Anambra 2013: Aforetaste of 2015? By: Orji Uzor Kalu

Date:

orji-uzor-kaluIf the purulent utterances by some of the candidates in the November 16
Anambra State Governorship election were anything to go by, then there is
really a cause to fear for our democracy.

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The candidates of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), People’s Democratic
Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) in a joint Press Conference con-demned
the conduct of the election, as well as its outcome, in its entirety. They
alleged massive rigging, intimidation by security agents and manipulation
by INEC, among other awry allegations. I meticulously listened to the
actors and gladiators in the Anambra saga and concluded within myself that
something ur-gent and drastic should be done to save our democracy from
imminent peril. Al-most every speaker expressed outrage at the general
conduct of the governorship election.

Something like a corroboration of the allegations came from the Chairman
of In-dependent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega,
himself when he openly acquiesced to the complicity of one of his
officials in the botched election in Idemili Ward, believed to be the
strong-hold of one of the candidates. According to Jega, the corrupt INEC
official had bee handed over to the police for further inter-rogation. I
must confess that I have been down-cast since the election held last
Saturday. Initially, I was very upbeat that the election was not only
going to be free and fair, but peaceful. In which case, the outcome would
be acceptable to the majority of the competitors. Alas, when the chips
were down all hopes evaporated!

I was particularly piqued by the allegation of collaboration by security
agents. When will the use of security agents to do odd jobs at elections
stop? And it seems it has been institutionalized. Lousy and morally
debased politicians think they can use illegitimate means to win election,
after others had genuinely worked to be elected!

The Anambra election has exposed the structural weaknesses in our
electoral process. I had thought that by now INEC would have got it right
in conducting elections after the nerve-wrecking experiences of the past
when elections were, figuratively speaking, like a war. With the coming of
Jega also came far-reaching changes in both the mechanisms and personnel
for conducting elections. His appointment was greeted with wide
endorsement by both the Nigerian and international communities, because of
his antecedents. And he has not disappointed either, except for the
excesses of some of his staff, which seemingly cast doubt on his
competence. What happened in Anambra State last Saturday simply told a
story about what is to come in 2015. If conducting one governorship
election could pose such a problem, then what will happen when the whole
nation is on parade?

The governor-ship elections in Edo and Ondo States did not raise as much
dust as that of Anambra State. Why? One may ask. The reason is simple:
there was visible desperation on the part of some politicians in Anambra
State to win at all costs. I still wonder why that should so after all the
assurances and reassurances from the relevant authorities.

There is a vital point many people seem to gloss over about Anambra State.
Apart from being a hugely elitist state, it is also the home of eminent
Nigerians, including Nigeria’s first Governo-General and Presi-dent of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; one-time Secretary-General
of Commonwealth Chief Emeka Anyaoku and foremost author Prof. Chinua
Achebe. IT czar Philip Emeagwali and budding literary figure Chimamanda
Adichie also come from the state. Does such a state not deserve some
special attention whenever there is a national event?

I had expected the authorities to have plugged every loophole that was
likely to cause a breach of the peace and bring the image of Nigeria to
global embarrassment during the election. That is what the present
situation amounts to. I was reading some articles online early this week
and was amazed by the attention the elections in Anambra State had
generated globally. Naturally, it should be so, for the reasons I had
earlier adduced and those I could not mention. The truth is that Anambra
State has always shown the way in the conduct of elections. In fact, its
voters are among the most enlightened and unpredictable. They demonstrated
this during the 1999 general elections when they voted for All
Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) contrary to the widely-held view that
it was going to go PDP.

They repeated this trend in 2010 when they returned the incumbent Peter
Obi to Government House Amawbia.
I am very emotional about Anambra State. Probably, it was the same
emotional liking that attracted me to take a wife from the state. In
addition, I have lots of quality friends from the state, which makes it
almost too difficult to severe my relationship with them. So, one can
imagine the emotional trauma I and other concerned citizens had gone
through since the sordid incident of last Saturday.

My major worry is that un-less the situation is quickly addressed it has
the capacity to dent the image of Nigeria globally and call to question
any further effort to organize free and fair elections in Nigeria. Those
who perpetrated confusion in last Saturday’s election should be made to
face the full weight of the law, irrespective of their stature or
position.

Time has come when we should be seen to be doing what is right to secure
our national pride and move our nation forward. We cannot continue to
pander to the egoistic whims of a few individuals who masquerade as
democrats when in essence they are demons looking for whom to devour. I
have written severally in this column about the need to strengthen our
electoral process and shield it from wolves in sheep’s clothing. There is
no longer doubt about the fact that there are some persons who have vowed
to destroy our democracy. They are ready to do anything to bring shame
upon this country, its government and people. Should we allow them to
succeed?These mischievous elements capitalize on every chance they get to
perpetrate trouble and dislocate the peace of the nation. I suspect that
Anambra State has been infiltrated by these destructive forces which is
why there has been much outcry since the election was held. What was the
motive of the INEC official who deliberately sabotaged the process by
ensuring that materials for the election did not get to the voting centres
on time, particularly in Idemili, comprising a total of 65 wards? Who can
confidently tell me that this ma is not an agent of the same people
working against the establishment? Why has he not been paraded since his
arrest, at least to serve as a deterrent to his co-conspirators? Who is
shielding this man from the cameras? These are questions we need to
address urgently.

