The governor of Imo State, Mr. Rochas Okorocha has said that he was yet to fathom out why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) continued to withhold his certificates of return after all the other senators elected on February 23 presidential and national assembly elections had received theirs.
The electoral body, it would be recalled, had decided not to present him with a certificate for allegedly coercing an electoral official to return him forcefully as senator-elect.
The returning officer for Imo West senatorial election, Prof. Innocent Ibeawuchi, had alleged that he was forced by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate to declare Okorocha the winner of the poll.
According to the result, Okorocha polled 97,762 votes to win the election ahead of the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jones Onyereri who got 68,117 and the flag bearer of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Mr. Osita Izunaso who received 30,084 votes.
Ibeawuchi alleged that he was held hostage from 7pm on Sunday, 24 till 11am on Monday, February 25.
But Okorocha, while addressing a press conference accused INEC of allowing itself to be used by partisans who are afraid of his future political ambition in the country.
He also said some unnamed forces were trying to stop him from making an input into those who will become principal members of the national assembly as well as the politics of 2023 presidency.
“I am sure I was conspicuously absent from the certificates issuance ceremony. I was not there because INEC had removed my name from the list of senators having been declared the winner by the zonal returning officer.
So, I am actually waiting to hear why INEC struck my name out. I think probably, INEC must be trying to do something special because I understand once results have been declared and returns made then you are bound to be issued a certificate of return but to have exempted me, I am in darkness as to what was the reason why I was not invited to collect my certificate of return. Maybe, INEC would want to organize a special programme for me to hand over this certificate of return to me because clearly, I won and it was a peaceful election, the best you can ever think of.
“I am told from the grapevine that it was because of duress. In other words, somebody must have coerced the returning officer to do what he was not supposed to do but here again I do not understand what that means because there was nothing of such. How can you put somebody under duress to declare you the winner of an election that you have already won?
“And look, they are not saying that we did not win. They are not saying that the other man won. So, I do not understand why we should be the people forcing someone to do something wrong to claim victory. It is not true but I must let the world understand that this is a game that is being played. The Resident Electoral Commissioner REC in Imo state is playing a script and the script is so funny, it is so cruel and crude actually and they are executing it in a funny way.
“I understand that people are beginning to fight a war of the future now when we are not even yet there and I am surprised that INEC is being used as an instrument for those who find it politically difficult to achieve what they want to do.
“The idea is that, do not give Rochas a certificate; you must slow him down until after they have elected the presiding officers, then you can let him come in, so that he does not become anything and make sure that his candidate for governor does not win and then make sure that he is crippled politically before 2023. That is what is happening and it is very childish.
I do not see why somebody can be thinking that way and these are people that earned my respect and they are behaving in that manner. So, I will advise INEC to do the right thing, to release my certificate so that I can celebrate as others are celebrating,” he stated.