BusinessDay

Insecurity, fear of manipulation, voter apathy major issues in Anambra election

Those thinking the Anambra State off-season gubernatorial election slated for November 6 would be a still-born should better have a rethink.

Despite the tense atmosphere and ongoing agitations in the state, the Federal Government has plainly said the exercise would take place as scheduled.

Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had at different fora restated that November 6 is sacrosanct.

The Commission has since published the final list of candidates to convince any doubting Thomas it was not out for any jamboree.

It has also urged Anambra people to go collect their permanent voter cards (PVC) from November 1st.

INEC had also announced some innovations to improve electoral integrity, with the use Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), by which it hopes to reduce human interference in the electoral process.

Apart from the military that had since been deployed to the state to check the rising insecurity, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, announced the deployment of about thirty four thousand (34,000) personnel. Over 100 senior police officers of the ranks of deputy inspectors-general (DIGs); assistant inspectors-general (AIGs), commissioners of police (CPs), among others have also been deployed.

Elections in Anambra State have always been special. They draw attention more than in any other place in Nigeria.

Read Also: Anambra election will be ’embarrassingly’ transparent – INEC

It is holding in the midst of high insecurity in the state that could worsen the voter apathy that has always attended elections in the state since 2010.

If available record of history of elections in the state since 2010 is anything to go by, the November election would be more abysmal.

In 2010, of the 1.84million registered voters, only 302,000 actually voted. It represented 84 percent of those who registered did not vote, whereas only 16percent really turnout to vote.

Anambra election

In 2013, 1.77 million registered, but 465,891 voted. It showed that 76percent of the registered voters did not vote, while only 24 percent voted.

It was not better in 2017 as the election that returned Governor Willie Obiano recorded only 22 percent voter turnout representing 447,771million of the total registered voters of 2.06million. 78 percent registered but did not vote.

The November election is coming at a huge cost to the INEC which has spent a lot of money rebuilding its facilities that were torched by criminals and replacing other needed materials and vehicles that were destroyed.

Festus Okoye, commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, said on a national television Thursday that INEC was spending a lot to organise the election. He however, refused to hint on the likely total cost.

The election is also going to cost the Federal government a fortune in terms of providing security.

But observers say that what is important is whether the security agents were deployed to work for the interest of the people or to hijack power. Hon. Ben Nwankwo, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) Campaign Council member expressed the fear.

On the recruitment of ad-hoc staff, Alex Obiogbolu, director-general, Anambra PDP Campaign Council, insisted that the INEC should not recruit its ad-hoc staff from Imo State or those who are interested parties that could engage in underhand deals.

Obiogbolu said is not about who they (INEC) want to recruit as ad-hoc staff, but where they want to recruit from and the willingness of the umpire to be transparent.

Although the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu has said now and again that the Anambra election would be embarrassingly transparent, doubts abound.

Speaking on an AIT programme, Okey Ikechukwu, executive director, Development Specs Academy and Senior Fellow, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said it was important that the Federal Government used the Anambra election to show that despite security threat, the country can guarantee that election holds.

Expressing fears however, over the possibility of voter apathy on account of insecurity, he said the people in the village where the election will hold are afraid as there is no guarantee of their safety.

“Which policemen are in the village to protect the people? The people need to go to the polling booths. If they get there, how many policemen are there to protect them? There are reasons to be apprehensive over the election,” Ikechukwu said.

According to him, “People are afraid to defy the sit-at-home order because there is nobody to protect them if they decide to come out and they are taken out.”

He further explained that “For the last two months people have been two frightened about coming out from their houses to now risk coming out to vote in an election they are not sure of the outcome.

“Many of them suspect it will be rigged and their own experience over the last 20 years also indicates a record of sustained questionable engineering with election results. So, you ask yourself why should I take the risk. Many people can’t find an answer to that,” he said.

Explaining the peculiarities of Anambra elections, Dr. Ikechukwu said: “Anambra State is driven by its own current. Election in Anambra has a reputation of being driven by a certain brand of political gymnastics and everybody turns up holding at least 15 court injunctions in his pockets. And also, where godfather politics has degenerated to its lowest; where somebody could abduct and try to kill a sitting governor. And on top of all of that it became an issue; it went as far as to the Presidency and the presidency of that time said, ‘Look, if you promised them that you are going to be paying them, do so.’

“Now, that’s a president of the Federal Republic telling an elected governor that the funds of the state should be deployed to service an individual.

“Godfathers have damaged the state systematically. Most people who are involved in politics in the state can tell you how much they have to pay for ticket for primaries and all of that. And if you put all of that together, what sort of political ideology do you expect or are you going to get? It is seen as an investment.”

A concerned Anambra indigene who spoke to BusinessDay on condition of anonymity condemned the reported recent disbursement of cash gift by the Federal Government to 15,768 households in Anambra a few days to election.

“When we say that the pattern of corruption in this administration has no comparison some people continue to defend it. Why is it that an interested party in an election will be openly sharing money to citizens less than two weeks to election? Is it not vote-buying? The APC is engaging in all manner of evil, destroying the country on a daily basis; yet they are looking for the cause of our problem. It is very, very unfortunate to say the least,” the angry indigene said.

The Federal Government, a few days ago, through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, began what it termed Conditional Cash Transfer to 15, 768 vulnerable households in Anambra.

The beneficiaries cut across 11 of the 21 Local Government Areas of the state.

The payment started with six pilot Local Government Areas, including Awka North, Anambra West, Dunukofia, Ihiala, Anyamelum and Orumba South.

It has been extended to five more Local Government Areas including Awka South, Onitsha North, Ogbaru, Nnewi North and Anambra East in order to accommodate more beneficiaries.

Observers said though the intention may be right, the timing is wrong.

This is not the first time Abuja was engaging in activities that seem to compromise voters or give advantage to its own party.

During the run up to the general election in 2019, the party extensively deployed cash, which it christened, Tradermoni.

The Vice President Yemi Osinbajo moved from one big market to another in some parts of the country distributing money.

The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs also deployed huge sums of money to the North during that period.

Recall also that the Federal Government through the Senate had on November 13, 2019, three days to gubernatorial election in Kogi, approved promissory notes and bond issuance of N10.06billion to the state as refund for projects executed on behalf of government.

Although opposition lawmakers criticised the approval and asked that it be delayed till after the election, they were out-voted by majority senators.

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