Anambra Elections: A Puzzle Piece For 2018


OpinionPolitics and Policy

The only thing that will change at the Government House in Awka is that those who, for some reason, did not back Willie Obiano to retain his stay will probably have to, out of the pangs of conscience, find other jobs.

Judging by the eventual results announced by INEC – all 21 local governments won – it would seem surprising that those guys could not have seen it coming. Anambra state’s workers have been receiving their salaries every month since Obiano took office in 2014, while many other state Governors run steadily to Abuja with hats in hands and heads between their legs. For those looking from the outside, the disturbances of IPOB have created the semblance of instability and of a leader overwhelmed, but there has not been a state in the South East more stable or prosperous in Obiano’s first term. With back to back awards as Governor of the Year by The Sun and Silverbird, both reputable media houses, his reelection at the beginning of the year had been a foregone conclusion.

Lo, it was not so straight forward. The 55% vote to Obiano does not show it but the Anambra elections were an amiable contest, one that should be envied across the country. As was demonstrated at the televised debates, it could be said that the state which produced Chinua Achebe, Chike Obi, Dora Akunyili, and Alex Ekwueme, and still has the likes of Obiageli Ezekwesili and Chukwuma Soludo, has too few offices for its many bright minds. Oseloka Obaze, Osita Chidoka, and, to a lesser extent, Tony Nwoye and Godwin Ezeemo, gave Mr Obiano a run for his money, ensuring a process that was substantially qualitative in the sparring, even if the main event rounded off in a knockout.

Mr Chidoka, who Obiano offhandedly (maybe discourteously) belittled as a traffic warden, clearly was “the right man” for most of the observing youth population. There have been letters of appreciation to him for running, for giving hope to many that there are post-civil war persons who understand the issues. Perhaps he could have done with a bit more of understanding the darker arts of winning elections, ending up with less than 3% of the votes. But a good first impression is never a wasted investment; Chdioka is expected to have a better chance when next he tries any public office. The PDP’s candidate, Mr Obaze, was sound, intelligent and, arguably, won the five-man debate. However, the backing of former Governor Peter Obi did not do enough to place him above the better funding and organisation of the APC, and Obiano’s receipts were not as bad as Mr Obaze set out to prove they were. Perhaps the candidate relied too much on the saintliness and oracle of Mr Obi?

The stellar candidacies were not exactly matched by a flawless election process on November 18, per reports of observers and monitors. There was voter inducement with food and money, sale of voter cards, and an isolated case of the snatching of a ballot box (later retrieved). The process can still be improved by INEC but Prof Mahmood Yakubu has had his best polls since taking over from national hero, Professor Attahiru Jega. There will be other Governorship polls over the next 12 months in Ekiti and Osun states (July and September 2018 respectively) which should prove more challenging for the commission. It would certainly help if the candidates have as much quality and integrity as those involved in the Anambra polls but the commission will have to put in the same level of planning and organisation nevertheless. If IPOB’s threat at Anambra provided motivation to go the extra mile, the South West double header should be seen as the tests to prove readiness for 2019. After all, one of those states involves an outgoing Governor who has declared to battle Buhari for the presidency, and there is already something about him, the Governor, compiling and imposing candidates.

It would be interesting to see how roused the nation would be by those elections next year, tracking the quality of candidates, election debates and stomach infrastructure before and during elections. Ideally, both elections should outdo Anambra, where the bar has now been set high. More importantly, INEC should outdo itself, increasing momentum towards D-day 2019, now only about 450 days away.

By Alexander O. Onukwue | Featured image: Pulse

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