The people must be allowed to elect the governor of their choice

The excuse given yesterday by the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, for the sudden withdrawal of security details of the Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano was not only an affront to constitutional order, it confirmed the politicisation of the state security services. By saying that the police personnel of the sitting governor would be returned only after the election on Saturday, Idris was being very reckless and acting above the law. And it will be tragic if, as it is being speculated, police authorities are acting on behalf of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to tamper with the election.

For sure, the stakes are high in this election. The incumbent, Mr Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is battling with his estranged godfather and former Governor, Mr Peter Obi who is not on the ballot but leading the campaign for Mr Oseloka Obaze, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In the mix also is Mr Osita Chidoka, who is flying the banner of United Progressives Party (UPP) as well as Mr Tony Nwoye, running on the platform of APC. With no fewer than 37 political parties fielding candidates, there are of course other important personalities in the race. But it is safe to predict that a winner will emerge from among the aforementioned.

On Sunday night, the principal contenders participated in a live television debate on Channels Television where each laid out his plans and vision for the state. The exercise was refreshing as it highlighted the temperament of candidates as well as their ideas for repositioning the state. The debate may not make much difference in the outcome of the poll on Saturday but it has helped to begin a new culture by which candidates would be subjected to public scrutiny beyond the glossy pamphlets containing promises they neither believe in nor have any intention to fulfill.

Meanwhile, in expressing the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu recently highlighted a positive development in the build-up to the election. For a very long time, according to Yakubu, Anambra elections were always fraught with endless intra-party litigations by politicians squabbling over tickets but “so far, we have not been served any court injunction or any party bringing two candidates to us. This is very unusual in Anambra state.” We hope the commission will take advantage of that to provide a level-playing field for all the candidates.

For INEC, some of the things it must prepare for include ensuring voting and other sensitive election materials are in adequate supply and that they arrive the polling booths on time while officials must be deployed in sufficient numbers. The commission cannot afford to repeat the display of incompetence that marred the conduct of some gubernatorial elections in the past. Indeed, coming less than two years to the 2019 general elections, INEC should use the exercise to test its preparedness as Nigerians continue to yearn for transparent elections where the votes of the electorate will not only be counted but would count.

We enjoin the people of Anambra State to come out to vote and be vigilant to ensure that the process is transparent and credible. Aside containing whatever may be the antics of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that advocates a boycott of the election, the police and other security agencies must be impartial in their conduct before, during and after the election. Nothing should be done to suggest any form of partisanship. At the end of the day, the people of Anambra State must be able to elect their governor for the next four years without any intimidation.