BY VINCENT UJUMADU
AFTER months of rigorous campaigns by the various political parties presenting candidates for the governorship election, the electorate in Anambra State will today swarm the over 5000 polling units across the 326 political wards in the 21 local government areas of the state to choose who would be their governor for the next four years.
On paper, there are 37 candidates, although most of them merely created burden for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which had to spend so much to accommodate candidates that did not for one day organize any campaign rally in any part of the state.
The parties that have candidates include, Alliance Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Alliance (AA), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), African People’s Party (APP), Better Nigeria Progressive Party (BNPP), Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Peoples’ Congress (DPC),Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Hope Democratic Party (HDP) Kowa Party and Labour Party (LP).
The rest are Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN),Mega Progressive Peoples Party (MPPP),National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP),United Democratic Party (UDP),National Conscience Party (NCP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Nigeria Peoples Congress (NPC),National Unity Party (NUP),People for Democratic Change (PDC),Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA),Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN),Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP),United Progressive Party (UPP),Young Democratic Party (YDP)Young Progressive Party (YPP).
Despite the threat by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which circulated leaflets asking people not to come out to vote, indications are that there would be heavy turnout by voters today as there is so much enthusiasm by people to participate due to the robust campaigns by the major political parties presenting candidates for the election.
The 26000 policemen deployed to the state for the poll had moved to all the communities to nip in the bud any attempt to disrupt the exercise.
A Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr. Joshual Habila would serve as the field commander throughout the period of the election and would be assisted by other top police officers drawn from the Police Headquarters and some state police commands.
For the past two days, the policemen have been exhibiting show of force in the major cities of Anambra State, a development that was seen in some quarters as being capable of frightening voters.
Saturday Vanguard found out that some of the adhoc staff trained by INEC for the exercise were chickening out for fear of likely attack, especially after the alleged bomb scare at INEC headquarters, which turned out to be a hoax. It was gathered yesterday that INEC had made arrangement to replace those involved.
The state Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Dr. Nwachukwu Orji in a statement in Awka said sensitive materials were checked and received by 10.45 am on Thursday from the Awka branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by INEC, adding that distribution of sensitive materials to the local governments commenced at about 11.30 am same day.
Orji said: “Local government areas that are more distant from Awka, those with more difficult terrains and those with large voter populations received their materials before others.
“From the information we have received from our monitors, the sensitive materials have started arriving INEC offices in the local government areas and cross checking and distribution of the materials will commence as soon as possible.”
The expectation was that the materials reached the registration area centers by 4.00pm yesterday from where they would be deployed to the polling units on Saturday (today).
Several monitoring groups have already set situation rooms in the state with their observers scattered in all the polling units across the state. For instance, the Youths Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, YIAGA, deployed 500 observers to selected 250 polling units and 29 mobile observers to the 21 local government areas.
Similarly, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), which has a network of over 200 civic organizations, has deployed 150 trained accredited non-partisan observers for the election.
Chairman TMG, Dr Abiola Akiyode – Afolabi said in Awka that the observers would closely watch the process and report on the conduct of the elections relating to set up of polling units, accreditation of voters, voting itself and counting of ballots.
She said: “Upon return of these check lists, TMG will share with the country a truly and detailed picture of the conduct of the Anambra Gubernatorial Election – what has gone well as well as any shortcomings. Based on these reports, TMG will be able to give detailed information about the conduct and outcome of the election.
“TMG observes timely release of electronic copies of the voters’ registers to the political parties by INEC. This is an improvement when compared with previous elections in the state when voters’ registers were hoarded. Such a situation aided electoral malpractices in the past. Political parties have a duty to educate the electorates on where they can go to cast their votes on the Election Day.
“INEC has also assured Nigerians that they have adopted a new system for the distribution of election materials, which will ensure that the elections commence at the stipulated periods. TMG expects that INEC will publish the results of the election at the polling units and the various collation centres as prescribed by the Electoral Act. We urge INEC to make available to the political parties and candidates, on demand after the elections, copies of all the documents used in the election as required by law.
“We also urge the people of Anambra State to resist any attempt to enslave them through the commoditization of their votes. We urge Anambra electorate to use their vote to ensure good governance which will result in improvement of their life and ensure that there is future for their children. Security agencies should be impartial and neutral in the discharge of their duties during the election.
They have a duty to ensure that the election is conducted according to law, and that
“The people of Anambra State should take their fate into their hands by exercising their franchise in the election.
We call on all stakeholders to work towards a free, fair and credible election. TMG’s new methodology of election observation will make election malpractices high risk business during the exercise.”
The group however called on INEC to safeguard the integrity of the process by demonstrating a high degree of neutrality and transparency in the conduct, counting, tallying and announcement of results.
It also urged the commission to provide detailed information to the public on elections day related processes, including entry and transmission of results, while political parties and their supporters should remain peaceful, abide by the laws and refrain from announcing unofficial election results.
Executive director of Inclusive Friends Association and Coordinator of Disability Voters Matter, Grace Jerry, who has moved her office to Awka to be able to mobilize all disabled voters to participate in the election, called on INEC to make elections more accessible for Persons With Disabilities, PWDs. Jerry said it was important for them to participate in election because it was their constitutional right which they must take advantage of.
Some of the problems the disabled voters might face today include the likely inability to access the polling units by those on wheel chairs, unavailability of sign language interpreters to explain election day processes and procedures to those who have hearing impairments or cannot see, unavailability of brail or tactical ballots for those who have visual impairments and the fact that INEC had not properly captured them.
She said: “The PWDs have demonstrated that they are capable of participating in elections as voters, candidates, election observers on equal basis with citizens that do not have disability. The excuse we have got from policy makers and political actors at the federal and state levels during our advocacy for equal voting rights for PWDs has always been that they do not want to participate.
“We dispelled this excuse when we mobilized PWD observers for the 2016 governorship election in Edo and Ondo states and we must do the same by voting enmass for the candidates of our choice in the Anambra election.
This will show that there are many voters who have disabilities and can vote and influence the outcome of elections. This way, the political class will pay more attention to our political and socio-economic rights