Youths Go Gaga, As Tension Mounts in Imo….. As Nzeribe's wife escape lynching
There is palpable tension in the capital city of Owerri following Tuesday's stalemate and what may eventually become the outcome of the governorship election in the state. A number of incidents raised suspicion and set the stage for the prevalent tension in the state. All through the election, the suspicion of electoral fraud against the ruling PDP was rife but got substance during collation when the returning officer for Mbaitoli council area who had earlier at the local government level issued results to party agents suddenly turned around in apparent compromise to declare to the State Returning officer that there was no result for the area. To the utter shock of observers, newsmen and party agents, an agent of the ACN brandished an INEC result duly signed by the same returning officer, Franklin Matthias in which APGA was declared winner.
When queried, the returning officer, who is a Non Academic Staff of Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) affirmed that he signed the result but could not explain why he suddenly said there was no result for Mbaitoli. He was immediately arrested.
Secondly, the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the Imo state House of Assembly and Rep-elect for the Ahiazu/Ezinihitte federal constituency, Raphael Nnanna Igbokwe was Wednesday arrested by a combined team of soldiers and the police Anti-Terrorism Squad as he was making his way into the INEC office Owerri. He was arrested for being in possession of electoral material of which youths in area alleged were election results he was smuggling in to sway victory in favour of the incumbent governor.
With all these attempted manipulation, it was not entirely susprising when yesterday morning youths besieged the INEC headquarters demanding the release of the governorship result before it was tampered with by the ruling party. Shielded by stern looking soldiers, the youths insisted on staying around the premises to be sure nothing went wrong.
Trouble however broke out when the angry youths suspected some vehicles trying to enter into the INEC headquarters and accused the occupants of trying to smuggle some electoral results into the commission's office.
As a result of the misunderstanding that ensued, four vehicles were totally vandalized by the angry youths. It was when soldiers intervened that it was discovered that the occupant of one of the cars, a Toyota Corolla 1.8 capacity was Mrs. Joan Nzeribe, Oguta council chairman and wife of maverick Senator Francis Arthur Nzeribe whom the crowd accused of being behind the electoral conflict in the Oguta and Ohaji Egbema council areas where elections were declared inconclusive. The youth apparently got more enraged when they learnt she was Nzeribe's wife and one of the lead vehicles was from the fleet of the Speaker of Imo state, Mr Goodluck Opiah who had earlier been accused of ballot box snatching in the local governments under dispute.
Desperate efforts to douse the suspicion of malpractice against the government by top official have even yielded more embarrassment as over 20 supposed domestic election observers shepherded into the Multi Purpose Hall of the government house and openly briefed by the Special Adviser to the governor on Electoral Matters, Mr. Steve Asimobi to address press men hit the wall when the observer walked out complaining that government was yet to fulfil their obligations to them.
Also, government officials and appointees have abandoned their official cars for the fear of being harassed or intimidated by angry youths who may view them as part of the plot to subvert their will.