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Why Obiano won


Willie Obiano

In any election incumbency packs a punch. The incumbent always has something to show, completed projects to flaunt, ongoing projects that are nearing completion or even ones that are on the drawing board. He has the paraphernalia of the civil service, the MDAs, the contractors, women and youth groups hired and unhired, all of them are often in the corner of the incumbent. The incumbent is also seen as a bird in hand, the reality not the dream, the person on the job not the one who wants to be on the job. In most elections, all of these factors often work in favour of the incumbent.

It worked for Chief Willie Obiano, the newly re-elected Governor of Anambra State. As all incumbents normally do, Obiano published a long list of his completed projects and asked that the public should crosscheck and establish for themselves the veracity of his claims.

This is a pragmatic approach to campaigning which puts the non-incumbent at a disadvantage because he has no completed projects to flaunt. But publishing a list of completed projects even though quite useful to the incumbent and the voters is routine. I am, however, thrilled by the “choose-your-project initiative” adopted by Chief Obiano’s government. The various communities in the state were asked to choose projects that were very dear to them. The government would then give them N20 million for the execution of the project. The project must be executed by a local contractor. Once the project is successfully executed the community can be rewarded with another N20 million for the execution of another project of their choice.

The advantages of this development paradigm are several. One, the community chooses the project it feels it needs badly so no one from outside drops an unwanted project on its laps. Two, the community owns the project. This makes for inclusive governance. It guards that project jealously. Three, the project is not likely to be abandoned or executed poorly since the contractor comes from within the community. If he abandons or does a poor job of it, the people will skin him alive. Four, this approach is perhaps the best strategy for rural communities. Since the projects are small and easy to manage there will be no expensive after project servicing and no high-flying consultants are needed.

Over and above these, it is obvious that the Anambrarians also wanted stability in their state. With all the noise made by the rebel group called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) complete with a promise to disrupt the elections, the people chose peace over peril. They trooped out in their numbers to vote. And who did they vote for? Obiano, because he must have performed well or they thought that continuity would bring stability in the face of a possible confrontation between IPOB and security forces. But at the same time they stood solidly by APGA, the Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu political platform.

Ojukwu is dead but on election day he was alive. The people showed that they were the Independent People of Anambra (IPOA) by largely ignoring the two major national parties, APC and PDP.

In this election, APGA won 234,071 votes (55.43%), APC got 98,752 votes while PDP scored 70,293 votes. Obiano had more votes than all the other 36 contestants put together. This makes nonsense of our so-called multi-party system. We have in the country about 45 registered political parties, with just about five having any reasonable presence anywhere.

The rest are just moribund husband-and-wife, father-and-son parties. This may make the gods of multi-partyism happy but it is pure rubbish. There is no country in the world that has more than three strong parties. Check from England, Germany, France to America and you will find that only two or three parties really make an impact in their elections. So why do we need 45 parties in a semi-literate country with no ideological differences? The major disadvantage of having an army of parties is that voters make mistakes and render their votes invalid. In the Anambra election, there were about 30,000 invalid votes. This situation must have arisen from inadequate voter education, the inability of voters to choose correctly due to the tiny prints on the ballots sheets, and the smallness of the voting space. This made it easy for voters’ thumbprints to occupy more than one space thus nullifying their votes. If we ever want to have better voting procedure we have to ensure that we do not have more than five parties on the ballot paper. Higher numbers confuse our largely illiterate voters. They also make voting error-prone.

The police and other security forces contributed substantially to the peace and harmony that largely prevailed during the elections. Twenty six thousands policemen and women were out there in their battle gear to offer trouble to trouble makers and to make life easy for law-abiding persons. Law and order prevailed. We did not see, as Nigerians love to say, the brake lights of the boastful IPOB members. They ran into their hiding holes. We are happy that things went swimmingly. This is how the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji captured it: “Some people came here to watch the state burn, to see brothers killing themselves but we are glad that nothing like that happened.”

The independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also did a commendable job. It was a massive improvement on its performance in Edo and Ondo states.

But the culture of transaction politics that was prevalent in Edo and Ondo also allegedly featured in Anambra. Vote selling and voting-buying is an ancient ritual in Nigerian politics. It is a function of the depravity and desperation of Nigerian Politicians as well as the poverty of the voting masses. We have seen these transactions in various forms: dollars in envelopes, money in loaves of bread, small packs of ofada rice with money buried inside, money in the middle of newspapers or folded curriculum vitae etc. Nigerian politicians are devilishly creative in these matters. No one can hold INEC responsible for this. INEC or the security agencies cannot even stop it. It is an illegal transaction between a willing buyer and a willing seller. The cynical view is that election time is the only time the people get to see their leaders. After elections, they quickly vanish along with their fabulous promises only to reappear at the next election. So the logic goes, catch them when you see them.

With this victory, Obiano has come into his own, away from the looming shadow of his mentor, Mr. Peter Obi with whom he had parted ways before the elections. Obiano can beat his chest that he won the election on his own steam and that he had successfully nailed the coffin of godfatherism in Anambra. In Anambra the proud cock crowed loudly. By the results of the elections how will Anambra vote in 2019? APGA may not field a presidential candidate in 2019 except it wants to make a jest of itself.

So Anambra will be a fertile hunting ground for the APC and PDP. It is a toss-up who will get it but Obiano will be an important factor in that equation.

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