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Anambra election: How Soludo won

By Rose Oranye, Chris Aghanya Kingsley Ugwu, Chinwendu Uzoatu, Izunna Okafor, Blessing Nnabuife, Chikaodi Chukwuleta, Nkechi ikenwoke, Chigozie Anueyiagu and Ifeanyi Ndukwe

DESPITE the mass failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the late arrival of officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Anambra State governorship election, held on Saturday was relatively peaceful across the state and recorded impressive turn out of voters .

  National Light reporter, who monitored the exercise observed that officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) arrived Otuocha Ward 1, Polling Unit 004 ahead of the commencement at scheduled time of 7.40am.

  As at the time National Light arrived the polling unit 004 located at Otuocha Ward 1 at 7.50am, the polling agents were already on ground setting their materials.

  Governor Willie Obiano and his wife were accredited and cast their vote at about 9:25am

Heavy security presence was felt, including DSS, Police, NSCDC. Some of the voters were happy with the process while some were not.

 However, Governor Obiano, who expressed joy at the level of the turnout of voters, described this year’s process as the best.

  At Bureau of Lands Square, Agu Awka Ward, Awka 8, our reporter who monitored observed that INEC officials were setting up tables and pasting list of eligible voters for the three poling units at about 8.45am, with some voters on ground waiting to be accredited. Some party agents were also seen monitoring the situation.

Accreditation, however, commenced in the pooling units around 9.35am.

  At AHOCOL Phase 2 ,Agu Awka Ward 8, Polling Unit 007, INEC officials, security personnel, party agents, observers and voters were punctual. Accreditation started peacefully.

At first, there was problem as the equipments were not working as expected. As at 11:00 am, only about eight people voted. It lasted for some time and caused much delay until later in the day when it started working fast.

  According to a voter, Patrick Mmuo: “The problem here is that the equipment is not efficient, not performing well. It takes more than 30 minutes to process one person. It is frustrating, we have been here for long, there is no seat at all.”

  On his side, Y.P.P. agent, Kenechukwu Ani stated that the network was too bad and also testified that there was much turn up without fear. He said: ” It’s because of prayers, this election is the best as the only problem is network failure. “

  A voter, Ifeka Okonkwo had this to say: ” They did not get a superior machine. This people did it to disenfranchise us. I have been voting in this polling unit since 1999. Today, they just want to frustrate us to go. I have been here for more than two hours.

  On  his part, an APGA agent, Ndubisi Nwokedi stated thus: ” Everything is going well, the workers are doing their best. The machine is now working as expected, the problem has been solved.”

  At last, the issue continued which led to some people leaving without casting their votes. Mrs Ngozi Okonkwo who complained at the initial time that the whole was disappointing and frustrating pointed out that as a senior citizen, she did not want stress as she said: ” It was not like this before; card reader is better than this method. They ask you to stay under the sun before capturing you. I am not happy about it at all.”

  At last when Mrs Okonkwo was disenfranchised, she cried aloud saying: “Many of us did not vote. They asked us to smile and I smiled but still it did not work. I am not happy about it, the same thing happened to my husband. “

  The story is the same at the polling centers in Ukwu Oji, Government Perm Site, Awka, Aroma Junction and others within the vicinity.

  The chairman, Agu Awka , Awka Ward 8 , Fabian Akabogu, who spoke to our reporter after the exercise  expressed that the election was free and fair, though the turnout was not impressive at all. “There was a certain amount of fear on the part of the citizens because of the current insecurity in the country.”

  Akabogu said he observed that the election was peaceful. “Security personells were fully on ground, there was no form of violence on the part of INEC officials. Most of them arrived the election venue on time with adequate electoral materials, while few did not arrive on time. Some of the gadgets used for the election were not functional, while some were not in good shape. These led to a huge delay in the voting process.”

