Anambra 2017: Push getting to shove
• Civil Society Sets Parameters, As Threat Of Violence Hovers
It is not definitely going to be an easy governorship poll in Anambra State on November 18, 2017. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) added to the prevailing frenzy in the state by announcing that the Presidential election would come up in February 2019, that is exactly one year two months after the Anambra governorship.
Perhaps, on account of schemes and posturing by interest groups jostling to use the governorship to get set for the presidential poll, the temperature has been rising in the state as November 18 draws nearer.
Signs that violence could feature during the election became acute recently, when some suspected political thugs were apprehended during a rally by the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Hon. Tony Nwoye, at Anaku in Ayamelum local council of the state.
Sources disclosed to The Guardian that one person was shot dead, while many others sustained gun shot wounds, when thugs, believed to be working on the orders of a transitional council chairman, invaded the rally ground.
Ever since Nwoye emerged as the governorship flag bearer of APC, his supporters and those of incumbent governor, Chief Willie Obiano, have been carrying on as if the election is a contest between just the two.
Obiano and Nwoye hail from the same Anambra East local government council. While Nwoye hails from Offianta, Nsugbe, the incumbent is from Aguleri. Prior to the recent incident, apart from minor skirmishes and verbal abuses, the physical attacks were limited to destruction of campaign billboards.
Although one of the daredevil thugs that started shooting sporadically to scare away villagers from the rally was apprehended, the incident further raised apprehensions in the area over the contest between supporters of the two indigenes of Anambra East in the election.
Nwoye had not long ago decried the defacing and destruction of his campaign billboards, even as he pleaded with the governor and APGA to call their thugs to order, saying that “this campaign must be issue based and devoid of any form of violence and acrimonious tendencies.”
Nwoye said it was bad enough that the government imposed unreasonable levies on candidates wishing to mount campaign billboards or post handbills, regretting that after paying the levies hoodlums should be unleashed on the streets to destroy them.
Displaying the receipt from Anambra Signage and Advertising Agency (ANSAA) as evidence of having paid N3m for all his campaign billboards, Nwoye wondered why his should be targeted for destruction.
The government was taken to task over the punitive levy it placed on campaign billboards at the cost of N9m, which many said was targeted at the opposition. However, following the outcry, especially against the background of the claim by opposition that Obiano wants to be the sole candidate in the election, government reduced the fee drastically, pegging it at N1m for each senatorial district.
But, no sooner had the review been effected than vandalism became an issue. Candidates of United Progressives Party (UPP) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Osita Chidoka and Oseloka Obaze, had previously cried out against attacks on their supporters, as well as, destruction of their campaign billboards.
The Chidoka campaign organisation cried out that its giant billboards had been defaced by agents of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), lamenting the increasing spate of unprovoked hostilities.
In a statement signed by the Director of Media, Viola Ifeyinwa Okolie, the Osita Chidoka Campaign bemoaned: We want the world to know that early on Thursday morning, agents of Anambra state government, accompanied by heavily armed policemen tore down UPP billboard in Onitsha South local government area, which is one of our major strongholds.
“They were also seen in other locations vandalizing our campaign materials in their childish attempt to remove us from public presence. APGA in their infantile despondency have started vandalizing UPP posters and billboards, while desperately attempting to mop up Osita Chidoka-branded flyers, hand bills, brochures and our other campaign materials.”
Few days ago, the governorship candidate of PDP, Obaze, expressed dismay that not only was his name and face superimposed on the incumbent’s facebook page, but that branded vehicles and campaign billboards are being destroyed in reckless abandon.
But the Director of Operations, Obiano campaign organization, Chinedu Obidigwe, dismissed the complaints of destruction of campaign billboards belonging to opposition candidates as the antics of losers, saying that the fact that Obiano was on a winning streak has frightened the losers.
Obidigwe told journalists that Anambra people has rejected irresponsible politicians, saying that Obiano’s performance in office has already won for him a second term.
Civil Society Engage Flagbearers
Determined not to allow the politicians bluff their way to the governorship seat, the civil society groups, including Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) and International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) have tasked the candidates on sectoral development.
In separate letters to the incumbent and opposition candidates, Intersociety raised specific issues of interest to the electorate. The group urged the governor to address Anambra people on how far he has been able to deliver on his first term mandate, stressing that that should be the first thing before seeking a fresh mandate.
While reminding the governor that after three years and seven months out of his four-year mandate, he should be able to say what he achieved in the first term, why he was seeking a second term and what he was going to do with a fresh mandate.
Intersociety informed Governor Obiano that only by rendering a comprehensive scorecard of how he fared in the first term could he convince the voters about what he intends to do if given a second chance.
Providing a guide for the scorecard, Intersociety tasked the governor to disclose Inherited Public Assets and Liabilities, especially the state of Anambra State’s statutory local and foreign loans, totaling $45m according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), how much is the total foreign and local debts owed by the state as at the end of October 2017.
Further, the group demanded from the governor a full disclosure of his cabinet size, wage bill and governance overhead cost, pointing out that the people would want to know the number of Senior Special Assistants, Special Assistants, Executive Assistants and Personal Assistants appointed by him.
On infrastructural development and social services delivery, Intersociety demanded: “In Your Excellency’s honour or before God, man and the law, what is the state of Anambra network of roads since March 14, 2014; what is the present state of many, if not most of the asphalted and completed roads across the state before April 2014?”
The governor was also asked to disclose the total kilometres of uncompleted Trunk B and Trunk C roads inherited from the preceding administration of Mr. Peter Obi, advising him to state their stages of completion as at the time they were handed over.
The incumbent governor was also advised to comment on fiscal discipline and accountability, foreign investment and agricultural development, stressing that he should tell the people the extent of government’s involvement in public sector and funded industrialization of agriculture in the state.
In the letters to the 36 opposition candidates, Intersociety stated: “We have observed with deep dismay that fundamental gaps and missing points have dominated and continue to dominate the governorship campaigns so far, especially by the incumbent and the candidates of PDP and APC.
“These fundamental gaps and missing points have thrown the electorate of Anambra State and the entire citizens and residents into confusion, capable of generating total loss of confidence and voter apathy in the state’s 2017 governorship electioneering.”
Consequently, the group tasked the candidates to address the electorate on how they intend to grapple with land and water mobility; location of natural resources and how to tap them in the state; internal, national and foreign mobilization, as well as their public policy directions as it concerns loans and indebtedness.
In the letter signed by the Board Chairman, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chinwe Umeche and Obianuju joy Igboeli, Heads of Democracy/Good Governance and Civil Liberty/Rule of Law Programmes, respectively; Intersociety told the flag bearers to explain to the electorate how they intend to tackle political violence, especially thuggery, cultism and gangster killings.
“In your honour or before God, man and law, have any of you been involved in them by way of killing or procuring others to kill innocent members of the public in the course of social and political activities through out your careers, in school, workplace, business or social leadership and entertainment?”
Specifically, Intersociety informed the contestants that owing to gross bastardization of the concept of modern security by present public office holders in Nigeria, particularly in Anambra State, they should comment on resource donation on security and crime fighting.
The civil society groups noted that only those who are able to offer plausible steps to tackling those challenges, including the preservation of social harmony and security should be taken seriously.
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