Anambra in the eye of the storm

Tomorrow’s governorship election in Anambra state, South-east Nigeria is by no means a war. However, it is a decisive election in the state’s history. In fact, it is being touted as one that could define the future trajectory of Anambra state for good or ill.

Its result will be eagerly awaited. Against the background of marginalisation cries, one narrative appears to be gaining ground among majority of Igbo. This narrative is not necessarily objective. However, it is buoyed by recent events that make them believable to the average South-easterner. They may be coincidences but happening at an inauspicious time as this and in a country where conversations are beclouded by ethnic and other primordial sentiments they provide fuel for the narrators. They are mainly, recent charges against Nnamdi Kanu and the raid of Justice Mary Odilli’s house by security forces. For most South-easterners the most incredible accusations against Kanu is that he was instrumental to hijacking of the #EndSars protests that led to loss of billions of naira worth of property and loss of lives.

Another is that he instigated the vandalisation of the Oba of Lagos’ palace, leading to stealing of the monarch’s staff of office. Justice Mary Odilli is an indigene of Imo state, said to be representing the South-east in the judiciary, not Rivers state, her husband’s homeland. She is said to be next in line for the post of chief justice of Nigeria. The argument amongst most Igbo is that the raid is meant to taint her and so prevent an Igbo person from being chief justice of Nigeria.

While most Igbo do not agree with Kanu’s methods, they agree with the fundamentals of his ‘struggle’ which is justice for people of that equity zone. They point to lopsided appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari; the fact that no one from the South-east is heading any of the many military and para military agencies. There had been burning of some public buildings as well as killing of security personnel, all of which is attributed by the police to IPOB militants. Added to this is the organisation’s ‘sit at home’ order that is hurting the zone. It had also declared that there would be no election in Anambra state; just as it proclaimed extended sit-at-home orders that will dovetail into the election day. It is unfortunate that despite candidates from the three major political parties being bona fide indigenes of Anambra state and coming from same local government area, which should engender some bonding, words as “enemy, saboteur, slave” are being used against some candidates. Bad blood was noticed during the primary elections, which were riddled with shenanigans with party members securing court orders and counter orders; necessitating INEC deleting and adding candidates’ names as per judicial pronouncements.

This continued for a while until recently when the Supreme Court gave its verdict. Hence, the final list of approved candidates as published by the umpire. There are altogether some 12 candidates but the major contestants are flagbearers of APGA, APC and PDP. Governance is a continuum with each leader doing his best, handing over the baton to the next person to continue from where he left for the overall development of the state/people. I do not believe that any of the candidates will deliberately set out to visit evil on his people if he wins. Surely, everyone wants to leave a good legacy for posterity…

Thus, the Anambra governorship election is taking place in a foul environment laced with emotional prejudices and a ting of propaganda. Therefore, when the federal government announced that it will flood the state with thousands of security personnel to “dominate” the state in order to ensure that the election holds at all costs this is (mis) interpreted by many Anambrarians to mean ‘subjugation’ of the people. As some analysts have pointed out, it is in the interest of Anambrarians and Igbo in general that the election holds. Otherwise, a sole administrator will be appointed for the state that may implement policies that would further marginalise them.

Perhaps this is why some stakeholders have woken up and now working underground to get IPOB to rescind its sit-at-home order whilst also urging religious leaders and other leaders of thought to enjoin their followers to go out and exercise their civic rights. The state government has moved to render superfluous, the sit-at-home order (whether it is countermanded or not) by declaring Thursday and Friday public holidays. Usually in Nigeria, wherever governorship polls are taking place there is always restriction of movement from 6p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Sunday. Governments declare Friday work-free to enable workers travel to their villages to cast their votes. Anambra people will likely stay within their communities on Sunday to hear the result while also going to their local churches to pray for peace and wish their preferred candidates success. They are likely to still maintain a low profile on Monday to see whether there will be any untoward reaction to the result.

Upholding integrity of the election cannot be overemphasised. A chunk of the country’s insecurity problems centre on elections. There is heightened incidences of violent skirmishes before, during and immediately after elections nationwide, generally. In the last governorship election which was won by incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, his fellow contestants then, conceded defeat and none challenged the result in court. This was because the election was free and fair. INEC has promised that Saturday’s poll will be “transparently embarrassing”. It has upgraded its technology to include a device (BVS) that can recognise voters’ fingerprint and face. A free, fair and credible election will help douse tension in Anambra. However, it may well happen that all our fears and anxieties about this election will come to naught. Everything may pass off peacefully. That is the ardent wish of all men an women of goodwill.

Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519

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