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2023: How elections were won, lost in S’east

ν LP pulls surprises, shocks hitherto dominant parties in region

 

From Magnus Eze (Enugu), Okey Sampson (Umuahia), Chijioke Agwu (Abakaliki), Stanley Uzoaru (Owerri) and Obinna Odogwu (Awka)

The long-awaited 2023 elections have been conducted on February 25 (presidential/national assembly) and March 18 (governorship/state assembly) with winners announced, while the next stage of the battle has shifted to the courts.

In the Southeast states, the elections were tough for the hitherto dominant parties as the entrance of Peter Obi, who was the  presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), came with electoral hurricane that shook the region.

By the time the Presidential and National Assembly as well as Governorship and House of Assembly Elections results were tallied, it became glaring that the Obi-waves actually swept through the zone, thereby making the former Anambra governors an albatross to several big politicians in the region.

Umahi

The truth is that the vestiges of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party that dominated the region for over two decades, could only be found from May 29, in Enugu State.

Many political chieftains in the Southeast were taken unawares by the massive votes given to the LP candidates in the National Assembly poll on the account of the Obi-waves. So, they and their governors clearly re-strategised ahead the elections of March 18, on how to whittle down the Obi factor in the exercise.

In Anambra, Governor Chukwuma Soludo had appealed to the people of the state to vote for candidates of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in the House of Assembly elections.

He said voting for APGA candidates during the election, would help him sustain the tempo of development across the 21 local government areas of the state.

Soludo’s Chief Press Secretary, Christian Aburime told journalists in Awka that massive support for APGA’s candidates would enable the governor to work and attract more dividends of democracy to the state.

“If we have APGA in control of the State Assembly, we will continue to do our jobs unhindered. But, if the opposition is allowed to have their way, it means that development will be stalled,” he said.

If APGA was lucky to have survived the LP tsunami in Anambra, it was not so for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Abia and Enugu states. It was a titanic battle between LP and PDP in the two states. The governorship polls in the states stretched into about five days, leading into review of results in Obingwa (Abia) and Nkanu East and Nsukka (Enugu) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), before the results were announced.

New dawn in Abia

Wild jubilations greeted the declaration of Dr Alex Otti, candidate of LP as winner of the governorship election in Abia State, having polled 175,465 votes, to defeat Okey Ahaiwe of PDP who scored 88,529 votes.

The declaration was delayed for days due to the controversial 108,000 votes from Obingwa LGA.

Aside winning the Abia governorship, the LP also won several National Assembly seats and the majority of the seats in the State Assembly. Sunday Sun gathered that many reasons have been adduced for the LP dislodgement of the PDP in a state it has controlled for the past 24 years.

One of the reasons added to the Obi-waves was the issue of zoning. Prior to the process that led to the selection of candidates for the election, the PDP in the state, in a most controversial manner zoned the governorship seat to the Ngwa axis of the state where the incumbent governor is from.

Many, especially those from Abia North believed power should return to the zone having started there in 1999. When the PDP leadership had its way, ostensibly from the promptings of the governor, people from Abia North, including PDP members vowed to work against their party during the election.

A member of PDP from Bende, Ndubuisi Kalu, said that his party shot itself on the foot when it zoned the governorship ticket to Ngwa axis, instead of Abia North and the result was what happened on March 18.

Others also said that Abia people were already disenchanted with the PDP. Kelvin Chukwu, a political analyst said for some years now, the state has not faired better under PDP in the past 24 years.

So, Abia people saw the 2023 election as the avenue for change and they grabbed it with all they could on March 18.

“Abians have tolerated PDP for the past 24 years with their bad governance, and when it appeared there was no end in sight, the people decided to show the PDP the way out and ushered in the LP on March 18,” Chukwu said.

Upsets in Enugu, PDP grips governorship consolation

If there is one state where the elections witnessed upsets, it is Enugu State. The governorship was keenly contested between the LP and eventual winner, the PDP. The ding dong affair lasted for over four days before Peter Mbah of the PDP was declared winner of the election.

