8 Things we learnt from Anambra Botched polls by Nkannebe Raymond

The long anticipated Anambra state gubernatorial election has come and gone at least as far as this writer is concerned. I refuse to be among those inundated by the “Independent” National Electoral Commission’s crinkum-crancum as to the elections being ‘inconclusive’ and hence why a “Supplementary Election” must be conducted as none of the three frontrunners secured the majority vote and spread required by the Electoral Act to emerge winner on the first ballot.

In their calculation, even though the APGA candidate Willie Obiano secured the highest number of votes cast so far of about 174,710 out of the total 425,549 votes, his 79,754 votes more than that of the PDP candidate, Tony Nwoye’s 94,956 votes were less than the 113,113 that were cancelled by the commission as a result of various peccadilloes and logistic glitches in different polling units of the state as well as the 92,300 votes notched so-far by the APC candidate, Chris Ngige. In their warped calculation, it has become incidental in order to determine the ultimate winner and to do that, 113,113 votes will be on offer during the supplementary election to be contested among the troika of Obiano, Nwoye and Ngige on a date to be announced.

However, while many of us, may be aware of the foregoing, what many are oblivious of, or haven’t spared the time to think over, is the ‘cul-de-sac’ of the result that stands now to change after the supplementary, marginal, ‘jara’, ‘kyauta’ call it whatever you like election, that will be conducted. Reason being that, for any of the two-runners up, Nwoye and Ngige to overtake Obiano, he must secure at least 90% of the 113,113 votes expected to be on offer. For Naija? Someone must be kidding here.

Now, you don’t need to be a clairvoyant or a telepathic to know that such things only happen in the sports arena, let’s say in a football match where a team that may have been 2 goals down in the first period, comes back into the game, reply the goals and even take the day. A particular event that comes to mind here is the recent world cup qualifier between Portugal and Sweden. While Sweden had gone ahead to take the lead to peck the results at 2-1, in their favor, many of us were not surprised when the whole affair ended 3-2 in favor of Portugal. But such things hardly happen in politics and even if they do happen, not in Nigerian politics, hence the reason why we have described the election in our Quasi-electoral commission as a conclusive one, even though INEC says it is ‘inconclusive’. Anyhow, when the waters get calm, and things get clearer, we shall see who was deceiving who.

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As far as we are concerned, the only inconclusive part of the Anambra guber is the part where bloggers will be telling us, that some pastor foresaw, foretold, prophesied, or predicted all what has become of the entire election before now which leaves you wondering whether they have taken over Paul the Octopus who was renowned to have predicted the score line of great football events before it died few years ago. The only difference being that while Paul the Octopus does/did his predictions before the matches, our local pastors and their followers, prefer to tell us after the deed has been done how they had earlier on predicted it. Whether in a bid to court more followers to their churches in order to make up funds to secure more private Jets to fly to God-knows-where, you won’t be hearing that from us.

Since we have declared the Anambra ‘Tokunbo’ elections to be conclusive, we have chosen to bring to readers of this column, all what we observed from the whole outing. While they should serve as heads-up to all of us, they also call for our collective efforts in order to right the wrongs of this particular election and to also clean up the mess in subsequent ones, especially as Ekiti State indigenes prepare to go to the polls next year.

…………………..The 8 lessons we learnt from the Anambra elections goes thus:

VOTERS ILLITERACY AND APATHY TO THE ELECTORAL PROCESS.
A democratic state with an illiterate voter population will hardly consolidate on the efforts of any electoral body. It will be like pouring water on a rock and expecting it to permeate or pouring water to firewood and expecting combustion to take place. That of course will be ‘impossicant’. With the electorates being an intrinsic part of the success of any election, we cannot afford to keep going to the polls with barely literate electorates especially those that reside in our rural areas as was seen in the recent Anambra election. When you hear cases of wrong voting, wrong thumb printing and other sundry issues associated with the cancellation of results due to poor voting, then it becomes clear that the electorates that took part in the process hardly went through any voter’s education. This trend has to be changed. The state electoral commissions should see this as a duty they must live up to by making sure, the electorates are armed with the requisite knowledge with which they shall tackle their civic responsibility as citizens who are enfranchised.

