The governorship election holds lesson for future elections

While the Anambra State gubernatorial election has come and gone, it also left some lessons for all the critical stakeholders in the Nigerian democratic project. But whatever may have been the challenges, at the end, only few people would argue with the fact that the outcome reflected the wish of the Anambra State electorate.

It was all the more remarkable that despite the threats preceding the election, the exercise was conducted without any violence. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Dr Nkwachukwu Orji underscored that point when he said: “Some people came here to watch the state burn, to see brothers killing themselves, but we are glad that nothing like that happened.”

Apparently in anticipation of a chaotic poll, particularly against the background of the muscular threat from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members, the police authorities had dispatched a record 26,000 police men and women in addition to other security forces of all stripes to maintain the peace during the election. But they were largely rendered idle as conflict situations were insignificant and far between.

However, less impressive was the increasing incidence of vote buying, a troubling flaw noticed markedly during the last Ondo and Edo States governorship elections. In Anambra, vote buying was taken to another level. Indeed, Mr Osita Chidoka, the United Progressives Party (UPP) candidate said he lost the election to “superior financial power.” We hope the authorities will work to address this growing challenge because of the tendency to compromise the credibility of elections.

However, even though the power struggle was intense, with a record 37 candidates on the ballot box, seldom was an election so peaceful and victory so decisive. In all the 21 local councils, the incumbent governor and the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), won hands down. Instructively, virtually all the main opposition candidates, after the initial shock and mild resistance, were mature enough to concede defeat and congratulated the winner, a commendable trend that is gradually catching on and enhancing the democratic process.

The success of the entire exercise was more a triumph of the people’s will and determination and steps taken by the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to see that the election was conducted in orderly fashion. Observers and most independent analysts approved of the manner the electoral body conducted the poll. Except in a few places, election materials arrived polling booths on time while the commission was evidently also increasingly perfecting the use of card reader machine as very few cases of malfunctioning were recorded.

Indeed, both the local and international observers were impressed with INEC’s outing. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) validated the final result declared by the INEC. In their verification statement issued after the election, the observers said the win percentage estimate for the parties tallied with INEC’s results. “Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges”, they asserted, “governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the Anambra 2017 gubernatorial election reflects the ballots cast at polling units.”

As INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu and his officials do an appraisal of the Anambra State gubernatorial poll, we hope that the skills and lessons learned from the exercise would be useful as the commission prepares for the 2019 general election.

While we congratulate Willie Obiano on his victory, it is pertinent for all to take stock of what transpired in the course of the election and its aftermath so we can draw some useful lessons for the future.