The two main contenders in the Abia State Governorship poll, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), have given conditions for their participation in the April 25 supplementary poll.
Returning Officer, Professor Benjamin Ozumba had declared the April 11 election inconclusive after PDP’s candidate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu polled 248, 459 votes ahead of his APGA counterpart, Dr. Alex Otti who scored 165,406 votes out of the 439,454 total votes cast.
Although none of the parties appears to be considering a boycott should the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fail to meet their conditions, they however, seem keen on having their ways.
Both parties have also been pointing accusing fingers at each other over the actual sponsors and beneficiaries of the alleged massive rigging that characterised the April 11 poll.
PDP’s Chairman, Senator Emma Nwaka told our correspondent in Umuahia that his party would participate in the re-run provided INEC can guarantee a level playing ground for all parties.
He insisted that card readers must be used for accreditation while agents of the party should not be harassed by security agents.
The party accused the electoral officers of bias against its candidate while at the same time working in favour of APGA’s candidate.
Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, had earlier insisted that “no Chairman of a Local Government Area shall be molested or barred from observing proceedings at the collation centres as Chief Security Officers in their various council areas.”
Agbazuere said that Abia Government’s position “is that the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Atahiru Jega should relocate to Abia to supervise the exercise himself.”
He also said that “no soldier should be at a polling centre, collation centre or inside LGA headquarters as the impartiality of some officers have become questionable”.
Meanwhile, the National Vice Chairman of APGA (South East), Chief Uchenna Okogbuo has declared APGA’s readiness to participate in the supplementary poll, expressing optimism that the party would clinch victory.
He said: “We are ready for the re- run. We will mop up the remaining votes in the affected areas. The reasons are that Abians are ready for change and the wind of change is irresistible”.
The APGA boss faulted PDP for its calls for the removal of the REC and the Returning Officer, shortly after it had praised them and expressed confidence in them.
APGA alleged that PDP’s sudden detour could be as a result of the electoral officers’ refusal to play along with the party.
The party also expressed confidence in the security agencies but appealed to them to provide a level playing ground for all parties in the election.
APGA alleged that some black legs among security chiefs in the state were holding clandestine meetings with PDP with a view to rigging the poll in its favour.
” An intelligence report at our disposal indicates that the head of one of the security agencies held a meeting with PDP today in a hotel where he said his men were ready to deliver the state to them”, Okogbuo said.
Okogbuo commended INEC for allegedly upholding the cancellation of results of the April 11 governorship poll in Isialangwa North, Osisioma , and Obingwa Local Government Areas.
He said the action had further restored public confidence in INEC as an unbiased electoral umpire.
Okogbue however noted that the action was the reason APGA would participate in the re- run exercise.
When asked the source of his information that the reversed results had been cancelled as the three affected LGAs were not included on the list of areas where re- run would hold according to a document obtained from INEC, Okogbuo swore that he was telling the truth.
His words: “I said we are not given to lies or speculations. If we tell you something that is the way it is. PDP knows it and that is why it went to court. If they are not cancelled, APGA will not be part of the exercise”.
But when contacted for clarifications, the REC, Professor Oko said she had not been informed that fresh polls would hold in the three LGAs, but added that “maybe they got their information directly from INEC headquarters in Abuja”.
APGA’s Deputy Governorship candidate, Dr. Uche Eme- Uche, has also appealed to voters to ignore the alleged threats by PDP to abstain from the polling units or be maimed.
Dr. Eme-Uche said adequate arrangements had been made by security agencies to ensure the safety of all participants in the re- run, dismissing the threat rumour as a propaganda tool by PDP to scare away APGA supporters.