Beyond that, the issue of voters’ apathy was also a clog in the wheel of the Anambra elections. On the election-day proper, several youth refused to partake in the voting process. Either because they were reluctant to register or because ab-initio, they had no interest or confidence in the whole process. Many people were of the opinion that, whoever becomes the governor, it barely affects their lives positively as they will still have to hustle before they could put food on their table, get water to run in their homes, power their homes etc. On the other horn, are those who have no confidence in the electoral process as in their estimation, the result of the election will still go the way of the candidate favored by the electoral body as has been the case in previous elections.

These are all serious posers which the electoral body must look into and devise the means to tackle headlong. Democracy is about the confidence of the electorates in the system, and once that confidence suffers a set-back, democracy suffers.

MONEY/LARGESE BASED CAMPAIGNS.

For public office seekers, money-based campaign is given more attention than a clear and well patterned manifesto-based campaign. Political office seekers have chosen to exploit the poverty of the electorates in order to win their votes. Many of those that habit the rural areas hardly care about the program of the government that needs their vote but rather what he has brought with him to get their votes. Hence, we saw bags of rice being shared by one candidate to the other. Wads of wrapper, free petroleum products, bags of salt, cash donations etc. we noticed that the electorates were more willing to vote for the candidate who was more benevolent with the largesse as against the program which the candidate hopes to deliver. Who cares about? What does it even matter? It will definitely take care of itself when the time comes. Sadly, this has been a recurrent trend in the politics of most developing countries and Nigeria likes to be in the vanguard of that. Strategic measures must be put in place by the electoral body to discontinue this practice. If possible, any candidate found wonting for alleged distribution of giveaways should be disqualified from the process since the electorates vulnerable and hungry as they are, cannot resist the temptation of collecting money from public office seekers. Not with empty stomachs and a pile of family problem begging for attention. It doesn’t bode well for our electoral process/ democracy.

RELIGION AND POLITICS

Once again, the Anambra election has shown that South East politics is at the mercy of the Church- the Catholic Church to be precise. You can rob sand on the face of any political, traditional or socio-cultural group and get away with it but not the Church. Memories of the cold war between Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka of the Enugu adoration ministry and his common ‘enemy’ the then governor Chimaroke Nnamani and how the latter’s feud with the clergy man has made him lost political relevance in the state are still fresh here. We have not forgotten what led to the failure of the former governor of Imo state, Ikedi Ohakim in the buildup to the 2011 gubernatorial election. His alleged fisticuff with a certain priest cost him his re-election to the government house Owerri. It was also the same thing in the just concluded Anambra election. At a certain point it was rumored that the APC candidate Chris Ngige had a brawl with a certain priest. If not for the quick debunking of such claims by the leadership and supporters of the party, Ngige’s chances at the polls would have long been forgone. The ugly incident that took place at the St. Dominic Catholic Church, Uke that became branded as the “Uke Stampede” and a whole lot of other factors have proven that the South East has dragged religion into their politics with the Catholic Church being in the fore front of it all.
I was told by a friend that on the day of the election, some group of men and perceived political agents of APGA dressed in the garb of catholic priests, went to certain polling units and told the barely informed electorates that Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah of the Labor Party (LP) has withdrawn from the polls and has just directed that his supporters should turn-in their votes for the APGA candidate. Another called to tell me how their parish priest told the congregations times without number at the close of his Sunday sermons to vote for continuity by casting their votes for the APGA candidate and so on and so forth.

While we cannot place name and figures behind some of these posers, their authenticity and the individuals indicted, we should not gloss over them. The INEC in subsequent elections in the state and South East generally, should place a mandate on the Church not to partake in the campaign process or allow their body- language to speak louder than their voice of the candidate or political party they endorse. Since they are role-models in the society, they should not in any way take part in the political gerrymandering since politics, we have been told severally is a ‘dirty game’ and hence must not be encroached upon by people whom society perceive as God’s representative on earth.

