Posted by News Express | 17 December 2017 | 2,737 times
What happened during the November 18 election in Anambra State was a shame of the highest order. A combination of highly monetised politicking, arm twisting of several groups, vote buying, ICT compromise, desperation to return at all costs, operation deliver at all costs, vendetta and vindictive election deal, money for hand back for ground style and betrayal at its peak.
The dust is beginning to settle and the public has been regaled with tales of some individuals who has confessed how they produce governors from their guest house, a party stalwart of APC in the state whose report of how some party leaders diverted into their private pockets, cash meant to be dispensed in the field, several agents and stakeholders of APGA caught on camera distributing and collecting PVC s in exchange for cash, open vote buying and haggling of prices, display of thumb printed ballot papers to authenticate that payments made were justified, lamentations by the PDP over the double standard played by their party agents and stakeholders in the field, etc.
Clement Nwankwo, one of the founders of the Civil Liberties Organisation in Nigeria couldn’t have said it much better after monitoring the Anambra election when he said in page 42 of Vanguard Newspaper, November 24, 2017 that: “The election is very disappointing. This is one of the worst elections that have been conducted in Nigeria since 1999. We are very disappointed with the political parties and the candidates who have spent this much money on elections that should really be a show of citizens’ preference of who governs them next. Individuals were being paid from N500 to N5,000. How did it happen, as they approached the voting stations, the voters were usually accosted by the polling agents during which a deal was struck. All the voter needed to do was to after thumb printing the ballot to raise it up for the polling agents to see who would then nod in the affirmative. The affirmative nod was an indication to the party man with the bag of money to pay the voter that he voted correctly. There were even cases of voters being paid as much as N10,000 per vote for the election.”
The Executive Director of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG) in the same report of the Vanguard Newspaper also had this to say: “We observed that in most places visited by our field observers, we noticed that the voting cubicles were placed in the midst of the people thereby compromising the secrecy of the ballot. The security agencies and even polling officials who ordinarily should have ensured decency turned blind eye to the issue”
The Nigeria Bar Association Election Working Group, NBA-EWG, while decrying the trend of vote buying in its report on the election said: “Money played a significant role in the choice of voters during the election. Some of the political actors distributed money to the voters at the precincts of the polling units.”
From the field reports of CLO members in Anambra State scattered across several polling units across the state, it was the same story where the major political parties in the election were distributing money and buying votes during the polls but the ruling party, APGA upped the ante by not only paying for votes but also distributing cooked food and drinks, clothes (wrappers) and raising the price tag to the highest level to purchase like in a typical harvest and bazaar sales.
The APGA perpetrators of this heinous electoral heist included party leaders, agents, landlords, market leaders and even some so called church leaders. It was a coordinated deal in such a way that too much fund was allegedly provided by the incumbent governor that at the shortage of any cash for this sordid deal in any polling booth, only a phone call away and another cash tranche will be made available without fuss in a jiffy.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC is supposed to be the unbiased umpire in any election but we are tempted to conclude that there was insider cooperation in the Anambra election manipulation. From INEC records, a total of 448,771 votes were cast during the election out of 2,064,134 (Two million, sixty four thousand, one hundred and thirty four) registered voters. Total accredited voters during the poll were 457,311 while total votes cast were 448,771 with total valid votes of 422,314 while total invalid or rejected votes were 26,457.
Reconciling the figures there was a shortfall of 8540 accredited voters who never voted whereas INEC said it effectively used the simultaneous accreditation and voting pattern. The discrepancy in this figures casts a pall of doubt in INEC’s transparency more so when there were allegations of preloading some of the card readers with voters cards before the election and the alleged collection of PVCs and their serial numbers from civil servants in the state before the election which were not investigated by the security agencies or probed by INEC.
The Nigeria Electoral Act 2010 as amended criminalised vote buying and not maintaining secrecy doing voting. Section 124 of the Act prescribed a penalty of 12 months imprisonment or maximum fine of N500,000 or both for the offence of Bribery and Conspiracy during election which includes paying money to any other person for bribery at any election or receiving money or gift for voting or to refrain from voting at any election.
The same Electoral Act 2010 in section 125 prescribed a penalty of N100,000 or to imprisonment for a term of 6 months or both for the offence of not maintaining the secrecy of voting at a polling unit or interfering with a voter casting his vote.
It baffles the CLO that not even a single soul was arrested for prosecution over the two glaring offences which characterised the November 18 2017 Anambra guber election which was also a pointer to the fact that the security agencies acted in concert with the government of the day to perpetrate this anomaly.
This situation like we earlier stated is a dangerous precedent which has already endangered the democratic process in Anambra and will likely have a contagious effect in the 2019 general elections across different states in Nigeria. When elections are won through vote buying, the best candidate with a lean purse will eventually be shoved aside while the money bag who may not have tangible positive things to offer will emerge. The situation will entrench mediocrity, bad governance and cash and carry mentality which will have ripple effects with the citizens and the poor masses bearing the big brunt.
This is a clarion call to save Nigeria’s democracy. There is an urgent need for a new orientation towards elections in Nigeria and the church needs to play a critical role in this regard. The people’s loss of faith in the system and in those in political leadership positions has created a situation where people now mortgage their future for a chicken change that may not even cook a pot of soup. This is a clear and present danger which should be addressed and fought like a cancerous ulcer before it consumes all.
If Governor Obiano won convincingly in the hearts of the electorates across the 21 local government areas as announced by INEC, the whole state would have erupted in jubilation. Surprisingly, even the okada riders and the keke operators who had earlier endorsed the governor during the campaign could not jubilate across the state while it was the same with the market women and the various youth bodies.
It was only the various actors who were allegedly mobilised to deliver without stories that actually clicked glasses amongst themselves for a job well done.
Obiano’s victory was like the desperate barren woman who wanted to have children at all costs and eventually bought a baby for a fee with the active connivance of the baby factory merchants after faking pregnancy for some months. While the uninformed public was rejoicing with her that God has actually answered her prayers by proving her a woman, she will be taking all the compliments with stoic calmness and feigned happiness because she and only her collaborators actually knew the whole truth about the procurement and behind the scene deals.
But in all these, Anambra must move on. As a pacesetter state in the South East, it is our wish that Obiano’s second tenure takes the state to the next level. Let it not be winner takes all attitudes but let the second tenure be an all inclusive administration. So many promises were made during the campaigns and the people are watching to know whether it was all a gimmick to sway the people or they will be fulfilled.
It is our hope that the much hyped Anambra Airport City Project really took off in October and would be completed in record time under this second tenure. We saw clips of furnished Agulu Lake Hotel (Golden Tullip) and we hope that before the next swearing in ceremony by March 17 next year, the facility would be commissioned thereby generating jobs and contributing to the state tourism and hospitality industry.
We are also hopeful that the 179 roads said to be ongoing across various communities in the state during the campaigns will be continued to completion. This dry season between now and April next year should be a period of aggressive road construction in so many failed roads in the state. The people are yearning for the roaring bulldozers and dusty haze occasioned by the graders and other earth-moving equipments.
We are also expecting transparency in government dealings, contract awards, prudence and fiscal responsibility which would result in more employment in the civil service, continued payment of workers’ salaries and reduction in the states debt profile.
The next four years of the Obiano administration would either make him a hero or a villain. We pray and wish him the former and not the latter and we also urge the administration to welcome constructive criticisms which will guide it to success. Good Luck to him
•Excerpt from the World Human Rights Day Report of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), South East Zone presented by the Zonal Chairman, Comrade Aloysius Attah, who can be reached via 08035090548, firstname.lastname@example.org
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