As Anambrarians elect their governor through the polls today, some gubernatorial candidates and their political parties have continued relentlessly using such means as threats, goading, bogus rumours and propaganda in an attempt to influence votes to their sides. Also, despite security agencies and INECs continued assurances that the gubernatorial election in Anambra state would be devoid of violence, and would be free and credible, there are understandable doubts that the election might finish off being violent. The election is taking place in 6,581 polling units and 326 wards in the 21 local government areas of the state. And according to INEC records, a total of 1,784,536 voters will partake in today’s election.
The tension in Anambra is indeed palpable, as the Nigeria Police, security agents and INEC have virtually relocated to the state. Discerning election monitors and journalists are promptly littered all across the 21 LGAs of the state. The whole nation is keenly watching the process and awaiting its outcome as it has retrospectively been tagged ‘the mother of all elections’ before 2015, when Nigeria would go to the polls again. The hysteria elicited by the pre-election campaign has metamorphosed the state into a political arena filled with intrigues, furore and slander.
The importance of the elections is particularly underscored by previous visits of President Goodluck Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo, on different occasions to drum-up support and solidarity for Chief Tony Nwoye, the candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which incidentally is in opposition in the state. Also, the premium placed on the poll by the APC was established by previous visit of the national leadership of the party, including the Chairman of the Interim National Committee, Chief Bisi Akande, former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as well as serving and former governors of the now defunct political parties that formed the APC. They literally stormed the commercial city of Onitsha to flag-off the campaigns for the APC candidate, Senator Chris Ngige, who is seeking to unseat the incumbent governor, Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), in an attempt to return to the Government House in Awka for the second time. In addition, Peter Obi’s protege, and anointed candidate to succeed him, Mr. Willie Obiano of APGA remains a formidable candidate to outwit, owing to the infamous power of incumbency phenomena in Nigerian politics.
Apart from the political significance of this election, Anambra state occupies a strategic position in the South East heartland and indeed Nigeria. The state gloatingly has the highest number of entrepreneurs and industrialists in the country. The state has also produced some of the most influential personalities in Nigerian politics such as Nnamdi Azikwe, Chuba Okadigbo, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, Alex Ekwueme, et al. Apparently, it is evident that today’s election is significant, not only for the state, but also for the entire nation. Also, sentiments may somewhat constitute a determinant factor amongst the electorate, as was shown during the campaign trails of some candidates, significantly preying on the emotions of the people, rather than on issues. But amidst the furore, the question remains, who amongst the variety of candidates would carry the day?
Born in 1952, a graduate of University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a Medical Doctor, a former governor and a senator representing Anambra central constituency, Sen. Chris Ngige of the APC remains a prime candidate capable of filling in the shoes of governor and steering the state to greater heights, as he once did in his 33 months in office. His 3years in office were characterized by populist programmes, executing people-oriented programmes especially road construction, leaving him in good standing with the electorate. His well-known scuffle with the self-proclaimed ‘god fathers’ of the state earned him praises and respects, from all and sundry, even his political opponents. He thus exhibited that candour and transparency can be achieved even with the interference of so called god fathers, and also that maximum development can be achieved in Anambra state. He comes off as a smart candidate in terms of treading the slippery Anambra political terrain. So many Anambrarians feel that Senator Ngige can do it again. And when it eventually happens, the APC will have established a strong foot-hold in the South East, as the party currently occupies the governorship seat in Imo. Ngige’s candidacy is deemed to be popular and indeed has the blessings of some members of the top echelon in the party.
In preparation for today’s occasion, Ngige unveiled his 12-point manifesto and a compendium of his stewardship in the Senate in Awka, the state capital. In his manifesto, the security of lives and property in the state has top priority in his government and he intends to engage experienced hands and apply modern technology to minimize crime. Next is free education at the primary and secondary school levels, reduction of fees in the state-owned university by 50 percent while providing adequate funds to ensure re-accreditation of courses De-accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in the institution. The education programme will also award scholarship and bursary to Anambra students in tertiary institutions. The manifesto also provides for free antenatal services for all pregnant women, free primary health care for children up to five years old and adequate staff welfare for health practitioners. In the transport sector, Ngige promised to build an Airport in Anambra North by December 2014, create inland waterways and mono-rail transport system, as well as quality roads to transform Awka.
However, prelude to the election, has been mired by controversy, hullabaloo, backbiting, slander and tumult. Getting to election day proper, reports as at Thursday, states that there was palpable tension in major cities in the state especially Awka, the state capital where armed policemen and other security agents had mounted roadblocks. And on Friday, many residents moved out of major towns and cities to villages to cast their votes in today’s election. Such reports stated that some of the residents said they were uncomfortable with the heavy security presence in the state, which according to them, was a resemblance of a war situation. Further reports states that the opposition parties are afraid that the thousands of arms in private hands circulating in the state could be used to perpetrate violence during the election. Similarly, some of the opposition parties cried foul and alleged that there were thousands of pump action guns retained by vigilantes in the various communities, and they feared these people could use the arms to suppress their supporters. Government even had to impose a 22-hour curfew because of security and violence concerns during the conduct of the elections.
Earlier in the week, began on a violent note when four members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), were killed by security agents in Onitsha. Considering the capacity of the movement to carry out mass mobilization, there were still fears that it could launch a reprisal attack on the day of election. However, the Director of Information of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, downplayed this speculation when he said his members had been directed to peacefully go out to vote and return home. Reports on Thursday stated that some people described by the police as political thugs from Osun State generated diverse reactions in the polity as major players in the Anambra State governorship election began exchanging insinuations, allegations and counter-accusations. 181 youths that were allegedly said to belong to the APC from Osun State, were arrested by the police with voter cards and dangerous weapons, apparently on their way to today’s governorship election. Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP National Publicity Secretary, maintained that the arrest of 181 heavily armed political thugs from APC controlled Imo State, ready to be deployed to Anambra, had exposed APC’s plot to cause mayhem and unleash violence during the election.
However, the APC swiftly denied the report from the Anambra State police command that the youths were members of the party. They maintained that the young men were not found with APC ID Cards and stated that the Imo police command was being mischievous by claiming that the youths were APC thugs on their way to disrupt the governorship election. The APC accused the Police of acting out the script of the PDP in the election by arresting election monitors from Osun State and labeling them as thugs. Also, there were widespread allegations that Governor Rauf Aregbesola was funding the electioneering activities of the APC governorship candidate in the Anambra election. Ngige responded to this by stating that “it is important to find proof from the accusers. People hallucinating cannot just engage a serious-minded political party on trivial issues.”
This election is indeed unique in its own right. It is believed that this election would test the popularity and survival of all political parties in the south east Geo-political zone of the country. The Anambra election is more than the Anambra election; it’s a litmus test for what all parties should expect from INEC come 1915. So the ball falls squarely on your court Prof… So what’s it gonna be, A free and fair election that will reflect the people’s choice or an election that will reflect the wishes of the covertly aligned PDP and APGA? Oh well in just a few hours we will know. I pray everyone participating in the Anambra polls remains safe. Good luck bothers and sisters.
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