By Chuks Iloegbunam
IN a recent publication in some newspapers, 2010, an Ugobueze Ndukwe, described as â€œa public affairs analystâ€, reviewed the recent gubernatorial poll in Anambra State and pronounced it a failure. Letâ€™s go to the last two sentences of his article: â€œAs for the Anambra election, the ball is now in the court of the tribunalâ€, wrote Mr.. Ndukwe.
â€œThe outcome will strengthen democracy and prove INEC wrong or right.â€ While he hit the nailÂ right on the head with his concluding remarks, the body of his article was an unmitigated negation of the memorable last two sentences. If Ndukwe is not only paying lip service to the constitutional import of the judiciary, why did he labourÂ through a thousand words to pass a verdict on a matter before the Third Realm of the Estate? You must carry this point along as we explore the substance of Mr. Ndukweâ€™s argument.
We must, of course, index our submission on the pedestal of fairness, which compels us to acknowledge that Ndukwe isnâ€™t the only â€œanalyst on public affairsâ€ thatÂ found faults with the conduct of the election. Which means that, in this rejoinder, others of his ilk are equally under scrutiny. After all, there are numerous others of us who hold that the February 6 ballot had a lot in it to cheer about.
I published an article in theÂ Sunday Vanguard of February 14, 2010 entitled Anambraâ€™s shining light. Iit discussed the governorship election with this telling summation: â€œAnd so the election came and went. But some are not certain as to who the true winners are.
The real winners are AnambraÂ State and Nigeria. The honest among us will confess to the premonition that February 6 would initiate a season of bloodbath. It didnâ€™t happen. The event passed off peacefully for which some credit must also goÂ to Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
This gives the hope that next yearâ€™s general elections will benefit from the example of Anambra State, the Light of the Nation, for the consolidation of our democracy. It says a lot for Ndi Anambra that some of the candidates immediately congratulated the victor, withÂ Andy Uba visiting Government Lodge personally to pledge his cooperation.
Our people realise that tomorrow is greater than today. We must, therefore, allÂ move onÂ as a people with a common destiny. Politics need not be a matter of trample and annihilate. Our insistence is on politics being the vehicle for the greatest good of the greatest percentage of our peoples.â€
From all corners of Nigeria and from all the media houses in this country emanated articles and commentaries in commendation of the peaceful poll. There was no voter in Anambra State who did not acknowledge this encouraging development.
And, most certainly, there wasnâ€™t a single one of the gubernatorial contestants who didnâ€™t doff their hat for Ndi Anambra for showing a shining example on the conduct of peaceful elections, which theÂ rest of Nigeria must copy for the consolidation of our democracy.
If Anambra conducted a violence-free governorship election – as grudgingly acknowledged by Ugobueze Ndukwe -Â compare the scenario to what obtained in just four local government areas of Ekiti State last year. The LGAs boiled over.
The Police and the people traded accusations and invectives. Horrendously amputated and brutally battered citizens became exhibits at the post-election tribunal. The same was true of previously conducted elections in most parts of this country and no one who respects his or her person can pretend to controvert this broad daylight truth.
The Police didnâ€™t claim report any violent upheaval during the Anambra gubernatorial vote. The people didnâ€™t accuse the Police of brutalizing them. There were no cases of shattered craniums or torched mansions. People simply cast their ballot in tranquility and went back home satisfied. Only someone stalled in mendacity will claim that the violence free gubernatorial election in Anambra State is not a positive development.
Another contentious point in the election was the voter turnout which wasnâ€™t high. As Ndukwe saw it, this was because the INEC â€œdisenfranchised 1.5 million votersâ€¦â€ Yet there are other variables to consider. How is it possible for the said disenfranchisement of 1.5 million voters to play out in favour of a single candidate – Peter Obi?
Is INEC also into voodoo? Not only that, Ndukwe, who supported his assertions with â€œwhispersâ€ from Anambra State, must also have heard stories of unscrupulous political moneybags who embarked on wholesale purchase of votersâ€™ cards only to discover on ballot day that measures had beenÂ taken to thwart their designs for rigging.
It is important to spell out these things. In the 2007 governorship â€œelectionâ€ conducted by INEC inÂ Anambra, there was a classic setting of disenfranchisement. The turnout was dismal. ForÂ instance, prominent people like Dim Ojukwu, the incumbent Governor of the State, the Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha, his Anglican counterpart on the Niger, First Class traditional rulers like the Obi ofÂ Onitsha and Igwe Orizu of Nnewi and countless others did not even find their names on the votersâ€™ register and so could not vote.
The situation was worse for the ordinary citizens. Yet, the â€œelectionâ€ was hailed as credible and transparent until the courts blew it out of the water. On February 6, all these personages mentioned above cast their ballot without let or hindrance.
Truly, things should be properly contextualised. Nigeria does not hold the historical distinction of a 100 percent voter turnout.
Of course, it is everyoneâ€™s civic responsibility to vote and to counter voter apathy. Thatâ€™s, however, no reason to pretend that what always was high suddenly plummeted on February 6, 2010. There were two bye-election conducted in Anambra State in 2008: one was for the Anambra South Senatorial district, the other for the Nnewi North/Nnewi South/Ekwusigo Federal Constituency.
In the Senatorial election won by Ikechukwu John Obiora, the total number of registered voters stood at 585,385. The total valid votes cast was 68,030. That means that Senator Obiora rode to victory on an 11.6 voter turnout. The Federal House election was won by C. I. D. Maduabum. Total number of registered voters was 221,522. Total valid votes stood at 27,767. The voter turnout here was 11.9 percent. People havenâ€™t being going about questioning the mandates of Messrs Obiora and Maduabum.
I decided on this intervention to keep our debate focused. I support the prosecution and punishment on conviction of fraudulent electoral officials and vote-rigging politicians. I urge a speed-up of electoral reforms. But I cannot in good conscience deny the evidence of my own eyes – to wit, that the February 6, 2010 governorship poll in Anambra State was a remarkable improvement on past electoral exercises.
One last word. On the 2003 Anambra governorship poll, the litigation, which came to a successful conclusion, had to do with the declaration of the losing candidate as victorious. On the February 6, 2010 vote, no contestant claimed that his mandate was stolen. The difference is stark
Mr. Iloegbunam is the Special Adviser on Communication to the Governor of Anambra State.