How Gov. Orji used LG chairmen to subvert people’s will in Abia polls


4305db561fca1ab07e7fa4ea4cbd2c28Gov. Theodore Ahamefula Orji of Abia state showed early signs of desperation to manipulate the 2015 elections in the state to pave the way for his unmerited transition to the senate as well as the election of his son, Chinedu, to the House of Assembly and the imposition of his surrogate, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, on the people of the state all against the wishes of the electorate.
In the build up to the general elections, Gov. Orji threatened the Transition Committee Chairmen of the 17 local government areas of the state to ‘’deliver all the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or get fired.’’
To underscore the force behind the threat, Orji fired chairmen of Umuahia North and South, Aba North and South, Ikwuano  and Aba South (a second time) that failed to ‘’deliver’’ during the polls.
Conscious of this development and the omen that awaited them in the event of   similar failure in subsequent polls, the TC chairmen devised a strategy to hijack the electoral process in order to achieve result and deliver to the dictate of their boss by hook or crook.
That killer strategy was to frustrate ward collation of unit results and it worked for them.
The voting pattern/unit results favour APGA
After voting ended at the different polling units and results announced, the electorate, especially those that have yearned for change, went home celebrating the landslide by the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Comparing the unit results signed and collected by the party’s agents at the units, it was clear that APGA was far ahead of PDP across the state in the polls.
But suddenly the unexpected and unimaginable happened and the results changed against APGA. In line with the electoral guidelines for the 2015 general elections, unit results were meant to be collated at the Ward Collation Centres before being moved to the Local Government Collation Centre.
How the TC Chairmen bought over the Ward Collation Officers
Across the state, it was discovered that the ward collation officers, who were expected to conduct the ward collation, vanished into the thin air.
It was learnt that the collation officers were heavily paid by the TC chairmen to frustrate the ward collation at the INEC designated centres. This was why they declined to show up at the ward collation centres, insisting on conducting the collation at the local government headquarters.
The scenario played out in all the ward collation centres so that the election officers, including the INEC and ad-hoc members of staff, who waited endlessly for ward collation officers, in most cases up to 10 pm, later succumbed to persuasions to relocate to the local government headquarters for ward collation.
In a particular instance in Umuahia north, during the governorship and house of assembly polls, a certain Divisional Police Officer, who led his men to provide security at the ward collation centre in School Road Primary School, Umuahia, was under pressure from the Commissioner of Police, Joshak Habila, to escort the electoral materials, including the unit results, ballot boxes and the election officers, to Umuahia North Local Government headquarters.
The move was resisted particularly by APGA agent, who insisted that the collation must be carried out at the ward levels before moving the results to the local government collation centres. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Selina Oko’s intervention to get the ward collation officer to move to the school for the collation yielded no result because the collation officer could not be reached on phone.
The resistance against the removal of the electoral materials from the school to the council headquarters suffered a huge setback with the sudden appearance of two military men, deployed by the Minister of State for Defence, Rtd. Col. Austin Akobundu, who was at the Presidential Lodge in Government House, Umuahia, to ensure that the electoral materials were moved to the council headquarters. They eventually succeeded and the materials, along with electoral officers, were moved to the council headquarters, where the ward collation was done.
Having achieved that, the stage was set for the manipulation of the unit results to favour Orji and his PDP partners in crime.
Issues with Local Government Collation:
At the local government collation centres located on the premises of the local government councils, the TC chairmen and the PDP stakeholders, laid ambush for the unit results. With them were the ward and local government collation officers, who had already compromised to do the biddings of PDP.
The entire process of rigging the results at the local government collation centre across the state was supervised by the also compromised security operatives, especially the police, working on the orders of the Commissioner of Police, Joshak Habila.
Also at the entrance gate to the council headquarters, TC chairmen mounted armed thugs to intimidate and bar agents of APGA from coming into the collation centres, where both the ward and local government collations were done simultaneously to deliver the PDP candidates.
This was the strategy that helped to deliver Gov. Theodore Orji (who lost at his polling unit) for the Abia Central Senatorial District and other candidates, including Ikpeazu. The process was coordinated by the heavily compromised police commissioner.
The Obingwa, Osisioma, Ugwunagbo, Isialangwa North factor:
The strongmen of PDP in these local government areas apparently determined to leave nothing to chance in their desperation to ensure that Ikpeazu was declared the winner of the governorship polls at all cost ‘’and let the aggrieved persons go to court,’’ resolved to undermine INEC’s directives for the polls, including the use of the card reader for accreditation.
To achieve their objective, they deployed political thugs to disrupt the election in those areas. In Obingwa, Sen. Abaribe had a field day both for the senatorial and governorship polls. The TC chairman of the council area, Prince Obinna Nwabiarije, who made frantic efforts to ‘’deliver’’ on his master’s mandate, was arrested by the military in possession of ballot boxes and result sheets.
Having succeeded in ensuring that elections did not take place in those areas, the PDP chieftains resorted to the barbaric and highly condemnable practice of writing the results.
