The tension, the apprehension that preceded the Anambra State governorship election was such that many thought violence would be the central issue on the election day. With the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sit-at-home threat, the killings by unknown gunmen and all, there was a strong feeling that the election would be a groundswell pain, sweat and tears. The worst most feared did not happen.
Just like the Edo State experience, the Anambra election turned out to be largely peaceful even though there was a massive deployment of security operatives to the state. The pervasive voter apathy did not take away the fact the process was measurably peaceful. Perhaps, what this shows, as was seen in Edo, is not just the capacity of all stakeholders to ensure the peace but the reverse which is their willful failure to arrest, timely, the situation until lots of harm had been done to the polity. And the clear reason for this attitude is nothing but the age-old pursuit of an unbridled and inordinate ambition.
But there were more lessons from the Anambra election. Of course, we didn’t expect a perfect exercise as such is a myth. But it was also not altogether an exemplary election. And the reasons for the latter with regards to this poll are obvious. Perhaps that’s why it is quite disconcerting.
As a newspaper, we are worried that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) still had to grapple with issues relating to logistics, especially with regards to deployment to polling units on time. While the commission can be cut some slack over the Anambra scenario, because of the peculiar security crisis in the state, we do believe that the logistics issues could have been handled much better.
Most civil society organisations (CSOs) raised this concern. One of them, Yiaga Africa, in its report, said “Based on verified reports from Yiaga Africa observers, 21 per cent of polling units failed to open by 12noon. These incidents are mostly concentrated in Anambra South Senatorial District (23.5 per cent), Anambra Central (17 per cent), and Anambra North Senatorial districts (13 per cent). The non-opening of these polling stations might result in voter disenfranchisement if elections are not conducted in those polling units.”
It added, “The delays were occasioned by poor logistics management and transportation challenges as per INEC’s announcement. Yiaga Africa anticipated these challenges hence the call in the organisation’s pre-election statement to INEC to make contingency plans for situations where transport unions or companies reneged on their contractual obligations to deploy.”
However, the commission deserves commendation for daring to use the Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), an improved system of voter verification which combines fingerprint and face biometrics. As much as the machines had some technical issues at the start of election, its contribution to the integrity of the process was noted.
But what’s more significant is the fact that the commission has, yet again, proved naysayers wrong on the possibility of deploying more technology in ensuring that elections are not just credible but needlessly harrowing and time-wasting. Still, we do hope that the commission will continue to make improvements on the functionality of BIVAS and the ease of its use by its staff and ad hoc staff who will operate them in future elections.
Interestingly, the security operatives on the whole, carried themselves well in the course of the election as there was relatively insignificant reports of misconducts by personnel. This, we believe, is commendable as it helped to engender confidence of voters.
Above all, the people of the state who came out to vote, deserve a huge commendation for braving the odds and shaming the purveyors of gloom and doom to carry out their civil duty. Anambra people proved, like the majority of Nigerians across the country, that all they want is a simple and better life where people they entrust with their mandate live up to their responsibility.
Sadly, there is a perception that lessons are hardly learnt and mistakes are always prone to repeat themselves in Nigeria. And that it is usually not because the obvious are not known but because key actors, especially political stakeholders, are blinded by selfish desires.
We are persuaded by the turn out of events in Anambra state to admonish political actors to begin to perceive the office they seek to occupy as a call to duty, a rare privilege to serve humanity which, if done conscientiously, would afford them a place in the pantheon of those who put their people first.
With Anambra election over, we expect to see an improved situation in the overall approach and attitude to the Ekiti and Osun elections next year even as we build up to the 2023 general election.