Today in Abuja, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued a certificate of return to Orji Kalu, a former governor of Abia State, as the senator-elect for Abia North senatorial district. He is the only All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator-Elect from the South East of the country. But he ought not to have been declared in the first place because based on the guidelines for declaration of winners, the election in Abia North was inconclusive.
The results show that Kalu got 31,201 votes, while Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is the incumbent, scored 20,801 votes. The number of cancelled votes was 38,526 votes, which is more than the 10,400 difference between the two men. That is enough reason to declare the election inconclusive, as has been the case in several other elections in this cycle including governorship polls in six states. Even in some senate races like Ondo South where the cancelled votes amounted to 28,047 against the difference between the two men of 27,036 (PDP’s Nicholas Tofowomo got 79,029, while APC’s Yele Omogunwa got 51,993 votes), the election was declared inconclusive.
INEC’s response: In an interview with Premium Times newspaper, INEC admitted that it goofed. However its spokesman, Festus Okoye, said that the commission is “helpless” to rectify the problem because a winner has already been declared for the election and once that is done, the commission cannot change it unless a tribunal pronounces otherwise.
The only exception: INEC said that it made an exception in Imo West senatorial district where Rochas Okorocha was declared as winner initially, but INEC subsequently overturned it because the returning officer said he was forced to make the announcement. However that was not the case in Abia North, so nothing could be done.
Bottom Line: Yet another example of INEC’s inconsistency and incompetence in the conduct of the 2019 election. Uneven and arbitrary application of the laws negatively affects the credibility of an already poorly perceived election. The fact that most of the results declared as inconclusive have the PDP leading while in this case where the APC was leading, the law was not applied, feeds into the narrative pushed by some that INEC has been partial towards the ruling party.