Rarely in history has the option in an election been as stark as in tomorrow’s gubernatorial election in Anambra. Beclouding that exercise is the threat by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to frustrate the election.
Some might argue that, in an election, it is the constitutional right of a citizen or group of citizens to refuse to participate. Equally, it is the undeniable constitutional right of other citizens to embrace a given opportunity to chose their government. Our constitution does not provide for any group to be forced to vote in an election. More assuredly, those intent on voting cannot be intimidated by any other group or be completely forced to join boycott of the election. The state, therefore, has a duty tomorrow to ensure the safety of life and property of willing participants in the governorship election.
In short, if those boycotting Anambra elections are not forced to participate, those voting in the same elections cannot be forced to boycott. If, however, in the most unlikely event of criminal dissidents having the upper hand to disrupt tomorrow’s elections, the net effect, at the worst, is postponement till another date. But such date (or even dates) must be within the tenure of the administration in Anambra State. Should the Anambra election be rendered impossible beyond the last day of the government in Anambra State, the Federal Government has to discharge its responsibility to the people of Anambra State strictly in line with Nigerian constitution. There is no life for any administration beyond its last day in office, and Nigerian constitution does not harbour a vacuum. Consequently, the Federal Government will have to declare emergency for overall security throughout Anambra State until the necessary atmosphere exists for the gubernatorial election.
Instead of prospects for such political trauma, it is, therefore, the collective responsibility of Anambrarians for a peaceful election tomorrow. Campaigns for the election have produced interesting and disturbing aspects. The most disturbing was the decision of police authorities to withdraw their personnel (security details) attached to the major candidate, incumbent Governor Willie Obiano, on the silly excuse that the security men were being wrongly deployed (by the governor) against his political opponents or even rivals. There is this wrong impression that essential personnel, like security details for high-ranking public office holders, are at the discretion or even favour of police authorities, especially when the state governors are of the opposition parties.
Fortunately, campaigns for the Anambra election have been largely peaceful, something unusual in tense elections, especially despite the threats of proscribed IPOB. Even then, why should a state governor seeking re-election be exposed to the risk of anything possible during campaigns? It was, therefore, a relief that President Muhammadu Buhari instantly ordered police authorities to restore the security details to Governor Obiano.
On the other hand, the governor and his four other colleague in the South-East did not display similar gesture days earlier when the proscribed IPOB recklessly threatened to “kill” Buhari during his recent visit to Ebonyi State. Do these chaps have a sense of history or they just refuse to learn from the disastrous history of the past? It wasn’t clear if anybody in that zone disowned IPOB’s threat. Yes, that was an empty threat. But suppose something fatal occurred and even if naturally, during Buhari’s visit, who would easily dismiss a link between such tragedy and the reckless threat of IPOB earlier? Possible repercussions? Those concerned should get enlightened by Nigeria’s history in 1966 on the tragic consequences of a false/malicious report on the state radio in Republic of Benin that Northern Nigerians were being killed in Eastern Nigeria.
Still on the withdrawal of security details of Governor Obiano by Nigeria Police. Would the same police authorities have withdrawn security details of the APC candidate or an APC state governor in similar circumstances? This election is, at least, a three-way showdown. First is the gauntlet between an erstwhile political godfather, ex-Anambra governor Peter Obi and his political godson, the current governor, Obiano. At the end of his eight-year tenure four years ago, Peter Obi, like all his colleagues since return of civilian rule in 1999, ensured that his preferred candidate, Willie Obiano, by all means, succeeded him as governor on the platform of APGA. Again, like all “arranges” godfatherism, their convenient coalition quickly collapsed with either going his way. While Obiano remained with APGA, Peter Obi virtually became a PA to the then serving PDP President Goodluck Jonathan.
With such everyday closeness to Jonathan in those days, it was no surprise that Peter Obi eventually joined the PDP, which, unfortunately, under Jonathan, lost the 2015 presidential election. But in fairness to Peter Obi, he remained in PDP, the platform on which he is solidly backing PDP candidate, Oseloka Obaze, against Willie Obiano. If that were not threatening enough, the PDP candidate, Obaze, was Governor Obiano’s most outstanding special adviser who soon quit and is running as a formidable challenger in tomorrow’s election. The outcome will determine Governor Obiano’s fate or the future political relevance of his ex-godfather, Peter Obi.
Ironically, the PDP candidate, Obaze, ran about the most credible campaign, especially the television debate, which he seemed to dominate, moreso as an international technocrat. APC candidate, Tony Nwoye, ordinarily, might not have stood a good chance in the election but, undoubtedly, the war of attrition between Obiano, on one side, and PDP candidate, Obaze/ex-Governor Peter Obi, on the other, may leave these combatants too weak to pick the political coconut. Only such mutual destruction of APGA and PDP splitting their votes can hand the prize to APC candidate, Nwoye. However, that will be a very long journey from APC’s widespread political rejection throughout the South-East in the 2015 general elections.
All the same, APC’s federal might since that time must not be underestimated. Buhari’s venture into South-East ending in election-eve well-attended campaign rally at Awka, Anambra State capital, could not have been mistakenly timed. If anything, on show tomorrow in the Anambra elections will not be only Nwoye, the APC candidate, but also President Buhari to assess his chances in South-East should he decide to seek a second term in 2019, a part reason for the Second Niger Bridge in the 2018 budget.
The fourth candidate, Osita Chidoka, seems to be a political orphan for the election, even though his background as ex-FRSC Corps Marshal and a former Aviation Minister is not without some merit. Whatever happens tomorrow, Anambrarians have gained somehow. For example, Governor Obiano is paying civil servants arrears of leave allowance today, eve of the elections. Could that have been an accident or by design? Why was the allowance not paid all along? Even the industrial hub of Nnewi was supplied electricity three days ago. Also, a week before the election, APC-controlled Federal Government announced allocation of at least N10 billion in the 2018 budget for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge. Who and who are saying elections must not hold in Anambra State tomorrow? In fact, voters cannot wait too long for a repeat of such goodies on the eve of another election in Anambra in four years’ time.
Mr. Obaze is the former Secretary to the State Government of Anambra State, Nigeria from 2012 to 2015 - MD & CEO, Oseloka H. Obaze. Mr. Obaze also served as a former United Nations official, from 1991-2012, and as a former member of the Nigerian Diplomatic Service, from 1982-1991.
Selonnes Consult Ltd. is a Strategic Policy, Good Governance and Management Consulting Firm, founded by Mr. Oseloka H. Obaze who served as Secretary to Anambra State Government from 2012-2015; a United Nations official from 1991-2012 and a Nigerian Foreign Service Officer from 1982-1991.