Peter Obi begins second tern in Anambra

THE GUARDIAN Newspaper-Kodlinye Obiagwu

A HUGE festival of celebration got underway in many parts of Anambra State, especially the capital, Awka and Governor Peter Obi's Amatutu Village in Agulu Local Council after the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared him the winner of last Saturday's gubernatorial polls.

Obi who polled 97,843 ballots from a total votes cast of 301,232 has been congratulated by some rival candidates and parties while others faulted the election.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national publicity secretary, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali, Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) candidate Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole and others saluted Obi. But the PDP's candidate, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, and his Action Congress (AC) counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige, picked holes in the conduct of the exercise.

In Obi's village, dancers, drummers and masquerades entertained the ever-growing crowd of jubilant people, most of whom abandoned early morning church services. Drapped in wrappers or posters of Obi, the young men and women shouted themselves hoarse with chants of victory. They kept singing, "Obi, governor for ever."

The incumbent governor, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), was at about 10.00 a.m. yesterday declared the winner by Resident Electoral Commissioner of Anambra State Mr. Josiah Uwazuruonye.

In the second place was Ngige, former governor of the state, who polled 60,240 votes, followed by Soludo who got 59, 355 ballots.

The total valid votes cast was 284,547 while 16,685 were rejected. Total number of registered voters in Anambra stands at 1,844,815. But only 301,232 voted at the election in which 25 political parties participated.

With his victory, Obi became the first governor of the state to win a second term. He had emerged governor after winning a protracted election petition against the election of Ngige who was then of the PDP. Obi and the APGA were declared the winner of the 2003 governorship election and he assumed office on March 17, 2006.

His election is the first in what is regarded as a one race election, where only one political office is contested for unlike in the general election where the state and federal legislative candidates run the polls on the same day.

Although the election was peaceful, it was marked by late delivery of election materials, late voting, the disfranchisement of many voters who couldn't find their names on the voters' register, a protest by policemen over unpaid allowances. There was however an isolated case of ballot snatching in Nri, and the manhandling of a female electoral officer. A day after the election some policemen were still complaining that the N2000 for the election was not enough and was contrary to what the DIG promised them.

Uwazuronye said that all established cases and acts of criminality during the election would be further investigated by the police.

Second Republic Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Olisa Metuh, Senator Ugochukwu Uba, his mother, Mrs. Andy Uba including Ngige's father were among those who did not see their names on the register.

The PDP South-East Vice Chairman, Chief Olisa Metu, described the election as a sham and blamed INEC for the failure of the logistics for the election and the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters. However, the APGA did not complain of the disenfranchisement of its members.

Obi's elder brother, Damian Obi, who missed Sunday Mass to host the throng of visitors in the family house, said: "We are overwhelmed. We worked for it, we expected it.

He added: Did you see the method they (Iwu and INEC) used to count the votes; they did it in the open."

According to the National Chairman of the Justice Party (JP), Ralph Obioha, "no matter how old and frail Odumegwu-Ojukwu may have become, his presence and support has contributed immensely to this feat by the party."

Other results are Labour Party's (LP) Andy Uba, 26,106; Nicholas Ukachukwu of Hope Democratic Party (HDP), 20, 777 and Ekwunife 9, 555.

Uwazuruonye, who addressed reporters at the INEC headquarters in Awka, said: " Obi, having satisfied all the requirements, is hereby declared winner in the governorship election." He disclosed that 284, 547 votes were valid, the invalid votes were 16,685, while a total number of 301,232 votes were cast at the polls.

Investigations by The Guardian however showed surprises at various council areas where some eminent citizens, community leaders and party stalwarts lost their strongholds. For instance, the Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, lost his Nnewi North Council Area to AC which got 3,970 votes whereas APGA received 3,234 ballots.

The same scenario was experienced at Orumba North where PDP chieftain and former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, lost to APGA. Ekwueme's PDP polled 4,371 votes while APGA garnered 6,298 votes.

In Aguata Council area, the home constituency of Soludo and Uba, APGA polled 6,235 votes while PDP earned 5,269 votes, and LP scored 3,395 votes.

Reacting, the National Chairman of APGA, Victor Umeh, who was visibly happy, declared Obi as deserving of the victory.

He remarked: "It is the first time INEC ever held credible election in Nigeria. If the commission will continue like this, Nigeria will be a good place for all."

"No party in Nigeria could have upstaged Obi in Anambra and he will continue to win and win in any election in Anambra".