   However, there were low turnouts of voters in some polling units, like PU 001 and PU 12 Afor Okpuno, Awka South, where only fewer than 40 out of over 1000 registered voters in the polling unit had come out and voted as at 1:11pm; PU 013 Ebe Iru Offia Square, Okpuno, where only one person had come and cast his vote as 1:31.pm; PU 014 Ebe Iru Offia Square, Okpuno, where no single voter had come out, let alone casting his vote, as at 1.35.pm; PU 019 Ezinifite Okpuno Village Hall, Awka South, where only three persons voted throughout the entire voting exercise.

  Be it as it may, there were massive turnouts in some polling units in the area, such as PU 014 Ebe Iru Offia Village Square iv Okpuno, where the traditional ruler of Okpuno, Igwe  S.I. Okafor and over 80 other registered voters came and cast his votes; PU 008 Ezinifite Okpuno Village Hall, Awka South, where over 1500 out of 3072 registered voters in the polling unit came out to cast their votes, even though it was only 195 persons that voted while others did not still cast their votes as at 6:38 pm when INEC officials stopped the voting exercise.

  The delay, according to the Presiding Officer in the unit, was as a result of poor network and the failure of the machine in capturing some the voters, as it took up to 15 minutes for one person to get accredited and successfully vote, thereby delaying the entire process.

  This delay, led to fracas intermittently breaking out in the area, especially when the INEC officials attempted to stop the voting exercise when it was official time to stop, as many of  the voters became uncomfortable and worried that they might be disenfranchised after having stood under the sun since morning without being captured or given ballot papers to cast their votes. It was these issues that made the INEC officials to surrender to the voters’ pressures and extended the voting exercise till it was 6:38pm, when they forcefully stopped the voting exercise and packed their logistics.

  The most surprising sitting arrangement was spotted when our reporter arrived at PU 020 and PU 021 Odoagba Square, Awka South and found out that INEC officials were using a banana seller’s chair to do their work (both accreditation and other aspects of their job) under a tree as they said no single table or chair was provided for them, nor any sitting arrangement made for them.

  At  Amawbia Ward 3 by Governor’s Lodge,  INEC materials were on ground in the various units to enable the electorates to cast their votes as at  8am.

  Security agencies were also on ground while electorates were moving about to locate their various units.

  At St. Mathew Catholic Church, Amawbia Ward 2, accreditation of party agents commenced at 8.25am, while queuing and voting commenced at 8.30am, just as INEC personnel were early to carry on the exercise.

  At Ebe-Adabebe ward 2, Amawbia, voting exercise took off smoothly with large turnout of voters. The only hiccup, according to a presiding officer in the unit, Yakubu Olamilekan was the issue of the voting machine which could not record voters index finger or capture their faces.

  At Ebe-Enuoji, also Amawbia Ward 2, an Assistant Presiding Officer, Nkechi Ezenwata told our reporter that voting commenced at 9.00am due to fear on the part of voters. She said that INEC officers and materials arrived as early as 7.00 am, adding that voting was going on smoothly.

   At Ezi-Egege Square, Unit 003, Umueze Ward 1, the scenario was not different as a massive turnout of voters was visible.

 A former State Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Chief Ben Udeozo, who spoke to our reporter described the voter turnout as very impressive and voting process most orderly.

  Also, a former Director in the Federal Ministry of Education, Ozonkpu Eddy Nwokoye, said the peaceful nature of the election had never been witnessed in Nigeria’s electoral records. He commended the president, the state governor for their efforts in ensuring that the election was free, fair and hitchfree.

  At other polling centers such as Ngene Ward 3, Central School units 010, 002, 001, the stories were same of hitchfree conduct of election.

   At some polling centers visited in Umuokpu, voters came out in sufficient number to exercise their franchise.

   Also at Nise and Nibo, complaints of dysfunctional voting machines were recorded but turnout of voters was generally impressive.

  At Aguluzoigbo, Anaocha LGA, former Senator, Anambra Central, Victor Umeh  cited foul play in the electoral system. Speaking to journalists, he complained that the BVAS machine might have been tampered with .

