Ben Ezechime, Enugu
Ahead of the scheduled rerun election in Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency of Enugu State on Saturday February 3, tension has heightened in the affected areas.
A check revealed that there is a high-level Security deployment, particularly in parts of Enugu Ezike headquarters of Igboeze North with heavily armed Army personnel, Police, Civil defense, Vigilantes amongst others stationed in strategic areas.
It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed the by-election in line with the directive of the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos.
The Court had nullified the election of Mr Dennis Agbo of Labour Party (LP) in an appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Dr. Oby Ajih, and mandated INEC to conduct a fresh election for all political parties involved within 90 days.
The Appeal Court ordered a re-run in 176 polling units out of 532 polling units, which is less than 30 per cent of the polling units in the constituency.
Though the polling units for the rerun is less than 30 per cent of the entire polling units in the constituency, the palpable tension, especially in Igboeze North where the bulk of the rerun is taking place is quite understandable as the two leading candidates, the incumbent, Agbo of LP and Mr Simon Atigwe of PDP, are both from Enugu Ezike.
A source from Ozzi community where a rerun is taking place said that the high presence of security personnel in Enugu Ezike was to forestall a breakdown of law and order and to deal with those who are planning to cause trouble especially if the election is not going their way.
“You know we have very high profile politicians here in Enugu Ezike and prior to the 2023 election these politicians were suspected to have been behind the mayhem unleashed on the people of the area; so, in retaliation the people decided to vote them out.
“But after the election, having lost the election woefully the boys were abandoned and some of them surrendered but now there is a window of opportunity to come back, but the authorities are not giving up,” he said.
In a telephone interview, a chieftain of LP in Igboeze North, Mr Ignatius Odo, said the party was ready to reclaim it’s mandate.
“We are ready to take back our mandate, no matter the intimidation and harassment,” he said.
Similarly, a top PDP chieftain, who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the party was ready to take back the Federal constituency from Labour party.
“They are impostors coming from no where to take what naturally belongs to us, we are collecting it back, whether they like it or not,” he said.
A voter, Mrs Lauretta Ugwuanyi from Ozzi community where rerun is scheduled to hold, said she was already scared of coming out to vote on Saturday.
“I am scared, look at soldiers, Police neighbourhood watch and civil defense everywhere, it is scary,” she said.
In Udenu Local Government Area there is less tension as only about 41 polling boots are involved.
The involvement of former Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi from Orba area where most of the rerun are scheduled and Obollo Eke area where the incumbent House of Assembly member, Solomon Onah hails from makes that of Udenu less volatile.
Mr Solomon Ugwueze, a teacher from Orba said that most people were not interested in the rerun election.
“Which election are you talking about; many people here are not even aware of it.
“People are no longer interested in INEC election, personally, I am not going to waste my time because after voting they will give to whomsoever they like, ” Ugwueze said.