Finally, the D-day has come for the much hyped Anambra gubernatorial election.
Twenty five candidates from differentÂ political parties would be fightingÂ it out today in every nook and cranny of the state.
One major issue about todayâ€™sÂ election for governor in Anambra is a revelation ofÂ the gradual downsizing ofÂ the PDP, as virtually all the major candidates for governor apart from Peter ObiÂ walkedÂ and campaignedÂ with PDP pedigree.
Most of the candidates are former members of the PDP. Andy Uba, Chris Ngige, Chukwuma Soludo , and Uche Ekwunife were members of theÂ PDP
In a free and fair election with theseÂ powerful forcesÂ contestingÂ as flag bearers for the different parties, Anambra state will make history today. Other contenders for todayâ€™s election are: Dr. Eugene Ezekwueche of Peoples Mandate Party,Â aÂ US-based pharmacist whose candidacyÂ portends messages for the Nigerians in Diaspora and their aspirations at home; Ichie Mike Ejezie of All Nigerian Peoples Party; Chief Ralph Nwosu of African Democratic Congress under the leadership of Dr Pat Utomi amongst others.
Our people should get it right this time â€” Ezeife, fmr Governor
Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife was the third republic governor of Anambra state, the Political Adviser to former president Olusegun Obasanjo and now the Chairman of the Committee for Credible Election.
What advice do you have for Anambra people today?
What I want to tell the people today is to vote right. We have taken the case to God and we are expecting a credible, free and fair election. On the 19th of September last year, we organised a massive prayer where every local government was involved. We prayed against rigging, we prayed against God-fatherism and all the other ills in Anambra and God has been answering that prayer consistently.
The first manifestation of the answer was the abortion of the rigging plan for the PDP primary. The primary election could not hold eventually and this led PDP into selecting a candidate by other means.
You know that electoral materials were supplied by INEC who organise elections but something happenedÂ here. These materials were passed around by accident but for divine intervention. So many things are happening in Anambra State. And you know, the parties, their candidates are quite vibrant in the field.
They are giants. Each person knows what the other knows. And there is no possibility of one ofÂ them out-doing the other. If you want to do violence, you can be paid back in kind with violence. And what one can buy, the others can buy with their money too. So, Anambra electionÂ is a case ofÂ giants meeting with giants to negotiate. None of them can outwit the other.
Also, we made enough efforts with INEC, with the state government directly and Governor Obi, demanding for a free and fair election. So, the whole of Anambra has mobilised for todayâ€™s election. All unions have met and issued instructions and warnings to their people not to support anybody who plans to rig the elections. People have been mobilised to come out en masse and cast their votes, then, stay on to protect their votes to ensure the real results are announced and that the election in its entirety is credible.
Everybody, unions, traditional rulers, churches are involved in making this election a credible one. In my home town Igbo-Ukwu, announcements in the church were very strong. So, from the point of view of awareness, motivation, mobilising people to exercise their civic duties, maximum efforts have been made.
I led a march on the 20th of January this year. We marched around Awka, the state capital. The purpose was to create awareness, to motivate people to come out to vote. We went to the Police, we went to the Government House and to other public places and urged for free and fair election. We went to the markets and to the people, asking them to stand up to be counted and not people rushing home when somebody opens fire. Nobody should run away from anybody.
Even the person that opens fire doesnâ€™t want to shoot anybody. People should perform their civic duty. All eyes are on Anambra State. This is the only election holding now and we expect some foreigners around us. We have the support ofÂ these people.
We have the support of federal government agencies, the Committee for Credible Elections, and all the people of goodwill. We are expecting that todayâ€™s election will set the target of what should come in 2011 at the national level.
No history of second term in Anambra â€” Mbadinuju, ex-Governor
Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju was the governor of Anambra state from 1999-2003 and he speaks ofÂ todayâ€™s election.
Today is the D-day for the elections. What do you think?
The most important is to know that the die is cast. The candidates have prepared for so long. Any last minute mistake can ruin what anybody has done. So, it requires caution from now. So far, I saw the efforts made by the candidates and I wish all the candidates well.
I remember when I was in their position in 1999. It is the highest office to run for in the state level and I believe that all the candidates are qualified to govern the state but one advice I will like to give them is that there seems to be a fact that no governor ever went for a second term in office.
I have thought ofÂ it. Right from the time of the old Eastern Region when the great Zik held forth, there was no second term. Itâ€™s not that he didnâ€™t do well, but he didnâ€™t get second term. After him, there wasÂ Dr. Michael Okpara. He did exceedingly well but he didnâ€™t go for second term.
Former Governor Jim Nwobodo, a very charismatic leader that he was didnâ€™t get second term. Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife didnâ€™t go forÂ second term. I did not. After me, was Ngige and he didnâ€™t get a second term . Even thoughÂ he performed very well , he did not get second term. So, if we apply all the yardstick, I will advise Peter Obi to take things easy.
When you look at the remaining candidates: Uche Ekwunife, Soludo, Uba, you will see that these three are virtually PDP people. They all belong to PDP just like me.
But the difference is that for the first time, a woman has the confidence to run seriously and I believe that we should support her if the polls favour her. I will say the same thing about Soludo who is my friend and Andy Uba. So, my position is that the best candidate should win.
People out of fear reportedly left the state and university students were asked to go due to fear of violence. What is your take on that?
In spite of all the talks aboutÂ free and fair election, it is possible that some people have been fooling around even before today. How can there be a free and fair election when some people have been disenfranchised. Some of the university students registered around here but they have gone to look for shelter elsewhere.
I pray that we shouldÂ have a situation where after the election, the loser calls the winner to congratulate him. ButÂ they can only do that if the election is free and fair like it happened in my own time. It doesnâ€™t happen like that these days. In my own time, nobody challenged my victory, nobody shot any gun, it was peaceful.
The lady who ran against me saw no need to go to court. So, I will advise all the candidates to mellow down. If you miss governorship, you can get something else. The lady who ran against me is in the Senate now. There are still other posts to clinch: Ministerial appointments, Senate, House of Reps, Ambassadorial positions, Commissioners and so on.
Politics is notÂ winner takes all again. So, I suggest that the candidates will approach it in the spirit of sportsmanship.
The loser should congratulate the winner and move on politically. And again, we must ensure a free and transparent election so that it becomes clear to the loser beyond every reasonable doubt that he has lost. That will help him to accept the result in the spirit of true sportsmanship.