The LP candidate, Chijioke Edeoga has vowed to challenge the outcome legally, saying he would reclaim the mandate given to him by Enugu people.

He described what happened as the abortion of the democratic wishes of Enugu people, adding that the heist would not stand.

Prior to the March 18 poll, the PDP and LP had accused each other of planning to unleash violence on the state. The elections were eventually characterised by violent attacks, ballot-snatching and other irregularities.

Just like in Abia, various factor led to the surprises sprang by the LP in the state; one of which was the allegation of impunity against the PDP in the state. Not a few people were gladdened by the manner the candidates of the party emerged for the general elections.

Also, the brutal murder of Oyibo Chukwu, the candidate of LP for the Enugu East Senatorial District, barely 48 hours to the Presidential and National Assembly elections, swayed public sentiment against the ruling PDP in Enugu State.

The implications manifested in the results as the LP won two senatorial and seven House of Representatives seats in the state, leaving one seat apiece for the PDP in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Similarly, the LP has won 12 House of Assembly seats, the PDP secured 10, while two were yet to be announced as at press time.

APC, Umahi retain Ebonyi, opposition kicks

Candidate of the APC in Ebonyi State, Francis Nwifuru, was declared winner of the 2023 governorship election. He polled 199,131 to defeat the candidate of the PDP, Ifeanyi Odii, who scored 80, 191 votes.

Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Prof. Charles Igwe who was the Returning Officer, said the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Ben Odoh, came third with 52,189 votes.

But, in the build up to the general elections, the opposition PDP looked certain to clinch the governorship. This was so because the state had remained the stronghold of the party since 1999.

Unfortunately, the defection of Governor David Umahi from the PDP to the APC in 2020 turned the PDP into opposition in the state.

Many saw Umahi as one on a lonely journey because the majority of the political stakeholders in the state like the former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim; former Governor Sam Egwu; and all the National Assembly members of the PDP refused to join the governor to his new party.

Despite efforts of the opposition political parties, the APC still carried the day in Ebonyi, owing to a number of factors, including incumbency, zoning and deep division in the PDP.

Sunday Sun learnt that zoning was a major factor that affected the PDP candidate, and gave the APC serious advantage in the election.

Since 1999, Ebonyi has maintained an unbroken power rotation principle which started from Ebonyi North, to Central and now in the South. It was, therefore, expected by many Ebonyians that power should return to Ebonyi North where it started 24 years ago since it has gone round.

The APC leadership strictly adhered to this zoning principle in its primary elections, but the PDP ignored it and elected a candidate from Ebonyi South where the outgoing governor hails from.

In addition, the protracted crisis in the PDP resulting from the May and June 2022 primaries of the party, gave big advantage to the APC.

 The crisis lingered up to the Supreme Court, and at the end, Ifeanyi Odii’s faction won the case. This development made Anyim to lead his faction of the party to the APC few days to the governorship election.

So, the APC won in 10 local government areas while Odii of the PDP won only in his Onicha local government.

The two remaining LGAs of Ezza North and South were cleared by the candidate of the APGA, Prof. Ben. Odoh.

The APC’s feat in Ebonyi also reflected in the number of National and State Assembly seats the party secured. It won the three senatorial seats and three out of the five House of Representatives seats so far declared by INEC. APC got the Ikwo/Ezza South, Ebonyi/Ohaukwu and Abakaliki/Izzi Federal Constituencies while the PDP won Afikpo North/South. LP clinched Ohaozara/Onicha/Ivo Federal Constituency while Ezza North and Ishielu Federal Constituency was declared inconclusive.

And in the state legislature, the APC won 20 out of the 24 seats. PDP won two while APGA and Labour Party got one seat each.

It is worthy of note that there were cases of violent attacks, intimidation, ballot-snatching and the rest in parts of the state.

APGA survives Obi-waves in state legislature

In Anambra State, the presidential and National Assembly elections recorded impressive turnout of voters. Many of the voters said that the 2023 polls were their first.

