Anambra State, fondly called the Light of the Nation, is set to witness the election of a new governor come next Saturday, November 18, 2017. The Independent National Electoral Commission had on February 23rolled out the timetable for this coming election. That 10-month advance notice is now down to 72 hours before the D-Day. As they say, it’s a day that is not set that does not come.
What then will happen on Saturday? Will the over two million registered Anambra voters heed the call of Indigenous People of Biafra and boycott the election or will they turn out en masse to the polls? Will the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano retain his coveted seat as the number one citizen in the state or will he be dethroned? Will the election be concluded on the first ballot or will it be inconclusive? Will the polls be peaceful and credible or will there be violence and electoral heists? I am not Nostradamus, the man who saw tomorrow. However, I will appeal to the good people of Anambra to allow for a peaceful, credible and successful election that will be exemplary.
Anambra is believed to be arguably the state with the highest number of billionaires in Nigeria. The state, renowned for its commerce and industry, is also the home state of political heavyweights like the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; former Vice President Alex Ekwueme; first Senate President of Nigeria, Nwafor Orizu, former Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; literary icons like Prof. Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwensi, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Philip Emegwali, Prof. Dora Akunyili and Prof. Chike Obi; a former Secretary General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; business moguls like Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, who was the first Nigerian millionaire and first president of the Nigerian Stock Exchange and also that of highlife musician, Chief Osita Osadebe.
According to INEC, Anambra State is made up of 21 Local Government Areas, 326 Registration Areas (Wards), 4,608 Polling Units, while 2, 158, 171 registered voters are expected to participate in the election. About 23,000 ad hoc staff will be deployed to conduct the election while the Nigeria Police is deploying about 26,000 personnel to maintain law and order during the polls. Since the announcement of the election date, a lot of activities have been undertaken by different stakeholders.
On the part of INEC, the commission has conducted voter education, recruitment and training of election workers, monitoring of the conduct of political party primaries, conduct of Continuous Voter Registration exercise, spearheading the meeting of Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, accreditation of election observers, party agents, and journalists, meeting with different stakeholders like the political parties, CSOs and the media as well as procurement of both sensitive and non-sensitive election materials. The CSOs working on election have observed the CVR exercise including distribution of Permanent Voter Cards and transfer of voter registration details on request by voters. The CSOs have also been grossly involved in the conduct of Security Threat Assessment, Voter Education as well as recruitment and registration of election observers with INEC. They have also partnered the media to conduct debates for some of the frontline candidates in the election. On the part of security agencies, they have been doing mapping of flashpoints and hotspots, profiling and deployment of personnel for election security.
Now, all seems set for a hitch free governorship election in Anambra State come Saturday. Unfortunately, IPOB over the weekend issued conflicting orders to Ndi Anambra. The first was to threaten anyone who comes out to vote on Saturdaywith death. This initial hard line stance was later moderated to call for a total boycott by the voters. This development is very disheartening. It is heart-rending because in the last two governorship elections in the state, voter turnout had not been impressive. In 2010, the turnout was a mere 17 per cent of the total registered voters while in 2013 when the last poll was held, the voter turnout was 24 per cent. That happened when there was no subtle threat by IPOB. What will now happen with IPOB’s order of mass boycott?
It is important for Ndi Anambra to know that in as much as voting is not compulsory in Nigeria, it is their inalienable right to exercise their franchise. They should not be arm-chair critics. This is the time to either reward the incumbent governor with a second term in office, if he has governed well or vote him out of office if he has misruled them. Interestingly, Anambra is making history next Saturday by fielding the highest number of candidates in any election since Nigeria started electoral democracy in 1922. There are 37 candidates vying for the governorship position. Of these 37, five political parties are fielding female governorship candidates while eight other political parties are having female deputy governorship candidates. In truth, these 37 candidates are made up of contenders and pretenders. In actual fact, going by popularity, visibility and campaign expenditure, there are just about five serious contenders and these were the ones that featured in the CSO-led political debate moderated by Channels Television last Sunday, November 12. They are the candidates of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, All Progressives Congress, United Progressive Party, Peoples Democratic Party, and the Progressive People’s Alliance.
As the Election Day approaches and campaign endstomorrow, political parties and candidates contesting the election should eschew malicious and unfounded rumor peddling. The fake news peddled by a party chieftain last week that two lorry loads of sensitive election materials were moved to a hotel in Awka should be disregarded and withdrawn by the person who made the unsubstantiated allegation. INEC needs the support of all the election stakeholders to guarantee and deliver peaceful and incredible election. Poll workers must resist the temptation of being financially induced to perpetrate electoral fraud by politicians. Contestants and their supporters must also eschew violence before, during and after the election. Security agents on election duty must be very professional. They should stick to their duty of providing election security. Political parties must join INEC and the CSOs to mobilise voters to come out and vote. The electorate too must conduct themselves in an orderly manner at the Polling Units. Those who have no Permanent Voter Cards or not willing to vote should not bother coming to the precinct of the PU. Party agents too must ensure orderly behaviour at their Polling Units while accredited journalists should be factual and embrace conflict sensitive reportage. May the best candidate win!
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