The ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) took an early lead in the Anambra gubernatorial election held yesterday.
Early results show incumbent Governor Willie Obiano and his APGA clinching victory in most of the polling units which results have been announced since voting closed Saturday evening. With the All Progressives Congress (APC) chasing by some margin and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following closely behind.
The election had proceeded without catastrophic hitches that marred previous elections, earning the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies the praise of most of the candidates and their parties.
Residents of the state turned out in large numbers in most of the polling units to cast their votes, disregarding calls and threats by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IBOP) for people to boycott the elections.
There had been palpable tension and apprehension in the state ahead of the elections, following series of threat statements by the pro-Biafra group.
However, buoyant crowds trooped quite early to the polling stations, voted and stayed to ensure that their votes were counted. Most of them waited until results were announced at their polling units before they left.
However, the election was not entirely without drama as Governor Obiano came under fire from election observers and civil society groups for addressing the electorate at the Eri Primary School, Unit 004, Otuocha 1, Aguleri, Anambra East, after he cast his votes at 10am Saturday.
The governor was said to have gone to the unit with a public address system and addressed the electorate in what activists said was a clear violation of the electoral laws.
Abiola Akiyode of the Transition Monitoring Group, condemned the governor’s action describing it as a “temptation” the governor should have avoided.
“The most worrisome aspect (of this election) is that the governor came with a microphone to address the people. I think it is a sort of campaign. Since I have been observing, I have never seen any governor go to that extent to talk to people on election day. I think he should have avoided the temptation even if people are pushing him to do something”, she said.
However, while addressing journalists, the governor expressed confidence in the process and his party’s ability to carry the day by a landslide.
Obiano who voted at about 9.57am after accreditation, complained that the card reader could not capture his fingerprints, but said he was able to vote eventually as his voter card was verified by the device.
He also expressed satisfaction at the large turnout of voters, but noted that there were cases of security lapses in few areas, assuring that the security agencies were on top the situation.
In areas where Daily Trust correspondents monitored the polls, such as Umudim Ward II in Umudim Central School, Nnewi North, APGA got 260 while APC had 80. Also, at Uzoanunu Ward II in Anaocha Local Government, APGA scored 68 and APC received 8 votes. APGA also swept the votes in most polling centres at Aguleri, Governor Willie Obiano’s stronghold.
However, the APC was in early lead in such places as Alor, Senator Chris Ngige’s home, Nsugbe - the home of APC’s governorship candidate, Dr Tony Nwoye and Ukpo, the hometown of Prince Arthur Eze, who is believed to have funded Nwoye’s campaign.
At Umudim Central School, Nnewi North, the polling unit where the family of the late Biafran leader and founder of APGA, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu voted, there was some expectation of drama following the defection of the late strongman’s son, Emeka Ojukwu Jr, from APGA to the APC, with the façade of the Ojukwu family residence plastered with the campaign poster of APC’s Victor Nwoye with Ojukwu’s picture inserted.
However the last laugh belonged to Mrs, Bianca Ojukwu, widow of the late APGA chieftain, who expressed joy over APGA’s triumph at the poling unit when the party returned with 261 votes as opposed to the APC’s 98 and the PDP’s 80.
But the APC got one over the ruling party at Ekwueme Hall polling units of Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA, home of Prince Arthur Eze, sponsor of the APC candidate where the party secured 409 votes to APGA’s 102 and PDP’s 15.
Minister for Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, also secured his polling unit for the APC in Nkwoide ward 1 where the part scored 152 votes to APGA’s 68 and PDP’s 22.
Specifically, at Nkwo Ide Public Square I polling centre at Alor, Idemili North Local Government, APC scored 35 while APGA had 12 votes. APC also received 104 votes while APGA got 35 at Ukpo Ekwueme Hall (I) in Dunukofia Local Government Area.
But while Governor Obiano expressed satisfaction on the peaceful conduct of the election and enjoined his supporters to come out en masse to vote, Dr Nwoye complained that his agents were arrested at some polling booths.
Former National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, however, appealed to the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to make sure that the results of the poll which the people “witnessed in the day time will also be the same result the INEC should release in the night.”
Most of the polling units visited by our correspondents recorded large turnout of voters, except in few places.
At Ezebe, Umuodu, polling 007, for instance, voting started as early as 8:43am with voters casting their votes. An eyewitness, Emmanuel Okoye, said, “For the moment, it is going on fine but I cannot tell what may happen. I hope everything keeps on moving fine”, he said.
At Ebe Irunono Square 3, with, 004 polling, voting commenced a bit late due to late arrival of election materials, which the Presiding Officer attributed to transportation problems, while at Ovala Square 013 Polling Unit, Igbariam, Anambra East, witnessed card reader challenge.
Osaeloka Obaze, the PDP’s candidate in the election described the exercise as peaceful which he said was gratifying but decried the low turnout in some areas.
“If that of the capital territory could be excused for mass movement of electorate to their home towns for the election, what of in the hinterland?” he queried.
The PDP gubernatorial hopeful said he chose to cast his vote towards the end of the exercise to allow him monitor the process across the state.
At Ndikelionwu in Orumba North, INEC officials were seen leaving for their various polling booths with heavy presence of security personnel.
