The sudden cancellation of the Imo re-run elections for selected constituencies and Okigwe senatorial zone, scheduled for February 20, 2016, took everybody by surprise. This is more so as the various political parties contending for the vacant positions had gone round campaigning for the support of the electorate, and indeed concluded their campaigns as prescribed by the electoral guide line. To that extent, it could be presumed that the parties were ready for the elections.
Recall that these re-run elections had become imminent as a result of Appeal Court and Tribunal decisions for fresh conduct of elections in the affected areas. However, it was reported that just a few hours to conduct of the scheduled elections, several alleged incongruences that border on acts of compromise by INEC and which would have given the PDP an undue advantage over the other political parties, were discovered. It was alleged that almost all key INEC staff deployed to the state for the crucial elections had been changed overnight.
For instance, it was reported that one Amb. Lawrence Nwaoruku, a one-time gubernatorial aspirant under the platform (PDP) in Ebonyi state and a card carrying member of the PDP, was drafted as the INEC Commissioner to conduct the elections. Amb. Nwaoruku is alleged to be very low on integrity as he has been involved in highly controversial elections where accusations of exchange of money for rigging etc. had been levelled against him.
There is also the issue of the deployment of one Benjamin Igwe Bello, an Imo citizen as INEC head of operations as well as one Mr. Arinze. Both men are also well known in elections circles, and have equally been accused of acting as agents of the PDP. There have also been several allegations of involvement in messy elections in the past.
The suspicion of a possible collusion between INEC Amb. Nwaoruku was confirmed when it was further reported that he was sighted at Immaculate Hotel along Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, in the company of the former INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu, who is well known as the man who conducted the worst flawed elections in the history of Nigeria. Reports have it that it was Prof. Iwu who ensured the posting of Amb. Nwaoruku to Imo.
In addition to the above anomalies is the allegation that all the returning officers for the elections failed identity verification, as none of them could be positively confirmed to be a staff of Federal University of Technology, Owerri. They were also alleged to be all card carrying members of the PDP. It therefore means that they were recruited to do a hatchet job for the PDP.
The Ruling APC has equally alleged that instead of recruiting its general staff from credible sources, INEC sourced almost all of its general staff from Enugu, a state seen as PDP strong hold. It is therefore suspected that these staff may also be PDP card carrying members.
It is therefore, as a result of these inconsistencies and irregularities that APC youths went on a protest against the conduct of the elections as it was obvious that INEC had already been compromised. It was also unlikely that no other candidate other than that of the PDP would have a level playing field if the elections had gone ahead as scheduled.
It may be important to enlighten the general public on the importance of Okigwe senatorial election to the two dominant political parties, the APC and PDP. The emergence of Ben Uwajumogu of the APC in the re-run election is definitely bound to re-configure the power equation in the Red Chambers, as the current Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu may lose his position. The emergence of Ekweremadu as the deputy Senate President has been viewed as an affront on the ruling and majority party in the Senate, which believes that it should produce both the Senate President and his deputy.
However, as a result of the power play that was witnessed at the beginning of the 8th Senate between the embattled Senate President, the APC, when he was accused of working with the PDP to truncate APC’s zoning arrangement for principal positions in the senate, an opportunity was created for Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP to emerge as Deputy Senate President.
With the heat currently on Saraki from the code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false assets declaration, and the High Court’s clearance for his trial, it is very likely that he may be removed as Senate President. In the event of this happening, Ekweremadu will equally be eased out and, since it is the agitation of the South East APC for a principal position in the Senate, Ben Uwajumogu, having been a legislator and a Former Speaker in the State House of Assembly, is automatically a ranking member and therefore qualified as a replacement of Ekeremadu.
It therefore means that the stakes are high for both parties. While the APC is fighting to possess its possession, PDP is struggling to hold on to what it secured through the back door. However, the difference between the two is that APC is canvassing for a free, fair and credible election where a clear winner will emerge, while the PDP, known for politics of ‘carry go’ and ‘do or die’ is back to what it knows best-rigging.
However, unlike in the past when the party had unfettered access to election results manipulation, result writing and outright rigging, being that it was in control of both the state and Federal governments, and indeed INEC, the present dispensation has changed all that. Had it been when PDP held sway, no amount of protest would make INEC postpone the elections.
Given the poor reputation of Prof. Maurice Iwu when he was the INEC Chairman, it would serve INEC’s interest to distance itself from him as well as caution him to distance himself from its activities; otherwise, his involvement will continue to generate controversies. A new date is yet to be fixed by INEC for the same elections and Imo people, who are anxious and desirous of getting their groove back at the National Assembly, by way of having one of their own as the Deputy Senate President, cannot wait for the elections to come and go.