APGA/APC AND THE THING WITH ETHNIC/REGIONAL POLITICS

The Anambra election has once again shown that, regional/ethnic politics still has a lot to do with us and however we claim that we have moved beyond that, the thing still speaks for itself at any given opportunity. How? Good question but we shall show how.

While this writer cannot make a case as to the credibility of the Anambra polls, if the result we have seen so far is anything to go by, then one is left wondering why willie Obiano of APGA and a clear neophyte with no track record in politics could pull the amount of votes we have been told by INEC that he has pulled so far? Isn’t politics all about one’s popularity among the masses? How is it then that Chris Ngige with the result we have seen thus far, is left sprawling behind Tony Nwoye and Obiano who do not match by any margin his popularity? If you are confounded by this absurdity, I am not. The reason is not farfetched: Ethnic/regional politics still got a lot to do with us. I have heard political analysts argue times without number that if Chris Ngige were contesting under a different political party, and not what has been branded a Yoruba party-APC, the result of the election will no doubt go his way in a fair ballot system. Alas, he has been christened by the media with the painful but soothing phrase, “A good Man in a wrong Party” and on which we formed the kernel of our article on this column titled: “Chris Ngige; A good man in a ‘wrong’ party” few days before the election proper. In a nutshell, it becomes so clear that Nigerians still practice ethnic or regional politics which was institutionalized by the first and second generation of Nigerian leaders and unfortunately, a practice which will still live with us for a very long time from what we have seen at the Anambra election. And believe me, I wish it were not so.

LESSON FOR THE ALL PROGRESSIVE CONGRESS (APC)

The newly formed APC whose arrowheads have been junketing from one part of the country to another to woo political stalwarts into their camp but relegating the masses whose votes they will soon come after, has got so much to learn from the election if anything is to go by the results INEC has issued so far.
While they reserve the right to allege massive rigging against them, they should take time out to ponder over how they intend to win over these masses in subsequent elections instead of fraternizing with political figures whose past records, continue to hunt Nigerians even to this day. Does not the recent election show that APC still has so much work begging for their attention? Prima facie, the result of this election speaks volume of how the masses are yet to be told how the much touted transformation the APC never stops to make hoopla about can be achieved.

Lai Mohammed, who continues to bark like a dog on the pages of national dailies should learn to change his modus operandi and lay more emphasis on how to convince the masses that the APC has got a unique formula for the transformation of this comatose divide and not wasting energy in condemning and re-condemning every act of the present government at the Centre as opposition politicking, demands a lot more than that.

Beyond that, well informed Nigerians are already tired by such cheap political comments just to emphasize relevance and are beginning not to take them serious. They should go back to work and come up with a non-quixotic framework on how to better the lot of Nigerians if voted into power and how they hope to achieve same if voted in, and desist from the wanton bedlam and rabble-rousing that is almost becoming synonymous with them.

While they may have taken over the media (Social Media particularly), what we have seen at Anambra so far, is another testimony that elections are not won on social media as a great percentage of Nigerian voters are barely available on that space. Finally, Anambra election, controversial as it may be, should send a warning to them of which they must learn from, to put their house in order as they prepare for Ekiti Decides, few months from now and the bigger task-2015 general elections.

INEC’S QUESTIONABLE COMPETENCY

The charade in the name of gubernatorial election under the watch of Jega and his INEC that took place last weekend in Anambra state, has brought again to the fore and raised the issue of INEC’s competency to midwife an election that would be devoid of widespread irregularities and logistic quagmire or higgi-haggi. Many Nigerians, with this recent shabby performance are already calling for Jega’s head and this is understandable. The continuous under-performance by INEC leaves one with no other option but to ask how this body can fare or guarantee Nigerians of their capability despite the resources at its disposal.

