Abia North senatorial poll : INEC’s double standard in full glare
By Steve Oko
The integrity of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as a neutral and unbiased umpire has been brought to question over its position on the controversial Abia North senatorial election.
According to the Electoral Act, when the margin of win is less than the total number of cancelled votes in an election, the exercise is declared inconclusive while a re-run is to be conducted in the areas where the results were cancelled.
Dubbed the ‘Margin of Lead Principle,’ this rule is contained in Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act and paragraph 41(e) and 43(b) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines.
But this was not to be in the case of Abia North senatorial poll where the leading candidate, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu of the All Progressive Congress, APC polled 31,201 votes while his closest rival, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party scored 20,801 votes.
According to the result of the poll merely announced by the Returning Officer, a total of 38,526 votes were cancelled, thus, bringing the margin of win to a paltry 10,400 votes.
Therefore, going by the provisions of the Electoral Act ,the exercise ought to have been declared inconclusive as the margin of win (10,400) is a far cry from the total number of cancelled votes (38,526).
Although the Returning Officer merely announced figures scored by various political parties at the poll, the candidate of APC, Kalu, has since laid claims to victory.
Kalu, along with other successful National Assembly candidates, has equally been issued with the Certificate of Return by INEC despite protests by the PDP candidate.
The attitude of INEC in this obvious case of infraction of the Electoral Act leaves much to be desired. To say the least, it smacks of double standard!
This is more disturbing when juxtaposed with the stance of the same INEC in similar scenarios in other parts of the country.
For instance, INEC declared the Abia South senatorial race inconclusive despite the fact that Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the PDP was in a comfortable lead after the February 23 poll.
While Abaribe finally polled 53,086 votes to finish top at a rescheduled election on March 9, the candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance , APGA polled 27,998 to finish second while APC came a distant third.
Similarly, the PDP candidate, Nicholas Tofowomo was leading in Ondo South Senatorial Election of February 23 but INEC declared the exercise inconclusive and ordered a re-run.
Tofowomo had initially polled 79, 036 ahead of the incumbent Senator Yele Omogunwa of APC who scored 51, 993, with vote margin of 27, 036 when the election was declared inconclusive.
But after the re-run on March 9, Tofowomo was eventually declared winner after scoring 81, 892 votes to defeat Omogunwa who polled 55, 610 votes.
It is also not in contention that INEC had declined from declaring the final results of the governorship election in at least six states on the grounds that the margin of victory between the leading candidates (five of which are coincidentally all PDP) and the first runner up is less than the total number of cancelled votes.
INEC despite protests and even threats by some of the aggrieved candidates and their supporters, has since scheduled a supplementary poll for March 23.
What is therefore agitating many minds is the rationale at which INEC curriouly arrived at its ‘special formulae’ in Abia North.
If INEC refused to issued Certificate of Return to Gov. Rochas Okorocha of Imo West on the grounds that he was declared winner of the contest under duress as later confessed by the Returning Officer, why should INEC hastily give Kalu same document even when there is a pending petition against his ‘controversial’ victory.
This attitude tends to lend credence to allegations by Ohuabunwa that “INEC was under instruction to deliver Kalu” at the poll.
Ohuabunwa had also alleged before the poll that the security agencies were under instruction to cooperate with the APC candidate and ensure his victory.
He accused the security agencies of conniving with APC agents to manipulate the outcome of the poll in favour of Kalu.
In a petition to INEC by his lawyers, Ohuabunwa had alleged massive electoral fraud by APC .
A copy of the petition sighted by The AUTHORITY in Umuahia read :”Even when we know that cancelation of results from Nkporo in Ohafia LGA where Senator Mao Ohuabunwa won outrightly was malicious and was done out of acrimony and money inducement.
“It is also on record that this same compromised returning officer also cancelled results from 72 out of 149 polling units in Arochukwu LGA the LGA of Senator Mao Ohuabunwa.
“Bende LGA result did not emanate from the polling units as no results were declared at that level. All results in Bende should have been canceled.
“Nkporo in Ohafia LGA (PDP’s strong base) recorded 21,360 canceled votes in 32 units of two Wards; precisely Ndi Elu – 15 and Ndi Agbo – 17. Arochukwu, Senator Mao’s home LGA, recorded 31,284 cancelled votes with 72 of 149 Polling Units cancelled.”
There is need therefore, for INEC to clear itself of the alleged bias in Abia North and do the needful, otherwise, a dangerous precedent would have been set that the electoral umpire operates two different rules for different people.
Steve Oko, Publisher/C.E.O, WaWa News Global. For more information on advert placement and news coverage, contact us on: 08038725600, or via email firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com Always read WaWa News Global - Your most dependable online news platform for the latest breaking news in Nigeria.