The Anambra election
Twenty four hours to the Anambra State governorship election, the decisive moment is now at hand for the people to renew the mandate of an incumbent or choose a new occupant of the Anambra Government House. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) claims it is ready while the Nigerian Police and other law enforcement agencies have assured Nigerians and global observers of a safe and conducive environment for voters and officials. Hopes are high, everywhere is tense, last-minute permutations are being fine-tuned, and the electorate seem ready to exercise their franchise.
However, regardless of the assurance of preparedness given by the chairman of INEC, the highly respected Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, as well as the deployment of law enforcement officials, the Anambra election would provide the pilot case for the conduct of a genuinely free and fair election come 2019. It is going to test not only the adequacy of logistics or sophistication of the technology but also the sincerity of purpose and political maturity of the contestants. It is also going to test how much moral lessons have been learnt by the electorate about making free, rational, long-term choices.
The presence of the military contingent, ‘Operation Python Dance’ seemed to have neutralised whatever perceived threat the members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) might have posed and the election should be free of disruption by the agitating crowd. Besides, the deployment of three helicopters, thousands of policemen, police patrol vehicles, amongst others, as announced by the Inspector General of Police, seem to allay fears of violence in this volatile and tension-prone South-eastern state.
Notwithstanding, what is most worrisome is the threat and fear of rigging. One situation that gives credence to this fear is the bitterness of the rivalry between the incumbent and other contestants on one hand and between him and his erstwhile god-father and governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi.
Another factor that creates room for this fear is the seeming inability of the various stakeholders to work in synergy to shun desperation. With each of the aspirants trying to undo each other in terms of influence, using truculent words and using different shades of thugs at their disposal, it needs to be asked how much rigging would be avoided. Moreover, the management of the resources for law enforcement, the role of the soldiers, the power of incumbency versus the influence of godfatherism, and access to the government in power would be forces for either good or evil.
Contestants should nonetheless be mindful of the people they so much aspire to lead, as well as the global perception of their state and country. Anambra State holds a place of prime importance to Nigeria. It is a very strategic and viable economic hub. That Anambra is a state that can transform the industrial and technological fortunes of this country to great heights is a conviction which every contestant must bear in mind. The industrial potential of Nnewi, the breath-taking trading city known as Ariara Market, not to mention the magnetic pull of the Onitsha commercial bee-hive, are economic locations comparable to the most viable anywhere in the world.
Beyond the myopic consideration of egotistic sentiments, contestants and voters must realise that they need leaders who will turn these potentials into concrete problem-solving centres that will better the lot of the people of Anambra and other Nigerians.
Although, a certain unfavourable concourse of history has robbed Anambra of the sophistication of its human capital, thus presenting Anambra as a land populated by devil-may-care persons, voters should not lose sight of its heritage of iconic personalities. Drawing from the tradition of excellence that built its illustrious sons and daughters, Anambra State, the land of the Nnamdi Azikiwes, Chinue Achebes, the Alex Ekwuemes, the Olise Agbakobas and many others, should not be pinioned to the philistinism of buccaneers and self-seeking political debutants.
What this implies is that the Anambra election is a crucial one for the INEC to handle. The frenetic reaction of contestants to the election, the febrile show of money-power, the threat of IPOB would all together pose a challenge. Even though INEC has warned staff against electoral misconduct, the Prof. Yakubu-led electoral body acquit itself creditably.
It is hoped that INEC’s usual excuse for inconclusive election would not replay itself this time around. The excuse that elections are inconclusive because of violence is no longer tenable. It is unacceptable. INEC’s duty is to release the result of the elections it has conducted.
Once again, the constant refrain that an election is not a ‘do or die’ affair should continually resonate in the ears of the people of Anambra as they come out en masse on tomorrow to exercise their franchise. They should vote rightly and choose wisely.
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