Since the publication, on 30 December 2009, of our opinion poll (conducted December 23-26 2009) on the 2010 Anambra State Governorship election, controversy appears to have dogged the effort. We were of course aware that a novel initiative like that, especially in an election period, and in a society where scepticism is pervasive, is unlikely to win consensual approbation. Witness a
similar controversy that has dogged the BBC’s reported interview with Umaru Yaradua in Saudi Aarabia. So pervasive is cynicism in our country that even if Yaradua is televised tomorrow, there will still be a strong argument that it was only his look-alike that spoke. In low trust societies such as ours, there are sometimes justifiable grounds for such scepticisms.
We thank all who have commented on the poll – whether commendation or condemnation. Despite the criticisms, we believe that the wide publicity given to the poll by the media shows that those media houses that publicised the findings saw something that at least appeared credible in the effort.
There are four broad criticisms of the poll – that (a) it was bogus, and never happened; (b) that it was designed to boost one of the gubernatorial candidates; and (c) that there were methodological lapses that rendered the findings invalid. Let me try and reply to each of these criticisms:
A) Was It A Bogus Poll?
To answer this, it will perhaps be germane to give a brief background of the company that is behind the poll.
Contrary to the claims by some candidates that Holler Africa! (www.hollerafrica.com) was set up to promote any candidate, it was actually set up in 2005. There is nothing on the website that remotely suggests support to any candidate in the Anambra state governorship election. The company is a subsidiary of Adonis & Abbey Publishers Ltd (www.adonis-abbey.com), a London-based publisher of academic books and journals, which was incorporated in March 2003. In 2009 alone, the company published some 30 academic books from across the world, most of which are recommended texts in universities in USA, Europe and South Africa. Last year it co-published a book, Writers, Writing on Conflicts and Wars in Africa with Nordic Institute of African Studies, Uppsala, Sweden – one of the biggest and most prestigious research centres on Africa in the world. Currently the company is in discussion with two of the most elitist scholarly institutes in the world about co-publishing some titles. The company’s books have been listed as recommended resources on the World Bank’s website. At least one of our titles has been sub-licensed by the Open University (UK) for its worldwide course on innovation.
We also remain, to the best of our knowledge, the only African-owned publishing house to publish and sustain the publication of journals without any form of donor funding. Currently the company publishes four journals (print and online):
African Renaissance, a quarterly, multidisciplinary journal published consistently since 2004, without missing a deadline
African Journal of Business and Economic Research, AJBER, a peer reviewed, triennial, academic journal published consistently since 2006. AJBER is listed in the prestigious EBSCO database.
African Performance Review, a peer-reviewed, triennial academic journal, published for the African Theatre Association since 2007.
African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development, a triennial, peer-reviewed, academic journal launched in 2009 with support from Tshwane University, South Africa.
Does it make sense that a promising African-owned publishing firm, which has worked hard to gain mainstream acceptance in the West, will blow it all by being involved in a fraudulent poll?
B) Was the poll designed to promote any candidate?
The first criticism we received after the publication of the poll result was from a PDP spokesman in Anambra state who claimed that “because Anambra state is 80% PDP”, he had expected the party’s candidate, Professor Soludo, to be favoured by the voters by at least “55-60 percentage points”. The spokesman also took particular exception to the survey’s ranking of Peter Obi (21%) above Professor Soludo (20%) on the question of which of the candidates would be most conservative in managing the state’s resources.
The AC, APGA, PPA and the other parties vehemently dismissed the survey as being sponsored by Professor Soludo. While I recognise that some of the condemnations of the poll by the politicians were ‘just politics’, I feel the charge of partisanship is unfair and has not taken account of my antecedents, including my public positions in my weekly column on Thursdays in The Daily Independent and my writings in other media houses. For instance, the AC, which accused me of being a “hireling of Professor Soludo,” regularly sends its press releases to me, often with a cover note thanking me for my “continued support”. In fact, the party has variously used my comments on Dr Chris Ngige to boost his gubernatorial candidacy (see for instance:
(i) Chris Ngige, AC Candidate, Leads Obi and Soludo in Anambra (Osun Defender, November 17, 2009, 5th paragraph from bottom)
(ii) Anambra 2010: Ngige Surges Ahead (Pointblanknews, November 16, 2009; 5th paragraph from bottom)
Just last month, I wrote an article supporting the award of an honorary doctorate to Andy Uba, the Labour Party’s governorship candidate
(see Uba’s Honorary Doctorate: Why UniZik Was Right (Daily Independent, December 2, 2009).
I have similarly written articles criticising the PDP in Anambra state – the same party that critics claimed the poll was designed to favour (see for instance Anambra State Needs Liberation (Holler Africa!, November 19, 2009).
In the same vein, I have consistently commended Governor Peter Obi for his original idea of making town unions an informal fourth tier of government, and for bringing some ‘moral capital’ to governance in the state just as I have also been a consistent critic of his failure to build APGA in the state, and for appearing to run a one-man show as Governor (see Governor Peter Obi and the Second Term Project, (NVS, April 19, 2009)
Based on the above, I find it difficult to accept allegations of partisanship. In my writings, I have always aspired to be an analyst, (that is, someone, who, as objectively as possible, interrogates the various points of view in an argument before drawing a conclusion) rather than a ‘social critic’.
C) Was the poll so methodologically flawed that its conclusions are invalid?
