BY VINCENT UJUMADU
Since Sunday, the 17th November, 2013 when the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared the Anambra State governorship election inconclusive and directed that a supplementary election should be held in 211 polling units across the state to determine the eventual winner of the election, the state has been awash with intrigues, propaganda and, sometimes, blackmail by politicians to get their views across.
Expectedly, officials of INEC have kept mute, allowing the politicians and their supporters and self –styled analysts to flood the airwaves with arguments to advance their varied opinions.
Recall that while announcing the result at the INEC headquarters in Awka, the state collation officer, Professor James Epoke said that the inability of INEC to declare a winner for the election was because the margin with which the highest scorer, Chief Willie Obiano of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, beat the runner up, Comrade Tony Nwoye of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was less than the number of registered voters in the 211 pilling units where election was cancelled. The affected areas have registered voters strength of 113,113. Idemili North local government area, which is the stronghold of the APC candidate, Senator Chris Ngige, has the highest number of cancelled units with 160 polling units and a combined registered voters’ population of 89,997.
Other areas where the supplementary election would hold include three poling units in Ayamelum local government (1247 voters), one poling unit in Anambra East (250 voters), six units in Anambra West (2000 voters), one unit in Anaocha (276 voters), two units in Awka North (1356 voters), one unit in Aguata (310 voters) and one unit in Awka South (249 voters). Others are three units in Ekwusigo (884 voters), two units in Idemili South (800 voters), one unit in Onitsha North (484 voters), 17 units in Onitsha South (12299 voters), four units in Orumba North (588 voters) and four units in Oyi (1202 voters).
Before announcing the decision, the collation officers for all the 21 local government areas of the state had announced their results, which showed that the APGA candidate, Chief Willie Obiano scored a total of 174, 710 votes to place first, followed by the PDP candidate, Comrade Tony Nwoye who polled 94,856 votes, while Senator Chris Ngige of APC polled 92,300 votes to place third.
The official results for the 21 Local Government Areas showed that Obiano won in 16 LGAs. They include Aguata, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West, Anaocha, Awka North, Awka South, Ekwusigo, Ihiala, Njikoka, Nnewi South, Ogbaru, Onitsha North, Onitsha South, Orumba North and Orumba South
Comrade Tony Nwoye of PDP and Dr Chris Ngige of APC won in two councils each. While PDP won in Dunukofia and Oyi, APC won Idemili North and Idemili South where Ngige holds sway. Dr Ifeanyi Ubah of Labour Party only won his Nnewi North Local Government. The 21 local governments in the state have 326 wards, 4, 608 polling units and 1, 784, 536 registered voters.
Epoke, who is the vice chancellor of the University of Calabar, said the decision to order for supplementary election in areas where the exercise was cancelled was due to the commission’s inability to conduct the election there due to alleged electoral malpractices.
As soon as INEC took the decision, vested interests began to emerge and it became obvious that they infiltrated the media, both print and electronic. Initially, the APC candidate, Ngige, wanted election to be repeated in four local government areas of the state which he described as his strongholds and where materials for the election either did not arrive on time, or did not arrive at all. But perhaps, after getting full details of the election in all parts of the state, his party opted for total cancellation in view of what was described as monumental malpractices by officials of INEC and the disenfranchisement of many voters. Two other candidates, Tony Nwoye, PDP, and Ifeanyi Ubah, Labour, were later to join the APC candidate in condemning the outcome of the election.
Opposition candidates in joint conference
The trio subsequently addressed a joint press conference where they called for the cancellation of the polls. They alleged that they would not accept any result from the election as conducted on November 16. To Ifeanyi Ubah, who won only in his home local government, Nnewi, faulted the outcome of the election, saying that having won convincingly at his Nnewi North local government, which is also the home town of the late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the late APGA leader, he would have won in the entire state if the election was not rigged.
On his part, Nwoye described the election as far below average, adding that it was neither free and fair, nor credible. According to him, the exercise was manipulated by INEC officials in collusion with security agents to favour the APGA candidate. Nwoye was, however, later countered by his party’s national secretariat which praised the conduct of the election. National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh while commending INEC for the good conduct of the Anambra election said the exercise was very peaceful. More was to come from the AnambraState branch of the party with the state chairman, Prince Kenneth Emeakayi toeing the line of Metuh, while the campaign organization of Nwoye insisted on the cancellation of the polls.
The director general of Tony Nwoye Campaign Organization, Prince Okey Ezenwa told reporters that PDP members in the state were surprised at the statements coming from the national publicity secretary of the party, Chief Olisa Metuh who, he observed, has never really shown interest in the affairs of Anambra PDP.
He said: “INEC has stated that the election is not yet won, but our member who is a national officer, Chief Olisa Metuh, is in a hurry to say that the election is peaceful. We, as members of the campaign organization, are calling for total cancellation of the election and for a fresh election to be conducted. From what we gathered, Olisa Metuh did not even put up appearance in his ward in Nnewi during the election which means that he did not vote.
