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Intense build up to divine mandate

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INDEPENDENT National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced and returned Prof Chukwuma Soludu as the winner of the heavily contested November 6 gubernatorial election, amassing a total number of 112,229 votes while winning in 19 out of the 21 local government areas of Anambra State.

  With many ugly and intriguing events that dominated the state polity in the election build up, fears of uncertainties on the election day permeated every nook and cranny in the state. For months, the activities of Unknown Gunmen, Sit-at-Home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) crippled social activities within the state, so it wasn’t out of place that citizens feared for the worst. The uncertainties that had clouded the gubernatorial election led to mass exodus from the state, as residents either returned to their home-states or had temporarily relocated to neighbouring states as a safety precaution.

  The election has been held and as usual. The D-day has passed like every other day, with the winner having emerged. The election day as against the expected outcome had been peaceful with no major act of violence reported so far. The recently held election offers opportunity as a catalyst for a transparent electoral process as a result of the introduction of Biomodial Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), a new and superior technology by the electoral umpire to aid voter accreditation and result transmission. Equally, it offers opportunity for an inclusive political and economic development, having taken place at a time when separatist agitations are at their peak in over five decades since the Nigerian civil war.  These perceived potentials and effects within the country posit germane reasons for reflection on the recent political process held in Anambra State.

  As earlier hinted, since the past five decades, the Nigerian civil war ended, there has never been a time separatist movements and agitations has dominated the Southeast political space than now. Championed by IPoB-led Nnamdi Kanu, the group has continued to demand for a sovereign state and emancipation. The separation ideology has become so influential that most of the gubernatorial candidates identified with it while promising to legitimately push for the success of the struggle in their campaigns. Weeks before the election, IPoB had declared a seven day sit-at-home. This sent shivers and fears down people’s spine that most stayed away from election ground despite the fact that the group called off the directive a day earlier.

  The November 6 gubernatorial election set a new all time of citizens’ political apathy in the state. Since the inception of the fourth republic, the state has never recorded the low number of citizen participation in the election of their political leaders. For a state with a voting strength of over two million voters, it is appalling that the total number of accredited voters was 253,388 making up just approximately 11% of the registered voters. This unceremonious feat is as a result of numerous security challenges evenly experienced across the state and the widening gap between the citizens, government and good governance. Citizens do not trust government to continue to uphold her ideal tenets and perform her task, dutifully. This has equally led to obedience to non-state actors as doing so promises more protection than the government.

  During the run down to the election, over 35,000 police officers, including a Deputy Inspector-General, two Assistant Inspector-Generals and six Commissioners of Police were redeployed to the state. In addition, the Army, Navy, Department of State Security and other security outfits and agencies were on ground. The heavy presence of the security agencies was a fulfillment of government’s promise to protect citizens who would exercise their franchise. Yet, this effort was antagonised with misinformation as unfounded news of abuse and brutalisation of citizens by the military spread like wildfire. 

  The just concluded election has ascertained that money and money-sharing have become an integral part of our political process and that is not going to be relegated to the background anytime soon. Politics and elections have always been won by those who have the strongest and deepest war chest. On the election day, it was glaring to the eyes as money passed from the deep pockets of political party agents to INEC officials, security officers, then to the palms of the voters. The electoral fraud cut across the young and old, party lines and independent observers.

  The electoral process also highlighted another dimension that has become a determinant to the electoral permutations in the state. This dimension is the role of the Church in the power play of electing the chief security officer of the state. As always has been the case for the past 16 years, the election brought forth the underground warfare among the denominations of christiandom present in the state, as they struggle to influence who emerges victorious. These denominational forces, yet so subtle, influenced the choice of political parties’ candidates and their permutations.

  On the flip side, INEC’s introduction of BVAS machine to replace the Smart Card Reader shows the intention of the electoral umpire to deliver a free and fair election. The BVAS machine has the capacity for fingerprint, facial authentication and to transfer election results electronically. However, due to network challenges, BVAS failed to live up to the desired expectations as many were disenfranchised.

  The Anambra gubernatorial election has been won and lost but there are a couple of lessons it offers to the government, citizens and the electoral umpire, INEC. As 2023 general election is being perceived to be a critical juncture for the nation, there’s need for all hands to be on deck for a better nation. It’s evident that the level of poverty influences the political culture and behaviour seen. The widening gap between citizens and government has encouraged political apathy. The concluded election has also shown how insecurity could encourage apathy in politics and alter our way of life. Also, to get the desired efficiency of the BVAS machine, INEC needs to conduct proper research on what service provider has the strongest network in areas where the polling units are domiciled.

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