“My name is Ibeabuchi Izuchukwu Innocent, a professor at the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), the returning officer for Imo West (Orlu) senatorial zone”, the official said.
“My area commander; my P.Os; the party agents here present; members of the press; ladies and gentlemen.
“I have been held hostage here for days so I’m trying to ease off and take my life home back to my children and for the sake of that I am calling these results under duress,” the returning officer said.
Sunday night’s melodrama snowballed into a full-blown controversy Monday morning when the returning officer for Imo West Senatorial District, Innocent Ibeabuchi, said he was “detained at the centre for days.”
He said this while announcing the results of the senatorial election for the zone.
Before reeling out figures at the district collation centre in the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) Office in Orlu, Mr Ibeabuchi, a professor, said he was being held “under duress” to announce the results.
He then reeled out the results.
After announcing nine out of 12 local government areas that made up the zone, Mr Ibeabuchi paused. The time was 9:45 p.m Sunday.
Three LGA results were being awaited to finalise results for Imo west district. They are Oru West, Ugwuta and Orlu.
The outgoing governor of the state, Rocha Okorocha who ran under the All Progressives Congress (APC) won in eight of the nine local governments announced earlier.
Mr Ibeabuchi said he received an urgent call from the state’s Resident Electoral Commission (REC), Francis Ezeonu, to return to Owerri and continue the process Monday morning.
But Mr Okorocha’s supporters insisted the returning officer “must complete” the announcement, “otherwise, he is not going anywhere.”
They blocked the professor from leaving the building. They refused to yield even when police officers intervened.
For hours, the APC agents who initially hauled verbal threats at the returning officer resorted to pleading. But Mr Ibeabuchi stuck to his guns.
He remained unmoved even after Mr Okorocha and his closest rival, Jones Onyeriri of the Peoples Democratic Party visited the centre at different intervals Monday morning.
Mr Ibeabuchi would later yield and declared Mr Okorocha winner of the election. He said the governor polled 97,762 votes while Mr Onyeriri returned second with 63,117 votes.
Mr Okorocha’s old rival and a former senator, Osita Izunaso, came third with 30,932 votes.