  Umeh expressed shock, disappointments and highlighted favoritism, sabotage and disenfranchisement of the people.

   “I was following the election on my television before coming here. In Uga, a stronghold  for APC, the machines were working without any complications, but here, the machines are not functional. We have been here since 10am in the morning without any progress. I demand that INEC restore the three hours lost. The machines are not reading our cards and we are being disenfranchised. It took the machines 10-15 minutes after several attempts to read mine.”

  He went on tour to other locations like Queen of All Hearts Catholic Church, Aguluzoigbo, which had polling units 004,005, and 006. It happened that voters were experiencing same hitches of system error and bad network.

  In Nkpor Junction, accreditation started  in polling Unit 009 at Nkpor Junction, Idemili North Local Government Area by 9:00 am with INEC officials, party agents, security personnel as well as voters on ground conducting the exercise smoothly and orderly.

  National Light gathered that turn out wasn’t too impressive as at 11:00am when reporters visited some polling units in the area. The Presiding Officer, at PU 009, Ogbonna Michael said only seven voters had been accredited and  had successfully cast their votes.

  According to Ogbonna, they were experiencing glitches with the BIVAS machine but efforts were being made to ensure all eligible voters got captured and cleared to cast their votes. “We are making sure that everything is going on perfectly well here.” Ogbonna stated.

  According to PDP agent, Obinna Ikwueme, more security personnel were needed in the unit. “Voters are being intimidated and scared away by agents”, he alleged.   Meanwhile, APGA agent in the ward, Chukwunonso Igwuilo said, the exercise was smooth and devoid of any unruly conduct.

  Result across Idemili north and south had APGA clearly on the lead with a total vote of 7670, while PDP came second with 4328 votes while APC polled 3330 votes.

  At Umuokpu Ward, Polling Unit 004, many voters were disenfranchised because of network issue. Voters left disappointed without casting their votes.

  There was chaos and sporadic shootings at Ward 2, Enugwu Ukwu in the presence of Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke. 

  Chairman of Enuagu Village, Enugwu Ukwu, Njikoka Local Govt Area,  Nze Uche Okafor, assured the press that the election will go peaceful. He apologised to the community for starting late as some adhoc staff did not arrive early

  At the village hall 1 and 2, Enuagu Village, Polling Units 003,005, voting was yet to commence as at 9:16am.

  Evangelist Chidebe Benedict,  a priest from Emmanuel Anglican Church, Enugwu Ukwu said everywhere was calm though the INEC staff came late. “There is no chaos and everyone is cooperating with the security agencies. “

  Meanwhile  Ferdinand Dozie Nwakwo, representing Anaocha, Dunukofia Federal Constituency, in the House of Reps, raised the alarm over the late start in the voting process of his village in Enuagu  Village  in Enugwu Ukwu. After casting his votes, he said: “I am not impressed by the late start of the election. I fear there may be a sabotage attempt. The machines are not working until several attempts and INEC came underprepared.”

  Managing Director, Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) Nze  Uche Nworah, who hails from Umuakwueze community, in Enugwu Ukwu, at Polling Unit 004, was not impressed with the services of INEC. He said ,” this is some few minutes to 11 whereas since 10:am, people have been here waiting to cast their votes. The excuse is that the machines are not working, why not switch to manual?”

  As at 12: 47 pm, voting has not commenced in the entire Ihiala Local Government Area.

  Investigations revealed that INEC materials arrived late at the local government secretariat for onward transmission to polling units in the area.

  At Aforigwe Market where there are two polling units under Ogboro Ward, Ihiala, eligible voters were seen stranded in the sun waiting for INEC officials to bring electoral materials.

  It is also the same situation at the polling unit at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Uzoakwa, Ihiala, where INEC officials and security operatives were conspicuously absent.

  Eche Ibe, a voter, who spoke with our correspondent at Aforigwe Market accused INEC officials of deliberate attempt to truncate the voting process in the entire Ihiala Local Government Area.

