Anambra State, Electoral Reform and 2011 Elections

Without any doubt, the Anambra state election wasn’t without its own drama. And considering INEC track record in organising credible elections – especially under the leadership of Prof. Maurice Iwu – anything different would probably have been seen as a “variance”. Just two days prior to Election Day, the Federal High Court in Lagos ruled that the Independent National Electoral Commission lacks the

merit to conduct elections in the country. As we may know, there are only four commissioners sitting on the INEC board, instead of 13 as stipulated in the INEC Act. As a result, Justice Liman ruled that the board lacks the quorum required to conduct elections. As I write, what this ruling portends for the just concluded election is still unknown. 

There were also reports of delays in the delivery of election materials across the state. It was reported that many polling stations remained closed for hours after the election was scheduled to have started because of non-availability of voting materials. Some people even reported ballot boxes stolen in some parts of the state. 

Going by the scene of jubilation on the streets of Awka on Sunday, one can assume that the victory of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) gubernatorial candidate Peter Obi, is in line with desire and expectation of Anambrarians. 

The jubilation on the streets of Awka is in total contrast to what we saw in Ado-Ekiti, following the re-run of Ekiti gubernatorial elections last April. The tragedy of the Ekiti elections is still very fresh in our memory. We can all remember the famous Madam Ayoka, who decided to call it quit in the mid-way into the election, and only to be threatened by her Abuja masters. The story of Ekiti election re-run cannot be complete with also mentioning the naked women protests on the streets of Ado-Ekiti. 

But as residents of Anambra celebrate, the question I asked some of my friends was, did Peter Obi win the election on genuine votes? Or was he just successful in “out rigging” his opponents? 

Whilst there’s been no confirmation of rigging on the part of the Peter Obi, who is also the incumbent governor, I still believe it is a reasonable question to ask, considering our clamour and agitation for genuine electoral reform. 

If anything, the public reaction to the APGA victory –or perhaps, PDP loss – further underlines the growing hatred for the PDP. The hatred now seems to have hit a crescendo that most people don’t really care how PDP is removed from power or prevented from seizing office. In the desperate attempt to kick PDP out by all force, anything and everything seems acceptable. 

There seems to be a general consensus that the Anambra election was not “free and fair”. In fact, Peter Obi was very vocal in condemning the way and manner INEC has organised the election. However, I found that most Nigerians were willing to accept these anomalies as “inconsequential” only because PDP lost. I then wondered what would have been the case if the election was won by PDP, what the reaction of such people would have been to the election process a whole. 

In “normal” circumstances there would have been calls for the head of Prof. Iwu. But following the loss of PDP last Saturday, no one seems to be interested. Most people seem to have taken the Anambra result as a victory over PDP. So does that mean Prof. Iwu has regained public confidence? 

We cannot be ignorant of the menace and decadence suffered under the 10 year rule of PDP. However, the fact remains that most of the leaders of the opposition are one time or the other members of the PDP. I don’t know of any party in Nigeria that was created based on any set of ideology or principles. These parties were borne out of self-preservation and actualisation of personal agendas. 

The obnoxious belief that PDP is the biggest problem facing our democracy will create more harm than good. The problem in our electoral system is more than just PDP, AC, or ANPP. What we need is a genuine electoral reform that will guarantee free and fair election, and deter electoral malpractices. It is not rocket science to have a free and fair election. We have had it before. The annulled June 12 election is a perfect example. It is therefore nonsensical for anyone to say no election can ever be perfect. Are they saying we should accept electoral fraud as part of our democracy, just as we’ve accepted that corruption comes with leadership? 

When you talk about electoral reform, some assume it’s just about lining up to vote. Voting is just one part of the electoral process. Although, we hear about allegations of fraud in western democracies, but you can be sure that if anyone is caught engaging in electoral malpractices he/she is likely to end up in prison. It is only in Nigeria where machines for printing ballot papers are found in people’s house, and it is regarded as a joke! 

As 2011 draws nearer, it is important that the electorate keep their eyes wide open when electing their leaders. The last thing we want is to replace one evil with another just because it presents itself in a different colour. 

We need to forestall a repeat of what happened in 1999, when crooks and criminals rode on the back of the pro-democracy group-cum-political party Alliance for Democracy (AD) into public office. 

And just before I go, I will like to say BIG thank you to Mr Egghead Odewale for his regular twitter and facebook updates on the Anambra election. It was citizen journalism at its best!