Tomorrow, November 18, 2017 will signal another litmus test for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). It is a date for the people of the state to elect a new helmsman. For months, the Anambra election had been in the news. The reason for this is obvious. The ruling party would want to have a foothold in the south east. Presently, their hold in that zone is tenuous. It does not need a soothsayer to know that the most popular party in the state has always been the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).
It is the party that brought in former governor, Peter Obi, who has since crossed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is on the APGA platform that the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano came to power. The overbearing influence of late Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu has also helped in the popularity that the party enjoys today. To then upstage APGA would therefore be a near impossible task if there were to be a level playing field. This election is therefore a litmus test for INEC. A test of its readiness for the 2019 general elections, a readiness of its avowed independence from the influence of those who would want to subvert the people’s will and evidence of the integrity of INEC’s leadership.
In times past, the practice had always been the obvious influence of the ruling party on the electoral umpire. Would INEC succumb to the pressure of a party that is desperate for a firmer foothold in the south east as precursor for the 2019 general elections? APC needs Anambra. It needs the advantage of having that state in its kitty. But we all know that the party has remained largely unpopular in that zone. Presently, 37 candidates are vying for the governorship, but out of all these, there are five top contenders, Dr Tony Nwoye of APC, Governor Obiano, Mr. Oseloka Obaze who is flying the PDP flag and having the former Governor Obi as his chief promoter, Godwin Ezeemo of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) and former Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, (FRSC), Mr. Osita Chidoka.
The candidates have spoken to the electorate. Nwoye said he would focus on power and infrastructure with a view to making Anambra an industrial hub. “I am here to offer myself to serve as chief servant of Anambra. I am here to take Anambra State to enviable heights. I am here to serve if given the mandate.
I am of the opinion that one of the reasons I want to govern Anambra State is to block leakages. If we can have steady power supply and good roads, our industries will grow, we are going to manufacture more. Most of the power lines in Anambra are 33KVA instead of 330KVA. I will do more on power if I am elected governor. I will also work on many roads and I will make security a topmost priority because all these will create an enabling environment for foreign investment.”
Obaze said he would want to take power to the people, “I have a broad platform. I live in the state. I have been in government. We have the mission, intelligence and resources. I want to take government back to the people. We want to focus on human development, education. We will do it by giving 26 per cent budgetary allocation to education. We will create vocational training schools and mission schools. I was part of the security architecture in Anambra State. I understand what it means. The foundation on security is already there but we have to improve on it”.
Ezeemo said he would focus on investment, which is what he had always been doing, “I have brought investments back to Anambra because I want the best. We are lacking in all fields. I have decided to forgo my comfort zone to sacrifice for the state. I will focus on security, health, agriculture, education, empowerment, and environment. We will ensure that Police and civilians work together”.
Chidoka made a case for the principle of morality to bring back Anambra State. “We need to change the bearing of our state, human infrastructure is critical. In 2017, we ranked 37th out of 37th in bribery and corruption index. There is a need to go back to the basic. We will apply vision, sustainability and knowledge.”
Incumbent governor Obiano, in asking for a second term said he would take the state to a greater height by building on his present achievements. “I am here to ask for re-election to take the four pillars and enablers to greater heights. We are doing well in education and agriculture and we will do well in the next term. I am not campaigning against Peter Obi; I will rather focus on what I want to do. What Anambra needs is someone that can drive the process. I’m the only guy here that can do that. Tony (Nwoye) doesn’t have the executive capacity; he hasn’t even worked in his entire life. (Oseloka) Obaze worked in the UN, but the best place for him to work right now is in Syria. He should be distributing relief materials. My other fellow with executive capacity is (Osita) Chidoka, but the only experience he has is in checking number plates and controlling traffic”. Though, the candidates have spoken and gave insight into their vision for the state. But it goes beyond words for a successful election to be conducted. INEC has shown it has the capacity to be impartial. Previous elections have shown this. In Osun senatorial election, the PDP won against the candidate of the APC who had the support of the governor. In Edo state, a peaceful election was conducted likewise in Ondo. Would it be the same in Anambra? The electoral umpire cannot do any less. It must provide a level playing field for the candidates. It is only when this is done that one can now confidently say it is ready for future elections.
Apart from INEC, the security agencies should be cautioned and weaned off its overzealous tendencies. Less than 72 hours to the election, the security details of Governor Obiano was withdrawn. President Buhari had to intervene by calling on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris to restore the governor’s security. This is not right and smacks of overzealousness on the part of the IGP. His reason was that he wanted to give all the candidates a level playing field. In what way? Obiano is still a sitting governor and deserves all the paraphernalia of office and this includes his security. The IGP’s deployment of security for the election is another issue which must be carefully handled. I am not against providing enough security to ensure the protection of the electorate and the sanctity of the ballot, but this should not become counter-productive with the security agents becoming the stumbling block to a smooth election.
The idea of deploying 26,000 policemen, a deputy Inspector General of Police, three commissioners of police and all the different sections of the force seem overkill. Anambra is not a war zone and should not be treated as such. The operatives on duty should be cautioned not to intimidate voters. They are not in Anambra to support any candidate but ensure a hitch-free exercise, devoid of violence. This is all Nigerians and the electorates in Anambra are asking for. May the best candidate that would bring development to the state emerge after the exercise.