By Andrew Onyejuruuwa
After days of hostage and intimidation, Professor Innocent Ibeawuchi, the Returning Officer for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Imo State, has disclosed that he was forced to announce Rochas Okorocha as winner of the election because his life was threatened. Ibeawuchi stated that “he feared he would be killed,” as he was held hostage for about 15 hours by people working for Okorocha, the embattled outgoing Governor of Imo State. According to the result, Okorocha garnered 97,762 votes to emerge victorious over Jones Onyereri of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, who had 68,117 votes.
Addressing newsmen after the election, Ibeawuchi said: “I was compelled to announce the result, which was inconclusive. I am a man of integrity and it is not true that the Governor slapped me, but I was held hostage by agents working for him. I was manhandled and I thank God I came back alive.” He also claimed that the election was supposed to be declared inconclusive because of the irregularities and malpractices that took place.
However, in a swift reaction, Okorocha said the returning officer is mentally unfit. A statement released by Sam Onwuemeodo, his Chief Press Secretary, Okorocha said: “They should examine the returning officer to know his mental state. If he doesn’t have a mental illness, then he must be a criminal to ever think 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. I asked the Resident Electoral Commissioner here to quickly correct these anomalies. The returning officer is a bloody liar who may be acting a script.
“Having won in nine out of the 12 Local Government Areas announced, we heard that they were trying to move the result sheets to Owerri, but when we demanded an explanation, the man (Ibeawuchi) said he was tired and didn’t feel safe, when nobody was threatening him. At the end, we discovered that he didn’t have the declaration sheet. I wonder where this is taking us. I hope INEC would change this system, because we will resist them if they try it in the next election.”