Last Saturday, the Anambra people went to the poll to elect a new governor. But a week after, the outcome of that exercise is yet hanging with loads of controversies trailing it. All accusations have been directed at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who, from all intents and purposes did a shoddy job. For an election that had long been announced, it is shocking to see INEC fumble with such a ruined delivery of its task . Anambra State is almost a land-locked terrain. It does not have areas that are difficult to access as we have in some Niger Delta states, for instance.
The number of registered voters is 1,784,506. Spread across the 21 Local Government Areas. The INEC had created 4,608 Polling Units, and 6,581 voting points, and 326 Registration Areas.
Between August 19—25, 2013, INEC had done the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR). After updating the voters’ register, it was displayed in October, preparatory for the November 16 poll.
With such basic statistics and seeming arrangements, one could agree with Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman when he declared that “We have made meticulous arrangement to ensure that the election is free and fair. We want to make Anambra election the best election we have conducted in this country.
“We have done it in the past and we have learnt from our mistakes”.
But alas, what we have seen from the outcome of the Anambra exercise is anything but the “best”. I suspect that INEC may have suffered from some feeling of complacency after the better-organised Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections.
The Anambra exercise was, as it looks, a complete sham. It is riven with complaints and operational gaps. With such a defined land mass, Anambra election ought to indeed be the best. But no. INEC bungled it. Hundreds of thousand voters ended up not being accredited, largely due to late arrival of voting materials. Where the materials arrived early, they were not complete. Some polling units had no result sheets. At the end of the day, only 451,826 persons were accredited to vote out of 1, 763,751 registered voters, and 429,549 votes were cast during the election, less 16, 544 votes that were rejected.
Many people did not find their names on the register. They maintained that the errors detected during the display of the register in October, were not corrected. That is why missing and mis-spelt names remained so during the election.
What is worse? In order to have a thorough grip of the exercise, the INEC deployed six national commissioners, 15 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), 326 Supervising Presiding Officers, 4,608 presiding officers and 6,851 assistant presiding officers. Add to all these, the presence of the National Chairman himself. So where were all of them when the exercise began to fail? How could they be so thoughtless to send voting materials, without, for instance, result sheets? And with the long pre-election preparations couldn’t INEC have conducted a mock operation for the exercise?
We have had a history of failings by electoral bodies, all due to poor planning. And so we wonder how many rivers we have to cross before we get it right.
Expectedly, fears have been expressed about the implication of this shoddy show on the all-important 2015 elections, if in only one state, we could record this degree of failure from INEC?
Jega must re-jig his tools and plans. The fact that there is a saboteur in his team is also quite telling.