They said that they opted to vote this time because they believed that Peter Obi would bring the desired change to the country and make it work again.

So, for that reason, most polling units, if not all, recorded impressive turnout of voters who came out solely to vote for Obi.

But that massive love for Obi who was the former governor of the state also brought good luck to the National Assembly candidates of his party in the state. Largely for Obi’s sake, many of them were voted for.

Out of the three senatorial districts in the state, LP won two (Anambra Central and Anambra North) while the Young Progressives Party (YPP), retained Anambra South which it first won in 2019. The ruling party in the state, the APGA, scored zero.

For the House of Representatives, LP won five seats, APGA secured four seats while YPP pocketed just one.

One of the federal constituencies, Ogbaru, had been declared inconclusive, but the date for the conclusion of that process has not been announced. LP’s candidate, Afam Ogene, has secured the highest number of votes cast.

The federal constituencies won by the LP are: Awka North and South, Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia, Idemili North and South, Anambra East and West, and Onitsha North and South. It may also collect Ogbaru.

APGA won Aguata, Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo, Ihiala, and Oyi/Ayamelum. The YPP won Orumba North and South.

For Oyi/Ayamelum, the YPP claimed that it won the constituency, but was robbed of its victory. To that end, it has said that it would be going to court to challenge the outcome of the polls as announced by INEC.

Only the House of Assembly polls were held in the state on March 18, because off season governorship polls take place in the state; and the last one held on November 6, 2021.

As of the time of this report, no official report on the conduct of the polls has been issued by INEC, but the available report shows that out of the 30 seats in the state Assembly, APGA won 16, LP secured seven, PDP won four, YPP took three.

Meanwhile, the South East APC Young Progressives Forum, has knocked INEC for failing to live up to expectations during the general elections, especially as it concerned Anambra State House of Assembly elections.

National Convener of the group, Comrade Otimkpu Paschal, in his preliminary statement on the exercise, said Ndi Anambra expected it to perform better, but that it failed.

“Positively, INEC introduced some corrective measures ahead of Saturday’s polls, allowing a timely delivery of sensitive materials and improved use of election technologies. However, INEC continued to lack transparency in Anambra State.

“Voting on Election Day was disrupted by multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers, and journalists and massive vote buying. Aguata, Orumba South, Njikoka, Dunukofia, Idemili South, Oyi, Onitsha North were the most affected,” he said.

APC sweeps Imo, opposition cries foul

In Imo State, the Obi-wave favoured the LP candidate for Imo East Senatorial District, Ezenwa Onyewuchi as the incumbent senator retains his seat. He defeated APC’s anointed candidate of Governor Hope Uzodimma, Alex Mbata and PDP’s Uche Onyeaguocha. LP also won two federal constituencies.

Notwithstanding, APC won almost all the legislative seats available in the state, including 26 out of the 27 state constituencies.

Voters in the state expressed disappointment over alleged irregularities by the INEC whom they accused of subverting the wish of the people of Imo through technicalities that knocked out most LP candidates.

They complained that INEC deliberately delayed the distribution of the electoral materials to their various units which led to most of the elections ending very late and the controversial network denial of access to upload the results.

Sunday Sun gathered that the issue witnessed in the presidential election largely contributed to the low turnout of voters for the State Assembly elections in the state which was also reportedly characterised by massive rigging.

Thugs linked to the ruling party were reported to have carted away ballot boxes in many polling units. At Ideato South council area,19 ad hoc staff of INEC were abducted by the thugs, but were later released, though not with their materials.

The situation led to several petitions to the Presidency and INEC to cancel the polls; some even called for the removal of the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Sylvia Agu, for alleged compromise.

Colonel Chinyere Obi (rtd) described the election as a war: “At my ward in Ideato South, I was even manhandled by the thugs for asking them to stop what they were doing, they beat me up and others in the booth, this is the worst election I have seen so far.”

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