and snatched some money we had for eating and those of the election observers.
“After accusing us of belonging to political parties which we denied, the youths opened the booth of the vehicle we were travelling in and brought out a gallon of fuel which we had earlier purchased to complement for our movement. They threatened to burn the vehicle and all the occupants.
“They attempted without success to force us to enter the vehicle so that they will set us ablaze. It was, however, after much pleadings even after they have snatched our handsets and some amounts of money from the election observers, that we were allowed to go and they warned us never to come back to the community again.
“When the team of journalists and election observers drove back to the house of the governorship candidate, an indigene of the community, he asked the team to leave the community immediately as nobody was happy with the situation on ground.”
How Nwankpa, Vanguard journalist, other newsmen survived sit-at-home enforcers at Ihiala
Also, hoodlums who are still enforcing the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB’s suspended Monday weekly sit-at-home, attacked and wounded a Vanguard Photo Journalist Mr. Chijioke Nwankpa and Mr. Chris Imbufe, a reporter with Bayelsa State radio station, Peoples FM, at Ihiala, yesterday.
Mr. Nwankpa who is based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State came to Anambra State to cover last Saturday’s governorship election. He was returning to his base, Monday afternoon, when he and his colleague, also based in Port Harcourt, were accosted and attacked by the hoodlums at a checkpoint in Ihiala .
Narrating their ordeal, Mr. Nwankpa said that at about 2.30 to 3.00 pm, he and Imbufe were driving from Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, where they covered the three governorship candidates of APGA, APC, and PDP, who incidentally are from the council area, back to Port Harcourt and were accosted by some gun-wielding men on Police bulletproof jacket.
“They stood at a checkpoint at an interception where they have some wood for roadblock with a space for people to pass through. There is a speed bump there so when you get to such bump you slow down, so as we slowed down they came out from the bush, wearing a Police bulletproof jacket, and ordered us, stop there.
“On seeing them wearing Police jacket we thought they were Policemen and we quickly stopped expecting the normal Police and journalist banters but that was not what we got.
“Shortly, the other ones came out from the bush, all of them with guns and charms, some tied charms on their heads, they were about 11 of them, the one that stopped us was complaining bitterly about us, saying ‘look at you, you are enjoying not supporting Biafra, you are driving car, you are a big man. Why have you not been calling Nnamdi Kanu?’ They were saying so many things at the same time.
‘Why are you on the road? Why are you not sitting at home?’ I told them that we thought that the sit-at-home has been cancelled, they started beating us asking us why we are talking that kind of rubbish. One of them was so angry and was slapping us left, right and centre, he even cocked his gun and said we should sit on the ground.
‘’He went back and pointed his gun at us and was about to shoot before one of them told him to wait. They were trying to calm him down but he was so angry and so bitter, calling us names, that we are saboteurs, that we are this we are that. We tried very hard to explain ourselves, but he refused, it was then they went into the car to search.
“They ordered us to open the car boot and we did and they started searching the car, searched everywhere, searched my bag and that of my colleague, and there were some old accreditation cards of elections we covered in Bayelsa and other places, they brought them out and said you see it, they are INEC people, but we quickly told them we are not INEC officials but journalists.
“They told us if you are actually journalist, show us you Identity cards and we gave them and they looked at it and threw it on the ground and were still complaining that we are not supporting Biafra that when they catch us we will say we are supporting Biafra, but when we are on our own we will not be supporting, rather we will be calling them names.
‘’All the while they were beating us with sticks on the head, legs, hands, and all parts of our bodies, my God it was hell for us.
‘’They, however, did not take any single thing from us including our laptops, phones, camera and other valuables. I think their concern was just to enforce sit-at-home. If they had taken anything from us we would have said they were armed robbers, we had valuables they could take but they did not take any of our things.
“They thought my colleague was a Police officer they were trying to use that as an excuse to shoot but when they searched his bag and also saw some similar things they saw in my bag, all they saw were evidence that we are journalists, it was then they calmed down, while the one that was very bitter was still fuming against us.
He now saw a Rastafari hand band on my colleague’s hand. Rasta people have the green, red and yellow logo, which look like Biafra logo. They said, ‘we think you are Biafra, but you are not Biafra.
“However, the other one insisted that they should wait and not shoot us, it was when their leaders emerged from the bush and said they should let us go, that they started slapping us again and asked us to kneel down that we should pull our shoes and use our feet to march on the ground and use our hands to touch the ground. They told us to swear that we will not report them to anybody as we are going back.
“We even thought they were finally going to shoot us at that point because they told us to bend down and we thought that was our end but God was wonderful and just wanted to save us through the one that told them to wait and not to shoot us until after conducting their search.”
No cause for fear, we’re set for polls – Police
In spite of the attacks, the Police assured that they will ensure a hitch-free supplementary election in Ihiala today.
Anambra State Governorship Election Public Relations Officer, DSP Nwode Nkeiruka, said: “Everything that is needed to achieve a successful electioneering process has been put in place and it’s our expectation that at the end of the exercise tomorrow (today), our efforts so far will reflect on the outcome.
“I can assure you that the Police have almost concluded their own side of the responsibilities in ensuring that the supplementary gubernatorial election which will take place tomorrow (today) in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State is a success. We started on time today in deployment and our efforts have begun to yield the envisioned fruits.
“Security and safety of the people and the electoral apparatuses is a done deal. All nooks and crannies of Ihiala have been occupied and are now okay for the exercise to thrive.
“ Officers on the ground are in high spirit and are well equipped with operational gadgets and orientation to subdue any challenge that may come their way in the course of exercising their duties”.
I’ve not made any statement on Anambra — Umahi
Meanwhile, Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, yesterday, denied making any statement on the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State.
The social media have been awash with posts credited to Governor Umahi, allegedly accusing the Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano, and the APGA Governorship candidate, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, of rigging the election.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Francis Nwaze, the governor said he had not commented on the election, urging the public to disregard such frivolous posts.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been drawn to an infantile Facebook post on the timeline of one Chijinkem, alleging that the Governor of Ebonyi State, Engineer David Umahi, declared that the last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Anambra was fret with irregularities.
“The poster equally implied that the Governor rejects the outcome on behalf of the APC, and people of Anambra State and threatened to seek redress.
“Ordinarily, we wouldn’t have bothered responding to the ill-fated post by the attention-seeking fellow but we have elected to clear the doubt of some discerning minds.
“First, Governor David Umahi, at no point, made such remarks about the Anambra State Gubernatorial election.
“It is, however, uncomplimentary to imagine His Excellency speaking on behalf of the standard-bearer of the APC and a party that has a full-fledged structure, moreover, in an election that its outcome has not been concluded by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“Going by the foregoing, we hereby urge the general public to disregard the post as it has no iota of truth in it.”