Mention those who attempted bribing you, Ikpeazu challenges Oti
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, has challenged the returning officer for the March 18 governorship election in the state, Prof. Nnenna Oti, to name those that bullied and attempted to bribe her during the collation of election results in Umuahia.
He stated that the returning officer betrayed his confidence in Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through her actions during and after the election.
Oti, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (FUTO), Imo State, has been telling stories of how she was bullied, but refused to be intimidated before and during the collation of results in Umuahia.
The Governor, who threw the challenge in a chat with journalists in Umuahia, alleged that Oti clearly came to execute a ‘hatchet job’ against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state considering her utterances after the election.
He also accused Oti of participating in the victory dance of the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Dr. Alex
Otti, through her actions after the election in contradiction of the expected neutrality of INEC officials.
Ikpeazu disclosed that he had expressed some fears about the returning officer to the INEC authorities but was assured that they have confidence in her.
The Governor also denied meeting or having contacts with the returning officer and accused her of making too much noise out of nothing.
He said; “I wish I knew those who bullied her. I think she has been making too much noise out of nothing. The returning officer’s duty is essentially to tally results already collated from the wards through the local government and declare them. She can’t change results because she has no right to do that unless she went ahead and did something like that. But her reactions have betrayed the fact that she was overly excited about something.
“When you come to that kind of position dispassionately, whatever be the outcome should not excite you. But the victory dance she participated in and her statements, which are akin to confessions, have betrayed the fact that she came for a hatchet job. It could be to reject or accept some results.
“I want the world to know that she is celebrating what she has no right to do. I have never met her before; I don’t have her telephone number, but I’m aware that if she came to do the right thing, she has no right to change anything. In fact, she has no right to even reject results because those results were generated from the polling units and wards. Her celebration is unfortunate and unbecoming of somebody who was given that kind of responsibility at that level.”
On vehicular and cash gifts which have been donated to the returning officer by some highly placed Abians, after the election, Ikpeazu said; “You know that bribe can come before or after the event. If I tell you, if you do this or if this is the outcome, this is what you will get, it is an inducement. It is also an incentive to behave in a certain way.
So, could this be a fulfilment of a promise that if this is the outcome, this is what will happen? I think it is unprecedented, I don’t know where this has happened in Nigeria before, and it has opened a new vista of inducement during election.
“You are my friend, and you are running for an election. I can tell the returning officer to do everything to announce my friend and I will give you something after. And when I keep my promise, it becomes inducement. It is very unfortunate.”
Ikpeazu further dismissed allegations that the collation of results was disrupted in Obingwa LGA. He stated that his investigations revealed that there was a plot to cancel all results from Obingwa LGA, which was resisted by youths of the area.
The Governor alleged that the refusal to collate results at the ward level and attempt to move the collation centre to Umuahia angered the youths of the area.
He continued: “I’m not aware of the hostage-taking of any electoral officer in Obingwa LGA. I visited the area, but before I got there, the Commissioner of Police in charge of election in Abia South was there. The Police Area Commander for Aba was there. The DSS was there. And when these high-ranking officers of these agencies go to such places, they do so with a retinue of their men.
“In fact, there was an armoured personnel carrier manned by soldiers stationed at the local government headquarters. There couldn’t have been a report of holding any election staff hostage. There is a limit to what I can say because the matter is already at the election petition tribunal. But I want to remind us that this is not the first time an attempt has been made to cancel election results from Obingwa LGA. ”
“The first attempt was in 2015. In 2019, an attempt was made to bomb Obingwa LGA headquarters to ensure that votes from the area didn’t count. And I insisted that results must be collated at the various wards according to the stipulations of the Electoral Act. But in 2023, I offered the same advice and INEC failed to heed it. The Electoral Act says that you must announce results at the polling units and collate at the wards.
“So, why do you want all the results to be taken to LGA headquarters; is it to make it easy for you to cancel them? This is because it puts the powers on the shoulders of one man. If you collate the results as they arrive from the various units in the wards, you will ensure that even if there are problems in one or two wards, you can get some wards results.
“Why do you bring it to one place where there may be a problem and from there, you say you want to go and collate them in Umuahia? So, what the youths of Obingwa LGA did was to say that results must be collated at the LGA headquarters before being taken to Umuahia. I salute their courage because some of the results taken to Umuahia for collation were manipulated.
The results were changed at Umuahia.
“Results must be announced at the units and collated at the wards and brought to the local government for tallying only. Any election worker that tells you he wants to collate it centrally at the LGA is giving a recipe for fraud. He may even tell you that he no longer wants to collate results at the LGA level and wants them to be collated at Umuahia.
“And how will the agents at the polling units appear at Umuahia to give reports about what happened? Will you be expecting them to rely on the testimony of the man you sent to do a hatchet job? It seems to me that they were prepared to reject and cancel all election results from Obingwa LGA.”