Alex Otti, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in the March 18 governorship election in Abia State, has accused the governor of the state, Okezie Ikpeazu, of importing thugs from other states to manipulate the collation of the result to his (Ikpeazu’s candidate) favour.
In a press release, on Tuesday, made by the Otti Media team, Kazie Uko, the press secretary accused Ikpeazu of trying to manipulate the outcome of the results from Obingwa Local Government by using thugs to intimidate voters from that location and also increase his candidate’s margin of victory to cover up for the imminent defeat.
Though the result is yet to be officially announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), information gathered shows that Otti is ahead in the count with 10 local government areas for him and five local government areas for Okey Ahaiwe of the Peoples Democratic Party, the governor’s candidate.
The statement partly read, “Unfortunately, we have received a report from INEC that they are suspending the collation (of results) from Obingwa Local Government and also postponing the return and declaration, which should have happened today.
“I think it is appropriate that INEC did that. If you have followed all the things that have happened since Saturday, all the developments, it is very clear that Obingwa Local Government has turned itself into a terror. And it’s not Obingwa indigenes or residents. It’s actually thugs that we’re importing from outside Abia State, and those thugs were imported by the current state government.
Otti claimed that he had foreseen the wicked ploy by the Abia State government to usurp the votes of the people by engaging in some undemocratic behavior, such as taking INEC staff hostage.
“I have continued to warn about the irresponsibility of this government. They terrorised the collation centre, they held INEC staff hostage for more than 36 hours. In the process, they battered one of our agents, local government agent, Dr George Chidozie. He has been in the hospital, but we brought him today to show INEC that it was jot only their staff that was brutalised but that our own agent was also brutalised.
“I don’t understand this level of desperation and irresponsibility. So, I believe that it is proper for INEC to listen to our cry and order a review and to ensure that the process is transparent. They have also said that a National Commissioner will come to review Obingwa Local Government and then make a return. It is believed that will be done tomorrow (March 21, 2023),” he said.
Seeing the tension the postponement and news of likely manipulation are causing in the state, the Labour Party candidate appealed for calm, saying that his victory wouldn’t be denied.
He said, “So, I will appeal for calm. I will appeal that we wait for INEC to complete their job. I do not have any doubt that INEC will do the proper thing. The unfortunate thing is that the election having been won, the government thinks they can upturn it with one local government out of 17 local governments in the state. That’s exactly what they did in 2015, but times have changed, and unfortunately they don’t understand that times have changed.”
He praised the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) for sanitizing the electoral process, noting that with just a little less than 27,000 accredited voters in Obingwa Local Government Area, the Labour Party already has clinched the two House of Assembly seats, so the issue of manipulation of numbers would be difficult to perpetuate.
“So, the question to ask the rulers out there, who do not want to leave, is where they got a hundred thousand; the same election where the same accreditation produced the House of Assembly members, and now they’re building up the number. It used to be 90,000; now it’s over a hundred thousand. In their desperation, they forgot that the forged result sheet lists the total number of accredited voters at 81,000. So, I believe that INEC will do the proper thing,” he said.
He pleaded again with the outgoing government to respect the will of the people and let peace stand. “I still want to call on this government, and as it is going out, it should go out in peace. It should not expose Abia to danger. It is not fair, and I believe the Abia people will rise up against them if they continue the way they’re going. But I appeal for peace and calm, and I know the right thing will be done.”