*LEPAN’s positions enunciated
On the 18th of November, 2017 a total of 2,158,171 registered voters in Anambra state will troop out in their numbers to elect their Governor. This is not an ordinary election as a lot of people might have thought.
Depending on the side one is, the election will provide a litmus test for the popularity and programmes of the incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, who is seeking a re-election. Also, other candidates, like Dr. Tony Nwoye; Chief Oseloka Obaze; and Chief Osita Chidoka, will be testing their popularities in their resolve to unseat Obiano.
The contestants appear headed for a showdown as each of them talks tough and unleashes campaign promises to sway voters to his side. And, in a general election as this, sleep has become a luxury to the candidates and their avowed supporters, hence the heightened political activities – rallies, meetings, visitations – in different communities and all the 21 local government areas in the state.
How the candidates were selected: Since there is/are no provisions for write-in votes or “independent” candidacy in the Electoral Act or the Nigerian Constitution guiding this election, candidates must be sponsored by registered political parties.
Also, under the Electoral Act, the only recognised means of selecting candidates for elective offices is through a direct party primary. This provision was complied with by all parties in varying degrees. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) adopted Willie Obiano, the incumbent governor; the All Progressives Congress (APC) selected Dr. Tony Nwoye; the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) endorsed Chief Oseloka Obaze; while the United Peoples Party (UPP) gave its nod to Chief Osita Chidoka.
The primaries, themselves were not rancour-free. Losing candidates in all the parties cried foul of the major parties’ primaries.
In the APC, Senator Andy Uba, one of the contestants rejected the result on the grounds that the primaries were rigged in favour of Nwoye. Senator Uba has since gone ahead to endorse the APGA candidate.
In the PDP, all the co-contestants alleged that the primary was doctored to favour Mr. Obaze. They also alleged that delegates that voted in the primary were not the authentic delegates of the party. Some of the PDP contestants even withdrew from the race before the conduct of the exercise citing irregularities, fraud and greed exhibited by former governor Peter Obi through the imposition of his choice candidate Obaze on other contestants. It was reported that one of the contestants, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, went on air on a national TV station to vent his anger on the process that brought Obaze as the flag bearer of the party. That action may have forced the party to suspend Ifeanyi Ubah.
Though, there were few reports of rigging in the APGA and UPP primaries, the case of the former may be due to the fact that the sitting governor also in the race hence, little contest in the primaries. The latter may be due to the fact that the party is relatively new.
The Godfathers: The godfather issue in Anambra politics has refused to fade away in this campaign. This time, both candidates Obaze of the PDP and Nwoye of the APC, have come under public scrutiny for alleged sponsorship by godfathers. Fingers point to business magnate, Chief Arthur Eze, as the sponsor of Nwoye. Chief Eze has been physically present in almost all APC campaigns and mounting the podium to speak in his favour.
Also, the immediate past Governor Peter Obi has been tipped as the new godfather and sponsor of Obaze.
INEC’s preparedness: The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission is fully prepared to conduct a free and fair gubernatorial election in the state. In one of his interviews with the media, he said “the people of Anambra will determine who their next governor will be by 18th November”.
A total of 6,200 card readers would be deployed for the exercise according to INEC. The Chairman has also assured the public that the functionality of 5,200 card readers was tested and that INEC was satisfied with the result. “The remaining 1,000 smart card readers will be tested this week,” Yakubu said.
So far, there are no court injunctions stopping or preventing INEC from conducting the election which, in our immediate interpretation, means the electoral body has ticked all the right boxes. This negates what appears to be the norm in the state where elections results were nullified over pre-election issues INEC had failed to resolve.
The greatest worry in the minds of some of us is in the area of voter education. On the 3rd of November, the League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) took it upon itself to mobilise and sensitise the Anambra youths on the need to turn out in large numbers to vote for candidates of their choice.
INEC said that as part of the preparation for the election, no fewer than 90,000 new voters were registered in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration in the state and added to existing number. It pledged that all newly-registered voters in the state would be issued their Permanent Voter Card (PVC) before the election.
The LEPAN’s #1Vote initiate was taken around the campus of the Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University (formerly Anambra State University) in her bid to get the youths to participate in the election. Our team observed a noticeable apathy during the five-day tour of the state among the youths especially.
The Youths: Youth inclusion in the political process is essential, as nearly 40% of voters in the state are between the ages of 18 and 40. Youth representation appears to be lacking in civil society and among political parties. Young Anambrarians were seen attending party rallies, participating as campaign staff and volunteers on social media, but whether these will serve as an inducement for them to vote is another matter altogether. Yet, few candidates are under the age of 40 and political apathy among youth remains significant and frightening.
Conclusion: While we chose to remain positive about INEC’s preparedness for the 18th November election and among other things, we are of the considered opinion that the electoral body can still work with the key stakeholders like the political parties and civil societies to come up with an appropriate framework for a peaceful, free and fair election in these few days leading to the election. The recent protests by some youths in the state on the allegation that one of the candidates intends to rig the election should be watched carefully by all. The issues of youth participation and engagement in politics, independent candidacy, money politics, Godfatherism, and election rigging are still critical issues to be tested in the forthcoming Anambra election.
Chukwudi Anyanwuocha Olalekan W. Adigun
(President) (Programme Officer)