We were also criticised for the methodology used in the survey:
(i) Many of the critics, apparently without reading the full results of the poll, claimed that the poll did not give any margin of errors. The poll clearly stated on the first page that the “margin of sampling error for results based on the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points”. When we published the results of the poll, we placed a downloadable version on our website (www.hollerafrica.com). Many websites also published a downloadable full version of the poll.
(ii) Questions were also raised about the sample size of 9000 in a population of 1.5 million people. This was a thorny issue for us. We had initially wanted to use a much smaller sample size but given that the state had 21 local governments, we were worried about how to make the sample representative without overextending ourselves. We eventually settled for 9000.
(iii) Some people wanted to know how many interviewers were used. We used 100 interviewers, who were employed to work over three days. It was estimated that each questionnaire would take seven minutes to complete. This means that the actual time spent by each respondent (on average) in completing the survey was 10.5 hours (7 minutes multiplied by 9000 divided by 100 interviewers). The survey was completed over two days. Dozie Anambra Professionals helped us to recruit and train the interviewers while a marketing firm in Nigeria, which does not want to be named, did the collation and tabulation of the result for us.
(iv) There were also questions about the funding of the survey. The survey was fully funded by us. I have worked in two leading polling and market research companies in the UK – the National Opinion Poll (NOP) and Synovate. From my experience in these companies, I know that contrary to what some people think, conducting an opinion poll does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
(v) Some critics complained that the poll did not account for demographics like age, gender and whether people were registered to vote or not. The aim of the survey was not to determine the demographics that support particular candidates. We were only interested in ‘likely voters’ and we used two screening questions to determine this:
a) “Are you of a voting Age?” (b) “Will you vote in the forthcoming governorship elections in the state”? Answering ‘yes’ to both questions qualifies you to be a ‘likely voter’.
Our poll already vindicated?
i) One of the questions in our survey was: “Do you think the election will be free and fair?” The poll found that 59.5% of the respondents believed the election would be free and fair compared to 41.5% who thought it would not be free and fair. Despite the recent reported attack on PDP supporters at Ogidi, the relative absence of the widely anticipated violence in the campaigns, will seem to point to a free and fair elections – as found by our poll.
ii) The AC, which was critical of the poll, because it shows that “Professor Soludo is the candidate to beat,” seems to be surreptitiously borrowing from the poll’s findings. The survey had asked: “What do you consider the most important challenges that will face the new Governor of the state after the elections?” Some 40% of the respondents said kidnapping, 20% said armed robbery while 17% said unemployment. Apparently the Ngige campaign decided to tap into this finding by re-jigging its campaign promises. Its campaign mantra now seems to be to a promise to fight insecurity with job creation (see Anambra: ‘We’ll fight insecurity with job creation’ (ThisDay online, January 11, 2009). Is this not a ‘smart’ way of tapping into the three most important concerns of the voters, as found by our poll, without any form of attribution to us?
iii) The Nigerian Tribune of 15 January 2010 reported that five of the 25 candidates in the election are planning to produce a consensual candidate, which they hope would alter the dynamics of the contest (see Fresh hurdles for, Soludo, Obi, Uba and others). There were also reports that Dr Vincent Anigbata of NSDP stepped down and declared support for Professor Soludo. In the poll we had argued that “strategic alliances between the other ‘minor’ candidates, or between any two of the leading three candidates, could change the dynamics of the contest. In the absence of such an alliance, were the elections to be held today, Professor Chukwuma Soludo would emerge as the new Governor of the state, according to the poll.” Are the parties said to be working on this alliance – ADC, CPN, PMP, NNPP and UDP – publicly condemning our poll while secretly believing in its credibility and implementing some of our conclusions without giving us any form of credit? Is Professor Soludo trying to consolidate his lead by winning over the minor candidates?
Beyond the criticisms
It is important to underline that while the poll asked seven questions, the PDP was concerned basically with only one of the questions (i.e. which candidate would manage the state’s resources most conservatively), which the poll found favoured Peter Obi (21%) to Professor Soludo’s (20%)). The other parties appeared to be primarily concerned with three of the questions in which majority of the respondents favoured Professor Soludo (i.e. “If the elections were held tomorrow, which of the candidates will you vote for?”; “Which candidate is most likely to bring transformational changes and new opportunities to Anambra state?” and “Which candidate is most likely to change the perception of the state for the better in terms of fighting crime, kidnapping and ‘godfatherism’?”). There was little discussion on the poll’s finding that a majority of the respondents thought the election would be free and fair, or on the findings about what the voters thought would be the most important challenges facing whoever wins the election. Similarly, there appears to be little media interest in what we actually consider the likely ‘game changer’ in the election, namely that successful electoral alliances could change the dynamics of the contest.
Second and Third Opinion Polls and a Possible Exit Poll
We will conduct one more opinion poll later this month and publish the results a few days before the elections. The poll will be based on just one structured question: “If the elections were held tomorrow, which candidate would you vote for?”
We will also write to INEC to seek permission to conduct exit polls (a poll of voters taken immediately after they have exited the polling booths). If permission is secured, we will conduct this poll on selected polling booths in selected towns and announce the results either same day or the day after the elections.
New Polling ‘companies’ are now mushrooming
We are happy to have inspired the emergence of a number of opinion polling ‘companies’ shortly after the publication of the results of our poll. This will seem to contradict the initial belief by some that opinion polls have no place in elections in Nigeria. Perhaps the polls will help to increase transparency and (and also excitement) about our elections, and by so doing, contribute to the maturation of our young democracy.
Jideofor Adibe, PhD, LLM
CEO, Holler Africa!
Publisher, Adonis & Abbey Publishers Ltd