At the Afor Agbala Ward 4 Centre, Ezi-Awka. INEC officials claim to have been working all night. Evidence seems to bear them out. A police sergeant claimed to have been there since 06:30 hours. This is the ward for the Transition Chairman for Awka South LG, Hon. Leo Nwuba.
Bits of bother
Despite the overwhelming success of the conduct of the polls, there were some incidents that if they had been more widespread could have marred the success of the polls.
In the commercial city of Onitsha, electoral officials arrived ahead of the 8 a.m voting schedule, while there was no voter as at 8:30 a.m. The presiding Officer, Miss Peace Onah, who claimed she slept at the unit, said, “INEC officials were ready, but no voter had shown up as at 8:30 a.m.
At Unit 008 and 014 in Ado Girls Secondary School, Inland Town, Onitsha, materials and officials were yet to arrive.
Transportation difficulties almost scuttled the planning of the election officials as materials arrived late to unit 005 and at Permanent Site Market 2.
A traditional ruler in Otuocha 1 (Polling 001), Chief Eddy Okoye (Onanze Aguleri), had described the process as peaceful and orderly, as well as the best ever witnessed in the history of the community.
He expressed joy at the absence of any undue interference from IPOB members and security agents.
Our correspondents however observed some party agents of one of the major political parties secretly canvassing for votes, distributing various gift items to the voters, including cash sums and pairs of slippers to voters after ensuring that beneficiaries voted for their party.
One of the voters was sighted being approached by party agents with N1,000 and a pair of rubber slippers to vote for his party.
Money and snacks were also distributed to voters at three polling units in Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA.
On alleged vote buying, Obaze absolved his party, the PDP, from the allegation, saying it was the duty of INEC to monitor such development.
“My team and I are not involved in any way. We’re not interested in buying votes because we have campaigned vigorously. It is lack of confidence that push people into such actions,” he said.
Although the election was generally peaceful even with the huge turnout of voters, there was fracas at Nneofor Hall Polling Centre at Otolo Nnewi in Nnewi North Council Area-one of the strongholds of APGA-as APC agents allegedly attempted to snatch ballot boxes but were prevented by the timely intervention of the police, who shot into the air to scare the intruders.
It was gathered that the police arrested two suspected thugs working for an APGA when they tried to dictate to INEC officials how to go about their official duties. The thugs were said to have been confronted by the youths in the area who reportedly invited security men to intervene.
However, the general consensus on the election has been positive with Mr. Ali Janga, the commissioner of Police in Kogi State, who is on special election duty in Anambra, describing the conduct of the poll as peaceful.
“The election has been peaceful. So far so good, no arrest has been made,” he said.
Also speaking, The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most rev. Paulinus Okafor, expressed satisfaction with the manner the electorate conducted themselves.
He said the large turnout of voters was an indication that the electorate still have confidence in the entire process, just as he hailed the INEC for correcting the mistakes of the past, including conducting an organised poll.
While appealing to the electoral umpire not to betray the confidence reposed in them, he urged them to respect the wishes of the masses by declaring the worthy winner.
However, another candidate in the elections, Godwin Ezeemo expressed worry over the late arrival of INEC officials in Umuchu, a development he described as a gang up against him.
Regardless, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh said his party was already coasting to victory with landslide margin in almost all the wards in the state, with the exception of few.
“I have absolute confidence in the leadership of INEC under Mamood Yakubu, having listened carefully to him the day he addressed stakeholders. I read his lips and saw truth in what he said,” he said at his Amawbia residence.
While scoring the commission above average, he said the electoral umpire would write its name in gold if it replicates what it did in the state in the 2019 general election.
According to him, the new arrangement in the system, particularly the security marks in the ballot papers makes it impossible to clone, coupled with the variation of the ballot papers.
He also commended the security agencies, particularly the DIG Operations for their wonderful performance, contrary to insinuations across some quarters.
“He really lived up to expectations. Nobody was intimidated or harassed, not even the INEC officials or the electorate. They concentrated on their assignment of watching over the entire environment,” Oye added.
He said any attempt to announce a contrary result would throw the entire country into anarchy.
As at the time of filing in this report, counting of votes was still going on at the various collating centres.
Some declared results:
Polling Unit 008 Ward 1, Onitsha North
Polling unit 18, Nanka ward 1,Orumba north
INEC Results Unit 013 Ward 1, Onitsha North
INEC Results Unit 017 Ward 1, Onitsha North
Result For Umuono Hall 2, Nise Ward 2, Awka-South LGA
Umudala Hall, Polling unit no 10, Nanka ward 1, Orumba North
INEC Results Unit 013 Ward 1, Onitsha North
INEC Results Unit 017 Ward 1 Onitsha North
Polling booth 11, Nanka ward 1, Part result
Adazi-Nnuwku Ward 1. 007
Polling station 004, Awada playground, Obosi Urban
Unit 063, Mgbuka Obosi Ugwu Agba.
INEC Results Unit 011 Ward 1, Onitsha North
Igbakwu ward 006
Polling unit 012, Ward 2 Nanka, Orumba North
INEC Results Unit 002 Ward 1, Onitsha North