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Nigeria 2023 Elections: Gubernatorial Results (Source:INEC)

Real reasons Anambra governorship election was peaceful

Tension was high ahead of the governorship election in Anambra State following the threat by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to disrupt the…

Tension was high ahead of the governorship election in Anambra State following the threat by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to disrupt the exercise. Killings and attacks heralded the poll. Daily Trust identified key reasons the exercise was conducted amid relative peace across the 21 local government areas of the state. 

No fewer than eight factors contributed in making the recently conducted Anambra governorship election peaceful, Daily Trust can report. The election was won by a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Professor Charles Soludo.

The IPOB had declared a 10-day sit-at-home, starting from November 5, in the South-East to mount pressure on the federal government to release its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, from detention. It was widely believed that the order was to disrupt the governorship election.

Started on November 6 and concluded on November 9 in Ihiala Local Government Area, the governorship election, contested by 18 candidates, raised tension in the political landscape of the country. The tension attracted the attention of the international community, with threat by the United States to sanction anybody who would instigate or sponsor violence with visa ban.

The visa ban threat 

Seventy-two hours to the poll, the United States said it would not hesitate to consider visa restrictions on violence instigators during the election. The country, in a statement by its mission in Nigeria, said that under the US immigration law, “certain violations also may lead to restrictions on family members.”

“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process,” the country stated.

Pundits said the threat by the US did the magic and laid foundation for the peaceful conduct of the election.  

IPOB’s cancellation of sit-at-home

A day after the US visa ban threat, IPOB backtracked on its earlier threat to scuttle the election. Through a statement by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, the group urged the people of the state to participate in the election.

“Following the genuine intervention of our elders, esteemed traditional institutions /rulers and religious leaders, and after a due consideration of the positive impacts of their engagement, and sequel to the fact that our elders have spoken in our terms, the leadership of the IPOB, ably lead by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hereby and immediately call off the one-week sit-at-home earlier declared,” he said.  

Igbo leaders’ intervention  

Prominent Igbo leaders at home and in the diaspora made desperate moves, meeting top government officials, including top Igbo sons and daughters in security and government, to ensure that the election held as scheduled and to avoid constitutional crisis. 

Their peace moves paid off when top government functionaries held a series of meetings not opened for media coverage with the Igbo leaders and other top government officials. 

Some of the participants at the meetings told Daily Trust Saturday in confidence that though they were harassed at some of the meetings, they decided to ‘eat the humble pie’ in the interest of peace. 

“With the way some of the participants were talking, it was as if we were the ones carrying out the attacks. They wanted us to sign undertakings and take direct responsibilities for any eventuality. We agreed to practically all the terms, although the other side too made commitments,” one of the elders who attended many of the meetings told our reporter. 

Analysts said the body language of the Igbo leaders contributed to the escalation of the menace of the IPOB.  

“But we need to interrogate the roles of elders and politicians in Anambra and South East in general,” said Barrister Al-Amin Ibrahim Sani. 

“How comes they allowed the situation to deteriorate for months only for peace to return few days to the election.

It means they have a hand in the carnage. Government should not take it lightly,” he said.

Peace accord 

Another factor that helped in making the poll peaceful was the signing of peace accord by candidates and political parties that participated in the exercise.

During the signing of the peace accord at the Professor Dorothy Akunyili Women’s Development Centre, Awka, the state capital, the candidates pledged to ensure peace during and after the election. The peace accord was facilitated by the National Peace Committee (NPC) headed by a former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar.

The former head of state, in his address, said the NPC organised the event to support the peaceful electoral process in Anambra.

“We are all aware of the consistent history of political and electoral violence in Nigeria. Almost every election in Nigeria is accompanied by violence, ballot box snatching, vote buying, outright disruption of the process, and in some cases, the intimidation of ordinary citizens who simply want to select a leader that would govern them,” he said. 

Massive security deployment 

The massive deployment of security personnel to the state ahead of the poll contributed immensely to the peaceful conduct of the exercise.

Daily Trust Saturday reports that hours to the poll, security operatives displayed a show of force across the state, including the deployment of helicopters to perceived hotspots.

Speaking days before the election, Inspector-General of Police Usman Baba announced the deployment of  34,587 operatives, including conventional police officers, Police Mobile Force, the Counterterrorism Unit, Special Forces, Explosive Ordnance Unit, Force Intelligence Bureau, International Police (INTERPOL), Special Protection Unit and a medical team.

“Three helicopters were deployed for aerial surveillance while detachments of marine police operatives were deployed to ensure safe, secure and credible electoral process,” he said.

Also, while speaking during an emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (retd), vowed that the federal government would deal decisively with the IPOB and other unscrupulous elements that would foment trouble or attempt to disrupt the Anambra governorship election. He said security agencies had been ordered to deal ruthlessly with troublemakers.  

Religious intervention  

Another factor that ensured the peaceful outcome of the election was the collaboration between Catholic Church and Anglican leaders. They reportedly worked together despite some differences, to appeal to the youth to allow peace to reign and the election to hold.

In Anambra State, there is a cold war between Catholics and Anglicans over the governorship seat. The APGA is populated by Catholics. 

It was learnt that though the Catholics were in the majority, they, this time around, allowed the Anglican leaders to lead most of the peace missions before the election.

Incumbency factor

The incumbent Governor Willie Obiano had sleepless nights sponsoring a series of peace meetings to ensure that the election was not disrupted, being sure that the chances of the APGA to retain the state was brighter in a peaceful environment.

Founded in 2003 by the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the APGA is seen as a movement in Anambra State. Since March 2006, the party has been governing the state, thus it has been embedded in its political sphere. Analysts said majority of the people of the state believed the party was theirs; hence they listened to the governor’s counsel on peace.

The 2023 factor

The issue of 2023 general elections was another factor that played out.  The federal government considered the Anambra election as a pointer to what may happen during the 2023 elections in the South-East.

Pundits believe that should the IPOB succeed in scuttling the poll, they would have a ground to disrupt the 2023 general elections.  It was also believed that the sympathy the South-East had in other regions have been eroded by IPOB’s agitation.

We had daunting challenges – INEC  

Reviewing the outcome of the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it was conducted under the most challenging circumstances. 

Speaking at the end of its management meeting on the poll, the national commissioner and chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC) of the commission, Festus Okoye, lamented the way the poll was conducted amid daunting security challenges. 

 “Never before did the commission have to grapple with numerous issues ahead of an off-season governorship election, including attacks on our facilities, withdrawal of critical service providers, such as the ad hoc staff and transporters on the eve of the election, and the general tension pervading the atmosphere. However, happily, the election passed off peacefully,” he said.