There was tension at the Independent National Electoral Commission’s secretariat in Umuahia on Sunday as the Peoples Democratic Party practically arm twisted the state Returning Officer, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, to reverse his decision on the cancellation of the governorship results in three local government areas of the state.
But the state Governor, Theodore Orji, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, and the Minister of State for Defence, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd.) stormed the venue of the collation exercise for the state governorship election to demand the reversal of the decision.
The state Returning Officer, who is also the Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, had cancelled results for Isiala-Ngwa North, Osisioma and Obimgwa local government areas citing widespread electoral malpractices, violence, ballot box snatching and reports of independent foreign observers that monitored the exercise.
Announcing the cancellation, Ozumba said, “We are here to uphold the rule of law and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By the power vested in me as the state collation and returning officer, I hereby cancel results from the following local governments; Obingwa, Isiala-Ngwa North and Osisioma. This is based on the evidence before me and the provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act.”
Ahamdi Nweke, the APGA agent at the collation centre had argued that there were no elections in Osisioma Local Government, coupled with cases of electoral violence and ballot box snatching in other places.
The PDP agent, Solomon Ogunji, while reacting to the cancellation said that it was unheard of that result of an election would be cancelled based on evidence from foreign observers and social media.
According to him, his party will not accept the decision.
Abaribe insisted that the collation exercise would not continue until the decision was reversed. Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Selina Oko, left the collation centre to hold a closed door meeting with the governor, Metuh, Abaribe and other PDP chieftains that had besieged the INEC office.
Ozumba attempted to continue with the collation exercise, but was stopped by other PDP stalwarts who had flooded the venue, insisting that the exercise could not continue until their demands were met. Ozumba was left with no option than to leave the collation centre, bringing the collation exercise to a halt.
During the course of the forced break, Nweke granted a press interview where he accused the PDP of electoral violence, malpractice and falsification of results.
Reacting, the PDP agent, Solomon Ogunji, denied all the allegations.
He wondered why an election that had produced members of the state House of Assembly would be cancelled at the governorship level.
Abaribe, who also spoke to the press said that he would not allow the Ngwa people, whom he represents at the Senate, to be disenfranchised by the action of the Returning Officer, because the three local government areas in question are in Ngwa land.
At the resumption of proceedings, Ozumba reversed his earlier decision, citing orders from above, to the delight of the PDP and its officials.