The governorship and house of assembly election held across Nigeria may have been lost and won in most states but the controversies trailing the exercise would continue to linger in the days ahead.
In Akwa Ibom State, in particular, the atmosphere in Uyo, the State Capital and most of the 31 Local Government Areas of the state after the result of the governorship and State House of Assembly elections were announced has been a mix of restiveness, uneasy calm and celebrations, depending on which side of the political divide the people belonged. Political analysts had predicted that the governorship election in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) -controlled Akwa Ibom State would be a closely fought two-horse race between the PDP governorship flag bearer and the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, (SSG) in the government of Governor Godswill Akpabio, and his ‘anointed’ successor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, and the Governor’s former ally and former SSG, Mr. Umana Okon Umana. However, this was not to be as the political pundits were proved wrong going by the results of the governorship election declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state last Sunday, April 12, 2015 in Uyo, the state capital.
From the result announced by the INEC chief returning Officer for the governorship election in Akwa Ibom State, the vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor james Ekpoke in the presence of the state resident electoral commissioner, Mr. Austin Okojie, the PDP Governorship candidate, Mr. Udom Emmanuel polled a total of 996,071 votes to defeat his closest opponent, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) who came a distant second with 89,805 votes. Thus, the anointed of the incumbent Governor Mr. Udom Emmanuel, emerged as the governor-elect of Akwa Ibom State with unexpected landslide victory. But in a swift reaction, the APC flag bearer, Mr. Umana Okon Umana, and the party leaders in the state rejected the results of the election as announced by the state INEC and called for its outright cancellation due to what they allegedly described as widespread irregularities such as hijacking of election materials by armed PDP agents across the state which prevented accreditation and voting from taking place.
The APC alleged that, in most cases the hijacked election materials were taken to the residences of PDP chieftains where falsified results were filled on the result sheets whereas, elections did not take place in most parts of the state.
Indications that the results did not go down well with the APC emerged on Sunday morning when INEC was preparing to announce the results of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections. A large crowd of APC supporters staged a peaceful protest heading for the state INEC Headquarters, against the large scale irregularities during the elections and called for cancellation of the results.
Some of the placards borne by the APC Supporters read, “Akwa Ibom Election – the height of impunity,” “No Election in Akwa Ibom State,” “INEC must Cancel Election in Akwa Ibom State,” “Commissioner of Police in Akwa Ibom State must be sacked,” “PDP paid thugs to pack election materials,” and “INEC sold our result sheets”.
Reliable sources informed Daily Independent that the state PDP last Sunday mobilized its supporters from all the Local Government Areas in the state to embark on a victory rally in Uyo to counter the impact of the APC protest. But the Police pleaded with the PDP leadership to postpone their victory rally till Monday to avert a bloodbath on the streets of Uyo in event of a clash between the angry APC protesters and the jubilant PDP supporters in the capital city. The PDP heeded the counsel of the security chiefs and rescheduled their victory march to last Monday, April 13, 2015.
The PDP victory march which held last Monday drew thousands of party faithful who came in buses from all parts of the state and assemble at the old Uyo township stadium. From the stadium, the PDP supporters chanting victory songs led by the Party leaders and escorted by Armed Mobile Police Men marched through Aka road to Ibom Connection along Oron road and detoured into Wellington Bassey Way leading to the Government House. The crowd gathered at the Roundabout by Brooks Street junction where musicians thrilled the crowd with victory songs in praise of Gov. Godswill Akpabio, his wife Unoma Akpabio and the Governor elect Mr. Udom Emmanuel. Gov. Godswill Akpabio, the Governor elect Udom Emmanuel, drove to the square standing in an open jeep waving to the people and acknowledging cheers from the crowd accompanied by the Wife of the Governor, Unoma Akpabio, the state PDP chairman, Obong Paul Ekpo, some Commissioners and party stalwarts. Addressing the crowd, the Governor thanked the people for turning out en mass to rejoice openly over the victory of the PDP and Udom Emmanuel at the governorship elections. He condemned the APC protest on Sunday and described it as the handiwork of bad losers who hired misguided youths to deceive people that the April 11 elections in the state was not credible and peaceful. “Your action today, your jubilation, your happiness speaks volumes. How can they go to Channels T.V and say that there was no election in Akwa Ibom State? That is not true. What we wanted in Akwa Ibom State is continuity. Here, we are not talking about change. In Akwa Ibom State we have experienced change since 2007. We want consolidation,” the governor said. He thanked the party leaders, commissioners, youths, women, Local Government Chairman and other PDP supporters in the state for standing solidly behind the party to ensure victory for the governor elect, Udom Emmanuel and the House of Assembly candidates of the party. He assured the people of the state that the incoming Governor will deliver and improve upon the performance of his administration.
Also speaking, the Governor elect Mr. Udom Emmanuel commended the people of Akwa Ibom State for electing him, and promised to take the state to another level of development and uncommon transformation. He said that his election was not a fluke because Akwa Ibom is a PDP State.
“I came here to reassure Akwa Ibom People that this is a divine mandate that will consolidate on the gains of Akwa Ibom through uncommon transformation mission. We will ensure continuity and the relevance of the Akwa Ibom man in the nation through good governance, wealth creation and industrialization,” Udom declared.
But the Governorship Candidate of the APC, Mr. Umana Okon Umana and the former Governor of the State and APC stalwart Obong Victor Attah told Channels T.V that the governorship and House of Assembly election conducted by INEC in the state was bedeviled by widespread irregularities such as violence, snatching of elections materials and attack on election staff by armed thugs of the ruling PDP in the state and should therefore be cancelled.
Obong Attah insisted that there was no election in any part of the state. He gave as example his polling unit 9,10,and 11 in Ibesikpo, Uyo Local Government Area were no elections took place. He said, he turned up to vote but the INEC officials failed to show up with the election materials until himself and other voters got tired and went home , disappointed. The INEC Officials, he said later appeared only to complain that election materials were snatch from them by armed PDP thugs.
Mr. Umana said that other APC leaders he spoke with across the state including the former minister of petroleum Mr. Donald Etiebet, Mr. Ime Umana, and Senator Ita Enang complained of the same experience in their areas during the governorship election.
But Governor Akpabio boasted when he phoned in to Channels TV that “even if elections were held 10 times, it would be difficult for anybody to defeat the PDP. “As far as the PDP was concern, everything was perfect, peaceful and orderly except two skirmishes reported in one or two places.“ However, contrary to the view expressed by the Governor, the state Police Command admitted that 8 persons were killed during the governorship elections in the state, although other sources indicate that many more people shot were shot dead by armed hoodlums during the April 11 polls. The APC National Headquarters during a press conference addressed by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Tuesday threw its weight behind the state chapter of APC as it called for cancellation of the results of the Governorship and House of Assembly Elections in Akwa Ibom State which it said was marred by widespread irregularities such as violence and snatching of election materials in most parts of the state.
As things stand presently, it is hard to see how INEC having announced the PDP candidate as winner of governorship election in Akwa Ibom despite protest by the APC will reverse itself. It is therefore expected that the APC Governorship candidate Mr. Umana Okon Umana may have to seek succour in the judiciary at the Election Tribunal when it opens sitting soon in the hope that Justice would be done.