Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra state has been returned to power in an electoral victory that should be celebrated as a landslide. He ran on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It was a crowded field – 37 contestants in all.
Obiano garnered more votes (234,071) than all the tallies of his rivals put together. He won the Nov.18 election in all 21 local governments areas of the state. Mr. Tony Nwoye of All Progressives Congress (APC) came a distant second with 98,752 votes, followed by Mr. Obaze of Peoples Democratic Party which, until its defeat in the 2015 general elections, was the dominant political party in the country.
The election went off peacefully. Threats by the scessionist group IPOB to disrupt voting did not materialise. Either voters simply ignored its call for a boycott or the heavy security presence, mobilised from neighbouring states and Abuja, prevented the group from inciting people to violence. The Nigeria Police Force deployed 21,084 men to keep the peace during and after polling. But as it turned out, they were largely idle.
Though the election went off without any incident, the heavy security presence was believed to have been one of the reasons for the very low voter turnout last Saturday. Anambra state, going by INEC records, has a voter population of over 2 million. Of that number, only 457,511 turned out to vote but slightly over 21% managed to vote.
To underscore the seriousness of the issue, let us consider the example of Idemili North council area. It is easily the most populated part of the state. In this election, only 25,254 (14%) voted, just slightly higher than the number of police officers called up to man polling booths.
The reasons included discrepancies on the voter register, failure of the card reader that INEC used to enhance the credibility of the vote. This is not to ignore voter apathy that has come to characterise elections in Anambra state since 2007. This raises questions about the role of civil society and political parties in getting voters out on polling day.
Apathy also is an indication of lack of trust in politicians and government..One disturbing thing that emerged from the election was that while politicians fell short of campaigning for votes, they were ready to buy votes on voting day. Vote buying was captured by TV cameras and went viral on social media platforms. It also shows that 18 years on, a truly democratic culture has not taken root in this country.
Another area of concern is the militarisation of the electoral process. As we saw in the Anambra election, the large number of armed police officers, ostensibly aimed at stopping IPOB from fomenting trouble, did the unexpected. Their presence put fear in many people who would have loved to come out to vote. It is high time we began to minimise the roles of the military and the police in the electoral process. Elections are purely a civilian affair. Of course, soldiers and policemen can exercise their citizenship right to vote for parties and candidates of their choice. But it is not for them to take over the work of the election umpire.