BusinessDay

Anambra election defies permutations

…Records fairly huge voter turnout …Non-violence incidents …IPOB’s sit-at-home cancellation a booster …Yet, complaints abound as state awaits new governor … INEC extends voting in Anambra governorship election to Sunday

Against all permutations that the off-season Anambra gubernatorial election was going to be violence-ridden and that it would also record massive voter apathy, the exercise has been described as peaceful, but complaints abound over glitches caused by card reader malfunctioning in many locations across the state.

Before Saturday, November 6, the sing song was that if the election would hold at all, it would witness bloodshed and that many voters would not bother to step out to exercise their franchise.

The apprehension followed the threat by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to attack whosoever that would dare to step out to vote or defy its sit-at-home order, which was expected to begin the previous day, November 5.

Our correspondent had reported that in compliance with the sit-at-home order, the streets of Awka, the capital city of Anambra State, was deserted Friday. And that many parts of the state wore a sombre look also.

It had been days and weeks of uncertainty and apprehension despite assurances by government and stakeholders that security would be guaranteed before, during and after the election.

But the secessionist group said it called off the order after consultations with elders, traditional and religious leaders from the region.

Emma Powerful, the group’s director of Media and Publicity, in a statement, said: “Following the genuine intervention of our elders, esteemed traditional institutions/rulers and religious leaders, and after due consideration of the positive impacts of their engagement, and sequel to the fact that our elders have spoken in our terms, the leadership of IPOB, ably led by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hereby and immediately call off the one-week sit-at-home earlier declared to commence November 5 to November 10.”

According to him, “We have equally considered several appeals by our mothers who earn their living based on their daily economic activities, which will obviously be affected if Biafraland is locked down for one whole week. It’s never our intention to add to the pains of our people, hence our decision to suspend the sit-at-home.

“IPOB leadership is only interested in our referendum and peaceful agitation for self-determination, and cannot by under any guise be seen to be interfering with any electoral process.

“The people of Anambra should go out en-masse and peacefully exercise their franchise on Saturday and accordingly, chose a leader of their choice. They should not be intimidated by anybody, group of persons or security agents.”

Powerful further said: “Anambrarians should vote and standby to protect their votes. No rigging of any kind will be tolerated. It must be transparent, free and fair to all.

“We, therefore, urge all Biafrans and residents of Biafra to go about their lawful businesses without fear of any molestation. All agents of darkness recruited by our enemies to inflict pain on our people under the guise of enforcing the sit-at-home are hereby warned to steer clear or brace up for the consequences of their evil action.”

Observers say that the dramatic volte-face by the outlawed IPOB, giving a go-ahead order, asking people to go participate in the election, must have boosted the enthusiasm of indigenes to perform their civic responsibility.

Read Also: Anambra election: People’s lives must be valued above the ballot

Anambra election

“I must commend IPOB for the maturity and their realisation that it is foolhardy for one to bring war into one’s own home. If you are unhappy about a situation, you should not burn down your own house to show you are angry. I am happy that reasons prevailed. I also thank our elders- traditional rulers and religious leaders for prevailing on them to make that reasonable decision. The peaceful conduct of the exercise is in all our interest,” a chieftain of one of the parties, who craved anonymity.

The chieftain further advised the INEC and security agencies to ensure that the exercise ends as a credible one.

“It would be too bad to begin to hear that the election was rigged at the end of the day. That would encourage the IPOB and others to make the state ungovernable for whosever is believed to have compromised the process. That would not be in the interest of Ndi Anambra,” he further said.

Eighteen political parties and candidates contested to succeed the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had said ahead of the election that there were 2.5 million registered voters and 5,720 polling units in the state but that there would be no voting in 86 of them because there are no registered voters there.

Fairly huge voter turnout

Although it may be difficult to determine as yet the total number of voters that turned out to exercise their franchise, our correspondent can report that it was way ahead of expectation, as according to him, “Nobody expected that people would leave their homes to the polling booth with all the uncertainties.”

An 89-year-old voter, Abigale Enu, who voted in the exercise, urged the INEC and security agencies to ensure that her vote counts.

