No fewer than 108 staff of Independent Nationa Electoral Commission (INEC) from Enugu State will be deployed for the conduct of the Imo governorship supplementary election rescheduled to hold, today.
Mr Josiah Uwazuruonye, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Enugu State told newsmen yesterday in Enugu that the directive came from INEC headquarters in Abuja.
Uwazuruonye said: “As a result of what happened in the country concerning youth corps members, most of them are no longer eager to continue as ad-hoc staff in respect of the election.
“Most of them still nurse the morbid fear that what happened in the North might also be extended to them in the East.
“INEC does not want to take chances in case we do not have full complement of corps members.
“We were given directive to deploy our competent staff to conduct the supplementary election in Imo State.’’
“If the situation arises where the corpers are not eager to participate, so INEC can as well make use of its staff.
“That is why staff from Enugu and other neighbouring states are being invited to report at Owerri for the exercise, if we do not have full complement of corps members to take part in the supplementary election.’’
The REC said that deployment of the staff to different local government areas in Imo rested solely on the INEC office in Owerri.
Uwazuruonye, however, enjoined INEC staff in Enugu State to live up to expectations and replicate a peaceful election just as they did in Enugu.
“We conducted a peaceful election in Enugu State. They should go and showcase that thing they did in Enugu,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman in Imo State, Chief Eze Duruiheoma, said yesterday that the governorship position in the state was still open.
“The party is working hard to retain it,” Duruiheoma further said in an interview with newsmen in Owerri.
The chairman was speaking on the party’s level of preparedness for the May 6 supplementary governorship election in four local government areas and a ward in the state.
“The governorship position in Imo is still open and that is why all hands are on deck for PDP to win the seat,” Duruiheoma said.
He added that the party was fully prepared for the exercise, adding that the resolve by INEC to organise the supplementary election in the affected areas was at the behest of the party.
“The decision for a supplementary election was canvassed by PDP.
“We demanded for an election in local government areas where it did not take place and that is what democracy is all about.
“You cannot say that a local government like Ngor Okpuala with 70,000 registered voters does not have a say.
“So, we canvassed that election must be conducted in the area. Good a thing, the INEC listened to the voice of reason,” Duruiheoma said.
He said the party could not have been ill-prepared for the supplementary election when its members demanded for it.
He further explained that as a law-abiding party, PDP would accept the result of the governorship election, provided it satisfied the basic requirements of the Electoral Act.
“PDP is a law-abiding party, we believe in due process, we believe in legal process and the rule of law.
“So, if the outcome of the election satisfies all these beliefs of ours, we will happily accept the result,” Duruiheoma said.
He argued that PDP remained the most popular political party in the state, adding that it acquitted itself creditably in the presidential, national and state assembly elections in the state.
The chairman said that the party won the majority of seats allotted to the state in the National Assembly and won 15 seats out of the 27 House of Assembly seats in the results already declared by INEC.
Duruiheoma described as “unfortunate” the protest by some APGA supporters, who demanded the release of the governorship results, shortly after the Collation Officer, Prof. Enoch Akobundu, declared the election inconclusive.
“”The action was unfortunate and antithetical to democracy,” he said.
He said that it was wrong for anybody or group to pre-empt the result of an election that was yet to be concluded.
He described the violent protest and threat to the peace in Owerri, the state capital, by some youths, who threatened to burn down houses of some prominent politicians in the state as “unnecessary”.
“It is not necessary to resort to violence. Four years are not eternity.
“And, of course, we are all qualified to govern Imo but the person that will govern the state is already ordained by God,” he said.
He argued that even though “there are people we wished to be winners of the election, we should not elevate our wishes that it must come through.”
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” Duruiheoma said.
He also took a swipe at “any leader that encourages that type of attitude,” saying that such a person “is doing a great disservice to the people of the state.
“Every candidate contested to win, you do not have to proclaim yourself a winner.
“This is very wrong,” he said, while appealing for calm and restraint by politicians ahead of the outstanding polls.
In a related development, INEC says it has put everything in place to ensure that the supplementary governorship and State House of Assembly elections in some parts of Imo today are free, fair and credible.
The new Supervisory Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the State, Mr Aniedi Ikoiwak, gave the assurance in Owerri on Wednesday.
Ikoiwak addressed a meeting with representatives of the participating parties, security agencies and other stakeholders.
It will be recalled that INEC ordered the supplementary polls in four local government areas and a ward in Imo because the April 26 elections in the state were inconclusive.
“We are here to conduct elections in Ohaji/Egbema, Oguta, Mbaitoli and Ngor Okpala local government areas as well as Orji Ward in Owerri North Local Government area and we have set upon ourselves to do just that.
“It is not our duty to elect who should govern the state or represent the people; it is the duty of the Imo electorate to do that”, he said.
Ikoiwak said that to ensure a level playing field for all the parties, the commission had drafted four new RECs, national commissioners, electoral officers, collation officers and Returning officers to organise the elections.
He appealed to the candidates to caution their supporters against violence during the exercise, adding, “INEC alone cannot make the election credible; we need the support of everyone to succeed.”
He noted that some youths lost their lives in the course of the general elections, saying that such people paid the supreme sacrifice for the sustenance of democracy in the country.
“Their death is enough for us to agree that there will be no more bloodshed during elections,” he said.
The supervisory REC told the parties that materials for the elections would arrive in the state yesterday and that their representatives would be invited to inspect them.
He restated that the parties were allowed to be represented by only one agent in a polling unit during the elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, also gave the assurance that the today’s rescheduled polls would be free, fair and credible.
Jega, represented by a National Commissioner in INEC, Mr Ishmael Igbani, said the commission attached importance to the supplementary election in Imo.
The Commissioner of Police in charge of election in the state, Mr Tambori Mohammed, said security agencies were fully prepared to ensure security before, during and after the elections.
Mohammed warned that any person caught violating the electoral laws would be arrested and prosecuted, no matter how highly placed.
Heads of security agencies, party chieftains, APGA governorship candidate, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and PDP Chairman in the state, Mr Eze Duruiheoma (SAN) attended the meeting.