By OKECHUKWU OBETA, Awka –
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr Willie Obiano, is set to be re-elected governor of Anambra State following the election conducted in the state yesterday.
The incumbent governor raced to an early lead in yesterday’s poll and retained the momentum, leading most watchers to give him the victory.
Though no official results had been released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the time of going to press, however, our correspondent said that going by his general observations and the information he gathered from different election watchers, Obiano was coasting home to victory.
Also, INEC officials who sought anonymity because they were not authorised to speak for the electoral umpire, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the governor was winning the election.
On the conduct of the poll, both Obiano and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Mr. Oseloka Obaze, commended INEC and the security agencies for their conduct in yesterday’s governorship election in the state, stating that the poll was generally free and fair.
But the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Tony Nwoye, and another chieftain of the party and minister of labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, have described the governorship poll as characterised by irregularities and accused the security agencies of aiding APGA chieftains to rig the election.
Obiano cast his vote at his Eri Primary School polling unit 004, Aguleri town, Anambra East local government area at about 9:57am.
Speaking to newsmen shortly after casting his vote, Obiano expressed optimism that he would win the election, adding that APGA will sweep the polls in most of the polling units, if not in all, across the state.
Obiano said, “I am very happy. I see voters eagerly waiting to cast their votes. I am very confident that I will win the election with a landslide victory. I urge all my supporters to come out, queue and cast their votes.”
He, however, noted that he was informed about minor incidents in some places like Ihiala in Ihiala local government area, but that overall there was peace and tranquillity across the state.
Also, the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Obaze, voted in his polling unit at St. Mary’s Catholic Church playground in his Ochuche-Umuodu country home at about 1.30pm. Speaking to newsmen shortly after voting, Obaze expressed confidence that he would emerge victorious if the election was not manipulated during collation.
He praised the manner voting was conducted, saying that both INEC and security agencies discharged their duties responsibly.
However, not all the candidates are singing the praise of INEC and the security agencies.
The APC candidate, Tony Nwoye, expressed concern that his supporters were being intimidated by APGA supporters with the aid of security operatives.
He told newsmen, after casting his vote at about 11.42am at Ofianta village square polling unit 002, Nsugbe Ward 1, in Anambra East local government in area, that security operatives had arrested some people he identified as APGA chieftains for electoral malpractices.
Nwoye, however, expressed confidence that with what was on ground, he would win the election.
On his part, Labour and Employment minister, Dr Chris Ngige, told journalists during an interview, after casting his vote at Alor polling unit 9, Idemili North local government area, Anambra Central senatorial zone, that APC supporters were denied the opportunity to cast their votes by some policemen and military personnel in connivance with APGA chieftains in Idemili North and Idemili South local government areas.
He alleged, for instance, that in Abatete town, one APGA stalwart, Chief Ifeanyi Ibezim, in company of policemen, invaded polling booths and chased people away, adding that the same thing happened at Nkpor area.
Ngige said: “The aim of chasing people away is to frustrate election in my stronghold. If they succeed, we have no choice than to ask for cancellation of results in these areas.
“”This happened in 2013 where there was no voting in Idemili South and Ogbaru when INEC fixed rescheduled election on a Sunday when many people were in church.
“I suspect foul play in Idemili North, led by Ifeanyi Ibezim; even the state government gave him security.”
He, however, stated that the matter had been reported to the police.
Our correspondent who monitored the election also reports the incidence of widespread vote buying and voter inducement by the various political parties and their agents.
Our reporter also observed a large voter turnout despite initial security fears due by the activities of the now outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), with the atmosphere calm and peaceful.
At Eri primary school, Otuocha, Anambra East, a card reader could not capture Governor Willie Obiano’s fingerprints. There were reports of machine malfunction in some polling units, while in others election materials did not arrive on time
At Okpuno Nodu ward 090 in Awka South, our reporter witnessed votes being sold for N,1000 in the full glare of policemen.
