‘Anambra 2017, a successful election by every account’

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  • Human rights lawyer lauds INEC, security agencies, electorate
  • Election was successfully contested, won and lost  – INTERSOCIETY

IBE NWACHUKWU who also covered the Anambra governorship election writes on the positive impression of individuals and groups of observers about the election.

More reactions have trailed last Saturday’s governorship election Anambra State with human rights and pro-democracy lawyers and groups commending the conduct of the exercise.

Incumbent Governor Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA)recorded a landslide victory in the election. He polled 234, 071 valid votes to beat his closest rival Tony Nwoye of APC who polled 98, 752 and Henry OselokaObaze of the PDP with 70, 293 votes.

Human rights lawyer and chieftain of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ben Okoko in his reaction, described the Obiano’svictory as well deserved.

Okoko commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for creating a level playing ground for all the political parties in the governorship election,some reported cases technical hitches notwithstanding.

He also lauded security agencies for maintaining a peaceful atmosphere throughout the exercise and the electorate for defying all security threats, to come out and cast their votes. He, however, took note of the low voter turnout.

Okoko who spoke to newsmen in his law chambers at Nkpor during the week, contended that all the contestants are suitably qualified candidates, adding that they put up a very good fight but in a contest of many personalities, one of them must win.

“I am not a member of any political party and I don’t know Obiano in person but I think he has certain projects he started in his first tenure and needs to finish in his second tenure. He has done well in three key areas of security, street lighting and agriculture,”Okoko said.

“I had a harrowing experience a few years ago when my friend was kidnapped right in front of my office and I was involved in the negotiations for his release but right now, Obiano has restored security with intelligence. Obiano even promised to replace the sand dunes with CCT cameras and he has followed it up with street lighting project. So, it is good that he has now been allowed to consolidate on these projects so that others will come in and continue from where he stopped.”

In its own reaction, the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), said the 2017 Anambra Governorship Election has been successfully contested, won and lost, adding, however, that lessons and challenges abound.

In press statement, its leader, Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi declared: “On the other hand, our organization, a major player in the 2017 Anambra Governorship pre- election advocacy, is happy to celebrate with all the stakeholders in the all important poll, especially the 448, 771 citizens that courageously came out and voted, not minding threats and counter threats from IPOB and security agencies.”

According to him, “defying such threats to come out to vote is democratically and eternally rewarding.”

“In the just concluded poll, out of total registered voters of 2, 158, 171, 448, 771 (21%) voted; 26, 457 were declared invalid and 422, 314 were declared valid votes cast. Out of this number, incumbent Governor William Obiano of APGA scored 234, 071 valid votes, followed by Anthony Nwoye of APC with 98, 752 and Henry OselokaObaze of the PDP with 70, 293 votes,”Umeagbalasi noted. “Our special commendation must, again,  go to the 448, 771 registered voters who came out and voted despite all odds including IPOB’s consistent threats of ‘vote and die’ against the State’s voting population as well as apprehensions and other forms of psychological insecurity generated by militarization of Anambra polity by Nigerian security agencies.

“The nonviolent nature of the poll is also commendable. In this respect, we must specifically commend the participating political parties, their faithful and the contestants including the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Mr. William MmaduabuchiObianoas well as the candidates of PDP, Mr. HenryObaze, APC, Mr. Anthony Nwoye and UPP,Mr.OsitaChidoka. Their peaceful conducts during the electioneering and the election proper are a continuation of the culture of political non-violence, including politics of maturity and political tolerance, in Anambra State, which has held sway in the past 12 years.

“Our commendation also goes to the authorities of INEC and Anambragovernorship security providers for the peaceful conduct of the poll including heeding and acting on our expert advice on poll security contained in our joint letter of 14th November 2017. The peaceful way and manner the security operatives conducted themselves especially onthe day of election is strikingly commendable.

“We also observed dying minute efforts by security providers to correct blunders committed at the beginning, though such efforts were grossly belated and yielded little or no impact on already threatened and traumatized voting population.

“Roles played by the media and rights CSOs especially in the area of pre-election advocacy and sensitization must also not be forgotten. Engaging the contestants including the incumbent Governor and winnerof the just conducted poll in issue-based campaigns and goodgovernance scorecard remains award-winning on the part of the media and rights CSOs especially leaders of the Southeast based human rights and pro-democracy coalition (SBCHROs), online, audio and audio-visual managers within and beyond Anambra State.”

Tackling challenges affecting Anambralow voter turnout, InterSociety noted that but for the threats and counter security threats prior to the election, there would have been a remarkable increase in voter turnout in the just concluded poll.

However, as could be seen from the number of valid votes cast, more peoplevoted for Obiano in the just concluded 2017 poll thanin 2013, InterSociety further noted, adding that had there not been security threats, many independent and elite voters would have voted and “much less would have been spent in buying voters.”

The statistical breakdown above further shows that more voters voted in the just concluded governorship poll of 2017 than that of 2013. For, whereas 448, 771 or 21% of registered voting population voted in 2017, 442, 254 or 25% of registered voting population voted in 2013. Also while Governor Obiano secured 180, 173 valid votes in 2013, he got as high as 234, 071 in the just concluded poll.

“Therefore, the best way to tackle incessancy of voter apathy or low turnout in Nigeria and Anambra State in particular is to liberalize or dualize Nigeria’s voting system by introducing and simplifying electronic voting to exist side by side with manual voting. If Nigeria’s private banking sector can successfully operate mobile or electronic banking, Nigeria can as well operate with ease electronic voting with its simplified methodologies,”Umeagbalasi contended.

“If electronic voting had been in place, the threat of ‘vote and die’ and its accompanied poor handling styles and associated blunders would have been drastically minimized. Billions of naira expended in the so-called “poll security deployment” would, also, have been saved. Electronic voting, if put in place, will geometrically increase voter participation and number of registered voters voting in elections.”

“It will also drastically curb money politics and voter bribery and save billions of naira worth of public funds diverted for voter bribery by party candidates, especially the incumbents,” the InterSociety boss surmised.

In a similar development, the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Anambra chapter, has commended the improved performance of security agents and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) observed during last Saturday’s governorship election.

Chairman of the Council, Chief Barth Igwedibia said in an interview Awkaduring the week that the exercise was peaceful due to the transparent conduct of the election by INEC and the absence of intimidation of political opponents by security agents.

He said that if both INEC and security agents could sustain the level of professionalism they exhibited in the conduct of Anambra election during general election 2019, the rating of Nigerian democracy would improve the more.

Igwedibia noted that the number of security personnel in each of the polling units and the presence of security at entry and exist points across the state was assuring.

He said that he was particularly impressed that there was no form of molestation of voters by any security personnel.

The IPAC chairman said he was equally impressed that the incumbent, Gov. Willie Obiano was re-elected, noting that his emergence showed that Anambra people wanted him back for another tenure.

“Before the Nov.18 governorship election, the position of IPAC in Anambra was that the best of the 37 candidates that contested the governorship position should emerge winner.

“We made it categorically clear that we had no preferred candidate, but want the best person whom the people of the state want to win.

“Since Gov. Obiano won the election, it is very clear that the people have spoken and as Chief Igwedibia, I congratulate the governor for a well-deserved victory and urge him to run an all-inclusive government

“If Obiano should appoint people based on merit, irrespective of the party they come from, such maturity in governance will further advance development in Anambra State,’’ he said.

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