By Kunle Oaytomi
THE people of Anambra State will go to the polls on Feb 6 in what everybody fears would be a crucial electoral test for Nigeriaâ€™s democracy. That by itself puts Anambra State on the spot. Even before this, that state has been a spectacle for many positive and negative reasons.
In the entire Igbo land, and spanning through the history of its political and social evolution, people from that state have dominated the environment intellectually, politically, economically, and unfortunately, in practically most dimensions of negativities. The best Igbo minds donated to the â€œNigeria Projectâ€ are about 70% from Anambra State.
When we talk of wealthy businessmen and women in Igbo land, over 60% of them are Anambraians. A combination of all these produce the politicians from that state, and they also constitute the â€œmoversâ€ and â€œshakersâ€ of the political class in Nigeria from the Igbo component.
Their effect, or better still their influence on the direction of Nigeriaâ€™s politics and democratic practice is enormous starting from the Zik of Africa to the Emeka Anyaoku of the Commonwealth, and the rest of them from Asika to Ekwueme, Ezeife, Ngige, Obi and the inimitable Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, to mention just a few.
But in spite of this overflowing of â€œStarsâ€, the state has not been able to get its act right since it was created. Worst still, governance in that small area of Igbo land has been anything but exemplary. The magnitude of failure on the part of its intellectual and political leadership to harness the human and economic resources of the state for significant development has left a lot of people wondering what really is wrong in Anambra State.
The level of violence in and out of political life is worrying. But the political aspect leaves much to be desired. I do not know if there is anyone out there who is not â€œsuper comfortableâ€ that can effectively get involve in politics in Anambra.
So, when you look at politics in that state, most of what you see are multi-billionaires and supra-millionaires, the majority of them exceedingly well educated. However the face of politics in Anambra is so negative and violent that enormous financial resources which should have been invested in developing the state and its citizens are being deployed for the desperate political struggle for power by its otherwise intelligent and rich politicians.
And we are all witnesses to the negative consequences of this irrational disposition of the rich and powerful on the weak and struggling citizens of Anambra State.
It is against this backdrop that we approach the coming election of February to determine who takes charge of governance in the state. It isnâ€™t because a civilised political atmosphere prevails in Anambra that most people are standing on edge over the possible outcome of the polls. On the contrary, every one is scared that there is cause for concern because of the violence which is daily escalating in the state.
Besides, (and this is critical for the future of the countryâ€™s democracy), there is no way of guaranteeing that the polls in Anambra will be free, fair and credible, owing to the contending forces engaged in the exercise.
The politicians are deploying resources as if they are going to war. (At anytime, is it anything less than war in Anambra?) But the question this time around is, war for what purpose, in whose interest? If it is about the people (as politician here in Nigeria and elsewhere usually claim), then why not let the people decide?
This is a question for the umpire and the political gladiators in this fray. If it is all about the people, why not let them decide? If these stakeholders play clean and with integrity, then the ball will be squarely in the court of the Anambra people to make an informed choice as to who they know will change the state for the better.
In that case, the people will be expected to discountenance financial inducements in making their choice: but will they? Similarly, Anambraians are expected to defy all intimidations to vote rationally. For the February election is one which would determine two things; whether or not democracy and credible elections are sustainable in the current arrangement, and whether or not the people of that state are serious about moving forward with great strides, harnessing their wealth of high level human and economic resources.
The voting should not be determined by such mundane considerations as wealth or sentiments, even if the proper choice may not be from within oneâ€™s own party. This election is also not about who is the godfather behind what candidate, or whether the umpire is perceived to favour a particular candidate, or whether X candidate is in the â€œdominant circle.â€
It is about electing that candidate who, in the peopleâ€™s perception and experience, appears to have the ability and people-centredness to take Anambra State away from its fratricidal politics, and re-direct its energies toward purposeful and sustainable development.
I am not unmindful of the huge challenges the people of the state face in this exercise; but by-and-large, it is the courage and determination with which the people confront these challenges that will count. If Anambraians apply the same single-mindedness they employ to make money in defending their vote, then it will be difficult for even a fraudulent umpire to upturn the true choice of the people.
Again, it should be noted that the last thing the people need to succeed is violence. The agents of corruption and anarchy would want to introduce violence at the last minute, but it is the responsibility of the people to resist the temptation to match violence with violence. Anambra State has had enough of it and the result is all too obvious for all to see. Ruins all over and stunted growth are the result of uncivilised resort to violence and extremism.
These scourges are the debilitating factors that leave Anambra prostrate in spite of the fact that it is the most endowed space in human resource anywhere in Nigeria of similar size.
Now is the time to move on. Anambra State cannot afford to missÂ this opportunity to re-write its own history by making the right, informed and level-headed choice of who amongst its powerful sons and daughters seeking to govern should be endorsed at the polls.
If they miss the opportunity this time around, they will have themselves strictly to blame because they faltered just when they needed their guts and resilience to make the appropriate choice at the polls. Nigerians do not expect that they will let themselves down.
The people of Anambra State have the powers to do the right thing. They should go ahead and give democracy a fillip at next monthâ€™s polls.