This brings us to preparations for the election. Were they thoroughly
articulated and tested and found to be foul-proof? Who was behind the
unleashing of security agents on innocent voters, if it is eventually
established there was collaboration by security agents? One name has kept
reverberating in every nook and cranny of the state since the aftermath of
November 16. Who is this man? Who is he working for? These questions also
beg for answers, if we are to unravel the puzzle behind the Anambra
imbroglio. I am not amused at all by the flagrant show of power by some
politicians in the Anambra saga. From my own investigation, it seemed
every politician in the state has his own style of providing security for
himself, beyond the conventional arrangements. I learnt that many of them
defied the no-movement order to foment trouble. Why were they not called
to order? This is why I think our police system should be overhauled to
attract the police more prestige.

There is nothing wrong with attaching security details to VIPs, but
everything is wrong when they are not treated humanely. Nobody, no matter
how highly placed, has the power to abuse security details assigned to
him. These men and women are officer of the law who should be treated with
some dignity and consideration. I also heard that too much money exchanged
hands, and that a particular political party offered huge money to woo
voters at some polling stations. If this allegation is eventually proved
to be true, then 2015 is in jeopardy. From where did these people get the
billions they spent on bribery, if not from corruption? Who will save this
country from the evils of money politics? The time has come for the
government to deal with this problem squarely if the sanctity of our
electoral process can still be guaranteed. I am deeply worried about 2015.
The whole world is watching. What is being done by the relevant
stakeholders to ensure that the wicked predictions about this country did
not come to pass? It seems every-body is comfortable with the way things
are going, but I am not. I cannot forget in a hurry the bitter experience
I went through in the hands of security forces when I vied for Senate in
2011. My community was at siege for almost three months.

In fact, the entire community was flooded wit security personnel before,
during and after the election, even to the point of blocking the gate to
my house with an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). It was that bad. It took
a serious representation before I was allowed to go and cast my vote. I do
not pray that such a thing should happen to any Nigerian vying for an
elective office. So, I clearly understood what the candidates were saying
when they claimed that voters were intimidated. It could have happened,
because our politicians have the capacity to do callous and nasty things
to win election.

There is no way we can attain global prominence without ensuring that our
nation’s image is protected at home. And one of the ways of achieving this
is by securing our electoral system from hawkish politicians and
furthering the cause of democracy. Democratization is a global phenomenon
and one of the parameters for measuring the success of a modern,
egalitarian nation. A nation that cannot conduct free and fair elections
is like a man who cannot run his home efficiently. Curiously, Nigeria is
working very assiduously to assume the leadership of Africa
internationally. Indeed it has already won a seat in the United Nations
Security Council. Can it go beyond this level if it cannot boast of sound
economy, functional electoral system, corruption-free social
environment,eradication of extreme poverty, religious harmony, internal
security, harmony among its peoples, etc?

These are the major drivers of development. Despite all the criticisms of
INEC about its role in the governorship election in Anambra State, I still
believe Jega can get it right if he put his house in order. I am glad that
all the critics that spoke on the election agreed that Jega, as a person,
is a good man. Calling for his resignation is not necessary. Jega can only
perform if we collectively work for the success of our electoral system.
Jega does not operate in isolation of the environmental factors that
influence the way things are done i our country. Jega is not the corrupt
and mindless politicians who give bribe to turn things upside down for
their own self-aggrandizement. Is Jega security agents who allowed
themselves to be negatively influenced to do what was not proper, even
against their conscience and the ethics of their profession? Let us face
the fact: it is we Nigerians that make life difficult fo ourselves. If we
want free and fair elections, then we must begin now to imbibe a new
attitude and dispose ourselves to change. We must do away with those
negative tendencies that obstruct our vision and obsess our subconscious
minds, causing us to behave abnormally. There is also an urgent need to
empower our youth to save them from the wicked grips of politicians who
use them as thugs to cause mayhem at elections.

The truth is that an average Nigerian politician is too self-centred to
think about others. Probably, this is why they pay for others to do dirty
jobs for them, while ensconced in their settees, sipping coffee and choice
wines. Change will come the day our youth refuse to do the devilish
bid-dings of politicians and face their studies. It is the height of
Satanism for any politician to expose other people’s children to danger,
while his own children are safely studying abroad or at home playing
games. Can’t our youth wear their thinking caps and do that which is right
and proper for the furtherance of our democracy.

I believe government owes all of us a duty to promote free and fair
elections at all times. We cannot continue to live the way we do at the
moment and accept every situation as normal. It is high time we spoke up
individually and collectively against the injustices in our land and the
plots of the wicked to bring our nation to danger.

We have a date with destiny, and a duty, in 2015 to prove the whole world
wrong by shunning violence, manipulation, brigand-age, and other acts
capable of tarnishing the image of our nation. This call to duty is for
all of us – politicians, voters and security agents. Let us work for the
good of our country and for generations yet unborn, so that posterity may
judge us right.

Babatunde Akinsola
Babatunde Akinsolahttps://naija247news.com
Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports

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