An election observer group, the Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), condemned reported cases of widespread voter inducement and vote buying during the election.
The group, which said it deployed 100 election observers in Anambra, also commended INEC for the quick deployment of election materials as well as for the improvements in the voting process.
Addressing journalists in Awka, the Anambra State capital, ISDMG executive director, Dr Chima Amadi, who read out the group’s preliminary report, said it was “alarmed at the increasing sophistication of political parties and their agents in colluding among themselves to pool resources together to openly bribe security agencies, INEC officials and even observers in order to brazenly and openly buy votes and induce voters.”
Amadi described reports of vote buying and inducement by political parties as “serious”.
While commending voters for their massive turnout despite the pre-election security scare, he said reports from observers in the field on the widespread open selling of votes by citizens, however, cast a major slur on the integrity of the election.
He lamented that the trend of vote buying, which had become a major feature of recent elections, sadly repeated itself with disturbing brazenness in Anambra State.
On the election itself, he commended INEC for making good preparations.
He said, “There were substantial reports of card reader malfunction as a result of technical hitches, although in many instances, the INEC technical team quickly rectified the faults,”
“The practice of simultaneous accreditation and voting has contributed immensely to active voter participation and reduction of tension in voting points.
“There is improvement in the conduct of personnel made up of INEC personnel and ad-hoc staff which, in our view, can be attributed to the quality of training for the Election Day staff.”
He commended the electoral body for the prompt and speedy response to reported incidents by INEC situation room.
Speaking on the general conduct of security operatives, the ISDMG director said reports from their observers in the field indicated that the police and other security agencies conducted themselves in a civil and professional manner in their dealings with the electorate.
He said, however, that in most cases they turned blind eyes to widespread vote buying and, in certain cases, took bribe to provide cover for the nefarious activities of political parties and their agents.
“The welfare of the police and other security agencies has remained a recurrent problem in elections; however we note a remarkable improvement in their mode of transportation to the state.
“We note that the police and security agencies were effective in maintaining law and order as exemplified by the arrest of one Professor Nwamkpa who was arrested by the DSS for sharing money at a polling unit and was later released,” he said.
APGA decries malfunctioning card readers
The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has decried the malfunctioning of several card readers used for yesterday’s governorship election in Anambra State by the INEC.
APGA national chairman, Dr Victor Oye, made the observation in Awka, yesterday.
Oye said although the card readers captured his finger prints at his polling unit at Amawbia in Awka South local government area, reports from most of the party’s agents across the state showed that the machines malfunctioned in many areas.
”INEC had given the impression that they had tested and confirmed more than 6,000 card readers for the November 18 election, but what happened on the functionality of the card readers was a far cry from what INEC told the public,’’ he said.
Oye, however, expressed satisfaction with the turnout of voters and with the presence and conduct of security operatives during the election.
The APGA national chairman said that the party was hopeful of emerging victorious at the end of the election, adding that any result that does not give victory to the party would be contested in court.
“We hope to win this governorship election because the majority of the parties appeared to have backed out and now in support of Governor Willie Obiano’s re-election bid.
“If at the end of the election, INEC fails to return Obiano as the winner, APGA will contest the outcome of the exercise at the election tribunal,’’ Oye said.
INEC Blames NYSC Members Over Delays
The electoral body, INEC, has blamed corps members working as ad hoc staff of the commission for delays in the commencement of the election.
Spokesperson for the commission, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, said most polling units could not open early as planned because many corps members who were meant to serve as poling officers did not have the right attitude towards the exercise.
Mr. Soyebi, who is INEC’s director of Voter Education and Publicity, explained that the electoral body had some problems with the corps members, especially those brought in from outside the state.
He said there was a mix-up in the posting of corps members and that most of them did not want to go to where they were posted.
In Awka South, for example, Mr. Soyebi said INEC had to move about 180 corps members to Nnewi North and South at about 8:30am which resulted in some delays.
He, however, expressed confidence that challenges, including card reader failure in some instances, would not affect the outcome of the election.
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