“He also did not participate in the campaign and it shows that ab initio, he did not support Nwoye’s candidature. Before making the pronouncements in Abuja, Metuh did not consult us and he never gave the party any support before the election. We would have thought that the contribution of Metuh should be for the good of the party, but rather, he is doing everything to undermine the success of PDP in AnambraState. It is sad that he is making these statements without recourse to our candidate or to find out the true situation of things concerning the election.
“We want to say that whatever he is saying is personal to him as it does not represent the position of members of PDP.” Also, the publicity secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Ken Arinze described the election as a sham, adding that the voters’ register was so doctored that even in his own ward, foreign names appeared. in the register, while those who had voters’ card could not cast their votes as they could not find their names.
But the state chairman, Prince Emeakayi said it is a political party that presents a candidate for the election, adding that the position of the state PDP tallies with that of the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party. He said: “We state categorically and unequivocally that PDP will participate in the supplementary election in the contentious areas of the state as announced by INEC and we charge our members to continue to remain calm and focused.
“We commend our members and the good people of AnambraState for the peaceful and orderly conduct of the gubernatorial election in AnambraState. We also commend President Goodluck Jonathan for providing adequate and enabling environment for the hitch free gubernatorial election witness in AnambraState. We also commend the Nigeria Police, the Army, the DSS and other security agents and other stakeholders who played key roles in ensuring maintenance of adequate security and orderliness throughout AnambraState during the election.”
According to him, every stakeholder in the party worked very hard to ensure the success of PDP at the election and believed that ‘it is not over until it is over.’
But while the three candidates of PDP, APC and LP were calling for total cancellation, INEC accredited agents who monitored the governorship election commended the commission for what they described as the commission’s steadfastness in ensuring that those whose motive was to rig the election did not succeed. The INEC accredited agents, at a news conference in Awka yesterday, said that from what they observed, those calling for the cancellation of the result of the election do not mean well for the country’s democracy.
The five organizations that addressed a press conference in the AnambraState capital were Independent Election Observers, Voter Awareness Initiative, Transparency Center Network, Justice and Equity and Center LSD. Spokesman of the group, Dr. Gabriel Nwambu said from their observation, the Anambra election complied with internationally accepted standards and best practices.
Nwambu said: “We inspected all the sensitive and non sensitive materials in INEC office and monitored the distribution of the materials to the local governments, polling units and points respectively. The election took place in all the 21 local government areas of the state except in few areas where election commenced late due to logistic problems in terms of distribution and late arrival of materials. Security was tight across the state and there were no incidences of violence reported. We hereby advise all the candidates to embrace the spirit of sportsmanship and sense of maturity as election is not a do or die affair because in every contest, a winner will emerge.”
Also, the transition Monitoring Group, TMG, which monitored the election with over 400 observers said it met international standards, adding that those who were calling for total cancellation were not being sincere.
The traditional ruler of Awka, Obi Gibson Nwosu, while reacting on the election said the result of the election represented the wish of the people and urged the contestants to realize that only one person would be governor at a time. To Obi Gibson Nwosu, the Anambra governorship election was one of the most peaceful election he had witnessed.
The monarch said: “Since I ascended the throne, I had seen many elections, but I had never come across any of them that was so peaceful. I sent my grand child to go and find out the situation at the center where I was to vote and she came back at 9am to tell me that people were already being accredited. I went and I was accredited. When it was past 12 noon, I went and voted. Many people were there and they graciously allowed me to vote. My grand child was there till the counting and recording and she told me that everything went on well.There were no cases of thuggery. The police who were stationed in the place were very peaceful and it shows that Nigeria has come of age.” He advised the politicians to take things easy so that the state can move forward.
Apparently seeing that the media propaganda they adopted was not achieving the desired result, the candidates chose another option which was to arrange for demonstrators to come to Awka for a show. Hundreds of women from various parts of the state, led by notable female politicians, were seen heading to the state office of INEC and protesting the conduct of Anambra governorship poll. While some of the women who embarked on the protest earlier had a field day, the second batch had a rough deal in the hands of security operatives who perhaps wondered why they were disturbing the peaceful atmosphere existing in the state since the election was held. As they attempted to force themselves into the INEC office, they were dispersed with teargas canisters by the police attached to the commission.
Their leader, Mrs. Tina Akonobi, a known politician, said that they were at the commission’s office to “mourn for the disaster, destruction, doom, robbery and fraud that took place on the Nov. 16”, adding, “The election was a sham aimed at insulting the integrity, intelligence and intellectual ability of the people of the state and Nigeria in general.:
She said further: “INEC brought a fraudulent register three days to election where they removed names of voters whose names start with the letter ‘O” like Okonkwo and Okeke at Idemili. They brought fraudulent people to conduct election here; it was a scam and destruction of a generation and Igbo land. We are calling for the cancellation and resignation of Prof. Attahiru Jega for the doom that is impending because this is what will happen in 2015,” she said.
