Imo: Supplementary Polls Aborted in Oguta LGA…As Army Arrests 227 People
Election in one of the four Imo council areas where the governorship supplementary elections were billed to hold was yesterday aborted. This followed agitations and protests by people of the area. Trouble started when eight men were arrested by soldiers for allegedly being in possession of sensitive electoral materials in a private residence of political party chieftain even before election commenced.
Though the electoral material including thumb-printed ballot papers were confirmed to be fake, the incident created an atmosphere of suspicion and bias that intermittently stalled the exercise.
The unfolding scenario led to the arrest and detention of the Electoral Officer for the Oguta while his assistant, one Mr. Nwachukwu who had assumed some form of notoriety for electoral malfeasance slipped through.
This further delayed the commencement of the election in the area. By around 2pm some of the youths protesting the late commencement of the election were accosted by soldiers, some were forced to do corporal punishments.
Not long after the youths were released and the protesters dispersed, a crowd of defiant women protesters marched to the Oguta INEC headquarters daring the soldiers and calling for the cancellation of the election in Oguta on the grounds that it was already late to commence any credible election in Oguta considering its challenging topography and riverrine nature. The incident in Oguta prompted interventions from top security chiefs including the GOC 82 Division Enugu, Major General Sarkin Yaki Bello; Commander 34 Brigade Obinze, Brigadier General Aaron Dampome, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Ivy Okoronkwo, AIG zone 9; the state Commissioner of police, the Director State Security Service, Imo state and other security chiefs from other agencies.
Their intervention provided some respite but another logjam was created when after extensive consultations, drivers hired to convey electoral materials to the various polling units in Oguta refused to move saying it was dangerous to make the delivery as they had been threatened by the protesters not to attempt it. In spite of assurances of security and bumper pay, the eight drivers involved expressed fear for their lives and refused to make the trip thus creating a fresh challenge.
By 3.30pm, no headway had been made. The Supervising Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Aniedi Abasi Ikoiwak, in an interview with newsmen blamed politicians of the community for the logjam that aborted the Oguta election. According to him, the politicians hinged on minor issues as ink and bad cubicle, all non-sensitive electoral materials to sabotage the effort of INEC. Ikoiwak however assured that all the electoral materials were intact and untampered with, adding that the materials were specially serialized for the supplementary election and would not be compromised. By around 4pm, INEC officials with help of security agents evacuated the unused electoral materials back to Owerri to await further directives from their national headquarters.
Meanwhile, there are wild jubilations in several parts of Owerri, the state capital following the reported landslide victory of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in the Orji ward in Owerri North LGA, one of the areas the supplementary polls were held. There are also hints that APGA is leading in the other three council areas of Mbaitoli, Ngor Okpala and Ohaji Egbema were the elections were also conducted.
Getting feelers of the result, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu is said to have led other PDP chieftains and pro-government elements to besiege Mbaitoli headquarters, one of the largest council areas in the state to apparently seek ways to square up with their APGA rival. As at press time, APGA chieftains who alleged that even Governor Ikedi Ohakim has been sighted at the council, have also mobilized and deployed to Mbaitoli, leaders of their party in the mould Chief Victor Umeh, their national chairman and Chief Martin Agbaso, the Imo state leader of the party. While there is an icily chill in the camp of ruling PDP, jubilation has already commenced in the camp of the All Progressive Grand Alliance.
As at the time of filing this report, collation of results in the three council areas was still in progress. Meanwhile, men of the Nigerian Army saved the day with vigilant and timely intervention at flash points. Between the hours of 5.30 am and 6.20 am today, soldiers arrested 120 thugs being ferried into the state from Onitsha and neighboring states to Mbaitoli and Ngor Okpala council areas. The suspects were documented and handed over to Imo state police command. Over 107 other persons were also arrested in Ngor Okpala, Oguta, Ohaji Egbema and Mbaitoli council areas for various electoral offences.