Anxiety as 2.5m voters elect next Anambra governor today | Dailytrust

Anxiety as 2.5m voters elect next Anambra governor today

As 2.5m voters elect a new governor for Anambra State today, there is palpable fear among the people of the state despite the cancellation...

 From left: INEC National Commissioner, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu; INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Anambra, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, during the INEC Chairman’s meeting with staff members of the Commission in Awka, Anambra on Friday 							            PHOTO: NAN
From left: INEC National Commissioner, Mrs May Agbamuche-Mbu; INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Anambra, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, during the INEC Chairman’s meeting with staff members of the Commission in Awka, Anambra on Friday PHOTO: NAN

As 2.5m voters elect a new governor for Anambra State today, there is palpable fear among the people of the state despite the cancellation of the sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), our reporters deployed to the state report.

The IPOB had on Thursday backtracked on its earlier position that if its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was not released from detention, the election would not hold.

Worried by the tension in the state, the United States on Wednesday said it would not hesitate to consider visa restrictions on election riggers and troublemakers.

Anambra, like other southeastern states, has been engulfed by Kanu’s IPOB separatists’ agitation, leading to attacks on government and private properties and killings of security agents and civilians alike.

Our correspondents who went round the state capital yesterday report that many residents stayed indoors despite the lifting of IPOB’s order.

The tenure of the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano, will elapse on March 17, 2022.

The national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, told Daily Trust on Saturday that there were 2,525,471 total registered voters in Anambra, with 5,720 polling units.

Okoye, who is also the supervising national commissioner for the election, however, said that only 81,778 new permanent voters cards (PVCs) were printed for the state.

He did not list the number of voters that collected the PVCs.

“The new PVCs were sent to the 21 local governments. We have not harvested the PVCs and I cannot give you the figure of registered voters that collected them.

“We could not distribute the PVCs on Monday due to the sit-at-home order. We did that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

“These new PVCs were for new registrants, those that transferred their polling units, as well as those whose cards were damaged and they applied for replacement,” Okoye said.

18 candidates, one sit

A total of 18 candidates are competing for the Anambra State Government House. Their fate will be determined by the voters today.

The candidates are a former governor of the  Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); Senator Andy Uba, All Progressives Congress (APC); Valentine Ozigbo, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Ifeanyi Uba, Young Progressives Party (YPP); Godwin Maduka, Accord Party (AP); Etiaba Chukwuogo, Action Alliance (AA).

Others are Nwankwo Chidozie, African Action Congress (AAC); Onyejegbu Okwudili, Allied Peoples Movement (APM); Ohajimkpo Emeka, New Nigeria Peoples Party; Ezenwafor Victor, National Rescue Movement (NRM); Nnamdi Nwawuo, Peoples Redemption Party (PRP); Uzo Godwin, Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Okonkwo Francis, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

No incident form for Anambra – INEC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is also expected to make history with today’s election, being the first to witness the deployment of the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device.

The BVAS, deployed in its pilot phase for the Isoko South I state constituency by-election in Delta State on September 11, 2021, is a new device that replaces the smart card reader used in previous elections since 2015.

The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters. And according to the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, this is to guard against voting by identity theft, where one person uses another person’s voter’s card to vote, using the incident form.

Yakubu also said on Wednesday during the stakeholders meeting that with the introduction of the BVAS device, the use of incident forms during elections had been abolished.

Five hotspots identified 

The Yiaga Africa said five places had been identified as potential hotspots for violence, based on early warning signs of violence.

In a jointly signed report by Ezenwa Nwagwu, Board member; Samson Itodo, executive director; and Cynthia Mbamalu, director of programmes, it was noted that violent attacks, political intimidation, violent enforcement of the sit-at-home order and threats to shut down the region by secessionist groups remained a consistent trend.

The organisation said the volatility impeded the conduct of campaigns, voter education and mobilisation by electoral stakeholders, who continued to operate with caution.

“Anambra East, Ogbaru, Nnewi North, Orumba North and Ihiala are considered potential hotspots for violence based on early warning signs of violence.

