Today, residents of Anambra State will go to the polls to elect a governor in what promises to be a very competitive election.
The November 6 governorship election is the first state-wide election to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2021.
Security in the state has deteriorated over the past few months, threatening the election in a manner unseen in the region and the country in general. Political parties said their campaign activities have been virtually nonexistent as a result of the fear of violent attacks from the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
On Thursday, IPOB announced that it has cancelled its one week sit-at-home earlier declared in Anambra State. Despite the cancellation analysts said the “fear is still palpable” as IPOB’s sit-at-home order has been so successful that even when the group lifts the ban, “residents still sit-at-home either out of solidarity or to err on the side of caution.”
PREMIUM TIMES in partnership with its sister organisation, PTCIJ, will bring you a comprehensive coverage of the election.
Here are 10 major things to know about the election:
1. New Polling units
Saturday’s governorship election is the first state-wide elections to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) since the expansion of voter access to polling units by INEC.
According to INEC, the expansion of voter access to polling units resulted in the creation of 1,112 new polling units from the existing polling units in the state, making balloting more accessible to voters and less likely to be encumbered by lengthy queues.
This, the electoral Commission said, is “to improve citizens’ access and participation in the electoral process.”
Such innovations, as well as INEC’s introduction of online voter registration, have partially aided in reassuring the public of the commission’s preparedness to conduct credible elections.
But despite the initiative, Yiaga Africa, a non-profit civic hub, said it is concerned that there are 963 polling units with between 750 and 1,000 registered voters. “With the likely shortfall in the number of polling officials, the high number of registered voters in these polling units may pose a major challenge for crowd control and effective management of the polling units on election day,” the organisation said.
2. Declining Turnout of voters
Since the restoration of democracy in 1999, governorship elections in Anambra have never witnessed up to 50 per cent voter turnout except in 2007 which was massively rigged, according to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).
PREMIUM TIMES review of the previous elections shows a progressive decline in voters’ turnout since 2007.
Of the 1.84 million registered voters in Anambra state for the 2010 governorship election, only 302,000 voted, a miserly 16 per cent voter turnout. In 2013, a total of 1, 770,127 were registered, but only 465,891 voted, representing 24 per cent.
Less than a quarter of the total number of registered voters participated in the 2017 election. Out of 2,064,134 residents registered as eligible voters for the election, only 457, 511 voted, representing 21 per cent.
Aside from Anambra, voter turnout keeps declining despite millions of money spent on elections in Nigeria.
3. Massive Deployment of Security Agents
Following President Muhammadu Buhari’s order, the security agencies assured INEC and citizens of adequate security for the election.
Last week, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, deployed two deputy inspectors-general of police (DIG) and five assistant inspectors-general of police (AIG) to Anambra to help ensure adequate security for the Saturday’s election.
He said 14 commissioners of police, 31 deputy commissioners of police, and 48 assistant commissioners of police have also been deployed to the state.
Based on the outcome of their analysis, the IGP also said “we have developed a strategic election security operation plan which will involve the mobilisation of 34,587 police personnel.”
4. 2.5 million registered voters
In early October, INEC said it had registered a total of 2,525,471 voters for the Anambra governorship elections.
INEC chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, said the commission arrived at the new figure after removing 62,698 persons from the total of 138,802 new registrants recorded at the end of the first quarter of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise on 5 September.
While the number of the new eligible CVR registrants stands at 77,475, Anambra State, as of the 2019 General Election, accounted for 2,447,996 registered voters.
INEC further said that 50.3 per cent are females while 49.6 per cent are males. Also, the highest voting population are students who make up about 48 per cent of registered voters while Idemili North Local Government Area has the highest number of registered voters.
5. Logistics arrangements especially in Riverine communities:
The electoral umpire, INEC, was widely lauded for its conduct of last year’s governorship elections held in Edo and Ondo states. The commission has historically battled significant logistical challenges in Anambra, raising concern about the potential credibility of the electoral outcome.