She spoke after casting her vote at Ward 1, polling unit 003 and 0015, Enuagu village, Enugwu-Ukwu, in Njikoka Local Government Area of the state.

Soludo, others lament glitches

Chukwuma Soludo, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), says the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) deployed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the election has failed.

Speaking with journalists after the device failed to accredit a number of voters at his ward in Aguata LGA on Saturday, Soludo lamented that many people have not voted despite arriving at the polling unit early.

The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the device being deployed in Anambra for the governorship election is the reason why many people have not voted.

“Fundamentally is that technology collapsed; BVAS technology of a thing is a complete failure,” he said.

According to him, “If it is going to be rectified it is going to be in minutes or hours to come. Almost 12:30pm in the day, voting is yet to start in most of the polling units in the state.

“For the few places that they are doing (voting), technology that ought to take seconds to accredit someone takes 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and so on. With the crowd you can find hundreds of people… if the machine starts working you are not going to finish this crowd within the hour.

Speaking further, Soludo said the situation raises fundamental questions about the technology, adding that the situation was the same across the state.

“Because I have been getting calls from virtually all LGAs in the state about the glitches. Places where you have 900 people, you have five or six that have voted so far.

“The fundamental problem is the technology that is being tried here in Anambra. It just hasn’t worked up to this minute. Maybe, we will still keep being optimistic. The technician who is supposed to be the expert has been fiddling with it (BVAS).”

Agnes Okoli, a septuagenarian, said that she got to the polling point as early as 7:30 a.m and had to wait till officials arrived, expressing her happiness at the peaceful conduct of the people as well as hope that it would end that way.

She said she was anxious to vote because it was her civic duty and that it was an opportunity for Amaesi to give Anambra their son as governor because one of the major candidates was from the Community.

Assurance of security major reason for impressive turnout – Deputy Governor

Nkem Okeke, deputy governor of Anambra State, has attributed the large turnout of voters to the presence of security agencies in the state.

Okeke, who spoke on the huge turn-out, said the decision of the Federal Government to deploy massive security in the state was the magic.

“The people are very relaxed as you can see. There is no apprehension at all. People have no reason not to come out, because they are confident of the security,” he said.

Okeke had a few weeks ago dumped his party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) for the All Progressive Congress (APC).

INEC extends voting in Anambra governorship election to Sunday

Following the failure of the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has extended voting in the ongoing gubernatorial election in Anambra State till Sunday, November 7.

Making the announcement at a press briefing at the Commission’s headquarters in Awka, the state capital, was the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji.

“In line with existing regulations and guidelines of the commission, any intending voter who is on the queue by 4.00 pm shall be allowed to vote. All Polling Unit staff must comply with this directive.

“The extension of time arose out of several field reports that voters have had problems with accreditation. The Commission is currently investigating the reason the accreditation devices, Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, have worked perfectly in some polling units, but not in others. In some of the cases, it would seem that this resulted from software glitches,” Orji said.

According to Orji, “Our technicians have already built an update to the devise software to prevent further challenges. The update is currently being installed in the concerned BVAS and we request voters, candidates and agents to be patient and allow our technical staff to solve the problem.

“The Commission wishes to reiterate that in cases of sustained malfunction of the BVAS, the Presiding Officer must inform the voters and polling agents that accreditation and voting for the affected Polling Unit shall continue tomorrow or at another time determined by the Commission.”

He added, “With this extension of time and the recommencement of accreditation where the BVAS consistently malfunctions, the Commission assures that no voter will be disenfranchised.

“Our deployment has also been adversely affected by transportation challenges in some locations. It must be noted that on account of security concerns, some of the transporters that were mobilized and collected 50% of their sign on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving some of our ad-hoc staff stranded.

“Also, some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment. The Commission is on top of these challenges and extant regulations and guidelines will be applied on a case-by-case bases.

“Consequently, we are harvesting areas where voting will realistically no longer take place today, including places where substantial disruption has occurred, to enable a possible recommencement of voting at another time, in line with extant laws and the regulations and guidelines of the Commission.

“We appeal to all voters, candidates, stakeholders communities and political parties to remain calm and law abiding. We assure you that the Commission is determined to a make all votes count.”

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