By CHARLES KUMOLU
AS voters approach the ballot boxes this morning, indications have emerged that the AnambraState gubernatorial elections might not be a smooth ride for hitherto frontline candidates.
Checks by Saturday Vanguard in Awka showed that the exercise is likely to throw up surprises, given that the leading candidates are flexing bulging financial muscle, deployed incumbency factor and track record among others, to solicit for votes.
This development has altered the calculations of most analysts, who posited that the race would be a two-way contest between the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
At the moment, the mood across the state is that the race will be a tight one, following the late aggressive campaign of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Candidate Comrade Tony Nwoye.
Instructively, the bulk of the votes were expected to be shared between the APGA candidate Chief Willie Obiano and Dr. Chris Nigige of the APC, who hail from Anambra North and Central Senatorial Districts respectively, but the revival of Nwoye’s candidature through last week’s Supreme Court ruling has made the race dicey.
The reasons are not farfetched.
The PDP candidate hails from Anambra North, hence the expectation of many that the votes from that area would be split between him and Obiano. Also Nwoye is regarded as a grassroots youth mobiliser, who has got an unrivaled mobilising ability. His role in the controversial elections that returned Senator Andy Uba as the state governor in 2010, attests to that.
However, in the Central Senatorial District where Ngige comes from, a fierce battle is expected. Governor Peter Obi, who is backing Obiano and Dr Nkem Okeke, the APGA deputy governorship candidate, also come from this zone. Analysts expect Ngige to have the upper hand in this zone. An understanding of his popularity across the state and solidarity from his people, speak volume on that.
Nonetheless, APGA’s popularity and incumbency factor, as gathered, are other factors that might give the party more votes in the Central district.
With the North and Central appearing set for grabs, Saturday Vanguard discovered that the South would also be a battle ground among Labour Party Candidate, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, Obiano and Ngige. Barring last minute changes, Ubah is expected to have the upper hand. He is from this zone.
To ensure violence-free and credible polls, it was gathered that measures have been put in place to guide candidates, party agents, party supporters and other stakeholders on how to carry out their civic responsibilities today.
According to the voting procedure published by INEC, accreditation would commence by 8:00 am, while voters will queue up and present their cards for accreditation. Accreditation will end at 12 noon or when the last voter that joined the queue before 12 noon has been accredited. The poll official will make sure that the voter has been accredited and given ballot paper for voting. The voter will then go and thumb-print and vote secretly.”
Against the backdrop of recurring incidence of electoral violence in the country, the INEC has enumerated some acts it described as electoral offences which would not be condoned on the Election Day.
The INEC document listed them as follows: “Dereliction of duty by poll officials including lateness, improper use of voter’s card, especially selling or lending voter’s card or being in possession of more than one voter’s card, improper use of government vehicles or blaring of siren, possession of offensive weapons, falsely announcing the withdrawal of any party candidate.”
Buttressing this at the post-election stakeholders’ forum, the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar, warned that any policeman found escorting any candidate on Election Day, would be dismissed.
He also added that the offending candidate would be prosecuted according to the law. Hence, he appealed to the candidates and party chairmen to be law abiding, adding that there would be no sacred cow.
“On our part we have ensured adequate security. And we are ready to break trouble makers. I hope we will have the support of Anambra people to make this election a success, “he added.