By Oji Odu
Thursday, March 14, 2019, the D-Day for the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue the Certificate of Return to winners of the March 9, 2019 Senatorial elections at the International Conference Center, Abuja at the end of the exercise, the out-going governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, whose name was earlier announced as winner of Imo West Senatorial Zone did not receive his Certificate of Return.
Will the Owelle still make it as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, bearing in mind the heavy noose poised to truncate his ambition? If he does not make it, what will be his fate as he fights myriads of battles both within and outside his party?
Ahead of the presentation of the Certificates of Return, INEC published the list of newly-elected federal lawmakers on its website, but Okorocha’s name was not on the list of elected senators.
In the slot for the three Imo Senatorial districts, only Senator-elect Onyewuchi Ezenwa Francis (Imo East), who won on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), was listed. Imo North’s slot was empty except for a “Supplementary” remark while for Imo West Senatorial district, whose seat Governor Okorocha contested under the APC was blank with an INEC remark, “Declaration made under duress.” ,
Okorocha was declared winner by the returning officer for the Senatorial district, Innocent Ibeawuchi, who later said that he was made to announce Okorocha as winner “under duress”.
“I have been held hostage here for days. So, I’m trying to ease off and take my life home back to my children and for the sake of that I am calling these results under duress,” he said.
Speaking on this issue at an inter-agency consultative committee on election security last week, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission will not issue certificates of return to any candidate declared winner of an election under duress.
“The commission will not tolerate the act of holding our officials’ hostage and forcing them to declare winners under duress.
“Where such occurs, the commission will not reward bad behaviour by issuing them certificates of return,” he said.
In a chat with the Magazine, Peters Umoh, a political watcher commended INEC on its stance on the issue, but would loved it to have been extended to the other elections allegedly flawed due to threat of INEC officials by politicians.
“ While I commend INEC on the stand it took concerning the Governor Rochas Okorocha case, I hope that Okorocha will not be the only scapegoat. There are others that were involved in this anomaly. I hope INEC will expand its investigation to punish all those involved and save its face in the 2019 election that many are not happy with their performance,” he said.
Umoh also opined that the electoral officer will be bold enough to expose and deal with its officials who were involved in whatever electoral fraud.