Anambra 2010 Elections; Free and Fair?

Even Obi initially refused to vote, saying that his own family members were missing from the electoral register

Anambra Guber CandidatesThe incumbent governor of Anambra state, Mr Peter Obi was on Sunday declared the winner of a governorship election. But where only 301,000 people could cast their votes in a state with 1.8 million registered voters, could this election be truly termed free and fair?

Yesterday in Anambra State, voters, candidates and observers said the election was marred by widespread irregularities. Voters complained their names were not on electoral rolls during Saturday’s polls, while the main candidates including Obi complained of irregularities. Some observers said there seemed to have been a deliberate attempt to exclude many voters.

Obi scored 97,843 votes, according to electoral commission INEC, beating former state governor Chris Ngige of the opposition Action Congress party, who polled 60,240 votes.

Former central bank governor Chukwuma Soludo of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took 59,355 votes while ex-state governor Andy Uba of the Labour party polled 26,106 votes.

Leading candidates in yesterday’s governorship election said they may jointly reject the result as the exercise was marred with irregularities. If history be our guide, this election would generate the highest participation in the electoral petition tribunal that is bound to follow shortly. 

According to THE NATION; All the candidates, including Governor Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA); Dr. Chris Ngige of the Action Congress, (AC); Dr. Andy Uba of Labour Party, (LP); Prof. Chukwuma Soludo of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP); Hon. Uche Ekwunife of Progressive Peoples Alliance, (PPA) complained bitterly about the shoddy preparations of the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) that did not only delay voting but disenfranchised a large percentage of the electorates who could not find their names on the voters’ register.

The incumbent governor of the state and APGA candidate, Peter Obi shunned voting as he complained over the shoddy arrangement.

He said he had been to about seven local government areas and that he was not impressed with the frustration of prospective voters who could not find their names on the register.

“I am not happy at all, and don’t see why I should vote while several thousands of the people are unable to vote,” Obi said.

AC candidate, Dr Ngige who had earlier in the week complained over the absence of his name on the INEC register, suddenly found his name on the register at his Nkwo- Ide Ward 1, Alor in Idemili South Local Government and was able to cast his vote by 1.05pm.

Ngige however lamented that a good percentage of his kinsmen could not vote as they could not find their names on the register.

The AC candidate alleged that he was being sabotaged in his traditional stronghold, adding that it was a deliberate ploy to rob him of massive votes from the area.

Ngige described it as a terrible situation” I never saw my name on any of the register until now.

“All the people here did not see their names in the register, and that means about 75 per cent of my constituency are being denied voting rights and I believe this is deliberate.

“They have done this in my stronghold in Idemili North and Idemili South. These two areas have a voting strength of about 220,000, so if they allow only 25 per cent to vote, that means the turn out will be just about 40 percent”

“Of course my chances are already being affected, if you remove from my stronghold three quarters of the voting population, what are you saying? If you chop off 150,000 from my votes, what are you doing to me?

“You see the people are milling around; they are not able to vote and if you give them a tender ballot, it does not count.”

Ngige later appealed to the people for calm, assuring them that there would be resolution of the logjam.

The LP candidate, Andy Uba also flayed the handling of the election shortly after casting his vote at his Opute Ward 1, Uga, Aguata Local Government Area at 1.23pm.

Uba’s wife, Obiageli, however could not vote as her name was not on the register. Also, his elder brother, Senator Ugochukwu Uba and their mother could not vote as their names could not be found on the register.

An agitated Uba described the exercise as “a total failure”, adding that the register was filled with fictitious names.”

“It was a total failure; actually nothing was prepared for this election. I am not calling for its cancellation but the situation has to be corrected. They said it is a prelude to 2011, so if it is not corrected that means the system is not right,” Uba said.

He added, “even if they release the results, we must complain when things go wrong. But I still have confidence in INEC and it is unfortunate that out of six units in my area only two units worked.”

The National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said that in some communities in Anaocha Local Government Areas, voters’ registers that were brought did not contain the names of registered voters from the area. He said, “In some polling centres where you have about 700 voters, the INEC register will have only 14 voters”.

