Anambra election of 6th November, of this year, is unique for me because the same day doubles as my birthday, so I don’t need to stress my head to remember the date. When I was asked in UK recently on the 21st of October, 2021, whether the Anambra State gubernatorial election will hold, owing to the security challenges in Nigeria, exacerbated by the one week sit at home, ordered by some separatist groups, I quipped that it would hold. I was confident because Nigeria knows how to wriggle out of tight situations at the eleventh hour. I was also confident because I knew the determination of President Buhari to conduct free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria, particularly in Anambra State. The ruling party in Anambra, APGA, and Governor Obiano, have been quite lucky in the regime of Buhari. Whereas, while PDP was in power in Nigeria and Anambra State, a sitting Governor was kidnapped and removed from office in a gestapo style using the instrumentality of the Police Force in Anambra State, when President Buhari came to power and the security details of all the politicians in Anambra State were removed from them, including that of Governor Obiano, by the then Inspector-General of Police, to ensure that the security details were not used to forment trouble in the last Anambra gubernatorial election before the current one, President Buhari immediately ordered for the restoration of the security details of Governor Obiano before the election. Also, when a state of emergency was threatened to be declared in Anambra by the Attorney General of the Federation before the latest election, Buhari invited Obiano to the Villa and assured him that no such proclamation was in the offing. With such assurance, APGA and Anambra people went into the election fully at ease.
Moreover, I predicted to my interviewers that when we approach the date of the election, the Federal Government will overwhelm the State with security operatives that will give the people the assurance of safety which will encourage them to come out and vote. I admitted that there will be pockets of incidences here and there, but they will not be enough to halt or mar the election. Luckily, the separatist groups lifted their sit at home directive before the election, making it easier for the predictions to come through. Of course, there were pockets of hitches here and there that led to the postponement of Ihiala local government gubernatorial election, but all in all, the conduct of the election was salutary and concluded on a high note.
The election has come and gone. A winner has emerged. Prof. Charles Soludo of APGA was declared the winner of the gubernatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The statistics of the gubernatorial election results of Anambra 2021 is as follows: Total Registered Voters (TRV)-2,466,638, Total Accredited Votes (TAV)-258,334 (10.47% of TRV), Total Votes Cast (TVC)-249,631(10.12% of TRV). The performance of the parties stand at: APGA-112,229 votes (44.96% of TVC, But only 4.55% of TRV in the State!), PDP-53,807votes (21.56% of TVC, But only 2.18% of TRV in the State!), APC-43,285votes (17.34% of TVC, But only 1.76% of TRV in the State!), YPP-21,261votes (8.52% of TVC, But only 0.86% of TRV in the State!), 14 OTHER Parties-10,941votes (4.38% of TVC, But only 0.44% of TRV in the State!).
A look at the above statistics instantly reveals the uniqueness of Anambra State gubernatorial election. Whereas other states have two major political parties jostling for election into the gubernatorial seats, Anambra has four major political parties pursuing the seat. This also is the greatest secret of APGA’s continuous success at the polls. The results actually reveal that APGA’s influence in Anambra is waning. APGA won the 21 LGA’s in Anambra four years ago, but dropped to 19 this year. More people want APGA out than people want APGA in. For instance, out of 10.12% of total votes cast, APGA scored only 4.55%, signifying that 5.57% of Anambrans do not want APGA back in power in Anambra State. If Anambra were a two-party state, APGA would have been on its way out because the only other party would have garnered more votes than APGA. Alternatively, any day the entire opposition parties in Anambra can come together, APGA will be defeated. If that day delays, APGA may last longer in Anambra than expected. The lesson here is that the ruling party will continue in power, no matter how unpopular, if the opposition is not united. In other words, victory for the ruling party may not necessarily imply popularity with the people, it may simply mean the repudiation of the disunity among the opposition. Three strong parties in Anambra, including about ten other weaker parties, shared the votes meant for the opposition, which denied them of the possibility of victory, leaving APGA the chance of cruising home to victory. The multiple defections from APGA actually affected the fortunes of the Party, but was not enough to guarantee victory for the opposition because of disunity. We will always stand when united, but will inevitably fall when divided.