  As at 12:55pm, there were rowdy scenes at Polling Unit 002 Alor Ward 1, Nkwo Ide, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State where the Labour Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige hails from as voters protest over the slow pace of voting.

   INEC card reader could not capture both facial and finger print of Ngige as at 2.45 pm after several attempts.

  The visibly-disappointed minister said it was unfair for the electoral body to pack their equipment for a long time which resulted in their malfunctioning.

  “Like you can see, I am going home. When the machine starts working, they should call me,” he said.

  The minister said though he was not blaming INEC, he advised that in future elections, the commission should test-run their equipment a week before the exercise.

  Similarly, the governorship candidate of Zenith Labour Party(ZLP), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo said poor functioning of the machines and the late commencement of polls would adversely affect the process.

  Okonkwo, who voted after wasting more than 30 minutes, in Ogidi,, said many voters would be disenfranchised due to poor functioning of the machines.

  He commended the level of security in parts of the state, saying there were room for improvement in future elections.

  He said he was hopeful that he would emerge winner, but added that his victory would be more beneficial to the people.

  “I will be more concerned on making the people comfortable by delivering on my promises than dancing that I have won an election,” Okonkwo said.

  As at 11.30am at Nnobi ward 2, in Idemili South LGA, the brother of the deputy governor to the APC flag bearer, Tony Okafor said they were waiting for the INEC officials to set their material for the electorate to cast their votes, adding that there were huge challenges in terms of security due to incessant treats from unknown people. He urged the masses to come out and vote as there has been adequate security to secure their votes in various local governments.

  Okafor also said the deputy governor, Emeka Okafor was from the town and that there was enthusiasm that their son will win after the election.

  At the polling unit in Nnobi Ward 2, most of the electorates were seen sitting down while some hung on the road as they await  the arrival of the INEC materials.

  Also speaking, an electorate, Chinonso Ezenwagu said, “Here is United Primary School, Nnobi Ward 2. If you look around, you can see that we are still waiting for the INEC materials to arrive in our ward. Some people are also going back home as a result of no election materials and INEC officials.

  “Policemen are here but nothing is going on. We have not seen any of the INEC officials to conduct the election. Those of us that are still around will keep waiting for them until they arrive. We will exercise our civic rights and also wait to count it”.

  Opposite the voting centre, security agents were seen on patrol vehicles moving around for the safety of the people and successful election.

  It was gathered that the deputy governor to Andy Uba, Emeka Okafor earlier arrived his ward at St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, Nnobi, with his entourage to cast their votes but could not see any of the election materials or INEC officials.

  The election process later started around 2.45pm, which kept the electorates worried as many were curious to know the outcome of the results.

  Speaking to newsmen, Okafor said he was convinced  that his party would win and stated the reason why there was delay in the election process.

  He said, “the election did not start on time due to several parties and majorly the security challenges we are having in the state as well as the entire Southeast zone. Many people are scared to come out and vote. So we are putting a lot of efforts to organise the voters to come out and vote”

  “What makes APC to stand out to win the election is that we want Anambra to be in line with the central. That is the major plan of Sen. Andy Uba. Anambra people have been tired of local politics and growing one state politics. When we emerge winner, the infrastructural development will kick off basically on various roads. We will declare state of emergency on roads in order to start road constructions and by doing that, we will create jobs for the youths”

  “The present government has done very poorly towards infrastructural development”.

  In her words, Mrs Bright Ezue said, “this is Ward 2 Nnobi. There was delay in the election but everything is going well now just immediately they started. We are not having any other setback. I believe that by this election will be a free, fair and credible election. I also pray that my candidate will be declared winner at the end”, she said.

  Elsewhere in Aguata Local Government Area, Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo casted his vote in Ward 13 Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area after long hours of technical failure while voting was cancelled at Immaculate Heart, Ekwulobia,Aguata, as armed men invade the polling unit, attacked the party agents and did away with the ballot boxes.

