By Vincent Ujumadu
THE 30 â€“day period stipulated in the countryâ€™s constitution for political parties to petition against the conduct of the governorship election held last month in Anambra StateÂ has passed with five political parties filing petitions.
Of the number, only Dr. Chris Ngige of the Action Congress (AC) and Dr. Christian Okoli of the United Nigerian Democratic Party (UNDP) explained why they are challenging the outcome of the election which was won by Mr. Peter Obi of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Another party that filed petition was the Hope Democratic Party (HDP), but the candidate of the party, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu had since distanced himself from the petition allegedly filed by his running mate, Mr. Mike Okoye.
Also, Mr. Victor Anigbata of the NSDP who withdrew from the race before the election and teamed up with Prof Chukwuma Soludo of the PDP also filed a petition Most of the other candidates had joined other prominent Nigerians and foreigners to congratulate Obi on his victory and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for doing a job described as the best since the present leadership of the commission came into being. In view of the peaceful conduct of the election, the thinking of the peopleÂ is that Obi should be allowed to consolidate on the programmes he already has for the state.
Before the February 6 governorship election , the belief in many quarters was that it would go the usual way Nigerians were used to and that was that INEC, as the umpire, held the yam and the knife and would give to whomever that it pleased.
Not even the assurances of the INEC chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu that the commission would use the Anambra election to showcase its readiness to henceforth conduct credible elections in the country. But on the day of the election, voters were pleasantly surprised that materials for the election were readily available and votes were cast and counted and the results announced at every polling booth. Following this, all those who never believed that anything good could come from INEC had to swallow their previous negative statements against INEC.
The election was indeed the first time Anambra voters could be said to have experienced real voting since the beginning of the present democratic dispensation. In the previous ones, only few voting centers witnessed actual voting while the rest of the people would be at the voting centres without seeing the materials and at the end of the day, results were announced for their centres.
So, even while the 25 candidates that participated in the governorship election were busy canvassing for votes, many of the voters expressed doubt that their votes would count. But in the end, they did count.
The only snag on February 6 was that as a result of the great awareness created before the exercise, people trooped to the polling stations in large numbers to exercise their franchise. Unfortunately, many could not find their names in the voters’ register.Â This situation cut across the entire state and no candidate was spared in his area.
Despite the inability of many people to vote, most Anambrarians were happy that for the first time, they contributed in electing a governor for the state. This could be seen from the way they accepted the result. Unlike what happened in 2003 and 2007, there was calm in the state as soon as the result was announced, apparently because the result met the peopleâ€™s expectations.
And when the major actors in the election namely, Dr. Andy Uba of the Labour Party, Professor Chukwuma Soludo of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Ralph Nwosu of the African Democratic Congress, Chief Mike Ejezie of All Nigeria Peoples Party, among others, visited Obi at the Governorâ€™s Lodge to congratulate him, it was obvious that it was a generally accepted result.
Even the UNDP candidate who filed the petition said he challenged the result because of the alleged disenfranchisement of the voters, adding that though people were willing to cast their votes, INEC allegedly denied them that right because their names were not found in the voters’ register.
Okoli said that despite the publicity given to the Anambra election, only about 300,000 people cast their votes out of the registered 1.8 million voters.
â€œElection results and figures are part of demographic figures of a people. If we accept that only 301,000 people voted in such a well publicized election out of the 1.8 million registered voters, then something was wrong. There could not have been apathy in that election because people came out to vote but were not allowed to cast their votes.
â€œWhat we are asking the court to do is to make a pronouncement that the election was a nullity because voters did not have free access to discharge their civic duties. A situation where people were unable to discharge this duty, election could not be said to be free. One of the reasons why I am in court is that we should not allow illegitimacy to stand,â€ Okoli said.
The AC candidateâ€™s argument did not differ much from that of the UNDP candidate, except that he was calling for a run-off between him and Obi because, according to him, Obi did not win 25% of the votes in 2/3 of the 21 local government areas of the state. He also said the petition would prove that 16% of registered 1.8 million voters in a population of over 5million people cannot represent an acceptable percentage that can make one a governor anywhere in the world, arguing that over 80% of the voting population were disenfranchised.
He disagreed with those who had counseled that he should drop the idea of going to the tribunal, adding that he decided to approach the tribunal for posterity and to ensure that justice was done.
Despite Ngigeâ€™s position, most Anambra people appear to be looking forward to Obiâ€™s second tenure which, they hope, would be as eventful as his first four years. National chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh said nobody should be surprised at the result of the election because it was the case of performance versus rhetoric.
â€œThe result of that election should not be a surprise to anybody who is sincere and objective. I have always said that if there is a credible election in which the people are allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice, we would emerge winner in that contest and that was what happened.