(Intersociety, Onitsha Nigeria: 20th November 2017)-The 2017 Anambra Governorship Election has been successfully contested, won and lost; but lessons and challenges abound. On the other hand, our organization: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law; a major player in the 2017 Anambra Governorship pre election advocacy, is happy to celebrate with all the stakeholders in the all important poll especially the 448, 771 citizens that courageously came out and voted; not minding threats and counter threats emanating from IPOB and security agencies. Defying such threats to come out to vote is democratically and eternally rewarding.
Our special commendation must, again, go to the 448, 771 registered voters who came out and voted despite all odds including IPOB’s consistent threats of ‘vote and die’ against the State’s voting population as well as apprehensions and other forms of psychological insecurity generated by militarization of Anambra polity by Nigerian security agencies.
The nonviolent nature of the Poll is also commendable. In this respect, we must specifically commend the participating political parties, their faithful and the contestants including the incumbent Governor of Anambra State, Mr. William Mmaduabuchi Obiano (M.Sc.) as well as the candidates of PDP, Mr. Henry Obaze, APC; Mr. Anthony Nwoye and UPP; Mr. Osita Chidoka. Their peaceful conducts during the electioneering and the election proper are a continuation of the sustenance of the existing culture of political nonviolence including politics of maturity and political tolerance in Anambra State, which has held sway in the past 12 years.
Our commendation also goes to the authorities of INEC and Anambra Governorship security providers for the peaceful conduct of the poll including heeding and acting on our expert advice on poll security contained in our joint letter of 14th November 2017. The peaceful way and manner the security operatives conducted themselves especially on the day of election is strikingly commendable. We also observed dying minute efforts by security providers to correct blunders committed at the beginning, though such efforts were grossly belated and yielded little or no impact on already threatened and traumatized voting population.
Roles played by the media and rights CSOs especially in the area of pre election advocacy and sensitization must also not be forgotten. Engaging the contestants including the incumbent Governor and winner of the just conducted poll in issue based campaigns and good governance scorecard remains award-winning on the part of the media and rights CSOs especially leaders of the Southeast based human rights and pro democracy coalition (SBCHROs), online and audio and audio-visual managers within and beyond Anambra State.
We wish to reiterate our severally stated position on the need for CSOs in Nigeria to focus more on what happens before election than what happens on Election Day; otherwise called election monitoring. It is improper and democratically hurting to dissipate much energies and resources on “election monitoring”; abandoning more important aspect which is process leading to election itself. We understand that poll monitoring is grants friendly, but it must also be understood clearly that rights CSO activities are not all about money making or State or independent sponsorship.
Governor William Obiano is also congratulated over his across board victory. It is true that the 18th November 2017 Governorship Election in Anambra State was very troubled and threatened by State actor and non state actor wrong actions and approaches; but it was able to produce live votes or living results. The results so produced may have been tainted by voter bribery, but tainted live results or living votes are much better than virus free robotic votes or results. In other words, it is better to be in Purgatory than inside the Hell Fire.This, in no way suggests that we are lending our advocacy support to voter bribery or procurement of live votes using diverted public funds or “security votes”. Governor Obiano also earns credit by ensuring that the 2017 Anambra Governorship Poll is violence free or devoid of bloodshed.
- Money Politics & Voter Bribery
Using the State’s 4,608 polling booths, it may most likely be correct to say that up to N1.5B or more was shared in the entire 4,608 polling booths in Anambra State in the just concluded Governorship Poll. The said huge sums were criminally expended in “buying voters” and “voluntary party allowances/logistics” of electoral conductors and security agents posted to each of the 4,608 polling booths in the State.
While the APC and PDP camps shared theirs through seconded party agents, the ruling APGA shared its own using party agents and “stakeholders” (i.e. markets and landlords chairmen in their areas of residency as well as community PGs and Governor’s SSAs, SAs, PAs and EAs). Where the sums budgeted by the State Government exhausted, the nearby “stakeholders” got contacted immediately for “immediate cash flow or intervention”. On average, not less than N100, 000 was estimated to have been squandered on “voters’ procurement” in each of the 4,608 polling booths; which, some say excludes sums budgeted for “voluntary allowances/logistics” of election conductors and security providers posted to each of the State’s 4,608 polling booths.
The “sharing galore” or show of cash muscle was between APGA and APC, owing to their federal and state incumbencies, while PDP trailed behind them. That is to say that APGA reportedly shared 40%, APC reportedly shared 35% and PDP reportedly shared 25% of the illicit public funds so squandered. In polling booths with acute voters’ turnout or procurement caused by IPOB threats of ‘vote and die’ and their poor handling by security agencies, it was a field day for the assigned party agents including Anambra State Government’s so called “stakeholders” who instantly retired or pocketed the budgeted sums or their balances.
