By EmekaÂ Ezenwaka
A RECENT visit to Anambra State confirmed that the state is caught in the web of another election fever. Available spaces in the state capital – walls, signboards, trees and open spaces -have been covered with campaign posters of many gubernatorial candidates jostling to take a shot at the Government House, Awka, where presently Governor Peter Obi is at the helm of affairs. The villages also have a fair share of these posters.
The aspirants include men and women, but more men than women. They include Dr. Chris Ngige of AC, Senator Annie Okonkwo of PDP, Chief Nicholas Ukachukwu of PDP, Prof Ilochi Okafor of PDP and Njideka Anyadike of ADC. Others are Kenneth Odidika, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, Mike Ejezie, Emeka Etiaba and Kodilichukwu Okelekwe.
The men include those that have tested power before and those who felt that outside governorship position, there is nothing else for them to vie for politically. They do not know that beside the governorship seat that one can be a good politician as a member of the state legislature or National Assembly. Does it occur to them that one can also start his political career at the council level?
If the number of posters is anything to go buy, it then shows that the people of the state are politically alive and have been conscientised by Obiâ€™s entry and performance in governance so far.Â That many people have, indeed, come out with their posters is an indication that the political space is no longer controlled by the few moneybags who pass as political godfathers in the state. Many thanks to the emergence of Obi and his good brand of politics, devoid of the rancour and indecorum of the past.
While all the political parties in Anambra State are strategising for the forthcoming gubernatorial election in the state come 2010, not much is being heard from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in relation to its preparation for the impending poll.
Only the State INEC has said that over 15,000 staff will be deployed from other states to Anambra State ahead of the 2010 governorship election. Although there are 52 registered political parties in the country, only about six are said to have physical presence in Awka and other parts of the state.
But the battle royale will be a contest between the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate and the incumbent governor, Peter Obi and others. Of all the political parties, only APGA is on the ground in the state and judging by the level of local, national and international support that came the way of Obi after his three-year sterling performance in the state, APGA would likely carry the day. It has a lot of followership in the state. It enjoys the support of all and sundry, including youths, elders, clergy, market women and politicians. Besides, it is a grassroots party with mass appeal.
All the known names in Anambra State like Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Prof. Laz Ekwueme, Prof. Chukwuemeka Ike, Prof. Dora Akunyili, Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and numerous others have lauded Obiâ€™s achievements so far and urged Anambra people to give him their total support. There is no doubt that all this would significantly impact on the election and sway it in favour of Obi and his party.
But it is, indeed, worrisome that INEC national body has not said anything concerning the Anambra election. Instead, it has been talking about its preparations for the 2011 general elections and the need for staggered elections. This worry became necessary in view of the recent happenings in Ekiti re-run governorship polls where INECÂ performed below expectations.
We want the leadership of INEC to seriously address its mind to the importance of Anambra election.
With 52 registered political parties in the country, there is bound to be logistic problems for INEC. Let INEC begin its preparations early enough to ensure that the election actually take place in all the wards and local governments in the state. There should never be intimidation of the electorates by security agents and party thugs.
To ensure that Anambra State gubernatorial election is not rigged, we suggest that INEC should adopt the open-secret ballot system made popular by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu of June 12, 1993 election fame. We want the electorate to know the results of the election at the polling booths as was the case in 1993. Announcing the results at the collation centres gives room for rigging.
INEC should break its silence on Anambra 2010 and tell Nigerians how it is going to conduct a hitch-free election in the state.
Mr. Ezenwaka , a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos.