Monday, 24 October 2016

IPAC Election in Anambra: REC ordered party chairmen out of INEC Premise; Election Manipulated

By Ify David    
 AWKA: That Anambra State has been described as a political volatile state is no more an understatement. The drama that took place inside the INEC office at Awka spoke volumes of not only the volatility of Anambra State, but also the vulnerability of INEC whose singular role would have been to conduct and
monitor free and fair elections at all times.

For INEC to stoop low and meddle with party affairs was highly ridiculous and embarrassing. It leaves one wondering if INEC is actually independent from government interference or not. The scenario at the INEC office at Awka where IPAC election took place recently could be described in one word: Ridiculous.

The Inter Party Alliance Council [IPAC] election scheduled for Tuesday, 18th October, 2016 would have been marred by what some party chairmen described as a calculated attempt by the All People’s Grand Alliance Party [APGA]-led government in the state to manipulate the election in order to produce its chairman, Sir Nobert Obi as the IPAC chairman in preparation for the state’s gubernatorial election next year.

The drama started when the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner [REC], Dr Lawrence Azubike informed the party chairmen that although he was aware that the IPAC Electoral Committee from Abuja was already in town, but, stated that the election would not hold until he was duly informed.

Dr. Azubike explained that he just came back from Abuja the previous night and would require some time to put calls across to confirm if the election was actually slated for that day.

He ordered everybody, including the party chairmen out of the INEC premise, stating that they did not have any right to stay inside the premise unless he got a clearance.

Almost all the party men were enraged and some left in annoyance while some waited outside the premise. But, they insisted that the election must hold, probably in another venue.

When the IPAC officers arrived at INEC premise and met the rowdy scene on ground, the Electoral Committee chairman, Mr. Agbo Major said that the Anambra State REC was only being economical with the truth, insisted that the office of INEC in Anambra State, was officially communicated a week before the election day.

Mr. Major maintained that the election must hold, probably in another venue. Meanwhile, some party chairmen had already left before the Electoral Committee that would conduct the election came in.

‘This election must hold today, because Anambra State had already been left behind since other states in the SouthEast had already been inaugurated.

‘If we do not conduct this election today, there is no possibility that this election will hold again. We were supposed to conduct this election in September, and all the party men unanimously agreed to be given some time to brainstorm and come up with modalities that would ensure peaceful and credible election.

‘We made sure that we communicated the IPAC Election schedule for Anambra State to Anambra State INEC. Why should the REC now be talking about not been communicated?’ he queried.

Perhaps, the absence of the All Progressive Grand Alliance party chairman [APGA], Sir Nobert Obi must have contributed to the insinuation that the Anambra State INEC was acting on the bidding of the APGA-led government in the state.

According to the All Progressive Congress [APC] state chairman, Chief [Barr]  Emeka Ibe, the state REC was acting a script handed to him by the APGA-led government, and stated that they would resist any such attempt to thwart the election already scheduled for the day.

Barr Ibe, in chiding the state REC, stated that for INEC in Anambra State to be partisan in the politics in the state was only a pointer to the bitter truth that they have been compromising their integrity and involved in election rigging which the party was only known for.

‘But I tell you, if APGA thinks they can use INEC to continue to manipulate elections in Anambra state, they should better think twice, because I am sure they do not need to be told that it is no longer their business as usual. All of us have stakes in the state’, he fumed.

In another swift, the People’ Democratic Party [PDP], produced three candidates as chairmen, namely, Engr Ken Emeakayi, Hon Ejike Oguebego and Mr Emeka Small Nzekwe. It was another tug of war as the IPAC Electoral Committee could not decipher who among the three chairmen was the actual chairman endorsed by the party. However, the state INEC insisted that the real party chairman whose name was on their record was Engr. Ken Emeakayi.

But Chief Ejike Oguebego refused to acknowledge that Ken Emeakayi was the chairman. In the interview he granted to, he maintained that ken Emeakayi did not have any locus standi to claim chairmanship of PDP. He further stated that ken did not even have a platform nor did he have any stake in PDP, and warned that people should stop addressing him as the PDP chairman.

It was when the Resident Electoral Commissioner saw that he could not contend with the fury of the embittered party chairmen that he eventually came out from his office the second time and announced that the election could proceed without any further delay.

The problem again was how to get all those who had already gone to come back and exercise their franchise. It was not easy because some people’s phone number could not go through. That, notwithstanding, the election started immediately with accreditation of party chairmen at about 5p.m.

However, what appeared to be a normalcy after Mr. Agbo Major had disenfranchised PDP from the election, and promised to resolve the issue at the end of the election, turned out to be a camouflage as Mr. Major eventually allowed Chief Oguebego to vote. This did not go down well with some other party chairmen who felt that the IPAC Electoral Committee must have been lobbied, especially as ken Emeakayi whose chairmanship of PDP was upheld by INEC suddenly volunteered to be an agent to APGA chairman, Nobert Obi.

However, in defence of his lopsided decision, Mr. Major stated that since Engr. Emeakayi decided to allow Chief Oguebego to vote instead of disenfranchising PDP that he had to oblige him. But, the general view was that PDP should have been disqualified since chief Oguebego did not allow Engr. Emeakayi whose name was submitted to INEC, to vote.

Another issue of contention was the disqualification of Sir Sylvester Igwilo, a UPP party chairman from the chairmanship race since his nomination was not seconded. Many party chairmen were of the opinion that much as he was not seconded, but that he could still contest since he had been nominated. This triggered another pandemonium as there were divided views, championed by Engr. Emeakayi.

Notwithstanding all these issues, the election was conducted and the results announced, but it was obvious that a lot of lobbying had taken place behind the scene. Many people were of the view that the sudden arrival of the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Comrade Chinedu Obidigwe was a pointer to the resilience of APGA to produce the IPAC chairman.From the results announced by IPAC Electoral Committee, a total of 32 political parties out of 40 political parties in Anambra State were accredited, and 31 parties voted, while 1 [UPP] was disenfranchised.

Sir Nobert Obi of APGA polled 16 out of 31 votes cast to beat Comrade Luke Ezeanokwasa of Labour Party who polled 13 votes to emerge as the new IPAC Chairman.

Other results of the election showed that Oby Okafor of ACD polled 22 votes to emerge unopposed as the Deputy Chairman; Barr Emeka Ibe of APC polled 15 votes to beat the other two candidates.

For the Deputy Secretary, Hon Moses Afum of AA emerged unopposed; the position of the Publicity Secretary went to Sir Peter Okala of NCP who was also elected unopposed, while Dr. Dim Patrick of DPC went in for the Treasurer.

The newly elected IPAC executive was sworn in immediately amid protests by some party chairmen who insisted that the election was rigged against Labour Party chairman, Comrade Luke Ezeanokwasa.

As at the time of filling this report, it has not been confirmed if Comrade Luke Ezeanokwasa, and Sir Sylvester Igwilo of UPP would be heading to court.  
More photos after the cut... 

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