Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Returning Officer (RO) for Imo West (Orlu) senatorial district, Prof Innocent I. Ibeawuchi, said he declared Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, the winner of the senatorial contest under duress, to save his life and his family.
But, in a swift reaction, the governor dismissed Ibeabuchi’s claims and described him as a bloody liar, whose, mental health should be examined.
Ibeawuchi was said to have been held hostage by governor Okorocha, who allegedly demanded that he be declared winner of the contest.
The returning officer, who said this yesterday, at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), claimed that he had to save his life and his family by declaring Okorocha winner.
However, the governor said he was baffled by the attitude of the returning officer in the entire exercise.
Okorocha, who spoke through his media aide, Sam Onwuemeodo, Said:
“I ask the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), here, to quickly correct these anomalies.
“The returning officer is a bloody liar, who may be acting a script. I enjoin him to return the money he may have collected from those who understand only rigging in election.
“They should examine the returning officer to know his mental state. If he is not mental, then, he must be a criminal to have ever thought of that.
“How could someone ask you to change the result of an election he has already won? My score is above 90,000, and the nearest to me is slightly above half of it, when you combine both Jones and Izunaso’s votes.
“They can’t match or contest against me in Imo State, not to talk of Orlu zone. Am I even supposed to contest for Senate in Orlu; I never campaigned, but only declared and campaigned for three days.”
There was mild drama at the collation centre for Orlu Council Area of the state, when Ibeawuchi, strangely hid the original result sheet after declaring Governor Okorocha the senator-elect.
Ibeawuchi, from the Federal University of Owerri (FUTO), who spoke to newsmen at the collation centre, had stopped the declaration of the result halfway, on Sunday night, after announcing the result for nine local government areas, out of which Okorocha won eight.
The collation officer claimed he left the original result sheet at the INEC office in Owerri, and had to write the result on a rumpled sheet of paper.
Party agents at the collation centre insisted that Ibeawuchi must produce the original result sheet.
This however, resulted in several hours of argument before security agents intervened and pleaded with the party agents to exercise patience while they confirm from the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Francis Ezeonu, to ascertain the claim of the returning officer.
Eventually, when the REC was contacted on phone by one of the senior police officers, he maintained that the result sheet was in the possession of the returning officer (Ibeawuchi) and ordered him to produce it.
After the REC’s order, the collation officer, produced the original result sheet and entered the figures before announcing the result a second time.
From the result he entered, Governor Okorocha polled 97,762 votes to defeat his closest rival, Jones Onyereri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 63,117 votes.
Earlier, the returning officer, whose daughter was alleged to have been kidnapped and held hostage debunked the rumour which had been trending in the social media.
“I’ve announced the result; APC had the highest vote, so, governor Okorocha of the APC has been declared winner.
“I was not forced to announce the result and no member of my family was kidnapped, I am not aware of any such report,” Ibeawuchi said.