Despite declaring Rochas Okorocha, the current governor of Imo state as the winner of Saturday’s Imo West senate election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), now says it is currently reviewing several petitions and concerns that have been raised surrounding his victory.
Backstory: Okorocha’s win was a contentious one as the election was marked by ireegularities and malpractices especially in the governor’s local government area. Nigerians were shocked when the Returning Officer for the district, Prof. Innocent Ibeawuchi, accused the governor of holding him hostage and strong-arming him into making a false declaration, a claim the governor out rightly denied. In addition, hundreds of women from Okorocha’s senatorial district have protested his win.
INEC’s response according to the Imo state INEC Voters Education Officer, Adedoyin Sunday: “INEC will continue to maintain its neutrality. We have received a lot of petitions and we are looking into it. INEC will soon make a pronouncement on the matter and you will be communicated. What I assure you is that INEC has remained neutral and will continue to be.”
Women Protest Okorocha’s Win: The women took their protest both to the INEC office as well as the Army Barracks, insisting that the original election result was not what INEC announced. Led by Mrs. Ihejiagwa Oby, the women pleaded with the Nigerian military not to interfere in the elections.
Army Response via its spokesman, H.I Eemreuwa: “We have seen your petition, but it is good that when you want to do this kind of thing, you inform us. You can go to INEC office and protest. The Army is neutral, we are not politicians.”
Even the governorship candidate of Okorocha’s party, the APC, Hope Uzodinma wants INEC to investigate: “The allegations against the incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha should be taken seriously in the interest of democracy and Imo State. INEC and security agencies should carry out a proper investigation into all the allegations against Okorocha. They shouldn’t be swept under the carpet because our party does not condone such illegalities he was accused of perpetrating,” he said.
It should be pointed out that the governor is not backing the APC candidate in the election, but is backing his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, who is running under the Action Alliance (AA) party.
Why it may not matter: INEC may investigate, but its conclusion may not matter. Promising to investigate seems like the kind of response you give to protesters to get them off your back. Also, once a candidate has been announced as winner, it is only a competent court that can displace him. So INEC technically has no power to act against Okorocha. The only condition under which INEC’s investigation may matter is if it agrees that the election was not credible and present the evidence against the governor at the tribunal.