It is therefore a truism that the 2017 Anambra Governorship Election produced lowly rated candidates as recipients of the largest number of total votes cast while the best rated candidates turned out to be the recipients of lower number of total votes cast; all because of money politics and voter bribery. It is important to remind that out of total registered voting population of 2, 158, 171; 448, 171 (21%) voted with 26, 527 votes declared invalid while 422, 314 were valid votes. It is also important to inform that a total of 304, 203 registered voters are yet to be issued or assisted in collecting their PVCs or permanent voters’ cards in Anambra State as at March 2015.
Further, through indiscriminate sharing of money or voter bribery by the three top political parties (APGA, APC and PDP) and their candidates especially APGA, followed by APC; incumbent Governor William Obiano who came third in recent public rating and television debates has turned out to be recipient of the largest valid votes cast or 234,071 votes, while Mr. Anthony Nwoye of APC who came fourth in the said rating and debates, became the second largest recipient of total valid votes cast with 98, 752 votes.
Mr. Henry Oseloka Obaze of PDP, on his part, who was rated first in the public rating and television debates has become the third largest recipient of total valid votes with 70, 293 while Mr. Osita Chidoka of UPP who came second in the rating and debates and also very popular among pro Biafra exponents because of his clear stance against their persecution took a distance fourth position in the election.
It is so shocking and disappointing that some, if not many adult citizens with voters’ cards that voted in the just concluded governorship poll in Anambra State could descend so low to the extent of mortgaging their conscience and future by soliciting and accepting peanuts as bribes in order to vote against the candidates of their choice. Some permanent voters’ cards bearers had before the poll surrendered or sold their permanent voters’ cards or allowed their PVCs’ sensitive serial numbers to be copied with their new passports taken; all in return for peanuts.
Apart from media reports of adult voters with their PVCs seen soliciting and accepting bribes in polling booths from malicious party agents and State Government “stakeholders” including leaders of market, landlords, community and traditional institutions or associations in Anambra State; we also saw and encountered some of them face to face especially in Ogbaru, Onitsha South, Onitsha North and Idemmili North LGAs. Such sharp practices were also widespread in rural areas where communal and traditional institutions hold sway using their local influences and incumbency advantages with the full backing of the Government of Anambra State.
Each of the said adult voters went as low as accepting a peanut sum of between N1000 and N3000 to vote against the candidate of his or her choice. This, the said three top political parties especially APGA and APC did using recruited or hired “vote canvassers”. This is more shocking and surprising when none of the compromised adult voters will ordinarily wear a happy look if given N1000 or N2000 or N3000 as a gift or assistance by a friend or a well wisher or a relative under legitimate circumstance. This is totally not poverty of stomach but poverty of mind and a height of immorality.
- How IPOB’s ‘Vote & Die’ Threats & FG Poor Handling Fueled Voter Bribery
It is also important to mention that increase in voter bribery in the last Saturday’s all important Poll masterminded by the three top contenders especially Obiano and Nwoye’s camps was substantially fueled by anticipated low voter turnout fueled by IPOB’s issuance of threats of ‘vote and die’ against Anambra voting population as well as poor handling of same by way of militarization of voting arenas by security agencies. While voter turnout was relatively low in urban cities of the State, on account of the generated threats and fears, it was relatively high in rural areas including the State’s hinterlands and river-line areas where the rural dwellers feel more secured than in urban cities.
Such feeling of insecurity by urban voting population particularly those resident in urban areas of Okpoko, Mkpikpa, Fegge, Awada, Ugwuagba, Obosi, Ogidi, Nkpor, Woliwo, Nsugbe “33”, Nkwelle, Omagba 1 &2, Odoakpu, Odo-Rubber, Nkutaku, Odume, Owerre Aja, etc; all in Onitsha Zone; had forced them off voting arenas or polling booths for fear of losing their lives.
Those who feared and stayed away from the said voting areas are those that constitute bulk of independent and elite voters. Some, if not many of those that voted in the areas were either bribed or constituted the bulk of party men and women that voted along party lines. It is on record, too, that many members of the adult population in the above named urban areas including exponents of Biafra statehood do not have voters’ cards.
It is therefore correct to say in summation that in democracy, people get what they bargained or voted for. That is to say that those that voted under the influence of money politics or voter bribery have no moral grounds to complain when things start going awry or their welfare denied; likewise those who chose to boycott the all important Poll. It is a political suicide to vote in an election under inducement but a hyper political suicide double digit tragedy to boycott election or distance oneself from choosing one’s leaders through democratic process. “Internal referendum” is never conducted anywhere in the world behind doors or through threats of violence against an innocent voting population.
- History Of Low Voter Turnout In Anambra Elections
Low voter turnout especially in governorship poll has become a recurring decimal in Anambra State. This had been on since 2003 when Peter Obi presumably won with 235,000 popular votes (the highest in the history of Anambra State except Emmanuel Ubah’s allocated robotic or fake votes of over 1m in the April 2007 court annulled poll) out of then total registered population of 1.9m but was rigged out. Obi’s popular votes were rigged and replaced with intimidating figures of fake votes.
