The gubernatorial election in Anambra State held November 16, came with high hopes of being the best, but ended up tainted and inconclusive
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
NOBODY expected it of Anambra State. In fact, in the run-up to the gubernatorial election held in the state on November 16, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had assured the nation that it would be the most credible election ever held in the country. Speaking during a stakeholders’ forum at the Women Development Centre, Awka, on Wednesday, November 13, Attahiru Jega, chairman of the commission, promised that INEC had made adequate preparation to ensure a credible, free and fair election. Jega had made a similar promise much earlier, saying, “Our objective is to make the Anambra governorship election the best so far. But, no matter how hard we try, we alone in INEC cannot succeed without the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially political parties, their candidates and the people of Anambra State.”
But despite the preparation and high hopes, the gubernatorial election in the state has ended in a cliff-hanger with some of the candidates calling for its cancellation. Rather, the INEC, on Monday, November 18, declared the gubernatorial election in the state inconclusive. Thus, the commission ordered the conduct of supplementary election in some local government areas of the state, where the election was cancelled due to some irregularities.
The preliminary results announced by James Epoke, returning officer of the INEC, showed that Willie Obiano, candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, scored 174, 710, to beat Tony Nwoye, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who scored 94,956 votes, to the second position, while Chris Ngige, a serving senator and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, came third by scoring 92,300 votes.
The valid votes cast at the election were 413,005, while the rejected votes stood at 16,544, bringing the total number of votes cast to 528,549 in a state that has 1, 784,536 registered voters. Epoke explained that the supplementary election was ordered because the total number of votes cancelled stood at 113,113 and were more than the difference between the votes scored by the candidate with the highest number of votes and the runner-up. The supplementary election will be held in some polling units in 13 local government areas of the state namely Ayamelum, Anambra East and West, Anaocha, Aguata, Anambra South, Ekwusigo and Idemili North.
This development must have been a great disappointment to a lot of Nigerians and, perhaps, the foreign observers because of the promises made by the INEC and President Goodluck Jonathan that there would be a faultless election in the state. To prosecute the election, the commission had deployed 349 electoral and returning officers for the election from Cross River State, a state that recently won accolades for the high integrity of its electoral processes, to the state. And to give vent to the president’s assurance, the security agencies deployed about 28000 men across the state and along with that, there was a three-day lockdown of the state.
But the assurances of the presidency and the electoral commission came under serious suspicion midway into the election on the election-day as opposition party candidates in the state began to moan that the election was programmed to fail. The first signs of trouble were the failure of the INEC to deploy election materials as and when due to many areas and notably, the strongholds of some of the opposition candidates. The election in some of these areas had to hold on Sunday, November 17. A good number of the voters were thus disenfranchised as some of them did not bother to return to cast their votes after the previous day’s experience when they had to wait for several hours for voting materials.
This gave birth to some insinuations that Governor Peter Obi and President Jonathan collaborated to return the APGA candidate. It was alleged that the presidency considered the 2013 gubernatorial election as a payback time for Obi, who has been a faithful ally of President Jonathan through thick and thin. The suspicion, apparently, caused the outcry in the opposition camp who viewed the lapses and irregularities that marred the election process as being stage-managed to ensure that Obiano was given the seat to compensate the governor.
Hence, following the announcement of some of the results, the opposition members called for a halt. Speaking at a joint press conference in Awka, Ngige, Nwoye and Ifeanyi Ubah, candidate of the Labour Party, called on the INEC to stop further announcement of the results because of the alleged widespread irregularities. They claimed that the conduct of re-run election in some polling units in Idemili North Local Government Area was a waste of time. “They can do any amount of voting they like. After consultations with our agents as well as local and foreign observers, we have discovered that what we earlier complained about was a child’s play, compared to the widespread disenfranchisement that was orchestrated by the same body given the responsibility of ensuring a free, fair and credible election on Saturday. We discovered that INEC has set up a multi-layer arrangement to ensure that most voters in the state were disenfranchised, apparently acting out a script to manipulate the result of the election in favour of a certain candidate. Where voting materials were supplied, the commission provided wrong voters’ registers.”
The candidates insisted that fraudulent practices and massive irregularities that greeted the election on Saturday had made it to fall substantially below the requirements of the Electoral Act. They said the parties were deceived by Jega who told them on Wednesday that the voters’ register was perfect. The candidates also alleged massive security lapses, which gave room for intimidation of their supporters and agents. They further alleged that there was a massive deployment of Anambra State government funds in all the polling units to buy votes. “Some of the voters were paid as much as N10,000. Having noted these points and having noted the compromising stance of INEC officials, we have come to the inevitable conclusion that this commission (INEC) is determined to go back to its old ways,” the joint statement said.