Barring unforeseen circumstances, the gubernatorial elections in Anambra State will hold on November 6, 2021. In itself, the election is making some wrong headlines especially with the palpable threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to disrupt it. Of course, the authorities have moved to forestall the security threats to the election by deploying two Deputy Inspector-Generals, Five AIGs, 14 Police Commissioners to Anambra but while Nigerians wait to see what happens; the message should not be lost on us. IPOB’s influence in the South-East can already be seen in the sit-at-home being enforced across the region every Monday; and the potential threat to a scheduled election by a group that has been dismissed as being inconsequential by the authorities.
Were IPOB to be successful in keeping people away from the polling booths on November 6, that would further raise question marks over the ability of the Nigerian state to provide adequate security for most activities. The threats to the election may have stolen all the headlines but equally important in the preparations for the election is the fears expressed by some of the contestants on the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the election is free and fair. Eyebrows were raised when some of the contestants were seen campaigning in faraway Lagos and also when some of them suggested or hinted at plans by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) to snatch Anambra by all means. In both instances, the message is the same; were the other parties to fail at the November 6 polls; that failure would automatically be blamed on security threat or power show by the APC. However, given the facts available, those who have said “Anambra is not Imo’ miss the point; elections are not won in the media but in the polling booths.
Let’s take a look at the last gubernatorial election in Imo and how Senator Hope Uzodinma emerged governor of the state. The last gubernatorial election in Imo is a lesson in doing the basics when it comes to political contests. First, as any reasonable student of politics will agree, you have to move people to come out to vote for you, which in the circumstances is obvious. Then, you have to ensure that all the votes of your people count. Fail in any of these two basic assignments and you have no business contesting for political office. Now let’s review what happened at the elections held on March 9, 2019.
Fact – the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the final scores as follows; Ihedioha (PDP) 273,404 (winner), Uche Nwosu (AA) 190,364, Ifeanyi Ararume (APGA) 114,676 and Uzodinma (APC) 96,458. However, for elections into the office of a governor, and as Nigeria’s most recent history has shown, there is a an established grieviance redress process that begins at the electoral tribunal and ends at the Supreme Court.
All the aspirants in Imo exercised their rights to contest Ihedioha’s emergence by heading to the electoral tribunal. The present Imo State Governor, Sen. Hope Uzodimma hinged his own claim on the argument that the results from 388 polling units were not included in the final tally by INEC. He argued that the non-inclusion of results from these units denied him a total 213,695 votes due to him whereas Ihedioha scored only 1,903 votes in those units going by the results captured in Forms EC8A. Though he failed at the tribunal, Uzodinma took his petition to the Court of Appeal where four of the judges ruled against him but a minority ruling held among others, that (1) the Forms EC8A from the 388 units were wrongfully excluded and that (2) Ihedioha’s lawyers did not prove that the results sheets were forged. Justice Frederick Oho of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, in his dissenting ruling wrote “It is also clear on the record that after the appellants had explicitly set out in the Petition a schedule of all the polling unit results, which were allegedly excluded from collation at ward level by the 3rd respondent (INEC), they led evidence through several witnesses to prove their case as contained in the Petition”.
What the APC’s candidate successfully achieved at the Appeal Court is to create the ground to doubt the election of Ihedioha and the questions are obvious: how did INEC omit results from 388 polling units from the total? Who is responsible for the error? Who stood to benefit from that error? Should the votes of people in those 388 polling units not have mattered? For those who believe that electoral cycles are important in deepening democracy, those questions are important and addressing them will clear the air about Imo and the last gubernatorial elections. In this case, obviously the major beneficiary of the omission is ihedioha.
A simple arithmetic shows that were those excluded votes from the 388 polling units to be added to the tally of both Ihedioha and Uzodinma; the total outcome would change drastically. Let’s remember that the 1st Respondent (Ihedioha) was declared winner by the 3rd respondent (INEC) with a total of 258,259 votes while Uzodinma was said to have scored 96,458 votes. Adding the omitted votes from the 388 polling units will then have Uzodinma winning with a total of 310,153 votes while Ihedioha’s total tally would be 260,162 votes. As Sen. Hope Uzodimma himself has said: “There is a reason for the supreme court. In the doctrine and principle of democracy, the law expected that there would be grievances and malpractices in the electoral process. When this happens, the only legitimate right you have is to seek redress at the court. And of course, the court determines. Remember that this is not the first time so many elections have held where the candidates went to court and they got justice. So, why will mine be different?” If the INEC failed to count peoples vote and an aggrieved contestant goes through the constitutionally established process to make those votes count, how come he is vilified? And how come some of the contestants in Anambra believe the constitutionally established means of settling electoral disputes will work against them.
That there are suggestions that ‘Anambra is not Imo’ makes it look like a lack of faith in the same process they have signed up for by contesting for political office. Perhaps it is also important to remember that the statement that has angered Imolites is credited to Professor Charles Soludo who is contesting to be governor of Anambra State. Given the fact that he has been chasing this political dream since 2009 when he first announced his desire on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), many would question his moral right to question the legitimacy of the election in Imo.
Ikpeazu, a public analyst, writes in from Plot 15B, Omoyemi Solarin Street, Block 3, Phase 1, Site 2, Kubwa, Abuja.