“Yiaga Africa notes that there may be a further decline in voter turnout in the state due to the threat of violence and a pervasive culture of voter apathy in the state.

“Low voter turnout enhances the chances for electoral manipulation in the rural areas and strongholds of the major political parties,” they stated.

They noted that while INEC’s efforts to improve voter access to polling units by creating additional 1,112 centres in the state was commendable, it is, however, concerned that there are 963 polling units with 750 or more registered voters, with some having over 1,000 registered voters.

Yiaga Africa, among other things, urged security agencies deployed for the election to respect the rights of citizens, media and observers, including the right to freedom of movement on the election day for duly accredited observers and media practitioners.

Also speaking, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim, the head of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), said the substantial security presence, particularly in Awka, the state capital, would ensure that polls are held. 

Ibrahim, however, said the fewer number of deployments in local government areas would elevate the risk of armed attacks on polling stations and clashes with security agents.

“Voter turnout will likely be lower than usual amid the IPOB sit-at-home order, threats by non-state armed groups, and the heavy deployment of security agents.

“The CDD urges security agencies to respect rules of engagement.

“The CDD calls on the INEC to deploy early to polling stations and urges civic groups to intensify voter education and stakeholder engagement in the next 48 hours.

“The CDD urges voters not to be intimidated by threats to their hard-fought democratic franchise,” he said.

Residents hopeful

Residents spoken to expressed joy with the cancellation of the sit-at-home order, assuring that they would troop out to vote.

One of the residents, Mrs Veronica Ogwu, told Daily Trust Saturday that the cancellation of the sit-at-home order by the IPOB would in no way make an appreciable impact on the election, especially that the state government has declared Thursday and Friday work-free days.

“We are not afraid of coming out to vote on Saturday. The IPOB order and its cancellation is not affecting us, Governor Willie Obiano has already declared two-day holidays, so we are waiting for tomorrow (today-Saturday) to go and vote,” she said

Another resident, Mr Samuel Okechukwu, said they were afraid of the IPOB order, especially for men, who are prone to attacks.

He said, “I see the cancellation order by the IPOB as a relief. We will be able to go out in peace if we want, or stay at home.”

We’re no longer in fear – Ad-hoc staff 

Some of the ad-hoc staff of the INEC who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday said they were initially afraid of deployment due to the spate of insecurity in the state, but with the recent cancellation of the sit-at-home order, they are hopeful that the exercise would be smooth.

Also, two INEC officials said all arrangements had been concluded and all the items in the electoral timetable were ready, except the last, which is the election today.

They all declined to be named, saying they were not authorised to speak publicly on the election.

‘Ensure vote must count’

The chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has told the permanent and ad-hoc staff deployed to today’s governorship election in Anambra State to be cautious of their conduct.

He gave the warning on Friday in a message to the staff.

“Our determination to ensure that the election holds as scheduled has been unshaken. In the process, we rebuilt our fixed assets and replaced movable facilities.

“We also sought and obtained the support of the security agencies, political parties and candidates and all other stakeholders for a successful exercise.

“Over the next few days, all eyes will be on us. As you are aware, Nigerians expect the Anambra governorship election to be an improvement on the high standards achieved in recent elections,” Yakubu said.

He said that this was why the commission introduced the BVAS for fingerprints and facial biometric authentication of voters, and that members of staff had been trained on the new technology.

He said, “We have also delivered all sensitive and non-sensitive materials for the election on schedule, deployed election duty staff and made logistics arrangements to move personnel and materials to thousands of locations in Anambra State, where voting and collation of results will take place. 

“It is, therefore, imperative for all of you to ensure that every vote counts. You must remain true to our commitment that only the voters in Anambra State would determine who becomes the next governor.

“In doing so, you must be guided by the extant laws, our guidelines/regulations and good conscience. You should remain vigilant, principled and committed to the vision and mission of the commission.”

Abbas Jimoh, Titus Eleweke, Jude Aguguo Owuamanam & Felix Onigbinde, Awka

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