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Anambra, Not The Test

THOSE who think a successful holding of Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State would indicate the state of the country’s democratic atmosphere or the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to effect changes in its operations that would make the results of the 2011 elections more acceptable to the generality of Nigerians are wrong on both assumptions.

Anambra is too small to be used in rating how millions of Nigerians who hunger and thirst for the opportunity to lay their hands on the country’s resources would behave during a power contest. Anambra is a poor laboratory for a controlled experiment on Nigeria’s out-of-control electoral processes. A broader spectrum would be required to test the health of our electoral provisions.

INEC’s performance on Saturday would be deceptive. The concentration of its resources on an election in only 21 local government areas out of the country’s 774 cannot be a test of its abilities.

The election is a single day’s event, different from the five-pronged affair of the State Houses of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, and Governorship and Presidential that is held within weeks. The enormity of the logistics is different and so are the challenges of traversing various terrains and pluralities that dot the country.

A lot is expected of INEC, the political parties, politicians, the security agencies and the hidden hands that move the processes in the election. How would all these parties react to the results? How would the courts treat cases that would surely ensue, no matter who wins?

This election would confirm what we already know – electoral reforms are inevitable if Nigeria would have credible elections. Unfortunately, when flawed electoral laws result in chaos, the blames would be heaped on the people of Anambra State, as if they are incapable of detaching themselves from lawlessness, not minding the circumstances.

Cries for free and fair election that would restore respect for Anambra people are dubious reflection of the fact that as a country we have grown a preference for duplicity. If the electoral law is unable to produce free and fair elections elsewhere, especially because of its heinous provisions that do not punish rigging and thuggery, why should it work differently in Anambra State?

Those who expect credible election in Anambra State should know that under the Electoral Act elections stand once they attain substantial compliance with the Electoral Act. Nobody knows what substantial compliance means. There is no shortage of courts waiting to interpret this provision.

In Anambra State, we would all have to contend with substantial compliance again. Anambra would have been different had there been a new electoral law to be tested.

Contestants must abide by the rules, not because the rules make for fair contest, but because by joining the race, contestants have willingly subscribed to the Electoral Act with all its flaws.


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