There was a drama Sunday morning at the state Secretariat of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Owerri, when the returning officer, Hakeem Adikum, declared All Progressives Congress, the winner of the Imo North bye-election which held Saturday without returning a candidate.
Adikum, who quickly rose after announcing the results scored by various political parties and their candidates, simply said “I hereby return the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the bye-election held in Imo North on Saturday, December 5.”
The Returning Officer announced that APC scored 36,811 votes, while Emmanuel Okewulonu of the People Democratic Party came second with 31,903 votes.
According to Adikum, APC won in five out of the six Local Government Areas in the senatorial district while PDP won in one LGA.
While PDP won in Obowo LGA where its candidate hails from, the Returning Officer said that APC won in Okigwe, Onuimo, Isiala Mbano, Ehime Mbano and Ihitte/ Uboma LGAs.
INEC’s failure to return any candidate as the winner of the election caused disquiet in the hall, as the supporters of the two persons, Ifeanyi Araraume and Frank Ibezim, laying claims to the APC ticket who were waiting to jubilate outside went home unannounced.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in Imo state, Prof Francis Ezeonu, told journalists that the commission was unable to return a particular candidate from a APC as the winner of the election because of what he called several court orders for and against Araraume and Ibezim of the APC.
Recall that an Abuja federal High court had on Friday barred Ibezim for life from contesting elections.
The court had indicted Ibezim of perjury based on the credentials he submitted to INEC and his party, the APC.
The same day, a court of Appeal in Owerri sacked Araraume as the candidate of the APC and declared Ibezim as the authentic candidate of the party.
Justice Uchechukwu Onyemenem who delivered the judgment, ordered INEC to immediately enlist Ibezim’s name as the candidate of the party for the bye- election.