“It may well happen that all our fears and anxieties about this election will come to naught. Everything may pass off peacefully. This is the ardent wish of all men and women of goodwill”. That was how I concluded my column last week. And so it came to pass that the dark clouds hovering over Anambra state, accentuated by the pending election and accompanied by doomsday prediction that calamity was about to hit the state vanished. It is as though a Divine Hand in one fell swoop tore off the rampart of dark clouds bringing with it flickering light of daybreak.
And it is fitting that all genuine believers raise their hands in humble gratitude to the Lord, the Almighty for his mercy that ‘passeth all understanding’. To the surprise of most people and chagrin of agents of darkness, the election was adjudged by all to be generally peaceful although there was the sore point of low voter turnout. This is in relation to the number of registered voters. Were the comparison in relation to number of permanent voters cards (PVCs) collected, the number would perhaps be higher. Consider that some 48 hours before the election INEC was still giving out PVCs; which was why perhaps, it could not readily compile the statistical breakdown of collected and uncollected PVCs.
There are a variety of reasons why people do not go out to vote. Many there are who just get a voter’s card without intent of voting because it is now an acceptable form of identification. National Identity card (NIN), Voter’s Card and International passport are now the recognized documents for identifying oneself in Nigeria.
Then there is another set of people who just get a voter’s card because some state governments require residents to show it before the citizens and their children/wards can enjoy social amenities as educational and hospital services. And, of course, there are those who don’t even bother to vote, believing from the onset that their votes don’t count, that elections in Nigeria are more or less ‘fixed’ rather than transparent.
Voting is voluntary, not compulsory. But it is a civic duty to vote, to deepen participation in the democratic process. There is need for more voter education. This should not be left to INEC or government alone. The numerous political parties should also take it up as part of their duties. Since they are able to get millions of people to register as card-carrying members of their parties as well as get such numbers to vote during their primary elections, they should equally be able to mobilize these millions of their members to go cast their vote in an election where their party’s name is on the ballot. Voter education should be a continuous exercise for stakeholders, not a one off thing that is embarked upon only when elections are due.
“Upholding the integrity of the election cannot be overemphasized… A free, fair and credible election will help douse tension in Anambra”, so I also wrote last week. It is heartwarming that on the average observers and monitors adjudged this election to be transparent. More heartwarming is that some of the contestants have congratulated the winner, Charles Soludo of APGA.
First to do so was the runner-up, PDP’s Valentine Ozigbo, followed by candidate of the Young Progressives Party, Ifeanyi Ubah who clinched the fourth position. Former Anambra state governor and PDP’s vice presidential candidate in the 2019 general elections, Peter Obi sent in his congratulatory message as did some PDP chieftains in the state, among them Senator Uche Ekwunife. Labour minister, Chris Ngige who is APC leader in Anambra state acknowledged APGA’s triumph and congratulated its candidate accordingly. Nigeria’s number one citizen, President Muhammadu Buhari congratulated Soludo for his victory. However, the APC flag bearer himself, Andy Uba is yet to concede defeat. There are reports that his party, the APC intends to challenge the result in court. Against overwhelming evidence that the election was transparent and the president having congratulated the winner, does Andy Uba and Anambra APC have any moral right to dispute the results? Anambra APC should let sleeping dogs be; it should allow this chapter (2021 election) to be closed here and now rather than still leaving it open ended by its move to challenge the results and thereby foot-dragging the matter to next year. The election is over.
Anambrarians should be allowed to draw the line on this election and to turn over a new chapter. Chief Andy Uba who was placed third in this election should concede defeat, even if reluctantly, for the greater good of Anambra. It is not the end of the road for him as such. After all, the road to Agu Awka Government House for Soludo started some ten years ago during which he once lost as PDP governorship candidate.
What the Anambra results show is that choice of the right platform/party is essential in winning elections in Nigeria. As another example, not many people are aware that the incumbent governor of Nasarawa State in north central Nigeria, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, once contested to be governor several years ago. But he did not make it then because he ran under a ‘wrong’ party. And flying the flag of APC, he won in 2019. All that Andy Uba needs to do is restrategise and rebrand himself.
This election brought to the fore the question: how useful is defection as a strategy for winning elections? In the run up to the polls, quite a number of APGA chieftains including Governor Willie Obiano’s deputy decamped to the APC. It was gathered that they were lured with loads of cash, car gifts and promise of federal appointments. Alas, they all failed woefully as Andy Uba’s APC did not win any of the State’s 21 local government councils. One should especially commend Mr. President for providing a level playing ground for all the contestants through his policy of non interference. One hopes this will be carried through to the 2023 general elections. Pass mark should as well be given to the security forces and INEC overall. However, INEC needs to improve on the reoccurring logistics and machine problems. Osun 2022 is its next bus stop.
Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519