It is only a few hours before the Anambra State governorship election tomorrow, and this Nigerian state which prides itself as the ‘Light of the Nation’ (formerly ‘Home For All’) has really found itself in the limelight recently.
A few weeks ago, the questions were, ‘Will the election hold or will it not?’ ‘Will there be a state of emergency?’ ‘Will the activities of separationist groups and other unknown groups brandishing guns and other weapons truncate the election?’
Even bishops, traditional rulers, and other elders, including the Ohaneze Ndigbo, regarded as the apex Igbo socio-cultural group in Nigeria, weighed in on the matter and appealed to all concerned to let peace reign so that the election can hold. The uncertainty was not helped by the several court cases by candidates and political parties who were challenging the names submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by their parties or those published by INEC itself to contest the election. These court cases have finally been adjudicated upon and INEC seems satisfied that the laws have been complied with.
From all indications, the calls for peace have been heeded and with court cases decided upon, Anambrarians are expected to elect a new governor tomorrow, Saturday 6th November 2021 to select who occupies the Anambra State Government House in Awka, to replace incumbent Governor Willy Obiano come March 2022. Whether voters will troop to the polls is another matter, with threats and counter-threats and even denials of such threats by those said to have issued them, still hanging in the air.
However, the main question of who succeeds Obiano will have to be decided tomorrow.
Weeks back, INEC confirmed the final list of candidates for the election. From the list, 18 registered political parties will be fielding candidates in the election.
The candidates and their parties are Valentine Ozigbo representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Sen. Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), Sen. Ifeanyi Uba of Young Progressives Party, (YPP).
Others are Dr. Obiora Okonkwo of Zenith Labour Party, (ZLP). Obiora Agbasimalo, Labour Party; Dr. Godwin Maduka, Accord Party; Bennet Etiaba, ( AA); Chidozie Nwankwo,( AAC); Akachukwu Nwankpo, (ADC), Afam Ume-Ezeoke, (ADP); Geoffrey Onyejegbu, (APM); Philip Echetebu (APP); Okeke Chika Jerry, (BOOT Party); Leonard Ohajinkpo of NNPP; Afam Ezenwafor for NRM; Nnamdi Nwawuo for PRP and Obinna Uzoh for SDP.
In spite of the role women play in the political, economic and social life of Anambra, there is no single woman on the list of candidates.
Of all the 18 men, three stand out as the major gladiators. Soludo of the ruling APGA, Uba of the APC, and Ozigbo of the PDP are the front runners.
The candidates went head-to-head on Monday, November 1, during the debate organised to have them answer questions about their agenda for Anambra State if elected. Winners of political debates have not been known to become winners of elections in Nigeria so the battlefield is really in the polling booths and how candidates can mobilise their supporters to vote on D-Day, hoping that all things being equal and with a level playing field, the best candidate turns out as the winner.
INEC has laid several ground rules and some of the rules came barely one week to Election Day. The Commission has also said it would not deploy staff and materials to 86 out of the 5,720 Polling Units in the State.
According to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the polling units, which constitute only 1.5 per cent of the total number of polling units in the State, do not have voters. Prof. Yakubu said the Anambra Governorship election would be the first time voting will be taking place in polling units since the recent conversion of voting points, arising from the successful expansion of voter access to polling units in Nigeria. Additional 1,112 Polling Units, PUs were established in Anambra State after the exercise and added to the existing 4,608 PUs, bringing the total number to 5,720.
Voters were encouraged to seize the opportunity of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise to transfer to the new Polling Units most convenient for them. Many are said not to have done so this could be partly attributed to the security situation in the State, which affected the Commission’s pre-election outdoor activities, including voter education and sensitisation. Also, the voters could also have been more circumspect in asking for transfer to new Polling Units.
INEC had earlier moved all non-sensitive materials for the election to the 21 Local Government Areas of the State, with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) handling the delivery of sensitive materials to the State on schedule. Sensitive materials are expected to be moved under security escort to each Local Government Area, from where they will distributed to the Registration Areas or Wards and finally to Polling Units on Election Day.
In all, 2,525,471 registered voters are on the INEC register for tomorrow’s election. About 26,000 election duty staff will be provided by INEC.
For accreditation, INEC is deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for electronic fingerprint and facial accreditation of voters. This system was deployed on a pilot basis in the Isoko South 1 State Constituency bye-election in Delta State last month and it was said to be very encouraging. For example, successful full biometric accreditation was 32.8% in the constituency during the 2019 General Election. However, using the BVAS in the same constituency during the recent bye-election, successful accreditation sharply rose to 97.4%. INEC is promising to deploy appropriate technology to improve the electoral process.
It is true that Anambra State may not in the usual election mood because of the security situation in the State, with the Police IG and the Military High Command and other security agencies deploying huge resources and men to forestall any security breach and attacks from different sources. Safety may be paramount in the minds of the people, rather than voting in a charged atmosphere. Some of the candidates have also not helped matters with unguarded utterances and actions that are considered to be inflammatory and capable of further heating up the polity and compounding the security situation in the State.
But an election is an election and the people of Anambra must use the opportunity to decide which candidate and party rule the state for another four years, beginning 17th March 2022.
Off to the polls you go tomorrow, Anambrarians. Good luck to you all.
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist, writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.