In the lead-up to the much-anticipated governorship election in Imo State, a peace meeting organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) turned chaotic, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the electoral process. The meeting, held in Owerri, the state capital, took a tumultuous turn when the INEC National Commissioner representing the South-East, Kenneth Ukeagu, ordered journalists to switch off their cameras and gadgets. This directive was met with strong opposition from members of the Labour Party and the Peoples Democratic Party, leading to a heated exchange of words and a hasty departure of traditional rulers and party leaders from the venue.
Amidst this turmoil, the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress issued a directive for workers in Imo State to commence a strike, protesting against Governor Hope Uzodimma’s bid for a second term. The impending strike raised concerns about the election’s logistics, as the shutdown of public facilities could impede the distribution of materials by INEC.
During the peace meeting, opposition parties vehemently demanded the removal of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Sylvia Agu, accusing her of bias and collusion with the ruling party. The opposition parties’ frustration reached a boiling point, leading to a walkout by the governorship candidates, who insisted on the immediate redeployment of Agu. The controversy surrounding Agu’s role further intensified, with allegations of her familial ties to an APC chieftain, raising questions about her impartiality.
In response to these developments, INEC stood firm, stating that there was insufficient evidence to warrant Agu’s transfer. This decision was met with criticism from opposition parties, who accused INEC of compromising the integrity of the electoral process. Labour leaders warned that retaining Agu in her position could lead to public unrest and emphasized the importance of adhering to established protocols for fairness and equity.
As tensions continued to escalate, the police and other security agencies heightened their preparations for the election, deploying Deputy Inspectors-General of Police and various security equipment to ensure a smooth and secure electoral process. However, concerns remained about the potential for violence and disruptions, given the volatile situation in the state.
In a bid to bolster security, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps announced plans to deploy over 22,000 officers to Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi states for the election. Despite these security measures, apprehension loomed over the possibility of unrest, making the outcome of the election unpredictable.
With the election just around the corner, Imo State found itself at a crossroads, grappling with political unrest, labor strikes, and heightened security concerns. The peaceful conduct of the election hung in the balance, with stakeholders anxiously awaiting the unfolding events that would shape the state’s political landscape.