COME Saturday, November 16, 2013, exactly six days from today, the 1,784,536 registered voters in Anambra State will line up in 4,608 polling units in the state to elect a new governor that will succeed Governor Peter Obi on March 17 next year. The figure was arrived at after INEC sifted unqualified voters, mainly double registrants, from the 2011 voters’ registration exercise, which had tentative registered voters of 2, 011,746. About 93000 people were said to be involved in double registration in the state and INEC has since said those involved will be prosecuted for violating a section of the Electoral Act.
Feelers from the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, indicate that the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, would visit Anambra State any time from now to assess the situation on ground, while many national commissioners of INEC from its headquarters in Abuja and some state Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, across the country, would be drafted to the state to conduct and supervise the exercise. It is still not clear if Anambra REC, Prof Chukwuemeka Onukaogu, would be part of the team to conduct the exercise in view of several allegations leveled against him by some politicians in the state to the effect that his body language shows some elements of bias. Onukaogu has since denied the allegation, saying that it is the usual behaviour of some politicians to fly such kites during elections, especially if they have not prepared and mobilized properly for the polls.
Altogether, 23 political parties are involved in the governorship election and their candidates have been traversing the nooks and crannies of Anambra State selling their manifestoes to the electorate.
Though many political parties were faced with the usual problems associated with party primaries, which had to be resolved in courts in few cases, everything appears set for a successful poll.
Parties such as the PDP, APGA, APC, PPN, among others, initially had issues concerning their candidates, but they were able to resolve the problem. The battle for the PDP ticket got to the Supreme Court before it was finally resolved in favour of Chief Tony Nwoye only last week.
Analysts said the apex court’s ruling was a vindication of the PDP panel that conducted the primaries which produced Nwoye. Ahead of the primaries, according to the analysts, the PDP national leadership needed a tactician, somebody well- grounded in party matters, an objective and impartial arbiter; to lead the team to conduct the exercise against the backdrop of the crisis the jostle for the party’s ticket had created. There was bad blood in the state chapter to an extent that there were two excos. The lot fell on Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State to lead the team . The party leadership was said to have trusted Shema to deliver rancour- free primaries and come up with an acceptable candidate. He did not disappoint. A source close to Wadata Plaza national secretariat of the PDP said the party knew how delicate the Anambra situation was given the factional crisis on ground and needed a party leader with the capacity to carry all the aspirants along. “Governor Shema fitted into the kind of party leader the PDP required to conduct the Anambra primaries because he had so many things going for him. Yes, he is one of the governors who have conducted the affairs of their states very well in the last six years.
This is a thing of pride to the PDP leadership that we have a governor that is doing well on the home -front. But don’t also forget that before Alhaji Shema took the mantle of leadership in Katsina, he operated at the highest level of the party as a Deputy National Chairman in charge of North-west”, the source said. The source continued: “When Governor Shema was the PDP Deputy National Chairman, it is on record that he discharged the responsibility of that office with diligence and loyalty. It makes sense therefore that if there was any assignment like the Anambra primaries which the party found delicate and needed tact to deliver, the party leadership will not hesitate to use him.
”Even before the Supreme Court verdict which upheld Nwoye as the Anambra election candidate, the party leadership in Abuja was happy with the conduct of the PDP primaries in one of the most volatile states.”
Indeed, the PDP national leadership had cause to be satisfied about the Anambra primaries. Safe for the little distraction caused by Oguebego, the factional leader, who organised parallel primaries, the Anambra PDP primaries, under Shema’s watchful eyes, went absolutely well. Most of the party’s 22 gubernatorial aspirants were fully involved in the Shema organised primaries to underscore their faith in the exercise and the person in charge to do a thorough job. A source at the Abuja secretariat of the party said the quality of job done by the governor on the Anambra primaries recommends him for more responsibilities as we progress to the 2015 general elections. He noted that Shema is due to finish his second term by 2015 but pointed out that his conduct as a governor committed to the welfare of his people and his absolute loyalty to the PDP are factors to pave the way for him for bigger roles in the polity after 2015.
*For APGA, one of the aspirants, Dr. Chike Obidigbo, disqualified by the party’s screening committee, was presented to INEC as the candidate of the party by the former interim National Chairman, Chief Maxi Okwu, but the electoral umpire has since dismissed his claim. Also, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, who tried to vie on the platform of APC, had to leave the party and later picked the ticket of PPA after he felt shortchanged in APC. Mr. Basil Iwoba had to chase Prince Isaac Onuka out of PPN to be able to get the party’s ticket. Onuka had to move to KOWA Party as the state chairman. At the last count, only UPP, the political party floated by Chief Chekwas Okorie, still has its problem unresolved as two persons are laying claim to the party’s ticket. They are Professor Ben Akanegbu who is listed in INEC as the party’s candidate and who also participated in the political debate organized for governorship candidates in Awka recently, and Dr. Jide Emordi, who is claiming to be the authentic candidate of UPP, having paid the required N5 million as stipulated by the party.
Emordi has gone to the Federal High Court, Abuja where he is seeking an exparte order to stop Akanebgu from parading himself as the candidate of the party. Emordi’s argument was that Okorie and some officials of the party have perfected plans to trade away the structure he built from the inception of UPP by trying to impose Akanegbu as the candidate. He also argued that Akanegbu is not aregistered voter in Anambra State and therefore cannot stand for the election because he cannot vote during the election.
