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Anambra guber: Voters eagerly await epic polls

Three months ago, the commission through its Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Nkwachukwu Orji, at a stakeholders’ forum on ward levels voters’ registration exercise,…

Three months ago, the commission through its Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Nkwachukwu Orji, at a stakeholders’ forum on ward levels voters’ registration exercise, said workers of the commission are good to go as all logistics were almost in place for the exercise.

Orji also spoke on the preparedness of his team as well as the successful conduct of the voter registration exercise in the state, which produced over 2,042,548 between July 24 and 28, 2017.

This record-breaking registration of new voters, far and above what obtained in many states in Nigeria during the continuous voter registration exercise, has left many people expressing anxiety.

The figure shows that millions of people would vote, considering the fact that the contenders for the governorship election have extended their campaigns beyond the borders of Anambra and reached out to “Ndi Igbo in diaspora” and urged them to come back home and cast their votes.

Orji said he had, at assumption, encouraged management and staff of the commission to rededicate themselves to the principals of integrity and professionalism.

According to the commissioner, the electoral umpire is committed to providing a level playing ground for all candidates and political parties, adding that training of prospective registration officials has already commenced at all local government area headquarters, all geared towards guaranteeing the successful conduct of the exercise.

Orji, who also assured of an open door, transparent policy operations, said he is ready and willing to welcome views, suggestions and inputs of all stakeholders in implementing the electoral process.

Aside its readiness to conduct a credible and acceptable poll, the commission insisted that November 18 date of the exercise is sacrosanct, explaining that any postponement would not augur well with the commission in view of its cost implications.

Speaking during a meeting with the executive members of Interparty Advisory Council (IPAC) in the state, the REC said the commission would resist any attempt to truncate the electoral process.

His statement is not unfounded, going by the threat by proponents of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who have been warning the electorate to remain at home during the election. This is a serious issue, considering the fact that both INEC officials and voters would require assurances in order to carry out their civic responsibility.

Besides, Orji cited the instances of 2015 general elections and that of Edo polls where some stakeholders, for personal interests, pushed for shift of election dates, saying such would not be tolerated in the case of Anambra State.

“We want the election to hold as scheduled. There would not be any need for postponement.

“Any attempt to shift the date would be waste of resources. We need to conclude the election as scheduled so as to focus on the 2019 general elections,” he said.

Amidst these assurances, however, some stakeholders in the state have expressed reservations over the ability of the electoral umpire to match their words with actions in producing an election result that would be acceptable by all and sundry.

The Anambra State Chapter of Ohanaeze Ndigbo insisted that INEC must live up to its expectation by making sure that the election was not only free, fair and credible, but acceptable.

The body threatened to hold the electoral umpire responsible for any flaws in the poll.

Speaking through the state president of the organization, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, at a church service to mark Nigeria’s 57th Independence celebration, Ohanaeze Ndigbo called on the commission to abide strictly on ‘one man one vote’ principle.

“If there is any problem with the election, not just Anambra, but the entire South East would hold INEC responsible. We don’t want falsification of results, we would not tolerate it.

“The residents of the state are peaceful people and would want the election to hold as scheduled. Election in Anambra is a constitutional matter and is sacrosanct. Nobody, including the INEC has the right to stop the election from holding,” he said.

The body however expressed optimism over a credible and hitch-free conduct of the exercise.

On its part, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Anambra State chapter, had cautioned the commission against subverting the will of the populace in order to forestall any form of crises during the poll.

Speaking at a meeting with the REC, the State Chairman of IPAC, Comrade Bath Igwedibia, stressed the need for the electoral umpire to be apolitical to guarantee a hitch free poll. 

“We expect INEC not to give in to the dictates of anyone. It must comply with the electoral acts very rigidly. INEC must not be used for electoral fraud because it belongs to Nigerians and not any individual,” he said.

Igwedibia further raised the issue of the use of ad-hoc staff by the commission in conducting elections, noting that their involvement in the exercise had always been a major source of concern during election in the country.

He said these personnel, most times, take advantage of their temporary engagements to compromise the electoral process, advising that the recruitment of more permanent officers would not only forestall future occurrences, but restore confidence in the process.

Also speaking, the United Progressive Party (UPP) said it would consider the election rigged if the poll was not electronically transmitted.

The party noted that its participation in the November 18 poll is based on the assurance of INEC of conducting the poll through electronic transmission.

Speaking through its governorship candidate, and former Aviation Minister, Chief Osita Chidoka, during a media briefing, in Awka, the party urged the electoral umpire to live up to its promises or risk its rejection of the outcome of the election.

“We would hold INEC responsible if it does not conduct an electronic transmitted election. We must confirm all the basic equipment in every polling unit in the morning of the election.

“All our agents would be at the various polling units to test and certify that all the equipment are working. Anything contrary would be unacceptable by our party,” he stressed.

According to the former Corps Marshall, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), the UPP is the only party with technological scientific method of reaching out to voters on multiple channels with over 26,000 agents across the state.

Undoubtedly, these demands and expectations from the various stakeholders in the forthcoming election appear to be a “tall order” for the INEC, especially when viewed from the peculiar nature of the state, its political antecedents and the power-players.

Anambra is a state adjudged by the electoral umpire to have made history as the state with the highest number of registered political parties with over two million voters. It must, indeed, pose not just a challenge, but a threat to the INEC.

How far the Independent National Electoral Commission would go in making good its promises by meeting up with the demands and expectations from the state and indeed the entire country would only be determined in the next couple of weeks.

But a glimmer of hope is the assurance of the Police force in the state, which said it will deploy 28,000 policemen and 400 vehicles for the exercise.

 

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