That triumph of people power in Anambra
Grand finale of the Anambra governorship poll showed the reign of good reasoning with some valuable lessons for the country’s foundering democracy.
Much more than the governor-elect and his victorious ruling party in the state, the people that showed up resolute in defence of democracy, even when the night got the darkest in Anambra, are the beacons of light. Again, they remind Nigerians of the incontrovertible people power, civic engagement and primacy of political participation in salvaging what is left of the common fate in a democracy.
By the calculus of the political class, Anambra was not meant to have a free and fair election. Spates of violence, raids and gruesome killings by unknown gunmen heightened the atmosphere of tension and beckoned on the State of Emergency in the build-up to election day. The unsettling influence of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the region, and the declaration of a week-long sit-at-home in protest against the detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, neutered whatever was left of participation. The political class was literally coasting home to victory! But two days to the election, IPOB and other non-state actors pulled back to rally behind the electoral process for the people to freely have their say. It was the path of wisdom that stands commendable, at least for the momentous grace to save Anambra from the precipice.
The election was far from perfect, though it could have been the worst ever and beyond the dismal participation recorded. Despite IPOB’s ceasefire and significant neutrality of the security agencies, the voters’ turnout was low. Records showed that only 253,388 voters got accredited out of the possible 2.47 million registered. The 10.27 per cent of voters’ turnout is the worst since 1999.
Nonetheless, there is an inclination that the Anambra people know what they want in terms of good governance and how best to get it. They realised that the most developed state in the region and one that parades an array of best academics, business moguls, exceptional individuals in diverse walks of life, national icons and world-beaters should not be led by some of its worst characters. It stands to good logic that a state blessed with role models like Olaudah Equiano, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chinua Achebe, Emeka Anyaoku, Chukwuemeka Ike, Odumegu Ojukwu, and so on, should no longer have rogue bands preside over its affairs.
It was for that reason that the people stood with conviction and as a movement. Quite exceptional was the Ebenebe women that rejected N5,000 in exchange for their votes. In other places, private citizens deployed hotspots to support officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Statewide, they braved the security risk and palpable tension, procedural delays and malfunctioning Bi-modal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) devices, just to vote for the candidate of their choice. In the high wire politics, they refused imposition of candidates by any party, godfather, sitting governor, nor a bullying government at the centre that has apparently cared less for the region. They voted and ensured their votes count. Indeed, it was a battle between light and darkness in Anambra and the people ensured that light prevailed. That is the demonstration of the people’s movement at its finest!
The governor-elect, Chukwuma Soludo, is indeed a first-among-equals and has clawed his way up the hill. Though an eminently qualified first-class economist and former Governor of the Central Bank, Soludo walked the tightrope of dirty politics in the last 12 years. He has contested and lost, yet he was resolutely on the side of the people, unlike opportunists that only appear in an election year. Soludo had battled forces within the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and fought all the way to the Supreme Court to earn the victory that is now widely celebrated even across party and ethnic lines. As he rightly conceded in his acceptance speech, the real victory is that of the people.
Now, upon him rests a great expectation for which he cannot be envied. Anambra, like the rest of the South-east, is in tension over insecurity and Nnamdi Kanu’s detention and it showed in the election result. Amid the poor turnout, Soludo polled less than half of the meagre 10.27 per cent that voted, to emerge a winner. Therefore, he has a vastly divided state to mend, a people to rally behind the Anambra project, and an angry region to appease and pull back from the brink. He has ticked all relevant boxes as an intellectual and technocrat. It is time to show political sagacity and statesmanship to justify the people’s confidence. No excuses!
From the Anambra experience, the Nigerian masses can hope to turn the tide of socio-political and economic woes. Ahead of 2023 crucial general elections are off-season guber polls in Ekiti and Osun in 2022. The triumph of people power should begin with careful planning and getting involved in the entire process. Instead of complaining about the warped party system and being laid back in frustration, get registered to vote, participate in the process and organise movements to insist on only credible candidates that are known and can be held accountable. And on election day, come out en masse to vote and ensure only the will of the people count.
For all the brinkmanship that Anambra showcased in the pre-election, it also proved that nothing can get in the way of a people’s movement. And that should be the motivation towards the 2023 general election. The people should stand up; repudiate charlatans and the thieving political class already parading selves as the saviour and solution to problems of their creation. The people deserve a better deal and should fight for it as the Anambra people exemplified.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.