Another sophisticated lesson is with APC and the abracadabra of a direct mode of primary in the absence of a dependable membership register of party members. APC is the ruling party at the centre but came a distant 3rd in the election for Governor of Anambra State. APC’s candidate scored about 230,201 votes in the primary election to clinch the primary ticket, but scored about 43,285 votes to lose at the gubernatorial election. Even the winner of the gubernatorial election in Anambra did not score half of the votes in the gubernatorial election that the APC candidate garnered in the primary election. Does this mean that APC could not convince its members that voted in the primary to vote for the same candidate at the general election or does it mean that ghosts voted during the primary and vanished or were banished during the gubernatorial election?
This is not surprising, because in Nigeria, ghosts go to work and vote in elections. In 2003 and 2007 general elections, Michael Jackson’s ghost voted in some states and Mike Tyson body double also voted. These names were found in the manual election register of INEC in states like Anambra. In 2003 and 2007 gubernatorial candidates used to win elections with millions of votes, meaning that millions of ghosts usually appeared to vote. If the National Assembly insists on imposing only the direct mode of primary election on all the political parties in Nigeria, without an authentic and verifiable membership register of party members, they should be willing to witness a host of ghost voters in the primary election of all the parties. The lesson here is that political parties should ensure credible primary election as this will guarantee brighter chances for their winning the general election. INEC banished the ghosts with the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and denied them from propping any party to victory.
Still on the issue of transparent primary election, the former PDP State Chairman in Anambra State, Dan Ulasi, opined that PDP ran the most corrupt primary election in the build up to the 2021 gubernatorial election. He heaped the blame on Peter Obi, the former Governor of the State and his penchant of playing the godfather in the choice of gubernatorial candidates of the PDP. He alluded to the fact that Obi has failed twice in his effort to corronate a gubernatorial candidate and subsequently crown another Governor in the State. The first was Obaze, while the second was Ozigbo. The lesson here is that godfatherism is becoming increasingly outdated and is continually becoming a political burden not a blessing. The people are taking back the power to choose their leaders from the godfathers. Parties which sell themselves to godfathers may get punished in the general elections even when the godfathers bulldoze their ways through in the primaries. My guess is that majority of the aspirants that were shortchanged in the primary election of the PDP intentionally decamped to other parties and emerged their gubernatorial candidates just to ensure that they split the votes meant for the PDP in the general election and ensure the failure of the coronated candidate. Power belongs to the people in a democracy, not the godfathers and any party that fails, refuses or neglects to recognise this fact, so do it at its own political peril.
It was also a pleasing lesson from Anambra election that INEC proved itself capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections, even under tough and critical situations, without having to get clearance from the Nigerian Communications Commission or National Assembly. They deployed the latest electronic arsenal in their kitty for accreditation and ensured that ghosts were exorcised from participating in the gubernatorial elections. The BVAS ensured transparency in the accreditation process which contributed in delivering credible elections. This means that if INEC electoral independence is sustained over a while, we might soon compete favourably with any country in the world in the delivery of free, fair and credible elections. Kudos to INEC and to the National Assembly for expediting the amendments of our Electoral Act to grant INEC the much needed independence they need to enable them discharge their electoral functions without fear or favour.
All politics is local. Soludo took a strategic and long term approach to the gubernatorial seat of Anambra State by joining APGA. He contested for this position twelve years ago under the PDP and found out that APGA will govern Anambra State for a long time. It was a matter of statistics and business forecasting, which he is proficient in, as a Professor of Economics. His decision paid off. He won 94 percent of the votes in the primary election and won almost fifty percent of the gubernatorial election votes. I am not part of the people that boast that they will never join any political party or they will remain in a particular party for life because God rules in the affairs of men and like human beings, political parties also change. Politics is about interests. Nobody should give blind loyalty to any party that fails to protect his interest or the interest of his people. Moreover, the interest of the country should take pre-eminence to the interest of any party. Any party that threatens the existence of Nigeria , either by any act of commission or omission should be shown the way out because we have to have a country first before having political parties. As Anambra people have voted for a party and a person they believe that will protect their interest, so shall all Nigerians vote in subsequent elections for persons and parties they believe should protect their interests.