Meanwhile, the Anambra Election Monitoring Board at a press briefing in Awka suggested some recommendations to enable INEC conduct transparent and credible elections, especially in the forthcoming 2011 polls.

The chairman of the board, Ikeazor Akariwe, proffered the following suggestions among others:

INEC should make available its own vehicles to enhance movement of electoral materials to all locations on time, also review the voters register in Anambra and all other states to avoid the bottlenecks encountered in recent elections;

RECs in all states be given adequate authority to act in response to situations at hand, such as directing electoral officers and other officials to allow the electorate with valid voters card to vote, even when their names are not in the register; and

INEC should operate hotlines manned by its members of staff to facilitate communication when the need arises during elections.
Akariwe, accompanied by other members of the board, including Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Anselm Okolo, Olufemi Aduwo and Festus Okoye, among others, emphasised that despite the challenges evident on Saturday, the election represented a watershed in Nigeria.

PDP's spokesman attributed its failure to win Saturday's polls to what it described as irreconcilable differences in the state chapter of the party.

The party described Soludo's defeat as very unfortunate, just as it said it would study the entire process and come up with its position.

Alkali accused the Anambra PDP members of failing to support the party's candidate because of what he described as grievances in the state chapter.

He consoled Soludo, urging him, as well as other party members in the state, to be calm and strategise for the challenges ahead.

Alkali, who said the Prof. Maurice Iwu-led INEC did its best, noted that there were cases where people could not vote, adding that it was difficult for the party to ascertain where the problem came from.

But Soludo said in Awka yesterday that the manner of Obi's victory "portends ominous note for our democracy and adds another dangerous dimension to the rigging process."

He said that the experience of the election has "among other things revealed to me how desperately Nigeria needs fundamental electoral reforms."

Speaking to journalists for the first time since the election, he listed what he claimed were the ills of the election.

He alleged that the "voters' register was fraudulently manipulated to exclude hundreds and thousands of voters with valid voters card."

"Even people who had verified and confirmed their names during the display of voters' register could not find their names at the polling booths. "This manipulation was systematically designed to rig us out." He claimed that throughout the campaigns, "we were never under any illusion as to the breath of the obstacle on our way. INEC as an umpire never hid its hostility towards us as well as the fact that it was an interested party to stop Soludo."

Congratulating "my friend Obi," Soludo added: "The fight is not about us, but about the future of Anambra State. You will have my support."

Ekwunife also congratulated Obi and said she would not challenge the election.

However, Ngige said he would go to court. At a press briefing yesterday evening, he said: "Our party position on the issue of voters' register has been on for more than three months. The observed pattern was that all areas where AC stalwarts were strong, the names of the voters were not on the voters' register. That our earlier alarm led to the sacking of key INEC officials was enough admission by INEC that something sinister went wrong."

The National Chairman of the Justice Party, Chief Ralph Obioha, said that his party has been vindicated when it endorsed the candidature of Obi as the best for the state in the election.

He, however, advised the governor to continue with his development strides in the state as well as the sustenance of true peace and togetherness.

Obioha said that Obi possessed the spirit of an emerging Igbo leader, saying that the outcome of the exercise was an indication that he was loved by his people, and urged the governor to reciprocate the gesture.

He added that the victory of APGA was the antidote needed for the strengthening of institutions of democracy in the country, while asking the people to give him the necessary support to move the state further.

Oshiomhole, who congratulated Obi in a statement, said despite the minor imperfections observed, the outcome of the election was a victory for the campaign of one man, one vote.

According to the statement: "I wish to congratulate Mr. Peter Obi on his victory at the polls. It was a victory for "one man, one vote" where the people decided whom they wanted as their leader.

"For me, the person who emerged winner at the polls is not as important as the process, the right process, through which he emerged.

"I also wish to congratulate the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, for providing the appropriate and needed leadership in ensuring that the will of the people is not subverted. By this, he has demonstrated that he is a true democrat who would not subvert the will of the people on the altar of party allegiance.

"The leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the Police also deserve kudos for ensuring that the votes of the people count. This is a demonstration that the national agencies are, at last, proving that they are truly independent and not appendages of the ruling party."

"Finally, I want to congratulate the people of Anambra State for conducting themselves in an orderly manner and joining us in Edo State to send the right signal to those whose trade in stock is to rig in unwanted candidates that this is a new dawn for the campaign of 'one man, one vote' where the votes of the people must count."


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