Prior to the conduct of the Anambra election, pundits are of the view that the poll will be a litmus test for 2023 elections, adding that the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deliver a free, fair, and credible governorship election in Anambra State will cast doubts on the capability of the commission to deliver free, fair and credible elections in 2023.
However, the emergence of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gubernatorial candidate, Professor Chukwuma Soludo as the governor-elect in the just concluded election, excited critical stakeholders and Nigerians, signalling hope for the nation’s nascent democracy.
The November 6 governorship election shows that the exercise was generally peaceful and remarkable despite the challenging condition. The final results announced by INEC showed that Soludo polled 112,229 votes to seal the challenge from his closest rival, Valentine Ozigbo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who polled 53,807 votes.
Although not unexpected, there were cases of the malfunction of the Biomodal Voters Authentication System (BVAS) in many polling units. The national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, however, assured that the commission will carry out an in-depth examination of the system.
However, the National Consultative Front, (NCFront) led by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Umar Ghali Na’ Abba commended INEC and believes that the recently conducted election in Anambra will largely heal all wounds in the southeast ahead of the 2023 general election.
The head of Publicity, NCFront, Dr Yunusa Tanko, of the newly initiated group of eminent Leaders of Conscience in Nigeria in a chat with me, said the Anambra election was a plus to democracy. Tanko said it’s unthinkable that the election will be free, fair and without security challenges, hailing all Ndi Anambra for the peaceful polls.
In a brief interview, a public affairs analyst, James Uneze notes there is need for INEC to continue to perfect the use of technology to conduct elections in Nigeria. Uneze also urged voters to continue to reject financial inducements, as seen in a viral video of a lady who rejected N5, 000 inducement during the Anambra governorship election.
Also, the executive director, Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, raises concerns about the late deployment of polling officials and election materials. Itodo decries delayed opening of polls, non-functioning of BVAS, and non-opening of polling units concentrated in Ihiala and Ogbaru Local Government Areas.
He called on INEC to take necessary steps to ensure registered voters are not disenfranchised from voting to determine the next governor of Anambra State. He noted that by replacing Smart Card Readers with the BVAS, INEC intended to enhance the integrity of the electoral process by introducing additional checks to ensure only eligible voters could cast ballots on Election Day. The BVAS was used throughout the accreditation of voters in 95 per cent of the polling units.