Before you cast your vote for or against the performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Anambra state in the 2015 federal elections, first juxtapose the result of the Presidential and National Assembly election with the result of the House of Assembly election in the state and you would likely ask yourself, what happened?
In the Presidential and National Assembly election, APGA, which has ruled the state for nine years and proved itself in the eyes of the people; full of confidence before going into that election, could hardly find its feet when the results were declared.
Members of APGA could hardly know what happened or what went wrong that the party performed so poorly in an election in which it fielded its best and influential candidates. The All Progressives Congress (APC) was as well bewildered at the outcome of the election.
For the record, APC fielded Senator Chris Ngige against Chief Victor Umeh of APGA and Hon. Mrs. Uche Ekwunife of the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra Central Senatorial zone; Chief Ralph Okeke against Princess Stella Odua of PDP and Hon. Dubem Obaze of APGA and in the North Senatorial district, while Chief Ernest Ndukwe featured for APGA against Senator Andy Uba in the South Senatorial district. Nevertheless, all PDP candidates were returned as winners in the Senatorial election not minding the pedigree and popularity of the candidates of other parties. Also, of the 11House of Representatives seats, APGA got just two seats to APC’s nil.
This sparked off protests in APGA and APC camps. The main excuse was non-use of card reader in the election. Strangely, card readers sent to the state for the election refused to function and it was easily concluded that that happened for a purpose. This is even because although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) instructed that where the card reader failed to function, its attention should be called and the election shifted till the next day and this was never the case.
Instead, INEC staff resorted to manual accreditation and results counted and recorded in many polling units in suspicious manner. What is worse, before votes were collated at ward and constituency collation centres, prominent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) politicians taking liberty of the military and police men moved around the collation centres, ordered staff and ad-hoc staff of INEC about, in some cases beat up people, took the collation sheets and order whatever they wanted to be recorded in the result sheets and afterward caused the Resident Electoral Commissioner to announce the result.
Both APGA and All Progressives Congress cried foul about the election and its outcome. In fact, Senator Chris Ngige had refused to be accredited to vote in that election because according to him, he smelt rat when he realized that card readers were not functioning in the entire state. He recalled that INEC had announced before the election that if the card reader fails and election fails to be conducted according to electoral law, the election will be shifted to the next day. ‘But this was not the case. Instead, election began late in the day and continued into the night. Given that the problem of card reader was solved in most states, Anambra’s own remained different suggesting that it was a grand plan to rig the election.”
Ngige said that because the electoral officers resorted to manual accreditation, he refused to be accredited and vote in that election. He added: “In most of the polling units where election was held voting began between 2 to 3pm without the number of voters known.”
He recalled that “Ten days to the election, INEC in Anambra state withdrew all the permanent voters’ cards to INEC headquarters. We learnt that they were sold to some PDP contractors who used same to rig the election,” he said.
To make matterS worse, Ngige continued, collation agents who refused to sign false election results were held hostage, citing cases in Idemili North and Awka North and pleading that those collation agents be released. The APC also issued an official press release denouncing the conduct of the election.
Also, APGA national chairman, Chief Victor Umeh said he had evidence that where candidates of APGA were declared losers, they were actually the winners. He said that all the declarations of figures in that election were concocted at night without build up from ward, local government and constituency collation centres. For this reason, Umeh continued, he has rejected the results as they bear no relationship with polling unit results. He added:”We are not new to this in Anambra state. In 2003, the same scenario played out in the case of Peter Obi in which we eventually threw out Dr. Chris Ngige. We are set for the tribunal to challenge this declaration and we are sure we will win our case. Since we have the result, I advise our people to be calm. I also want to use this opportunity to condemn what happened here. Anambra state has remained the guinea pig on which PDP test their vaccine for electoral fraud. Besides, PDP went into the election with four candidates – Uche Ekwunife, Senator Annie Okonkwo; Chief Sylvester Okonkwo and Chief Obiora Okonkwo.
“As if that was not enough, PDP used the Army and Police to falsify results and declaration made for factional candidates. They were not validly nominated candidates of their party and yet they used guns to hold people of Anambra hostage. The situation in Anambra is bizarre when a young woman was given soldiers to overrun the state; the same thing that happened 12 years ago. No one could have believed that”.
He believed that that mass failure of Card Reader in Anambra was pre-planned. There is also evidence, he said, that INEC connived with PDP to execute their rigging. He said for instance that the SPO in his ward is a blood sister of his opponent, Uche Ekwunife. That was the reason, he argued, why it was easy to divert the collation agents.
With these already known ahead of time, it is easy to conjecture what happened last Saturday when House of Assembly election was conducted in Anambra state. When the result of the election was announced on Sunday, Umeh had no hesitation than to conclude that “this shows that the March 28 National Assembly election was rigged”.
Otherwise, how come that a party that it would appear was helpless just two weeks earlier suddenly jumped on its feet and swept all the House of Assembly seats. In the election as at the time of filing this report, INEC returned all 25 APGA candidates in the 25 constituencies whose election had been concluded.
It is true that PDP was not keen in that election either because the members did not take it seriousLY or that their leaders were compromised but the result wiped out any trace of PDP and APC strongholds in the state. The national chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh has however, justified the victory of his party in that election. While thanking the people of Anambra state for “re-establishing their hope in APGA the way they did on March 28”, Umeh said that to him, “With 25 seats to APGA and none to PDP, it is a clear establishment that APGA is in firm control of Anambra State.
Also, the state chairman of the party Akunwata Mike Kwentoh said he felt elated with the result because this will also prove the party right in what happened during the Presidential election when armoured tanks and indisciplined party agents invaded the land. According to Kwentoh, “In this election, people were allowed to vote and were free and the armoured tanks were not there.”
However, APC was not with APGA in its enthusiasm. Shortly after the results were announced some APC candidates protested it alleging massive rigging in the election. In an address titled: “APC will not accept this election, the state party chairman, Mr. Emeka Ibe gave a long list of areas the party alleged where irregularities were committed.