Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
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Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra state, south east Nigeria was by no means a war. However, it was a decisive election in the state’s history. In fact it was touted as one that could define the future trajectory of Anambra state for good or ill. Its result was eagerly awaited. Against background of marginalization cries, one narrative appeared to be gaining ground among majority of Igbos. This narrative is not necessarily objective. However, it is buoyed by recent events that make them believable to the average south easterner. They may be coincidences but happening at an inauspicious time around the then upcoming poll and in a country where conversations are beclouded by ethnic and other primordial sentiments they provide fuel for the narrators. They were mainly, recent charges against Nnamdi Kanu and raid of Justice Mary Odilli’s house by security forces. For most south easterners the most incredible accusations against Kanu is that he was instrumental to hijacking of the EndSars protests that led to loss of billions of naira worth of property and loss of lives. Another is that he instigated vandalization of the Oba of Lagos’ palace, leading to stealing of the monarch’s staff of office. Justice Mary Odilli is an indigene of Imo State, said to be representing the south east, in the judiciary, not Rivers her husband’s homeland. She is said to be next in line for post of Chief Justice of Nigeria. The argument amongst most Igbos is that the raid was meant to taint her and so prevent an Igbo person from being a Chief Justice of Nigeria.
While most Igbos do not agree with Kanu’s methods, they agree with the fundament of his ‘struggle’ which is Justice and equity for people of that zone. They point to lopsided appointments by the president; the fact that none from the south east is heading any of the many military and para military agencies. There had been burning of some public buildings as well as killing of security personnel, months/weeks before the poll all of which was attributed by the police to IPOB militants. Added to this is the organization’s ‘sit at home’ order that was hurting the zone. It had also declared that there would be no election in Anambra; just as it proclaimed extended sit at home orders that will dovetail into the election day. It is unfortunate that despite contestants from the three major political parties being bona fide indigenes of Anambra state and coming from same local government area which should engender some bonding, words as “enemy, saboteur, slave” were being used against some candidates. Bad blood was noticed during the primary elections which was riddled with shenanigans with party members securing court orders and counter orders; necessitating INEC deleting and adding candidates’ names as per judicial pronouncements. This continued for a while until recently when the Supreme Court gave its verdict. Hence, the final list of approved candidates as published by the umpire. There are altogether over 12 candidates but the major contestants were flagbearers of APGA, APC and PDP. Governance is a continuum with each leader doing his best, handing over the baton to the next person to continue from where he left for the overall development of the state/people. I do not believe that any of the candidates would deliberately set out to visit evil on his people if he wins. Surely, everyone wants to leave a good legacy for posterity…
Thus, the Anambra governorship election took place in a foul environment laced with emotional prejudices and a tinge of propaganda. Therefore when the federal government announced that it would flood the state with thousands of security personnel to “dominate” the area in order to ensure that the election holds at all costs this was (mis) interpreted by many ndi Anambra to mean ‘subjugation’ of the people. As some analysts pointed out, it was in the interest o ndi Anambra and Igbos in general that the election holds. Otherwise, a sole administrator would be appointed for the state that may implement policies that would further marginalize them.
Perhaps this is why some stakeholders woke up and started working underground to get IPOB to rescind its sit at home orders; whilst also urging religious leaders and other leaders of thought to enjoin their followers to go out and exercise their civic rights. The state government moved to render superfluous, the sit at home order (whether it was countermanded or not) by declaring Thursday and Friday public holidays. Usually in Nigeria, wherever governorship polls are taking place there is always restriction of movement from 6p.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Sunday. Governments declare Friday work-free to enable workers travel to their villages to cast their votes. Anambra people stayef within their communities on Sunday to monitor the result while also going to their local churches to pray for peace and wish their preferred candidates success. They are maintained a low profile on Monday to see whether there would be any untoward reaction to the result.
Upholding integrity of the election cannot be overemphasized. A chunk of the country’s insecurity problems centre on elections. There is heightened incidences of violent skirmishes before, during and immediately after elections nationwide, generally. In the last governorship election which was won by incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, his fellow contestants conceded defeat and none challenged the result in court. This was because the election was free an fair. INEC had promised that Saturday’s poll would be “transparently embarrassing”. It upgraded its technology to include a device (BVS) that can recognise voters’ fingerprint and face. A free, fair and credible election would help douse tension in Anambra. However, it is noteworthy that all our fears and anxieties about this election came to naught. Everything passed off peacefully generally. That was the ardent wish of all men and women of goodwill.