Umeh alleged that it was a sabotage meant to frustrate APGA since the bulk of the votes from the area would have been for the party since Governor Obi and himself hailed from the council area.

The Soludo camp also faulted the poor handling of the register. The director of publicity of the campaign organisation, Mr. Christian Udechukwu, described the development as a “systemic disenfranchisement of the people.

The election in one of Nigeria’s most politically turbulent states, which has a history of political violence, is the first in a cycle of state and federal polls culminating in presidential elections due in April 2011.

Diplomats and investors Africa’s most populous nation can avoid a repeat of the chaos seen during the 2007 elections which brought President Umaru Yar’Adua to power, polls marred by widespread ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation.

According REUTERS: The signs were not promising.

Even Obi initially refused to vote, saying that his own family members were missing from the electoral register and that similar problems were being encountered across the state, but he later returned to the polling station to take part.

“It is to the great credit of the people here that the election was run peacefully yesterday. However, our visits to polling stations at a number of locations suggest that there were irregularities,” British Deputy High Commissioner Richard Powell told Reuters.

“At some stations there was late arrival of materials, some of the (electoral) registers appeared to be incomplete. I would say a lot of work would need to be done if next year’s election were to run smoothly and I hope that the Nigerian authorities would address this as a matter of urgency,” he said.

The INEC however absolved itself of any blame, insisting that the candidates and political parties were responsible for the mix up because they came up with fake voters registers.

Also poor security arrangement by the Nigerian Police affected the orderliness of the election as policemen deployed to the state refused to accompany INEC officials to polling centres in protest against non payment of their allowances.

Thousands of prospective voters had thronged the various voters centres across the 21 local government areas of the state as early as 8.30am for the exercise which was expected to start by 9am.

However election materials did not arrive most centres until 11am. In some centres actual voting did not start until 12 noon.

Majority of the voters however could not find their names on the register, thereby delaying the commencement of the exercise.

Many names that were being called turned out to be fictitious and many of the prospective voters became apprehensive as they waited in the sun, unable to exercise their voting rights.

Udechukwu however absolved the PDP of any blame in the few instances of violence.

When contacted, the Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Josiah Uwazuruonye, said the the commission could not be blamed for the development, adding that it was the handiwork of some desperate politicians.

He said, “the fault of whatever happened today should not be heaped on INEC but on the candidates.

He told one of our correspondents that the political parties printed fake voters registers that were circulated in the state adding that the electoral body could not be blamed for a situation that was created by the desperation of the politicians and their political parties.

“Whatever irregularity that was witnessed today was caused by the candidates and their political parties and not INEC,” Uwazuuonye said.

Meanwhile, no fewer than 150 suspected thugs were arrested during the period of the election. Majority of them were arrested in Anambra North Senatorial district.

Confirming the arrest of the suspected thugs, the Commissioner of Police in charge of Anambra North Senatorial zone, Samson Wudah, disclosed that about 130 persons suspected to be thugs hired from neighbouring states to disrupt the election have been arrested. He assured that the Police was on top of the situation.

Wudah, who is one of the three Commissioners of Police deployed from Abuja for the election, noted that the election went on peacefully, hinting that the Police were adequately mobilised to checkmate any form of electoral violence or post election crisis.

However, at most of the polling centres at Onitsha, Anaocha, Aguata, election materials arrived around after the voters had waited for hours. When the voting started properly most of the voters, names were not on the registers and have to move to other centres in search of their names.

Many frustrated prospective voters left the designated voting centres disappointed, while some moved from one centre to another to check their names.

Some old men who were too tired to move around centres to get their names, were provided with seats to sit on , while younger ones moved around to assist them to locate heir names in the register.

At Akpaka forests reserve, there was pocket of violence when other party agents accused the PDP of diverting the electoral materials before the Police intervened and returned normalcy to the area.

At Obosi, as of 3.00pm, voters were still waiting for the arrival of materials which frustrated some of the voters to leave for their homes.

In the end, chief electoral officer Josiah Uwazuronye declared at the electoral commission headquarters in the state capital Awka: “Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), having satisfied all requirements of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner.”