By Vincent Ujumadu
SIGNS that the incumbent governor of Anambra State , Mr. Peter Obi, would win the 2010 election in the state, based on his performance in the last four years, began to emerge few months ago after the visit of officials of Anambra State Associations (ASA) based in the United States of America (USA), United KingdomÂ (UK), Canada, Ireland and South Africa.
The group, led by its national president, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze, after touring projects executed by the Obi administration in all parts of the state, scored the administration very high. This score, coming from a group whose views could not be easily be faulted, sent a strong signal to other political parties contesting with Obi.
Though some of the governorship candidates dismissed it with the wave of the hand, it was obvious that many of them were worried.
Before the coming of the ASA groups, many other bodies had embarked on guided tour of the projects and their views were also publicly expressed to the extent that they openly canvassed a second tenure for Obi. It then turned out that most of the groups that inspected projects more or less became campaign managers for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate.
Apart from Obiâ€™s performance, the infighting in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over who would carry the partyâ€™s flag for the election also contributed.
When the whistle for the race was blown, all manner of people indicated interest to contest the election on the platform of the party such that before the primaries to select a candidate for the party, no fewer than 50 aspirants paid the mandatory N5 million fixed by the leadership of the party. And when it became obvious that the party was going to settle for the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, most of the aspirants swore never to work for him, despite overtures he made to them.
The climax was when some of the PDP governorship aspirants went into other political parties and picked the governorship tickets for the election.Â One spectacular case was that of the former presidential aide, Dr Andy Uba who picked the ticket of the Labour Party (LP) barely few weeks to the election. And when he came to the state to commence his campaign, it was devoid of his usual style, thus lending credence to the speculation that he entered the race allegedly to stop Prof Soludo and not necessarily to win.
For instance, before his arrival, it was rumoured that he had purchased over 100 buses and 1000 motorcycles to be used during the campaign, but throughout the campaign, it was observed that he did not buy any new vehicle for the election.
Same could be said of the candidate of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu who also joined the race late. In fact, many people in Anambra State often described as professional politicians set their dragnets to milk the candidates, but were disappointed when they noticed that the money was not flowing as was the case in 2007.
Another factor that led to Obiâ€™s victory was that the last two months to the end of his first tenure witnessed the flag off of many projects in many parts of the state and the feeling of the people was that it would be better to remain with somebody who had committed himself towards the execution of such projects than gambling with a candidate who was only making promises that were non committal.
Also, Obiâ€™s main campaign rested on the need for Igbo people to see APGA as their own party which they could always use for negotiating Igbo interests in the Nigerian project. This message somehow sank because he (Obi) also compared the situation in Anambra State when PDP held sway with the four years APGA had ruled the state, telling the people that in spite of the large number of Anambra people in PDP, they have not been able to attract amenities to the state.
According to him, it was through his effort that led to the on_going rehabilitation of the federal roads in the state, especially the controversial Onitsha â€“ Enugu highway. Perhaps, the issue that helped Obi most was the stand of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security operatives that the Anambra election would be used as a test run for what to expect in next yearâ€™s general elections.
So, unlike in the previous elections when INEC was seen as the rigging agent for some political parties, its decision to conduct free and fair election in Anambra State provided a level playing field for all the candidates. As it turned out, for the first time in the state, the peopleâ€™s votes counted, even though many voters were disenfranchised because their names could not be found in the votersâ€™ register.
For instance, unlike in the previous elections when officials of the INEC in the state and civil servants working in the state establishments were used as presiding officers and polling clerks and therefore were prone to succumbing to pressure from politicians, those who conducted the February 6 election were members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and INEC officials from other states who were given strict instructions to be transparent in carrying out the exercise.
In fact, the issue that caught most of the politicians napping was the controversial votersâ€™ register used for the election. Before the election, there were allegations that foreign names existed in many registers in several wards and it was difficult to know who masterminded the entry of such names in the register.
For months, the various candidates complained that there was need for INEC to display the register before the election, but unknown to them, INEC knew that the reason for such calls was to cross check that what they did during the voters registration exercise, in collusion with some INEC staff. INEC therefore kept to its chest all the plans to thwart the plans of the politicians to rig the election using the heavily padded voters’ register.
Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Mr. Josiah Uwazuruonye told Saturday Vanguard that the politicians were beaten to their game. â€œIf you watch all the complaints about the inability of voters to find their names in the register, they were mainly in the catchments areas of notable politicians.
They succeeded in registering fictitious names in such places with the connivance of corrupt INEC staff hoping to use them during the election. With the measures taken by INEC, it therefore became impossible for them to do what they were used to, hence the complaint by most of them during the election,â€ Uwazuruonye said. According to him, all the INEC officials involved in the shady deal have all been sacked.
Since the announcement of the result of the election, it has been praises galore for INEC and security agencies for living up to the peopleâ€™s expectations. The Chief Akariwe â€“led election monitoring board said after the declaration of Obi as the winner that with what happened in Anambra State , there was hope for democracy in the country.
Also, the umbrella body of Anambra indigenes living in the United States of America under the aegis of Anambra State Association (ASA_USA), a non_partisan organization representing over 100,000 Anambra indigenes living in that country expressed gratitude to the generality of Anambra State citizens for responsibly exercising their right to elect a governor of their choice.
The association in a statement signed by its president, Dr. Nwachukwu Anakwenze, noted that though there were irregularities in some areas, it was satisfied that in the main, the voices of the people were heard and hoped that the mandate that has been handed over to Obi would be used in the best interest of the people.
â€œThis re_election is a testimony that his conduct in office in the past four years was satisfactory to majority of our people and we encourage him to stay the course for another four years.Â There are challenges ahead; but with the human capital of Anambra State, we see your Excellencyâ€™s re-election as an opportunity to transform every sector in our state, just as was witnessed in your last four years.
ASA-USA, a public interest organization, pursuant to our mandate to espouse the cause of good governance in our State will work with our Governor elect so long as the interest of our people continues to be held paramount.
â€œWe also express our gratitude to our distinguished citizens who contested for the Governorship post and who have accepted the will of our masses and we enjoin them to not relent in their quest for good governance in Anambra State
We look forward to seeing them work cooperatively with the Governor elect to realize their ardent wishes for a truly transformed Anambra State .
â€œMay we at this point also extend our sincere thanks to INEC under Professor Maurice Iwu for conducting an election that has been hailed to be largelyÂ fair and free from gross electoral malpractices.Â While we are dissatisfied with the avoidable glitches in the process, we believe that INEC has demonstrated that it can conduct elections that could be found to be credible.
Because the right to vote and participate in our democracy is the most fundamental right of our citizens, we ask INEC not to relent in working to perfect the electoral process.Â We are not oblivious to the fact that many people could not exercise this most fundamental right and we are calling on INEC to build on the things that worked this time around and ensure that no citizen will be disenfranchised in the future.
â€œTo Anambra State citizens and stake holders, we have arrived at a threshold in this democratic dispensation where our mandate as a people can be respected. It is both an obligation and a responsibility to use that power responsibly.
Without working together as a body with shared values and goals and doing all the things which responsible citizens do, our dreams for a better state will never be a reality regardless of whom we elect to lead us.