The many surprises of Anambra election

Posted by Emma Elekwa, Awka | 26 November 2017 | 2,307 times

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•Voters on the queue during the November 18, 2017 Anambra governorship election

The November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State must have come and gone, but the memories of the exercise would continue to be fresh in the minds of both the residents of the state and visitors alike for a long time.

The reason for this is not far-fetched; there were several unique attributes that characterized the exercise which came to many as surprise packages.

The first of such surprises was the unprecedented and staggering number of political parties and candidates that ran for the election. The keenly contested exercise recorded a total of 37 parties, which the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said was the largest in the history of elections in Nigeria.

Professor Mohmoud Yakub, another major mind blowing quality that distinguished the election was the number of voters whose names were captured in INEC register. According to the figure released by the electoral umpire, over two million voters were registered for the election.

Probably topmost on the list of factors that sprang surprises in the election was the palpable tension and apprehension that characterised the exercise. Even before the date of the election was announced by INEC for the conduct of the election, tension was already high that the exercise would be marred by one form of violence or another.

Apart from the ugly experiences of previous elections conducted in the state, the several threats from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to boycott the election for obvious reasons increased the already heated polity.

The threats which later changed from boycott to sit-at-home before later graduating to vote-and-die few days to the election raised the bar of the tensed environment the more.

The pro-Biafra group, through its spokesperson Emma Powerful, had warned residents to steer clear of any activity related to the election or have themselves to blame.

It said the purported bomb blast experienced during the local government election in Enugu state can at best be described as a child’s play compared to what would be experienced during the Anambra governorship election.

“What happened in Enugu is nothing compared to the seismic shock the corrupt political establishment in Nigeria will receive in Anambra State come November 18.

“On that day, we will demonstrate our divine mandate to lead the children of God out of the darkness Nigeria into the light of eternal freedom in Biafra.

“There will be no more usual charade called elections, which is more or less a government sanctioned festival of rigging, electoral fraud, political thuggery, mayhem and criminality.

“As the number one defender of the interest of all the people of Biafra, IPOB will continue to resist the criminality and electoral fraud of the Nigerian State until sanity is restored in our land through a United Nations supervised referendum. 

“The people of Enugu have shown us the way. It is now up to Biafrans in the targeted and upcoming Anambra State Gubernatorial elections to finish off the work on the 18th November 2017.

“Everywhere in Anambra State will be shut down on that fateful day to let the world know that we Biafrans are ready to stand as a nation of free people under Almighty God,” the group said.

These threats which were being issued almost on daily basis, and remained not only a source of worry to the residents and visitors to the state, but also caused sleepless nights to the security operatives in the state.

While many residents of the state had their minds made up not to be involved in the voting process despite several assurances from the security operatives, the police and other security agencies refused to take the threats with kid gloves as they left no stone unturned in ensuring that the pro-Biafran group did not make good their threats.

Several meetings were held by security personnel and other stakeholders in the election, with various strategies explored towards ensuring that the elections was not marred by any form of violence.

Among the strategies considered by the police was the massive deployment of a total number of 26,000 policemen for the election. Whether this staggering figure was eventually deployed to the state for the exercise was not the issue; but the truth remained that the number on its own increased the already tensed milieu.

According to the submission of one of the election observers, Civil Society Organizations Situation Room, which participated in the election, security concerns ahead of the election prompted fears of massive violence, voter apathy and low turnout.

The group said although the widespread fear of over-policing of the elections by the security services was not manifest, the weakness of the deployment plan of the Nigeria Police particularly in the rural areas was evident.

Apart from the massive deployment of policemen for the exercise, the number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other observer groups (local and international) that trouped into the state just for the sake of monitoring the election was amazing. At the last count, no fewer than 100 CSOs participated in the exercise.

Fortunately and unfortunately, virtually all these groups, including the security agencies were somewhat ‘disappointed’ as the Election Day proper turned out to be entirely different from their expectations.

The major surprise came from the disappointment from the IPOB who did not match their threats with actions ultimately. Contrary to their boycott threat followed by the sit-at-home order which later graduated to vote-and-die threat, the electorate did not only come out in their large numbers to exercise their franchise, but that they did in an environment devoid of any form of violence or intimidation.

Besides, they did not hurriedly leave the polling units immediately after casting their votes, but stayed back and patiently waited to ensure their votes counted.

The entire state, including the commercial city of Onitsha which could be termed the headquarters of the pro-Biafran group, experienced a high degree of decorum as all the roads and streets in the state were deserted while the election lasted.

Again, the prediction that the election would be manipulated through federal might in favour of the ruling APC did not come to pass as President Muhammadu Buhari disappointed both the party flag-bearer and his numerous fans by giving INEC the free hand to operate.

 “Any person who witnessed the mammoth crowd at the Alex Ekwueme square the day Buhari visited the state for the APC final rally would conclude that the election had already been won by the APC,” Okey Obeta, a journalist said.

Besides is the Anambra’s outstanding record of having inconclusive elections in the past, a development that made those who came from outside to monitor the exercise to make provision for extra days in preparation for re-run.

Cynthia Eleke, an election observer said she had to book for a five day hotel accommodation in the state capital with the mind-set that the election would not end at first ballot.

“I was surprised when the results started trickling in with the APGA winning most of the wards with a large margin. I had to quickly start making necessary readjustment to leave the following day,” she said.

Another major distinguishing factor that also came as a surprise to many was the peaceful conduct of the election as well as the outcome of the election results, which many said, was the first of its kind and a complete sharp departure of the Anambra politics.

“For a candidate to sweep the entire local government areas of the state in an election contested by 37 candidates was indeed a big surprise. This is the first time this is happening in this state and I doubt if it had happened anywhere in the country,” Udemezue Policap, a political analyst said.

Above all the surprises was the speed at which the other major candidates in the election quickly conceded defeat and went further to congratulate the winner, pledging not to head to court to contest the results. This of course is contrary to what was obtainable in the Anambra politics.

While Tony Nwoye of the APC that came second in the contest said he would not contest the results of the election in law court, but would leave the whole thing to God, Oseloka Obaze of PDP, who trailed behind, on his part, said he had put everything behind him.

He said although he had earlier issued a statement rejecting the result soon after it was released, he had no intention of dragging the process any further, adding that it would be unwise to belabour the state with unnecessary and prolonged litigation.

No doubt, among the groups of people who would be disappointed with these decisions by the defeated candidates would be the lawyers who had already got their documents dusted to commence work at the already set up tribunal. (Daily Trust)

Source: News Express

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