Policy Briefs

Anambra election: Truly free and fair? 

By Chamberlain Njoku

MY perception about the future of this country took a drastic turnaround after watching and listening to the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi on Channels Television appearances in October of 2016 and May of 2017. Those intelligence-parked speeches based on very practical analysis, particularly as it concerns cutting costs of governance, permeated into the marrows of every Nigerian adult. Obi told us very clearly that all our travails as a nation were and are still being created by us – Nigerians.
In those speeches you could see a man who loves humanity. A friend of the masses of dear country who have long lost hope. A patriot who has been eight years as governor and clearly understands the appropriate indices of a healthy nation. A man who would have easily become the president of this great nation if we were a less complex country not embroidered in tribal sentiments. A messiah any country would have welcome with open arms, turned around their economy and general well-being. But this is Nigeria!

The last man I saw in governance with same masses-loving attitude and people-oriented deliveries was the late Chief Sam Mbakwe. Mbakwe shared so many characteristics with Obi. He was then dubbed the crying governor because he was able to go to Dodan Barracks on his knees for then NPN-controlled seat of power to get every dot of the shares accruing to his dear state of Imo despite being an NPP governor. The same tactic Obi effectively employed with then Aso Rock-based PDP Federal Government despite being the only APGA governor. Mbaeke worked to satisfy the basic needs of the people. So did Obi. Mbakwe denied himself unnecessary luxuries just to deliver dividends of democracy to the people. Obi even did more in this aspect.

I’m from Uturu, Okigwe. I was just got admission into the university to study law when the army struck in 1983 to disrupt that second Republic. I cried – not because the Alhaji Shehu Shagari-led government was anything to write home about but rather that my own state was robbed of the best father and uncle any group of people could ever wish as their leader. If the then Gen. Muhammadu Buhari-led team knew the feelings of the good people of then old Imo State, they would have kept Mbakwe in charge of dear state as a civilian administrator. Or better still, they could have waited for the ‘crying governor’ to complete eight years before inviting the martial music.

But the rest is now history.

Fast forward to present day. There’s another Mbakwe in Igbo land and he is very here with us, very active and very eager to take governance to the people. Peter Obi! He was lucky to have seen his eight years of governance completed without disruption from the men in khaki. I truly hope we have passed that level of interruption in our struggles as an independent nation.

Sometime in late October this year, I was coming home with my very good friend, Emma. Emma is an architect and into full time construction. We met during our National Youth Service days in Ibadan and had remained inseparable ever after, especially when we travelled together after Service to Lagos to start our lives as young graduates. We haven’t been Bill Gates in our separate endeavours but we certainly haven’t been paupers either. The right choice of words should be that God has been faithful to both of us.

During the campaign, my friend and I travelled to the state. As we approached the mini market (not Onitsha main market), I spotted Obi and the crowd that had gathered around him. It was the first time to see this leader of men in person and my excitment knew no bounds. He and members of the People Democratic Party, PDP, and the Party’s flag bearer Oseloka Obaze were on the campaign trail.

The people love the man, Obi and for good reason! Obi it was who had improved Healthcare , Agriculture, Environment, Erosion Control, Housing, Judiciary, Poverty Alleviation, etc. All these sectors scored marks in the excellent region. Under his watch as governor, the state was adjudged the best in the country in achieving Millennium Development Goals, MDGs. Anambra was blessed to have had such a man for good eight years. Then I watched the debate on Channels TV.

From that moment I told whoever cared to listen that Obaze would be the next governor of Anambra State. That the people of Anambra would follow wherever Obi indicated interest. My friend Emma has taken me to almost all local government areas of Anambra that I know for sure Obi built the best network of rural roads in any state of the country before he left office. I’ve seen school buses everywhere and the WAEC and NECO positions of the state as number one repeatedly before he handedand been spoken loud that the man from Agulu was not only about road infrastructure. The overwhelming success of SABmiller, brewers of Hero beer makes a very affirmative statement in the area of industrialising his dear state under his watch.

I saw in Obaze a rare quality of man with stunning knowledge and experience to take the state even further. Above all, this man had been in government and understood clearly what was needed to turnaround from the seemingly dangerous corner the incumbent had navigated it to. I called my friend and told him Anambra was lucky. That they got Obaze in time to halt further decay from the incumbent who was clearly dusted at the debate.

It therefore came to me as a huge shock when the results started flowing in. There’s nowhere any sane person would believe the same incumbent I watched during that debate could win all local governments in the same Anambra with such landslide margins. It’s just not possible! It brought back the memories of how the great Ezeigbogbururgburu, Emeka Ojukwu did not make it to the Senate despite all the love and fanfare that followed him on return from exile. Almost three and half decades later, the scenario repeated here.

I started making calls to my friends in INEC to ascertain if there could be any possible explanation. I gathered that as much as N5000 to N10,000 was paid per vote! When will the masses be allowed to freely choose their leaders in this country? Astonishing but when I gathered that there were over 8000 people who were accredited but didn’t vote, I made further calls to clarify the rules of the exercise. I gathered that it was strictly accredit-and-vote-instantly. Yes, people queued to vote, and once it got to one’s turn and his/her name appeared on the voters’ list, his/her card got slotted into the card reader and read, he/she got given ballot paper immediately to vote. Questions is – who would then go through all these processes of accreditation and then refuse to vote? Someone suggested only an unsteady fellow and I ask, are there as many as over 8000 of such fellows in Anambra?

Whatever happened to dump the best candidate in a distant third in that election is still a mystery. But the over 8000 ‘unsteady’ count certainly says the election might have been free but definitely not fair!

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

Oseloka Obaze, MD & CEO

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.

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