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At Last, Labour Party’s Otti Wins Abia, PDP’s Mbah Clinches Enugu

At Last, Labour Party’s Otti Wins Abia, PDP’s Mbah Clinches Enugu

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia and Gideon Arinze in Enugu

The controversial collations of governorship election results in Abia and Enugu states came to an interesting end last night, with Alex Otti of the Labour Party (LP) emerging winner of the Abia election, while Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) clinched victory in Enugu.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Otti winner of the March 18 governorship election in Abia State, after he polled 175,467 votes to defeat the candidate of the ruling PDP, Okey Ahiwe, who received 88,529 votes.

In Enugu State, INEC pronounced Mbah winner of the election after he scored 160,895 votes to trump his PDP rival, Chijioke Edeoga, who closely trailed with 157,552 votes.

The final declaration of the Abia result and return of Otti as elected governor-elect marked the climax of four days of vote collation laced with intrigues, suspense and controversy.

Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Professor Nnenna Oti, pronounced Otti the Abia State governor-elect.

In the final tally, Oti said the LP governorship flag bearer scored 175,467 votes to emerge victorious, while the PDP candidate, Ahiwe, came second with 88,529 votes.

The candidate of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Enyinnaya Nwafor, came a distant third with 28,972 votes, while the APC candidate, Chief Ikechi Emenike, got 24,091 votes to place fourth.

After the final declaration of the result, 11 party agents that were present signed and collected the result sheets. But the PDP state collation agent stayed away from the resumed collation, apparently, in protest against the way the Obingwa issue was resolved in favour of LP.

State Collation Agent of APC, Anthony Eze, told the State Returning Officer (RO) that the result as announced was unacceptable to his party, citing alleged mutilations, falsification and allocation of scores to LP and PDP.

The final declaration of the 2023 Abia governorship poll had been held up following a controversy generated by the result from Obingwa Local Government Area.

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 local government areas in Abia State had been collated and declared at the state collation centre located within the INEC State Office, Ogurube Layout, Umuahia.

To resolve the impasse, the national headquarters of INEC weighed in and directed the RO to suspend collation of Obingwa votes and promised to send a team to Abia to review the case.

However, the INEC leadership in Abuja later changed their mind and halted the earlier plan to send an investigative team to Abia. Instead, the electoral umpire opted to carry out the Obingwa vote review in Abuja, citing the tense situation in Abia.

At the resumed collation, yesterday, the Administrative Secretary of Abia INEC, Mr. Clement Oha, said BVAS and Form EC8 were relied upon to resolve the Obingwa imbroglio in Abuja.

At the Enugu collation centre, announcing the final results, four days after the election was suspended, returning officer, Maduebibisi Ofo Iwe, said Mbah polled a total of 160,895 votes to defeat Edeoga of the LP, who had 157,552 votes.

Iwe also announced that the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Frank Nweke, polled 17,983 votes to come a distant third, while candidate of APC scored 14,575 votes.

“Having satisfied the requirements of the law, Mbah of the PDP is hereby declared winner of the election and returned elected,” the returning officer said.

INEC had suspended the collation of results for the governorship election in the state to allow it review results from two outstanding local government areas of Nsukka and Nkanu East.

Since Monday, supporters of the two leading candidates in the governorship race had been protesting outside the headquarters of the INEC.  While those of PDP called on INEC to declare Mbah winner of the election, supporters of the LP candidate alleged irregularities in the polls and insisted that INEC must look at the results in their BIVAS and follow what the Electoral Act said.

The disagreements lasted till last night when a winner emerged after results from the two council areas were reconciled.

Following his declaration as winner of the governorship election, Otti  told the people of Abia State that the siege was over and that he was in the state to serve the people.

The former banker, in his acceptance speech, expressed gratitude to the people of Abia State for giving him the mandate to preside over the affairs of the state. He reiterated that his victory “is a call to service”.

Reading his speech amid jubilation by supporters at his campaign office in Umuahia, Otti noted that he was under no illusion that a huge work awaited him.

He said, “Even as I come out of a bruising and long drawn out campaign, I know that this is just the beginning of the journey.

“There is a lot of work to be done and we must get all hands on deck that we take back our state and bring the much sought-after dividends of democracy.”

Otti’s victory at the poll made him the first elected governor in the South-east on the LP platform and the third in Nigeria, after former Ondo and Edo States governors, Olusegun Mimiko and Adams Oshiomhole.

Addressing the jubilant crowd, Otti promised to be a chief servant to the people of Abia State and strive to ensure that their needs and expectations were met. He added that he would serve as governor of all Abians and those residing in the state.

The governor-elect told the people, “You voted us to serve you and not to be served. You voted us to alleviate your sufferings and not to compound and multiply them. This is a service that comes with unusually high sense of devotion and commitment given our checkered history as a people.

“During my electioneering campaign, I traversed all nooks and crannies of Abia State, and that enabled me to have first-hand assessment of the needs and expectations of Abians.

“These are the basic things expected by the people for a responsible government to provide in order to unleash the potential inherent in the typically hardworking Abians. Based on my findings and those of my team members, it dawned on us that an immediate hands-on approach is required to hit the ground running and to ensure that we alleviate the sufferings of all Abians.”

The former bank chief executive stated emphatically, “The siege is over.” He further promised, “to use the resources accruing to all Abians for the benefit of all Abians and the residents.”

To puncture the widely held opinion that he was coming with vengeance against his traducers and perceived “looters” of Abia’s collective patrimony, Otti said he would run “a government that would unite everyone in this state as we are all brothers and sisters.

“I will like to assure us that we hold no bitterness against anyone and will not go on any revenge mission against anyone. If in the process of getting here, we have wronged anyone, kindly find a space in your heart to forgive. We have equally forgiven anyone that wronged us.”

He thanked all that contributed to make his third attempt at the governorship a success, even as he congratulated his opponents in the race and invited them to join him and offer their ideas for the birth of a new Abia.

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