“The evil I feared in the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) has befallen me 10 times in the APC (All Progressives Congress),” said Rochas Okorocha as he launched a fierce attack on the leadership of the ruling party.
Mr Okorocha, the outgoing governor of Imo State, was reacting to the controversy trailing the refusal of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare him a senator-elect.
He accused the national chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and other unnamed leaders of the party of working with the electoral commission “to kill his senatorial ambition.”
The governor singled out Festus Okoye, a commissioner in INEC, saying he was being used as the “hatchet man” for the plot.
Mr Okorocha said this at an interaction with journalists Tuesday in Abuja, according to Punch Newspaper.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Okorocha was declared the winner of the Imo West senatorial election. The presiding officer, Francis Ibeawuchi, however, said he was forced to make the declaration under duress.
It is based on that that the electoral commission refused to issue Mr Okorocha a certificate of return.
INEC said it was reviewing the situation but has failed to act two months after issuing other senators-elect their certificates of return and barely 20 days to their inauguration.
The commission remained unperturbed even after Mr Okorocha approached a Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking an order compelling INEC to issue him a certificate of return.
On Tuesday the governor narrated how he wrote an official letter to the commission over the situation.
He said the image of the commission had been “bastardised.”
“The evil I feared in the PDP has befallen me 10 times in the APC. Last week, I wrote a letter to INEC for the first time, informing them of their wrongdoings and illegal actions to withhold my certificate on mere allegation of duress which was never founded, neither was there any committee set up to investigate the matter.
“So, INEC on its own believed the reports of the Returning Officer without investigating the authenticity of the accusation. So, there was no issue of fair hearing at all.
“What is important here is that INEC does not have the power to withhold the certificate of return, having declared the result.
“I believe the INEC chairman is up to a game with the chairman of the APC, who is being used to frustrate my coming to the Senate, and this is politically motivated. I’ve given INEC enough time to correct itself and do the needful and issue me my certificate of return but to no avail.
“Many things have happened so far and these should be of concern to everyone. INEC that made the submission to the tribunal has gone back, requesting to withdraw it because the submission was defending its declaration. But because the submission seems to be in my favour, they have said they want to withdraw the affidavit which is out of time.
“The withdrawal was made by one of their members of staff who said that Festus Okoye, a commissioner in INEC, had threatened to sack him if he did not withdraw it. So, there is a huge threat going on in INEC.
“Festus Okoye is presently being used as the hatchet man; he has gone to the tribunal in Imo asking for the withdrawal of the affidavit that has been filed defending the APC.
“I wonder what they want to do with the certificate, if they don’t give it to me, who will they give it to?
“Maybe they will give it to Festus Okoye because he is from my senatorial district but what they are doing is presenting INEC as a lying organisation and that is dangerous for our democracy because, as it stands right now, the image of INEC is bastardised.
“What it means is that tomorrow somebody can withhold the certificate of return of anybody because you don’t like his face, because you feel that he wants to politically challenge you in future.
“If you know the President (Buhari) well, you will know that he will never intervene as he will only keep mute. But whether President Buhari speaks or not, INEC should do the right thing by giving me my certificate of return.”
Okorocha’s Trouble with APC
Mr Okorocha’s ambition of naming his successor has been the bane of his conflict with the APC. He has been at daggers head with Mr Oshiomhole, the chairman of the party.
Apart from not being recognised as a senator-elect, Mr Okorocha’s party, APC, suspended him from the party two days after Mr Buhari was announced the winner of the February 23 Presidential polls.
The governor was suspended for anti-party activities after he supported the governorship candidate of another party, Uche Nwosu of Action Alliance, against Hope Uzodinma of the APC. Both candidates, however, lost to Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP.
The APC had said it cannot intervene on behalf of Mr Okorocha in the senatorial seat saga, because the outgoing Imo governor is still serving his suspension from the party.