By Peter Claver Oparah
Regardless of who wins the Anambra gubernatorial election, the successful conduct of the election adds a great impetus to those who believe and work for the unity and progress of the country. What more, the election is one of the most hitch-less and well-conducted in the present democratic dispensation that started in May 1999. That an election could be conducted in Anambra State without widespread tales of violence, ballot snatching, killing and all other accoutrements of disorder is a huge credit to the present regime and its commitment to the conduct of free and fair election, bereft of the usual brickbats for which elections are known in Nigeria.
Anambra stands out in the history of cantankerous and violent elections in this country. Its long history of contentious elections had endured and the notoriety the state had gathered over the years on conduct of elections is well known in Nigeria. Over the years, the conduct of elections in Anambra has been a do-or-die affair which have all the trappings of war and the struggle for the control of the state has been one long stretch of primitive war fare where only the most audacious, the most violent and the richest warlords prevail. The politics of the state had been a noxious and arcane art that had only rewarded the most brutal and the most atrocious and in that way, Anambra has consistently served as a reminder to all that is wrong with the Nigerian politics and election conduct.
But with the election last weekend, all these notorious attributes went on sabbatical. All the forces of Hades that hitherto marked electoral conduct and politics in Anambra were rusticated in the last election and the dark shadows of threat and violence that loomed consistently over elections and politics in Anambra were all dispersed. All the insidious forces that have conspired to turn elections in Anambra into borderless theaters of war and bloodletting were put in abeyance in that election. All negative forces and acts that have given Anambra politics a notorious image were vanquished.
Most ominously, the Anambra election held under the huge threat of boycott and violence unleashed by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) which not only issued a counter order banning election in Anambra but threatened to enforce a violent boycott of the election. Operating under the mantra of not allowing any election in Anambra or any part of Igboland, the outlawed group consistently made threats of violently enforcing a boycott of the election but all these came to naught on election day as the people trooped out en-mass to exercise their civic rights and participate in a spotless election that stands out for its wide acceptance despite the pre-election bickering that followed it.
However, what is most cheery is the absence of the loud complaints of election rigging and other forms of misconduct during the election. So far, there had been no credible complaint of the well-known electoral malfeasances that are traditional with election conduct in Anambra in particular and Nigeria in general. In this election, there was no unleashing of violence on anybody. There was no midnight clampdown on politicians from opposing tendencies. In this election, there was no employment of masked and hooded security men to intimidate politicians from opposing parties, as was the case in previous elections. In this election, there was no unleashing of violence on politicians on the other side by the ruling party at the center as was the case previously. There was no arming of thugs and hoodlums to visit mayhem on opponents. In this election, there was no clear case of INEC officials working audaciously on instructions handed down from above as we had come to live with in Nigeria. Everybody was left to exercise his or her electoral will in an atmosphere devoid of threat and tension.
Granted, before the election, there were tendentious and lurid allegations of plans to rig the election, plans to intimidate politicians, plans to tilt the election to the favor of certain candidates and all manners of allegations as has become second nature to Nigerian politicians. But on election day, to the surprise of everybody, no such plans were made. The atmosphere was generally calm, peaceful and serene and the citizenry utilized that favorable atmosphere to exercise their civic rights without let or hindrance. On election day, all the pre-election wild and reckless allegations and permutations were proved to be hoaxes through the unbiased conduct of electoral and security agencies. This is how it should be and how best to build confidence in the electoral process.
What more, on election day, we were not fed with the tales of kamikaze operations by desperate politicians who know only the wily ways to win elections, unleashing murder and violence to spin electoral victory to their sides. We were not fed with tales of desperate politicians snatching ballots here and there, thumb printing in several dark spots, writing and re-writing election results in their private houses and strongholds. We were not fed with stories of sporadic shootings, politicians arrested here and there, people intimidated and forced to do unseemly things. These are lurid stories that have consistently dogged the conduct of elections in Nigeria and Anambra stands out for its excessive notoriety in this macabre scenario. But the last election was shorn of these malaise.
Even the contentious posting and hacking of results was greatly minimized in this election because people learnt the futility of indulging in such reckless act as was the case previously. We didn’t hear of politicians manufacturing results elsewhere and clinging to it in an effort to swing victory to their sides. We didn’t hear of electoral officers conniving with politicians of particular parties to write outlandish results for their pay masters as was rampantly the case before now. There were no serious cases of malfunctioning of voting gadgets, no serious cases of missing voters’ identities and no serious cases of voter intimidation and buying or selling of voters cards. In a few cases where suspicions of attempts to violate the process were reported, they were expeditiously dealt with by security agents who left no one in doubt about their impartiality.
There was no churning out of specious election results. Knowing the Nigerian politician for who he is, it would be foolhardy to say that he did not try to compromise the election through his well-known ways but the determination of the Buhari government and all the agencies involved in the conduct of the election served him the notice that none of his antics would be allowed in the election-and this is the single greatest factor in delivering free and fair election in Nigeria. The results summed up the real number of people that turned up to vote and the result matched the electoral choice they expressed at the polling booths.
Most importantly, the consistent threat by IPOB to disrupt the election was a huge anti-climax as no serious case of violence against voters was recorded on the day of election. The boycott call by IPOB went emphatically ignored as the people trooped out in their large numbers to vote. Everything worked against the permutation of nay sayers and doomsday prophets. Everything fell in place on the day of election to deliver perhaps, one of the best elections ever held in this democratic dispensation.
Whichever way one looks at it, the biggest credit for this successful election goes to the Buhari government, which has been living up to its promise of non-interference in the electoral process. That it had not brought its bias to bear on the conduct of elections so far remains the reason why the quality of elections has tremendously improved and remains the greatest assurance that the country will soon fix its shoddy electoral process. The quickest way to do this and get less contentious outcomes is to detach the government and its interests from the conduct of elections. This was at full display in Anambra hence the quality of election and result gotten from last week’s election.
All said, one wishes to congratulate Governor Willie Obiano and his APGA for their sweet victory at the polls and one hopes he will work harder to justify the massive confidence imposed on him by Anambra people in this election. One also congratulates his opponents for a well-fought fight and urge them to team up with Obiano to not only improve the lots of Anambra but deepen the good deliverance of free and fair elections not only in Anambra but in the entire Nigerian nation.
Peter Claver Oparah writes from Ikeja, Lagos. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org