September 26, 2022

Udora Orizu writes that Imo State Government and Peoples Democratic Party engaged in a war of words over claims by the Coalition of United Political Parties about alleged plots to rig the 2023 general election
The Imo State Government and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last week clashed over the allegation by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) that a secret legal action had been instituted at the State High Court to stop the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the 2023 general election and remove the National Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
As 2023 general election draws near, many citizens, given the escalating insecurity, while hoping for peaceful elections, are also hopeful that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will ensure that the process is free and credible.
When President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the 2022 Electoral Act, the country got an improved law to guide her electoral system and politics. Many well-meaning Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief, with great expectations, that a total departure from the ugly past and the emergence of a new order are in the offing.
The new law brought with it many outstanding changes including Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BVAS) and the electronic transmission of results directly from the polling units to INEC result portals.
On September 14, 2022, the umbrella body of some of the opposition political parties CUPP raised the alarm over alleged plots to compromise the INEC voters register.
At a press conference in Abuja, the Coalition’s spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said the plots had been perfected in 21 states under the leadership of governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in favour of the party.
He also alleged that a court case has been initiated to force INEC to stop the use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in the coming general elections.
Ugochinyere, presented to journalists a copy of the suit filed at the Owerri Federal High Court on August 24, 2022 and copies of voters register with questionable names, and as well as the usage of passport photographs of long dead persons, names, gender and age of thousands of registered voters on copies of the register.
The CUPP spokesman particularly noted that Voter Registration in Omuma, the home Ward of Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State was inflated with fictitious names.
This development ruffled many well-meaning Nigerians, who became apprehensive, about the sincerity of INEC, to conduct the 2023 elections, devoid of rigging and malfeasance.
Some citizens took their various social media handles to tag the electoral body, reminding them that the era of business-as-usual will no longer be tolerated, as Nigerians are now determined to enthrone leaders, irrespective of tribe or religion, with track-records of accountability, competence and result driven.
In a Twitter trend #OccupyINEC, some Nigerians threatened to take over the commission’s offices nationwide on September 27, 2022, to express their grievances.
Reacting to the outrage, the electoral body, which had conducted the Continuous Voter Registration nationwide between 28 June 2021 and July 2022, maintained that, since the end of the CVR exercise, no fresh registrant was added or subtracted from the voters’ register.
In a statement by the INEC National Commissioner in charge of information and chairman of Voter education, Festus Okocha, INEC said they are rather conducting a comprehensive Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) cleanup of the registration data by scrutinising every record.
The commission said it was always important that caution was exercised so that such interventions did not unwittingly sow doubts in the public mind, thereby diminishing public confidence and trust in the electoral process.
INEC assured that after the cleanup and claims and objections have been completed that the final register will be published, and it would continue to provide the public with updates on the progress of these processes.
Imo Govt, PDP Bicker over Allegations
Reacting to the claims by CUPP, Imo State Government called for the arrest and questioning of Ugochinyere. The State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Declan Emelumba, at a press conference said ignoring the spurious and seditious outburst of Ugochinyere will amount to condoning criminality.
He therefore called on the relevant security agencies to find out from the CUPP spokesman how he obtained the voters register even when the INEC is still at the stage of ABIS which must be concluded before an official voters register can be released to the public.
Also, members of the Imo State House of Assembly from Orlu Zone declared the spokesperson of CUPP, Ugochinyere a persona non grata for revealing the plot to stop the use of BVAS during the 2023 general election.
The caucus lawmakers led by the Deputy Speaker, Hon Amarachi Iwuanyanwu, described Ugochinyere as one who does not want development and progress of the zone.
According to the lawmakers, “We are dismayed by the allegation, the baseless spurious and irresponsible allegation by a PDP candidate for Ideato federal constituency, one Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere against His Excellency, Hope Uzodimma, His kernel of the allegation which is in the public domain is that the voter’s list at Omuma has been inflated to give undue advantage to APC in next year’s general elections. Ugochinyere claimed that he and an unnamed organization investigated the voters’ list fraud in all APC states, but curiously it was only that of Imo he made public.”
While the state government faulted the claims of the coalition, Imo PDP on its part has warned against attacking and harassing the spokesperson of the CUPP.
The PDP Publicity Secretary in the state, Collins Opurozor, who gave the warning in a statement in Owerri, said not a single hair shall fall from the head of CUPP Spokesman, and that he shouldn’t be jailed for displaying such patriotism that has never been seen in modern Nigeria.
The statement read in part, “Governor Hope Uzodinma further sought to drag our candidate into the insecurity miasma in Imo State. What is pressing to quickly state is that, by yet again politicizing the horrible security situation in the Imo and attempting to bring our candidate into it, our suspicion is further enriched, that the bloodshed in parts of Imo is wilfully left to fester by the Governor so as to profit from it and destroy his perceived political foes.
“Imo PDP, therefore, warns that no attack, threat, or harassment of Ikenga Ugochinyere by the failed regime of APC in Imo State will be tolerated. Not a single hair shall fall from his head, not a scratch found on his body. For Imo PDP, it is sheer audacity in criminality for the Governor to still find his voice to issue threats when by now he is supposed to be telling Nigerians his role in this treasonable offence which seeks to truncate our democracy. Nigerians must rise to defend our democracy.”
As the row deepens, Nigerians should however, not rest on their oars, but rather, intensify pressure on the electoral body to stick to the provision of the electoral laws during the 2023 poll.
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