Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Wednesday declared the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Alex Otti winner of the March 18 governorship election in Abia.
The final declaration of the result and return of Otti as elected governor marked the climax of four days of vote collation laced with intrigues, suspense and controversies.
INEC State Returning Officer for the Abia governorship election, Professor Nnenna Oti, who is the Vice-chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) pronounced Oti the Abia governor- elect.
In the final tally the RO said that the LP governorship flag bearer scored 175, 467 to coast home to victory, dusting to the second position the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Sir Okey Ahiwe, who received 88,529 votes.
The candidate of YPP, Enyinnaya Nwafor received came a distant third with 28,972 votes while the APC candidate, HighChiefIkechi Emenike was awarded 24,091 votes to place third.
After the final declaration of the result 11 party agents that were present signed the and collected the result sheet. However the PDP state collation agent stayed away from participating in the resumed collation apparently in protest of the way Obingwa issue was resolved in favour of LP.
The State Collation Agent of APC, Prince Anthony Eze told the State Returning Officer that the result as announced was unacceptable to his party, citing numerous mutilations, falsification and allocation of scores in favour of LP and PDP.
The final declaration of the 2023 Abia governorship poll was held up following the controversy generated by the result from Obingwa Local government.
The LP had alleged that PDP was trying to impose on INEC outrageous vote scores outside the number recorded by the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System(BVAS).
By then results from 16 of the 17 Abia local governments had been collated and declared at the state collation centre located within the INEC State Office, Ogurube Layout Umuahia. Obingwa
To resolve the impasse the national headquarters of INEC weighed in and directed the State RO to suspend collate of Obingwa votes and promised to send a team to Abia to review the case.
However, the INEC leadership in Abuja changed their mind and halted the earlier plan to send an investigative team to Abia on Tuesday. Instead the electoral umpire opted to carry out the Obingwa vote review at Abuja, citing the tense situation in Abia.
At the resumed collation Wednesday the Administrative Secretary of Abia INEC, Mr. Clement Oha said that BVAS and Form EC8 were relied upon to resolve the Obingwa imbroglio at Abuja.
Abia was really tensed up as the contending parties engaged in recriminations of poll rigging with LP supporters stoking apprehension by alleging that INEC was being pressured to subvert the poll results.
Abia was practically sitting on a tinderbox as hundreds of youths from the opposing LP and PDP camps amassed close to INEC headquarters on daily basis singing and taunting the opposing party as they waited for the final result.
For Otti, it was a triumph of resilience and strategic political move after two previous failed attempts to become the governor of Abia.
The former bank chief started his quest for the governorship seat in 2015 when as the governorship candidate he led the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to stunning victory, winning 11 state assembly seats out of 24.
Otti and his supporters still hold to the belief that he came short of winning the governorship seat in 2015 because “the mandate was stolen” and in 2019 his second effort in the governorship race fell through.
In the course of searching for vantage position to take a leap into Abia government house, Otti has since 2015 changed party membership four times.
The Abia governor-elect was among the governorship aspirants on the platform of APC before he withdrew, dumped the party and defected to LP on May 28, 2022. The following month he became the governorship flag state of his new party and it became a jolly ride on the crest of the Peter Obi political wave.