This was why in their unintelligible fashion, they wrote figures and distributed them across the political parties in the following order: Obingwa (PDP 82,240 votes, APGA 1,952 votes), Osisioma (PDP 42,122 votes, APGA 1,017 votes), Ugwunagbo (PDP 17,788 votes, APGA 1,022) and Isialangwa North (PDP 19,798 votes, APGA 6,853). The entire results were already being contested by APGA.
The invasion of state collation centre by Orji, Metu, Akobundu, Abaribe, etal
In view of the overwhelming evidence that elections did not take place in the aforementioned local government areas, Prof. Ozumba cancelled the results, relying ‘’on the powers conferred on me by law (Electoral Act).’’
Barely 30 minutes after his pronouncement, Gov. Orji stormed the venue, leading other PDP chieftains, including the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Oliseh Metu, Minister of State for Defence, Rtd. Col. Austin Akobundu, Sen. Enyinnaya Abaribe, former Chairman of the Niger delta Development Commission, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, amongst others.
It was learnt that after their visit, Prof. Ozumba returned to the collation centre to immediately reverse the cancellation. It was also learnt that the governor and his team threatened him to recant his earlier pronouncement or his safety would no longer be guaranteed in Abia.
Mrs Patience Jonathan’s role in the reversal of Prof. Ozumba’s cancellation
It was further gathered that the governor and his squad immediately they summoned the REC and Prof. Ozumba to the REC’s office, put a call to Mrs. Patience Jonathan, who issued a directive to the electoral officers to ‘’immediately reverse’’ the cancellation  or face unimaginable consequences, including immediate retirement.
The governorship re-run experience:
The supplementary election in some polling units in nine local government areas of the state became necessary when the state returning officer failed to sustain his earlier cancellation of the election in Obingwa, Osisioma and Isialangwa North LGAs.
When Prof. Ozumba cancelled the election, he cited violence and reports by international observers that election did not take place in the affected council areas, as his reason.
But Ozumba suddenly recanted shortly after Gov. Orji stormed the collation centre and declared the election inconclusive, leading to a re-run in nine local government areas.
The experience of the re-run was virtually a replication of the first election, where ward collation of unit results were again frustrated. Unit results were conveyed from ward collation centres to local government headquarters where the ward collation officers did their yeoman’s job for the desperate TC chairmen, who were under pressure again to ‘’deliver.’’
For instance, at the St. Silas Primary School, Old Umuahia, the venue of ward collation, the Supervisory Presiding Officer, Mrs Chidinma Chikezie Osuagwu, had packed all the ballot materials, including the unit results and ballot boxes, ready for evacuation, along with the ad-hoc INEC staff, to Umuahia South Local Government headquarters, Apumiri, where she claimed the ward collation would be done. The sinister move however was intercepted by vigilant youths of the area. Mrs. Osuagwu is the wife of Chief Chris Osuagwu, a PDP stalwart in Umuahia North LGA.
The youths insisted the collation must take place at the school premises. They held Mrs. Osuagwu hostage, insisting that she should call the Collation Officer on phone. She was looking tensed up and sweating profusely, when Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 9, Usman Gwary, drove in with his entourage.
Gwary spent over 30 minutes in the place, making several call to the relevant persons that could have access to the ward collation officer, including the REC, to no avail. It was obvious that the ward collation officer had as usual vanished.
At the time the AIG left the place, he directed some of his men to stay back and ensure that the ward collation took place there before the INEC officials would be allowed to leave.
Eventually, one Ubachukwu Obiekwe sauntered into the place, claiming that he was the ward collation. His identity was confirmed by the REC before he was allowed to carry out the collation and at the end of the day, APGA had a landslide over PDP.
Today, while residents of sister-states of Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo have been in celebration mood on the heels of the outcome of the governorship polls, their counterparts in Abia, from Umunneochi to Ukwa East and  Arochukwu are mourning and dumbfounded over what has hit them. Their mandate expressed through the ballot and freely given to the governorship candidate of APGA, Dr. Alex Otti, who they see as an agent of change with the capacity to rescue the state from poverty and squalor, had been stolen through a vicious conspiracy of the evil men in power.
The mood in different parts of Abia since Sunday morning when the election result was announced by the state Returning Officer has been characterised by disbelief and agony.
Disbelief because the people voted for Otti but Ikpeazu was announced the winner and agony because the implication of this unwholesome act by a cabal is the perpetuation of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment of Abia and its people.
Also, the implication is that unpaid pensions and gratuities, arrears of teachers’ salaries and those of civil servants, including medical and health workers at the state and local government levels, which runs into several billions of naira, would forever go with Theodore Orji’s administration. This will mean living in hell in Abia, God’s Own State.
Already, the leadership of APGA as well as Dr. Alex Otti has rejected the results of the election, vowing that they would reclaim their stolen mandate in the tribunal. Upon this lies the hope of the downtrodden in the state, especially the teachers, pensioners, civil servants and non-indigenes, who have been holding prayer and fasting sessions for God’s intervention so that the stolen mandate would be restored to APGA and Dr. Otti, who they believe will bring their sufferings to an end.

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