Attahiru Jega’s appearance on National TV to tell Nigerians why things didn’t go out as planned is an indirect indication that he has not got what it takes to conduct an election that will be near general acceptability. Hear him, “We made all the preparations and decentralized the process of distribution of materials in order to ensure that they get to the polling units on time for the commencement of election before election day. Unfortunately and regrettably-we are humans. We can do all the preparations but if people are determined to subvert the process, one way or another, they will subvert it”. What an excuse! How low and lame! In civilized climes, Jega would have been forced to resign since he has clearly spoken though quite equivocally, that he lacks the nous, the onions and the charisma to discipline his staff and count on their delivery. Or what else is leadership about? I will not be surprised if Jega shocks us even more by alluding the electoral malady to an “Act of God”. Playing the religious card is one sure way to exonerate oneself from any liability in our own clime even when it is clear they have goofed.

All said and done, Jega’s interjection has casted even more blanket of doubt as to his capability and competency to deliver in subsequent polls at least to quite a commendable standard.

ANY HOPE FOR 2015?

In less than 24 calendar months, the 2015 general elections will be ‘born’. But even before then, Ekiti state indigenes will be going to the polls. Question then is: what is the hope for 2015? As one analyst succinctly put it… “Upholding the result of the Anambra election will be equivalent to pulling off electoral fraud in full view of the people. Anyone who endorses the result of that blemished election would have given INEC a blank script on which to write the name of its preferred governorship candidate” I concur. Inferentially, if this ‘incompetent’ JEGA-aic INEC cannot conduct an election of just one state, how then can one beat his chest or wager a stake to the effect that 2015 will be a different story? That no doubt is the one billion naira question. Well, if you can, I personally would not, because I was not taught to put my money where there are no assurances from past antecedents that it will bring me returns. If accepting the result of this blemished election in the words of one political analyst amounts to “giving INEC a blank script to write its preferred candidate”, would the same feat not be repeated come 2015?

The Good Book says, “If men have chosen to use the green wood like this; what will happen when it is dry?” put into our own discourse, we ask: If INEC is left drooling over the election of one state, what will happen when the entire nation go out to the polls come 2015? Food for thought I suppose, but one which we must all mind how we chew.

ROLE OF ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNALS IN ELECTIONS

Another lesson to be gleaned from last weekend’s outing at Anambra is that Election Petition Tribunals due to INEC’s insensitivity (apologies to ASUU) have become another arm of our electoral body-INEC. While the role of any judiciary is adjudication and/or judicial determinism, there must be something radically wrong with that electoral system or process whose results are always a cause of a marathon of suits before the courts. It is either because the system is one that hardly performs its functions in the way they ought to have or it is nothing.

As it stands, it is only the courts that could clean up the mess which INEC has let out into the political atmosphere little wonder INEC is already making a case that it is only the courts that could declare the entire election as a jamboree, ultra-vires and ‘nudum-pactum’.
While we can only wait for the determination of the courts to that effect the moment the tribunals begin to seat, we should be reminded that it doesn’t augur well for this democracy of ours we like to describe as a ‘NASCENT’ one even when it is clear that it has evolved.

LAST LINE

Altogether, it is sad that Anambra election which was touted to be a litmus test for future elections and indeed a foretaste for 2015 general elections has turned out a huge controversy that may not be resolved regardless of what INEC has called “supplementary elections” and no matter who becomes the governor-elect.

It is so, because the conduct of a free, fair and credible election is first and foremost a leadership operation that runs with uncommon discipline and harmony that must be manned from top to bottom by people who are trustworthy and well furnished with what is required of them.

The following lessons/observations are one which stare us in the face and which are barely new to us. To curb some of them, JEGA and his team has much to mull over, so much to learn from the deadlocked Anambra governorship poll. While I don’t think they have got the luxury of time to do that, we can only hope that they are able to make amends in subsequent elections. God bless Nigeria.

Follow me on twitter @RayNkah

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