  Accreditation began without hitches around 4.05p.m., when a new BVAS was deployed in the polling unit.

  After casting his vote, Soludo commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for its efforts to ensure a peaceful and smooth electoral process.

  “I told you I’m an optimist, which is why I waited for over five hours, 40 minutes because I believe INEC will come through.

  “You can also see that in spite of the delay, our people waited patiently and are so determined to cast their votes, no matter the time.

  “That is to show you that APGA is Anambra and Anambra is APGA.

  “I believe the will of God will prevail, no matter the delay. APGA will win.

  “I look forward to the credibility and legitimacy of the process.

  “I also believe we have the popular mandate of the people and I believe the system will deliver at the end of the day,” he said.

  Soludo commended the people and his supporters for maintaining calm and peace, in spite of the logistics challenges.

  Meanwhile, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) arrived late at Community Primary Secondary School, Umueze, Isuoaniocha, Awka North LGA from Achalla, the LGA’s headquarters.

  Protest from the Nigeria Police team attached to the electoral body of the LGA over the non- payment of their allowance was given as the reason for the late arrival of electoral materials.

  Community Primary Secondary School, Umueze, Isuaniocha, besides having a polling unit serves as the Registration Area Centre (RAC) for all the polling units in Isuaniocha and Mgbakwu towns, both on Awka North LGA.

  As at the time of filling this report, the INEC ad-hoc staff who slept inside the  primary school were demanding for their allowances before the discharge of their duties.

  Following the failure of the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, in many poling units across Anambra State in the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), extended voting till Sunday.

  The exercise was also extended beyond the closing time of 2.30pm on Saturday.

  INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji said BVAS failed in many areas because of software breach which delayed the voting process and frustrated eligible voters.

  According to him, the extension was therefore to enable those who could not cast their votes to do so.

  Counting of votes commenced at PU 002 Ward 01, Ekwulu Village Hall, Umuona and PUs 004, 005, 006 and 007.

Also at PU 014 and 013 Ward 001 in Community High School, Nanka in Orumba North LGA, voting was still in progress as at 5p.m.

  At the supplementary election held on Tuesday, Managing Director and Chief Execultive Officer, Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation(ANPC), publisher of National Light group of newspapers, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, who spoke with newsman at Ihiala noted that the supplementary election was very calm and voters conducted themselves very well amid watertight security.

  At the supplementary election held on Tuesday, Managing Director and Chief Execultive Officer, Anambra Newspapers and Printing Corporation(ANPC), publisher of National Light group of newspapers, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, who spoke with newsman at Ihiala noted that the mood in the entire Ihiala Local government area (LGA) on the day of election was very calm as voters conducted themselves very well amid watertight security.

Sir Nnabuife, a native of Ubuluisizo in Ihiala LGA, Anambra State, said this he cast his vote at Polling Unit 001, Ubuluisizo Ward. He further explained that the little space of time between when other parts of Anambra State did their election and the Ihiala LGA conclusive polls. “We did some awareness because there is nothing as painful as a void vote.

It is better you do not vote than having a void vote because it is a wasted effort and unfulfilled aspiration. So, we made sure that our electorates understood the process as well as the challenges of the new accreditation model deployed be the Independent Electoral Commission (IINEC), the BIVAS. We engaged a wide awareness process to ensure that voters do not vote across the boxed lines. It’s not just only given parties that we had our interest in every voter that is why, I am very hopeful that we may not have too many void votes here”.

  Nnabuife said their voting materials  in the entire in Ubuluisiuzo Ward arrived some minutes to 1pm and “Ihiala has over 340 pulling units, adding to the challenged pace tight security check points on the road for well known reasons.  So, I think that contributes to the movement of voting materials but I am happy that when they came here, the voters were ready and also the voters and stakeholders were keyed to ensure that officials – both of INEC  and other relevant authorities reported with what was needed.

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