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Soludo Coasting to Victory as INEC Declares Anambra Poll Inconclusive, Election to Hold in Ihiala on Tuesday

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has declared Anambra election inconclusive, following the failure of the exercise to hold in Ihiala Local Government Area. This followed the inability of the

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has declared Anambra election inconclusive, following the failure of the exercise to hold in Ihiala Local Government Area.

This followed the inability of the commission to deploy staff and materials to Ihiala, as a result of security threat.

Returning officer in the election, Prof. Florence Obi, has however said the Ihiala election would now hold tomorrow, Tuesday, November 9, to complement the 20 local government areas election results, already announced.

Obi said, “We have collated results for 20 local government areas, and Ihiala is still outstanding as the commission was unable to deploy to the area.

“Based on constitutional provision, supplementary election will be held in Ihiala. So, we have to conclude the election in Ihiala to be able to conclude the process.

“I plead with you to support INEC, so we can bring this election to a conclusion, to the glory of God. The election for Ihiala will hold on November 9.”

But the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo, has apparently already surpassed the constitutional threshold for him to be declared winner of Anambra election after winning 18 out of the 21 local government areas in the state.

Even though his victory dance has been delayed by technicality, which forced INEC to declare the vote inconclusive, Soludo appears destined for Government House, Akwa with a comfortable lead well ahead of his closest rival.

Although Soludo’s lead is statistically unassailable, yet it is mathematically possible to catch him but extremely unlikely in the circumstance, looking at the turnout of voters statewide, put at 20 percent.

Nonetheless, a civil society coalition, the Situation Room, which monitored the election, said except for the malfunctioning of the Bi-Modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) and late commencement of voting in many areas, the governorship election was peaceful and without much rancour.

In a similar vein, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Oye, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the outcome of the election, saying his fatherly disposition provided the ground for a free, fair and credible exercise.

With 18 council areas in the bag for APGA, only Nnewi North Local Government Area for Ifeanyi Ubah’s Young Progressive Party (YPP), and Ogbaru Local Government Area for Valentine Ozigbo’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Soludo led his closest challenger, Ozigbo, with about 45,000 votes.

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But, Ihiala alone, where voting was suspended, had over 148,000 registered voters.

Earlier last night, collation officers for Ihiala and Orumba North had alleged at the INEC collation centre that elections did not hold in some places due to violence, while the other said he was forced to sign a result sheet.

Specifically, the collation officer for Ihiala said the election was marred by violence, while his counterpart in Orumba North, Dr. Michael Out, produced a signed result sheet collated by him, but claimed he signed it under duress. He said some political thugs, with the connivance of an electoral officer that was supposed to work with him, had forced him to sign the result sheet.

“I signed the result, but I do not believe in it because I did it under duress. I was tear-gassed, and my life was threatened,” he said.

But the electoral officer denied the claim, forcing INEC to take a break to review the situation in the two local governments.

While decision on Orumba was quick and conceded to Soludo, it was not the same with Ihiala.

When INEC officials returned from their break, Chairman of Academic Staff Union of University, University of Calabar, Dr. Othong, who was appointed to look into the Orumba case, said, “After looking at the matter, we saw no evidence of use of BVAS, we also discovered police crisis in the local government at the local government collation centre, and also, heavy mutilation of the result sheet.

“Committee resolved to call for the BVAS machine used in the area, but that was not achievable as the BVAS were said not to be readily available.”

The committee, after a long time, however, resolved the matter and read out the result as follows: PDP, 1847; APC, 2672 and APGA, 4787, making it the 18th local government won by APGA.

But with Ihiala still pending, many believed it was unlikely that INEC would disenfranchise more than 148,000 voters in the critical local government area and go ahead to declare a winner in the election.

That was why the commission declared the election inconclusive to enable it hold supplementary election in Ihiala, and also other polling units, where elections did not hold or were marred by incidences.

However, with the results so far released, Soludo has secured the mandatory two-thirds majority votes and spread across the local governments in the state and might be coasting home to victory.

The former CBN governor, who experienced glitches from the new INEC Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) device before he could cast his vote at his Isuofia homestead in Aguata Local Government Area, triumphed over Uba and Ozigbo, who were also from Aguata.

While Soludo polled 9,136 votes in the local government area, Uba came second with 4,773 votes, while Ozigbo had3,798 votes.

