By CHARLES KUMOLU
THE conduct of the governorship election in Anambra State did not fall short of pre-election predictions that the exercise would fall in line with the state’s predilection to political drama.
Across the 21 local government areas last Saturday’s gubernatorial election was characterised by intrigues and seemingly calculated political anomalies.
No less a person than the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega confessed last Saturday that the governorship election in Anambra State was sabotaged.
The election was indeed one that was for many candidates, party supporters, and voters that was heralded by suspicion, fear, tension and unusual electoral permutations.
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had boasted that the exercise would witness remarkable improvements on previous polls, its outcome, was to a large extent a mockery of that pledge.
So when early yesterday, the Returning Officer Professor James Epoke, declared the election inconclusive, not many were surprised or shocked by the development.
Early alarm by candidates
While promising a credible election at a stakeholders forum held three days to the election in Awka, INEC chairman, Prof Atahiru Jega had said, “we have made meticulous arrangements to ensure that the election is free and fair. We want to make Anambra elections the best elections we have conducted in this country.
We have done some in the past and we have learnt from our mistakes.”
Jega’s pledge was also strengthened by the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar who at the forum said, “It is possible to have a peaceful election but it depends on the people, because we have provided adequate security. I am appealing to Anambra people especially party chairmen to give peace a chance.”
However, whether the commission creditably conducted the polls, is in doubt given the outcome across the 4,608 polling units in the state.
Indications that the elections might not be as smooth as promised by INEC emerged at the stakeholders’ forum, where the All Progressive Congress, APC, candidate Senator Chris Ngige said INEC was yet to prosecute electoral offenders who ensured that his supporters did note vote at the 2010 governorship elections in most parts of Anambra Central and other parts of the state.
Ngige’s assertion added to claims made by some persons within and outside INEC in the days leading to the election that the exercise had already been programmed to favour a particular candidate.
Instructively, Ngige said “I contested in 2010 but could not enter some violent prone areas, we had no agents there but the results were declared. Result sheets were not brought in some areas and our people were manhandled but results still came out and were recognized by INEC . There are times when SPOs will come to deliver materials but will not drop result sheets as stipulated in the electoral act. We need categorical statement on this. This is the first time three commissioners of Police are coming to Anambra for elections but I don’t know what the police has done with the previous reports.”
Election Day realities
In most areas visited by Vanguard on Election Day, it was discovered that materials arrived late, leading to the late commencement of accreditation and subsequently, voting.
The exercise, which was scheduled to commence at 8:00 am, did not kickoff until 11 am, when accreditation started in most polling units across the 4,608 polling units in the state.
Nonetheless, at most polling units in Awka South, Anaocha and Aguata, areas known as the home base of the incumbent governor, Mr. Peter Obi and All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, accreditation and voting started early enough.
For instance when Vanguard visited Ichi Ward 2 polling unit Nnewi, the base of Labour Candidate, Chief Ifeanyi Uba most eligible voters complained about being disenfranchised.
Ubah corroborated this in his country home, that day when he said, “there are a lot of inconsistencies especially on the voters register. For instance in a ward that has about 700 voters, you will discover that only seventeen names will be found in the register. This situation does not speak well and does not signal that we will have a free and fair exercise,” Ubah added.
Across other senatorial districts, it was also the same tale of massive disenfranchisement, late and non arrival of electoral materials, alleged monetary inducements by agents of some candidates, forceful ejection of party agents among others.
Uncommon realignment between friends and foes
Prominent among the surprises thrown up is the uncommon realignment between hitherto political friends and foes.
This played out with the common voice echoed by three aggrieved candidates of the ACN, PDP and LP candidates, who called for annulment.
This development is against the backdrop of the consensus of the trio that the polls were allegedly programmed by INEC to favour APGA.
For analysts and some aggrieved voters, the move by the candidates, is regarded as a germane step towards bringing their grievances to public glare.
At a press briefing jointly addressed by the trio, Ngige, who spoke on behalf of the candidates called for the cancellation of the eventual outcome.
Though the mood across the state is relaxed, many who spoke with Vanguard in Awka and its environs, expressed dissatisfaction that they could not vote despite turning out in their numbers.
For this and other reasons, they called for a fresh exercise.
But APGA is not taking the claims of rigging lightly. Its chairman, Umeh dismissed calls for annulment, adding that the exercise was credible.
He described those, who want cancellation as failed contestants, who have no stake in the state.
“INEC has done well but the few lapses are regrettable, the exercise was free and fair. The people crying blue murder are disappointed that they could not arm-twist INEC, “he added.