By Michael Jegede
THE November 18, 2017 Anambra State governorship election has come and gone. Incumbent Governor Willie Obiano of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) emerged triumphant, defeating 36 other candidates to carry the day in the election which turned out to be an easy win for him, against the thought by some that it was going to be a tough contest among the contestants seen as the top four contenders.
Obiano won convincingly in all the 21 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state with a total votes of 234, 071 representing 55.43% of the total valid votes. He was followed, with a wide margin, by the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Tony Nwoye, who polled a total of 98,752 votes. Oseloka Obaze of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) placed third with 70,293 votes, while Osita Chidoka of United Progressives Party, (UPP) came a distant fourth after gathering 7,903 votes.
The triumph of Obiano in the Anambra guber poll did not come to many as a surprise. Maybe because the Anambra people – from the civil servants, students/youths, farmers, traders, market men and women, artisans, Okada riders to the traditional rulers – had prior to the election overwhelmingly endorsed his second term bid, on account of his superlative performance since he assumed office as the state governor. Obviously, his remarkable achievements spoke for him more than any other factor that may have contributed to his landslide victory.
Not even the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in Anambra State to campaign for their respective candidates with sweet promises, could sway the voters to act at variance with their inner convictions that Obiano was the best. Three days to the election, Buhari was in Awka in company of several APC governors, legislators and ministers to market the party’s candidate, Nwoye. A day after, ex-President Jonathan also led about six governors on the platform of PDP to promote the candidature of Obaze. However, the people spoke very loudly in one voice to affirm the re-election of a man they believe has significantly affected their lives with the kind of leadership he has offered them since they first elected him.
In his victory speech, Obiano, who dedicated his triumph at the poll to the entire residents of Anambra State, remarked: “Indeed, this victory is a referendum on the solid resolve of Ndi Anambra to rise above average in all we do. We have demonstrated that we are capable of taking charge of our lives and making difficult decisions that will brighten the future of our children. I have no doubt in my mind that we shall continue to lay the building blocks for a prosperous tomorrow for all. Ndi Anambra, this mandate is dear to my heart. I see it as a historic call to inspire my people to greatness.
Continuing, he said: “This victory did not come by chance. It is the final product of the combined efforts of brilliant men and women who sacrificed their personal comfort to ensure that Anambra’s steady march to progress is not derailed. “My first and deepest gratitude goes to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for proving to Ndi Anambra that under his watch, democracy will sink deeper roots in the Nigerian soil. Mr President promised us a free and fair election. Today, we can all see that he has kept his promise. Thank you so much Mr President! To the indefatigable Chairman of my re-election campaign organization, Chief Victor Umeh, Ibobo Aguleri, Ohamadike!”
The elated governor thanked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “for conducting what has been widely adjudged a transparent election in Anambra State. With this election, INEC has shown that it has fully braced up for the 2019 elections. I will also not forget the vigilance of the Nigerian Police, the Nigerian Army and other law enforcement agencies whose alertness ensured that the expressed will of the people was not subverted. Indeed, you have done an incredible job!”
Speaking in an interview with newsmen in Awka, Umeh, a former national chairman of APGA, who was so delighted that the efforts of the team he led to campaign for Obiano’s re-election yielded the desired result, advised the electoral body to use the “Anambra model” to conduct all subsequent elections in the country. He opined that INEC has demonstrated to the whole world that Nigeria can actually conduct credible elections.
According to him, “INEC carefully selected the ad-hoc staff and the collation officers independently. They did not select politicians, or allow politicians to submit list of ad-hoc staff this time around. In order to avoid rigging of the elections, no one knew where the ad-hoc staff were coming from. The professors selected as collation officers are very credible Nigerians. All the ward collation officers came from Calabar. The politicians from the state had no contact with them. And they came in and did their job.”
The erstwhile APGA helmsman further stated: “This (the landslide victory) is not strange to APGA. It is not a new thing. In 2013, when Obiano contested for the first time, we won in 20 local governments. This is just an addition of one local government. We just cleaned it up. And this is because of the great work he (Obiano) did. He was able to touch all the communities with one project or the other. You can see that the mandate for second term is unanimous.
Virtually all the candidates and political parties that participated in the guber contest appear to have accepted the election result. Though, some of them insisted there were certain irregularities and operational lapses that INEC would need to work on for future elections. At a press conference in Awka, the PDP’s candidate, Obaze, reversed his earlier statement where he reportedly rejected the outcome of the Anambra guber poll and congratulated the victorious Obiano.
He said: “I wish to congratulate His Excellency, Gov. Willie Obiano and his running mate, Dr Nkem Okeke, on their victory at the Nov. 18 governorship election.
Before now, I had expressed concerns about the contradicting variables that led to the electoral outcome. I have closed the chapter on this particular election, we must now move on and return to the task of promoting good governance and the wellbeing of Anambra people.”
On his part, candidate of APC, Nwoye said: “I accept the results myself but it may not be the stand of the party. I am sure that INEC really compromised. Imagine that the party chairman was arrested on the dawn of the election; party members were arrested across the state.” The APC aligned with Nwoye in conceding defeat and even appealed to other candidates and parties to accept the outcome of the election as a true reflection of the will of the Anambra people.
They spoke overwhelmingly in favour of Gov. Willie Obiano and APGA. I want to congratulate him in the spirit of sportsmanship and brotherliness as Anambra people. I also want to call on my fellow contestants to accept the result of this election as representing the voice of Anambra people. We must join to build our state.”
Anambra State Chairman of Hope Democratic Party, HDP, Sam Oraegbulam, in his reaction, held that the Anambra gubernatorial poll was a great improvement from previous elections conducted by the electoral umpire. Oraegbulam posited: “We do not have any argument with the results, even though, there are areas in the electoral process that need to be improved on. The vote was a reflection of the wishes of the people and it will be unfortunate for anyone to complain about the outcome.”
Chidoka, the UPP candidate, likewise accepted defeat in the election, but maintained that Obiano won due to his financial muscle. In his words, “On November 18 our people announced strongly their rejection of politicians. They traded their votes because they doubted we would truly represent their interest. While our message resonated with the people, they doubted that the political class cared about them. They voted for the highest bidder. When by Thursday (before the election) a large percentage of our supporters insisted that they will not vote unless we paid, I insisted we will not pay for votes. The decision not to pay ended our good run.”
Jegede writes from Abuja