APGA’s imminent victory is coming against strong odds, including the recent defection of the deputy governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, six members of the Anambra State House of Assembly, and some members of the National Assembly, including numerous other stakeholders of the party.

Results so far announced also showed that the three leading candidates, as profiled by popular opinion polls, turned out truly in the lead, running neck and neck in some of the local government areas.

Though APGA, PDP and APC remained predominant winners in most areas, a few other political parties were able to put up a good fight, like the YPP, which overwhelmingly won Nnewi North Local government Area. There were others like the Zenith Labour Party, which performed well in some parts of the state, as well as the Accord Party.

The candidate of Accord Party, Dr. Godwin Maduka, however lost his local government area, Orumba South, to APGA. The Las Vegas, US-based medical doctor and foremost pain doctor, scored a mere 779 votes in his local government, which had 74,690 registered voters and 10,554 accredited voters.

He was also defeated by the other leading political parties in the race. Despite being very popular in his local government, APGA scored 4,394 to win the local government, and was followed by APC with 2,060, and PDP with 1,672 votes.

In Anaocha Local Government Area, APGA defeated PDP, the party of former governor, Mr Peter Obi, and Senator Uche Ekwunife, who is the senator for Anambra Central. Both are from Anaocha Local Government Area.

A former National Chairman of APGA, Senator Victor Umeh, also hails from the local government area.

Meanwhile, the Civil Society Situation Room, has hailed the general conduct of the election, describing it as peaceful.

Convener of the group, Mrs. Ene Obi, who briefed journalists, said, “The election was generally peaceful. This was against the background of potential violence rhetoric leading up to the election, even though there were pockets of disturbances.

“On a general note, citizens came out to vote, contrary to the initial apprehension that trailed the beginning of the electioneering process. Even though there were not large crowds of voters, it was still a relief to see citizens come out eventually to exercise their rights.

“We call on the resilient people of Anambra to remain calm and law abiding as the election runs its course. We call on INEC to ensure the peaceful and transparent conclusion of this election. Situation Room also calls on security agencies to continue to maintain law and order through the remaining phases of this exercise.”

As part of its observations, the Situation Room said officials of INEC and ad hoc staff arrived late with election materials in 67 per cent of the polling units (PU) and polls commenced between 10am and 12:30pm in 53.5 per cent of the voting locations observed.

Situation Room said there were delays in the commencement of polls in locations, such as PU 001 and 008 in Amansea ward of Awka North Local Government Area, PU 017 and 018 in Uga I ward of Aguata Local Government Area, and several others.

It also noted that in some places, particularly, voting locations in parts of Ihiala, Idemili North and Idemili South local government areas, no INEC staff or material was deployed.

On the deployment of BVAS, Situation Room said reports from field observers indicated widespread malfunction of the technology, as it failed to authenticate voters’ fingerprints and detect faces.

According to the Situation Room, “This was the case in 59 per cent of the PUs observed, with a minimum of five minutes to accredit one voter in 65.8 per cent of the PUs observed. Furthermore, some of the ad-hoc staff experienced some difficulty in operating the machines. In some locations, the machines were working rather slowly and took as long as 10 minutes or more to accredit a single voter. This severely stalled the accreditation and voting process.

“These challenges were observed in the following locations: PU 007 in Awka-Etiti II ward in Idemili South LGA, PU 013 in Nawfia II ward of Njikoka LGA, PU 017 in Uruagu I ward of Nnewi North LGA, amongst others.”

Situation Room also said security officials were present at most of the polling units visited and they were relatively civil in their conduct within and outside polling units.

It said it received reports of widespread vote buying by political party agents across the state.

On his part, the national chairman of APGA, Oye, who spoke to newsmen in Awka, yesterday, said Buhari had proven to be a father by giving INEC a free hand to conduct the election.

Oye said, “President Muhammadu Buhari has always been a father by allowing INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections in the country. He will also insist on allowing the people’s will to prevail and not the other way round. Left to some other people, the election will have been rigged in favour of another party. But he has always told them to allow the choice of the people to prevail, that is why APGA is winning the election.”

Oye also commended residents of the state for the peaceful conduct of the election, saying, “Anambra people are known to be peaceful. The violence we had some time ago was imported. Our people are not in any way associated with violence.”

On the calls for a supplementary election in some areas affected by malfunctioning of INEC voting equipment or where violence marred the exercise, Oye said such an election would only enhance the victory of APGA.

Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Chuks Okocha, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and David-Chyddy Eleke