As the campaigns got off the ground, the major contenders in the race began to emerge. Unless the unexpected happens, it is believed that the battle for Obi’s successor will be fought among the candidates of APGA (Willie Obiano), APC (Senator Chris Ngige), PDP (Chief Tony Nwoye), LP (Chief Ifeanyi Ubah) and PPA (Mr. Godwin Ezeemo).
The Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, a coalition of over 400 civil society groups whose main objective is to promote the development and practice of democratic values and monitoring democratic institutions and electoral processes, is to deploy about 600 observers in all the 21 local government areas of the state during the governorship election.
The group’s chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Zikirullahi, who recently visited the Anambra REC, Onukaogu, said the observers would be trained on how to transmit their information to the TMG headquarters in Abuja from the field for prompt collation on election day, saying that a situation whereby reports of election observers came weeks after the election when somebody would have been declared winner was unacceptable.
Though INEC assembled the political parties and gave them the dos and don’ts for the election, there is still tension as the date for the exercise draws near. There are signs of desperation among some candidates and this is caused mainly by their overzealous agents who, apart from engaging in internet battles, also descend on the campaign materials of their opponents. In fact, most of the information churned out from the campaign offices of the candidates turn out to be hoax. For instance, when a group of people came up with the alleged double registration of the APGA candidate, Obiano, they were already speculating that the man had been disqualified and went ahead to name his replacement, but it turned out to be false as INEC and a High Court in Anambra State have since absolved the man of engaging in any double registration
Also, APC and APGA have been accusing each other of being responsible for the destruction of bill boards of their candidates such that the entire landscape of Anambra State is now filled with defaced and torn bill boards. Areas mostly affected in the bill board war are Awka, Onitsha, Nkpor, Agulu, Governor Obi’s town, Nnewi and Ekwulobia, among other areas. In fact, it is part of the desperation to win at all cost that was said to be responsible for the death of 25 persons at the Holy Ghost Adoration ground at Uke in Idemili North local government area as it was alleged that the activities of agents of politicians led to the stampede.
The candidate of APC, Ngige, hinges his campaign on the ground that 70 percent of the blueprint he prepared before he was removed by the court in 2006 were yet to be implemented, claiming that Anambra had become worse under Governor Obi. He cited the stadium in Awka which, he said, was 30 percent completed before he left office, adding that the project has remained untouched since he left office. He also claimed that he diligently paid counterpart funds that enabled donor agencies to come to the state and regretted that despite the efforts he made to resuscitate health institutions in the state; most of them have remained moribund. He has also been telling the people that voting for him would ensure good quality of life for the people and stated that it was to make them happy again that he is contesting the election.
His PPA counterpart, Ezeemo, who released his five-cardinal programmes of security, health, agriculture, power and education in the commercial city of Anambra argued that once these five programmes are properly put in place, the economy of the state would transform in terms of job creation, industrialization, security of lives and property, qualitative free education at primary and secondary levels, qualitative health care delivery, among others.
For the APGA candidate, Obiano, perhaps what he has going for him is the performance of the incumbent Governor Obi whose infrastructural development has been acclaimed both locally, nationally and internationally. Before the APGA government took over in 2006, the state was virtually a dead zone, with collapsed school buildings and unequipped libraries and laboratories, unaccredited programmes in various health and educational institutions, demoralized work force, bad road network, unpaid arrears of pensions and gratuities, among others, but all that have changed. Obiano, in his campaign, has been saying that he would continue from where Obi stops and also claimed that he is the only candidate that has the capacity to continue to attract international funding for the state, considering his background as a renown financial manager. The PDP candidate, Nwoye, had some set back after winning the party’s ticket, but having finally settled down for campaign, has promised to turn the state around for the better if elected. Popular among the youths, Nwoye is supported by many prominent politicians and wealthy people in the state and, in view of the power of money, there are
indications that he will surprise other political parties.
Ifeanyi Ubah of LP has the support of the business community. His promise to drastically reduce unemployment in the state through his job creation measures is exciting the unemployed people in the state.
The parties presenting candidates for the election have already signed an agreement to abide by the rules of the game, even as they urged the INEC and security operatives to provide a level –playing field for all the political parties.
In a communiqué issued at a one- day sensitization workshop for the political parties and stakeholders for the election organized by the office of the special adviser to the president on inter party affairs,
the political parties, through their chairmen who appended their signatures on the document, observed that contestants perform better when the rules were made very clear.
According to the communiqué, the will of the electorate must be respected by INEC, while security
operatives should not only be seen to be neutral, but must be neutral in all actions. It also urged the Presidency to avoid manipulating the electoral process, while the judiciary should play its rightful role by delivering timely judgment to avoid hiccups in transiting from one regime to the other.
The communiqué states further: “The gubernatorial candidates and their political parties should play a leading role in providing a rancour and violence free, smooth, fair and credible election;
“The use of inciting and violent language before, during and after the election must be eschewed;
“No acts of intimidation of the electorate by the political parties, candidates and their supporters should be tolerated, and that the stakeholders should abide by the revised Code of Conduct signed by all political parties and INEC.”