According to her, the Saturday election has created a situation where brothers fear brothers, saying that it was a sign of socio-political divide to come among the people. As the women left Awka, the APC candidate, Ngige assembled reporters where he accused the state government of using students of NnamdiAzikiweUniversity and posing them as members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, for the purpose of working as ad hoc staff for INEC.
Worried by this allegation, members of Anambra Intellectuals Forum, AIF, an organization comprising lecturers and senior officials on non teaching staff in all tertiary institutions in the state told Saturday Vanguard that such a statement was capable of causing disunity in the state.
Chairman of AIF, Professor Edmund Egboh said the allegation was unfounded because the students have been on holiday following the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, arguing that the allegation was aimed at undermining the integrity of Nigerian students.
Egboh, who spoke in company of other officials of the forum, namely, Dr. Williams Obiozo, Dr. Chinedu Onyeizugbe, Dr, Jude Okafor and Mr. Vincent Agbara said the allegation was that the students were used for the election to favour Dr. Nkem Okeke who is a lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University and the running mate to the candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Willie Oboano.
Egboh said: “We were surprised that a section of the media could be used to make this allegation because we do not believe that students could be used for such hatchet job. Though one of us, Dr. Nkem Okeke, is the running mate to Chief Willie Obiano of APGA, there was nothing to suggest in any way that members of AIF worked for him during the election.It was indeed because Dr. Okeke was involved in the election that informed the decision of INEC to use lecturers from the University of Calabar as returning officers in the local government areas and its vice chancellor as the state collation officer.
“Besides, INEC knew all the ad hoc staff it recruited for the election and definitely they were not students of Nnamdi Azikiwe University as alleged by one of the candidates that contested the election and we were therefore taken aback when the allegation was made.Nigerian students have been on strike and could not have been mobilized as a body to be involved in election matters. We see the allegation as a way to undermine the integrity of members of the academia and Nigerian students. As far as AIF is concerned, the November 16, 2013 election was peaceful, free, fair and devoid of any primordial sentiments.
“Members of AIF are still wondering why the APC candidate, Senator Chris Ngige, should make that kind of allegation against students, knowing that it was not true.”
“We plead with politicians to weigh their statements properly before dishing them out to the public so as not to overheat the nation’s polity.”
Respect the choice of Anambra People – Candidates, party chairmen
The governorship of PPA, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo was the first contestant to express satisfaction with the conduct and outcome of the governorship election in areas where the exercise had been concluded. Speaking to journalists at his country home, Umuchu, Aguata Local Government Area, Mr. Ezeemo said he was also in full support of supplementary election in areas declared inconclusive. He called on those threatening thunder and brimstone because they lost election to respect the will of the people, even, when, according to him, some were influenced with money.
Mr Ezeemo said the conduct of the election was a remarkable improvement on previous elections and noted that INEC demonstrated genuine commitment to deliver free and fair election, telling hos colleagues that people of the state have made their choice and enjoined those calling for cancellation of the entire exercise to respect the mandate of the electorate. Condemning those sponsoring any form of protest against the election, Ezeemo said it was not what Anambra needed at this point in time and called on the people of the State to shun external influence that are interested in destabilizing the State.
Just like Ezeemo, twelve other candidates who contested the governorship election jointly endorsed the result of the poll, saying the conduct of a staff of INEC, who exhibited acts of misconduct in one local government area of the state during the election, should not be a basis for wholesale condemnation of the commission.
The candidates were Mr. Tony Anene of ACPN, Dr. Webstar Okonkwo of NCP, Prince Leaonard Uchendu of NNPP, Mr. Godson Okoye of UDP, Chief Basil Onuorah of SDP and Chief Denis Oguguo of KOWA Party. Others are Pastor Benjamin Okafor of MPPP, Chief Anayo Arinze of ADC, ,r. Basil Iwoba of PPN, Chief Chuka Nwankwo of ACCORD, Chief Patrick Ibeziako of APA and Professor Ben Akanegbu of UPP.
Their spokesman, Mr. Godson Okoye said that as flag bearers of the various political parties, they had agents at the polling units across the state who filed reports to them at the end of the election, adding that having studies the reports, they were satisfied that the election was largely peaceful, free and fair.
The statement read on behalf of Okoye said: “A situation where the election is inconclusive is not in the best corporate interest of AnambraState and we make bold to say that no person or party, no matter how highly placed, should be above the collective interest of the people of AnambraState. We use this opportunity to call on those from outside the state who want to cry louder than the bereaved, to restrain themselves from whipping up unnecessary sentiments and allow the people of Anambra State to try and solve their problems and move on for there has not been any record of Anambra people meddling in the internal affairs of other states of the federation.”