The conduct of the recent governorship election and that of a state House of Assembly seat in Anambra State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has no doubt rekindled hope from stakeholders on what to expect in the 2019 general elections. SUNDAY ISUWA writes
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the conduct of the Anambra state governorship election nine months earlier, only for it to be threatened by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOP) on grounds that, they wanted secession from the country.
IPOB in a bit to galvanize their plot released a statement asking the Anambra state people to stay away from the voting centres saying, “If you vote, you die.”
However, INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while carrying out the Commission’s statutory duties as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution and the Electoral Act, reported the security threat to the security agencies who also acted promptly.
According to INEC, the election in Anambra state was historic because no state in Nigeria has ever fielded 37 candidates in a gubernatorial election.
The commission also said that it was the first time the state had 2,158, 171 registered voters.
It was the first time in 2017 that the commission combined a gubernatorial election with a state house of assembly by-election.
While preparing voters and other stakeholders for the election, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said, “The decision on who becomes the governor of Anambra state, rests with the people of the state. We shall uphold their choice without favour or ill will.
“INEC is neither for nor against any political party or candidate. INEC has no candidate in this election.
“Let me further reiterate that this election in Anambra State is unique in many respects. With 37 political parties fielding candidates, this is the first governorship election to be conducted by the largest number of political parties in the history of Nigeria.
“Secondly, with 2,158, 171 voters, it is the election with the largest number of PVCs collection in the history of Anambra State,” Yakubu added.
To further lend credence to their preparation, the commission accredited 605 Journalists to cover the election. 42 local and seven international observers were also accredited in a state that has 21 LGA, three senatorial districts, 326 registration areas, 4608 polling units, 731 voting points and a total of 2,158,171 registered voters.
The observers that monitored the election include, European Union (EU); British High Commission; US Embassy; High Commission of Canada; International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES); African Union Economic; Social and Cultural Council and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI).
The 47 local observers that monitored the election include: African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development; Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness; Initiative for Promotion of Civic Obligation and Sustainable Peace; African Initiative for Sustainable and Positive Development as well as Network of Civil Society Organisation in Nigeria.
Observers, politicians, political parties and other stakeholders have
commended INEC over what they described as fair and peaceful conduct of the Anambra State election.
The state governor, Willie Obiono of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) won the election by a landslide.
Obiano, who won in all the 21 LGAs, polled 234,071 votes to defeat his distant rival, Tony Nwoye of the APC. The PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze came third while Osita Chidoka of United Progressives Party (UPP) came a distant fourth.
Even though there were some reports of card reader malfunctioning and delay in result collation, the commission was able to manage the situation on time.
The Nigerian main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could not immediately comment on the conduct of the election however, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), commended INEC for conducting a peaceful, free and fair election.
According to APC, even though its candidate came a distant second in the election, the party believed INEC showed its independence because of the purposeful leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for conducting what is regarded as a credible election, which passes the integrity test. Similarly, we praise the high level of dedication and professionalism displayed by the security agencies and other ad-hoc staff mobilised for the election.
“As a party, we believe the smooth conduct of the election, irrespective of its outcome, is a testimony to our Party and President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to free, fair and transparent polls,” a statement signed by the APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said.
On his part, the Labour Party (LP) chairman, Dr. Mike Omotosho also commended INEC over its conduct of the election and urged them to maintain the momentum to the 2019 general elections.
Omotosho commended the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC administration for allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC the free hand to operate in Anambra state.
He also applauded the security agencies for maintaining law and order during the elections. These he noted, reaffirms the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which established that the authority to govern should be based on the will of the people as expressed in periodic and genuine elections.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), who also participated in the election monitoring, applauded INEC over what it described as a hugely successful conduct of Anambra state governorship election.
NLC asked the commission to build on the present successes for the 2019 general election. NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, in a statement in Abuja said, “We urge INEC to build on this success in subsequent elections as its credibility is key to the success or outcome of other elections.
“INEC may wish to commence this process by early preparations as well as plugging identified loopholes in the Anambra election”.
Reacting, INEC chief press secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the commission is happy that Nigerians have appreciated their efforts.
Oyekanmi said even though the commission is working hard to ensure hitch-free conduct of elections at all levels, he added that they will build on the gains recorded.
Speaking on the reported malfunctioning of the card reader, Oyekanmi said, “from the reports we got from the field, only about 95 out of the 6,200 Card Readers deployed had issues.”
“This is less than two per cent of the total and adequate provision was made for this kind of eventuality. However, some of the issues have to do with the way some voters handle their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs). There is a security chip on each PVC and if it is broken, the Card Reader will not be able to read its features.”
“So, mishandling can cause the damage. If you put your PVC in your back pocket for instance and sit on a hard surface, the chip could be broken. Our appeal to voters is to ensure that they keep their PVCs in safe places for adequate preservation. However, the commission will study the report on why some Card Readers failed to function effectively and correct any error noticed in future elections,” Oyekanmi assured.
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