In its pre-election report, Yiaga calls the attention of INEC and security agencies to notorious blind spots and riverine communities that could pose a logistical challenge and undermine the integrity of the election.
To ensure the early commencement of polls in those areas, Yiaga said “INEC should ensure timely deployment of its officials and materials and improved security to safeguard election materials and officials.
“Improved oversight is required to ensure consistency in the application of election guidelines.”
6. Potential threats to the safety of voters, observers, election officials and materials:
As mentioned above, the Anambra election will be held under unusual circumstances. The activities of so-called “unknown gunmen” and IPOB could affect the conduct of the election, according to CDD.
The series of attacks by “unknown gunmen,” often attributed to IPOB and seemingly targeting the key state institution involved in conducting elections, CDD said, “will sustain a heightened level of apprehension among INEC staff and the general public in the election.”
Yiaga noted in its report that the pre-election period was fraught with violence emanating from inter-communal conflicts, activities of assailants/cult groups and increased activities of secessionist groups in the geo-political zone.
The organisation urges security agencies to be non-partisan and professional in the discharge of their duties and ensure a safe Anambra State for voters to exercise their civic right in choosing the next governor of the state.
Yiaga Africa also expects that the deployment of security in Anambra will be distributed across all polling units and not limited to selected locations.
7. Deployment of New Technology
INEC will be deploying the newly introduced Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), a replacement to the Smart Card Reader. The BVAS is a voter accreditation technology that uses both fingerprints and facial recognition.
INEC expects that the BVAS will add to the credibility of the accreditation process and reduce the number of instances where a voter is disenfranchised due to the failure of the SCR to scan a set of fingerprints.
8. Political Parties and Candidates
There are 18 registered political parties participating in the November 6 Anambra election, according to INEC.
The final register of voters was presented to the 18 registered political parties participating in the election, the commission said in October.
The published list shows that Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), along with 15 other candidates — all male — are vying for the governorship position.
There are, however, seven females vying for deputy governorship positions, INEC said.
9. Intra-Party Crisis
Since the build-up to the governorship race, there has been controversy among political parties, with possible implications for the conduct and outcome of the elections. APGA, the ruling party in the state, until recently had three candidates — Chukwuma Soludo, Chukwuma Michael Umeoji, and Jude Okeke – claiming to be the party’s rightful flag bearer in the upcoming election, after each won separate primaries conducted by different factions of the party. Following a series of court suits and countersuits, the Supreme Court in October affirmed Mr Soludo as APGA’s gubernatorial candidate.
Also, PDP, which dominated Anambra State politics until 2006, held two factional primaries producing two separate candidates : Valentine Ozigbo, and Ugochukwu Uba. The dispute within the PDP has also resulted in several court hearings, with the courts ultimately permitting INEC to recognize Mr Ozigbo as the rightful PDP candidate.
Similarly, the APC, the ruling party at the federal level, had controversial primaries — with Andy Ubah emerging as the winner of direct primaries, only to be challenged in court by his closest rival, George Moghalu, before INEC ultimately affirmed the former’s victory.
Barring any last minute surprises, it appears that Mr Soludo of APGA, Valentine Ozibo of the PDP and Andy Uba of the APC will be the leading contenders in Saturday’s election.
10. INEC Preparedness
Aside from creation of the new polling units and introduction of new technologies, INEC appears to have recovered from direct attacks to its offices and the commission has said it is in a position to organise the polls.
The CDD said this is fairly conceivable given previous experience gained in 2015 and 2019 by INEC and security agencies in holding elections in highly volatile regions, including in parts of Borno and other North-eastern states threatened by insurgent groups.
“The fact of this being an off-cycle election will also make possible the substantial deployment of Civic and Election observer groups from elsewhere in the country, which will contribute to reinforcing the integrity of the polls. While the ongoing training of electoral officers and ad hoc staff will also contribute to shaping the conduct of the elections.”
The group added that INEC’s wider record of preparations suggests that the commission is likely positioned to carry out, at least, moderately credible poll.
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