By Amby Uneze
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate as winner of the December 5 Okigwe senatorial election, but without returning any candidate.
Announcing the results Sunday morning at the INEC headquarters in Owerri, the Returning Officer, Hakeem Adikum, said that APC scored 36,811 votes, while Emmanuel Okewulonu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) came second with 31,903 votes.
Adikum, who quickly rose after announcing the results scored by various political parties and their candidates, simple said: “I hereby return the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the bye-election held in Imo North on Saturday, December 5.”
According to Adikum, APC won in five out of the six local government areas in the senatorial district, while PDP won in one LGA.
While PDP won in Obowo LGA, where its candidate hails from, the Returning Officer said that APC won in Okigwe, Onuimo, Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano and Ihitte/Uboma LGAs.
INEC’s failure to return any candidate as the winner of the election caused disquiet in the hall, as the supporters of the two persons — Ifeanyi Araraume and Frank Ibezim — laying claims to the APC ticket who were waiting to jubilate outside went home unannounced.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Imo State, Prof. Francis Ezeonu, told journalists that the electoral umpire was unable to return a particular candidate from APC as the winner of the election because of what he called several court orders for and against Araraume and Ibezim of the APC.
“I hereby return the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the bye-election held in Imo North on Saturday, December 5,” he said.
He said that two court judgments had surfaced on Friday, one from the Court of Appeal, Owerri, and another from the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The Court of Appeal had faulted the judgment of the Federal High Court, Owerri, which had nullified the candidacy of Ibezim and declared him candidate, while sacking Araraume barely 24 hours to the election.
Subsequently, a Federal High Court in Abuja on the other hand declared Araraume as candidate of the party, on the grounds that Ibezim presented fake certificates to the APC and INEC, and declared him (Ibezim) as “unfit” to hold any public office.