News Analysis: Anambra Guber Poll and Politics of Vote BuyingFeatured, Latest News, News Monday, December 4th, 2017
From Ignatius Okpara, Enugu
(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Although, the Saturday 18, November, 2017 governorship election held in Anambra state, Southeast Nigeria, has come and gone, but certain alleged undemocratic act that characterized the poll is still very fresh in the memories of stakeholders that participated in the exercise.
To a very large extent, one would say that the election was relatively peaceful and calm in the 21 local government areas and three senatorial zones of the state, following the deployment of enough security operatives to every part of the state which pride itself as “Home for All”
Thanks to the All progressives Congress APC led federal government. But despite the huge security presence, there were still reported cases of pockets of skirmishes in some areas.
Some of the reported incidences of electoral violence were mostly experienced in the riverine areas of the state, which is under Anambra East council area and North senatorial district, where the two key political actors in the election, the incumbent governor, William Obiano, of the ruling All progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and Dr. Tony Nwoye, of the All progressives Congress, APC, hail from.
The Keenly contested election, which Obiano, won with an overwhelming margin of 234,071, votes as against Tony Nwoye of APC, who came second after recording a total of 98,752 votes has been described by some stakeholders as “Anambra 2017 election of highest bidder.”
Like every other typical African politician, Obiano, a banker turned politician, who was seeking reelection, before 18, November, was desperate to return to the exalted and prestigious office of the executive governor of the state, which he has occupied for about four years.
Aside electoral violence, involving ballot box and election result sheets snatching, one disturbing trend that featured during the election which needed to be addressed by the nation’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, before the 2019 general polls, is the issue of alleged vote buying by some of the contestants and their political parties, particularly the ruling APGA, which most of the candidates pointed accusing fingers at over the nefarious and undemocratic act.
For most political analysts, vote buying during elections should be made a criminal offence, and taking very seriously by INEC, as it is capable of derailing the nation’s hard earned democracy if not checked.
The accusation and counter accusation of voter inducement during the election speaks volume of what may likely happen in the 2019 general polls, hence the need for the relevant authorities to rise up and nip such ugly trend in the bud, for the interest of the nation’s democracy.
Some stakeholders in the state who spoke on the issue, under condition of anonymity, strongly believe that although, Obiano may have won the election due to certain intrigues and power play associated with Anambra politics, vote buying, according to them, was also a major factor for the overwhelming victory, “as the governor had enough tax payers money to share at polling centres.
Prior to the build up to the election, supporters of Obiano, were operating in fear, as the political atmosphere seemed unpredicted and unfavourable to them, especially as most political big wigs and king makes in the state were not disposed to his reelection bid.
However, as the countdown to the election date continued, the political picture started getting clearer, as most of the notable politicians who were indisposed to the governor, few months ago, began alignment and realignment which is synonymous with politics, especially in developing nations, including Nigeria, the self acclaimed giant of Africa.
Some of the politicians in the state who allegedly worked for Obiano against their parties because of their personal interest included, Senator Andi Uba, who was defeated by Tony Nwoye, during the APC Anambra governorship election primaries, Senator Stella Odua, Senator Nicholas Ukachukwu, Senator Alphonsus Igbeke, chief Chris Uba, Senator Ekwunife, among others.
However, Chief Osita Chidoka, the flag bearer of the United Progressives Party UPP, in the election, had while reacting to the emergence of Obiano, as winner, though, concealed defeat, but said he lost to superior financial firepower.
The former Corp Marshal of the federal Road safety Commission FRSC, insisted that he could not make it because he refused to induce voters with money, as allegedly done by winner of the poll, and incumbent governor of the state, Will Obiano of All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA.
He said in a statement he made available to newsmen in Awka, the Anambra state capital, few hours after the incumbent governor was declared winner by INEC, that the choice of Obiano was an indication that the people preferred the highest bidder against those with ideas.
The statement read thus: ,“Our campaign attracted the finest and brightest of Anambra, the bold and the courageous were with us as we exerted our best in running the most robust issue-based and technology-driven campaign in the history of our dear state.
“We attempted to change the course of events and chart a new beginning for our state. We believed and we dared; we engaged with all patriotic vigour as we held strongly that the long awaited time for our people to experience a new opportunity had come and we labored for it.
“In all, our focus was the people; the forgotten, the poor and the disadvantaged. They were the prime impetus for our involvement. We beheld their agony and we strived to redirect and vent that energy through a genuine political process. We heard the complaints of our people and we worked to redirect them from the streets to the ballot box.
“Upon that pedestal, we rejected god-fatherism and money politics. Instead, we made personal sacrifices and worked with small donations and goodwill of a few good men and women. Our campaign started and remained issues-based. We attacked no persons; we looked up in faith because we believed.
“But from the ballots, we heard the voice of our people. We heard it loud and clear. On November 18 our people announced strongly their rejection of politicians. They traded their votes because they doubted we would truly represent their interest. While our message resonated with the people they doubted that the political class cared about them. They voted for the highest bidder.
“When by Thursday a large percentage of our supporters insisted that they will not vote unless we paid, I insisted we will not pay for votes. The decision not to pay ended our good run. We accept the voters’ decision. We also heard our people, by their turnout and transactional approach, as they took sides with our Party’s considered view that the issue of justice, equity and fairness should be canvassed within Nigeria.
The UPP candidate who hails from Obosi in Idemili North council area of the state said “in all, we hold our heads high; high because we did not lose the poll due to paucity of ideas or lack of structure, We lost to superior financial firepower.
Chidoka, who came 4th in the election, after polling a total of 7,903 votes, added as “democrats, we concede to the voters’ choices. The true hallmark of democracy is the respect for the voice of the ballot as that of the majority,”
Agreed, the Anambra election has been won and lost, suffice it to say that for the nation’s democracy to truly advance, there is need for all major stakeholders to join hands together in saying no to vote buying during elections, be it at state or federal levels.
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