The Justice Garuba Nabaruma led Tribunal later in 2005 recounted the presumed winner’s valid votes using original copies of filled and duly signed FormEC8As of accredited party agents and independent observers; leading to declaration of the presumed winner as the substantive winner in August 2005. The Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal later in March 2006 upheld the decision of the Tribunal leading to his swearing in on 17th March 2006.
It must also be pointed out that Anambra version of the National Register of Voters was flooded and filled with fictitious and non living objects and pictures between 2003 and 2010. In an extensive investigation carried out by Intersociety in late 2009, it was discovered that 50% of names contained in the Register never existed. They Register was filled with symbols and pictures of dead persons, windows, doors, human skulls, chairs and stranger passports. The late Chief Gani Fawehimni, SAN and Prof Wole Soyinka’s pictures were included in the tainted Register as “registered voters in Anambra State”; specifically in the hinterland of Ekwulummili in Nnewi South LGA of the State.
The tainted Register served as the election rigging register for Anambra State until 2011 when it was cleaned and replaced. The Anambra’s voters’ register of 2011 till date looks more credible but faces another hurdle of non issuance of permanent voters’ cards to those that were captured and registered. For instance, out of registered voters of 1,963, 173 in Anambra State as at 12th March 2015, only 1, 658, 967 were issued with their permanent voters’ cards (PVCs), leaving behind 304, 203 as uncollected PVCs.
In February 2010, another governorship poll was conducted and out of a total registered voting population of 1.84m, only 301, 232 (16.3%) voted; out of which Peter Obi of then APGA won his second term with only 97, 833 valid votes, followed by Dr. Chris Ngige of ACN with 60, 240 and Prof Charlie Soludo of PDP with 59, 355 votes. In November 2013, a new governorship election was conducted in Anambra State and out of a total registered voting population of 1,776, 167; 442, 242 voted (25%) and 16, 988 were invalid while 425, 254 were declared valid; out of which Mr. William Obiano (M.Sc.) of APGA, won with 180,173 valid votes; followed by Anthony Nwoye of PDP with 97, 700 and Chris Ngige of APC with 95, 963 valid votes.
In the just concluded 2017 Anambra Governorship Poll, out of total registered voters of 2, 158, 171; 448, 771 (21%) voted; 26, 457 were declared invalid and 422, 314 were declared valid votes cast; out of which incumbent Governor William Obiano of APGA scored 234, 071 valid votes, followed by Anthony Nwoye of APC with 98, 752 and Henry Oseloka Obaze with 70, 293 votes.
- Tackling Challenges Affecting Anambra Voters’ Low Turnout
But for IPOB’s threats of ‘vote and die’ against Anambra voting population and poor handling of such threats by security agencies, there would have been a remarkable increase in the voters’ turnout in the just concluded poll. Though by the above statistics, more people voted for Governor Obiano in the just concluded 2017 Anambra Governorship Poll as against that of 2013, but had IPOB threats not issued, many independent and elite voters would have voted and much less would have been spent in buying voters.
The statistical breakdown above further shows that more voters voted in Anambra State in its just concluded governorship poll of 2017 than that of 2013; Whereas 448, 771 or 21% of registered voting population voted in 2017, lesser number of 442, 254 or 25% of registered voting population voted in 2013. Also while Governor Obiano secured 180, 173 valid votes in 2013, he got as high as 234, 071 in the just concluded 2017 Governorship Poll. Electoral and security pundits have further held that, but for IPOB threats and their poor responses by security agencies, bulk of independent and elite voters would have voted; which would have changed or upturned the just announce voting results.
Therefore, the best way to tackle incessancy of voter apathy or low turnout in Nigeria and Anambra State in particular is to liberalize or dualize Nigeria’s voting system by introducing and simplifying electronic voting to exist side by side with manual voting. If Nigeria’s private banking sector can successfully operate mobile or electronic banking, Nigeria can as well operate with ease the electronic voting with its simplified methodologies.
If electronic voting has been in place, the threat of ‘vote and die’ and its accompanied poor handling styles and associated blunders would have been drastically minimized. Billions of naira expended in the so called “poll security deployment” would, also, have been saved. Electronic voting, if put in place, will geometrically increase voter participation and number of registered voters voting in elections. It will also drastically curb money politics and voter bribery and save billions of naira worth of public funds diverted for voter bribery by party candidates especially the incumbents.
For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Mobile Line: +2348174090052
Email: [email protected]
Chinwe Umeche, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Democracy & Good Governance Program
Email: [email protected]
Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq., LLB, BL
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
Email: [email protected]
SOURCE :The Nigerian Voice (opinions)