Worries over INEC’s role in cancelled Imo rerun elections

Posted by Charles Asuluka | 2 March 2016 | 2,769 times

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The sudden cancellation of Imo re-run elections in the affected constituencies and Okigwe senatorial zone, scheduled for February 20, 2016, took everybody by surprise. This is more so as the various political parties contending for the vacant positions had gone round campaigning for the support of the electorate and, indeed, concluded their campaigns as prescribed by the electoral guideline. To that extent, it could be presumed that the parties were ready for the elections.

Recall that the re-run elections had become imminent as a result of Appeal Court and Election Tribunal decisions for fresh conduct of elections in the affected areas. However, it was reported that just a few hours to conduct of the scheduled  elections, several alleged incongruencies  that border on acts of compromise by INEC, which would have given the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) an undue advantage over the other political parties, were discovered. It was alleged that almost all key INEC staff deployed to the state for the crucial elections had been changed overnight. For instance, it was reported that one Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, a one-time gubernatorial aspirant under the platform PDP in Ebonyi State and a card-carrying member of the party, was drafted as INEC Commissioner to conduct the elections. Nwuruku is alleged to have been involved in highly controversial elections where accusations of exchange of money for rigging, etc, had been levelled against him.

There is also the issue of the deployment of one Benjamin Igwe Bello, an Imo citizen, as INEC head of operations, as well as one Mr Arinze. Both men are also well known in elections circles, and have equally been accused of acting as agents of the PDP. There have also been several allegations of involvement in messy elections in the past.

The suspicion of a possible collusion between INEC and Nwaoruku was confirmed when it was further reported that he was sighted at Immaculate Hotel, on Port Harcourt Road, Owerri, in the company of former INEC chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu, who is well-known as the man who conducted the worst flawed elections in the history of Nigeria. Reports have it that it was Iwu who ensured the posting of Nwaoruku to Imo. In addition to the above anomalies is the allegation that all the returning officers for the elections failed identity verification, as none of them could be positively confirmed to be a staff of Federal University of Technology, Owerri. They were also alleged to be all card-carrying members of the PDP. It, therefore, means that they were recruited to do a hatchet job for the PDP.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has equally alleged that instead of recruiting its general staff from credible sources, INEC sourced almost all of its general staff from Enugu, a state seen as PDP strong-hold. It is therefore suspected that these staff may also be PDP card-carrying members. As a result of these inconsistencies and irregularities, the APC youths went on a protest against the conduct of the elections, as it was obvious that INEC had already been compromised. It was also unlikely that no other candidate other than that of the PDP would have a level-playing field, if the elections had gone ahead as scheduled.

It may be important to enlighten the general public on the importance of Okigwe senatorial election to the two dominant political parties: the APC and PDP. The emergence of Ben Uwajumogu of the APC in the re-run election is definitely bound to re-configure the power equation in the Red Chambers, as the current Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu may lose his position. The emergence of Ekweremadu as the deputy Senate President has been viewed as an affront on the ruling and majority party in the Senate, which believes that it should produce both the Senate President and his deputy.

However, as a result of the power play that was witnessed at the beginning of the 8th Senate - between the embattled Senate President Bukola Saraki and the APC – when he was accused of working with the PDP to truncate APC’s zoning arrangement for principal positions in the Senate, an opportunity was created for Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP to emerge as Deputy Senate President. With the heat currently on Dr Saraki from the code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false assets declaration, and the High Court’s clearance for his trial, it is very likely that he may be removed as Senate President. In the event of this happening, Ekweremadu will equally be eased out and, since it is the agitation of the South East APC for a principal position in the Senate, Uwajumogu, having been a legislator and a Former Speaker in the State House of Assembly, is automatically a ranking member and, therefore, qualified as a replacement for Ekweremadu.

It therefore means that the stakes are high for both parties. While the APC is fighting to possess its possession, PDP is struggling to hold on to what it secured through the back door. However, the difference between the two is that APC is canvassing for a free, fair and credible election where a clear winner will emerge, while the PDP, known for politics of ‘carry go’ and ‘do or die’ is back to what it knows best-rigging.

However, unlike in the past when the party had unfettered access to election results –   manipulation, result-writing and outright rigging –  being that it was in control of both the state and federal governments and, indeed, INEC, the present dispensation has changed all that. Had it been when PDP held sway, no amount of protest would make INEC postpone the elections.

Given the poor reputation of Prof Iwu, when he was INEC Chairman, it would serve INEC’s interest to distance itself from him as well as caution him to distance himself from its activities; otherwise, his involvement will continue to generate controversies. A new date is yet to be fixed by INEC for the same elections and Imo people –  who are anxious and desirous of getting their groove back at the National Assembly, by way of having one of their own as the Deputy Senate President – cannot wait for the elections to come and go.

•Photo shows Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku.

Source: News Express

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