Allegations of rigging dog Anambra polls Allegations of rigging dog Anambra polls
As the people of Anambra State go to the polls on Saturday, some of the factors that favour Governor Willie Obiano are zoning and... Allegations of rigging dog Anambra polls

As the people of Anambra State go to the polls on Saturday, some of the factors that favour Governor Willie Obiano are zoning and incumbency. But, there is a question mark on the governor’s purported order three months ago that civil servants should submit their voters’ cards or forfeit their salaries. The Nation’s Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI looks at this development and the odds against the governor’s re-election bid.

WHY did Governor Willie Obiano order civil servants to submit their voters’ cards or forfeit their salary three months ago? A civil servant told The Nation in confidence that the Head of Service through a circular ordered every public servant in the state, including teachers and those working in boards and parastatals to submit both the original and photocopy of their voters’ card to their respective permanent secretaries or the chief executive of the department or agency, for sighting, endorsement and collation.

The civil servant added: “The state government had threatened to seize the August salary of persons who fail to comply with the directive, insisting that the restoration of such suspended payments of salary will be based on the presentation of valid voters’ card by the affected public servant.”

A copy of the purported circular has been posted on several sites on the internet.

On the surface of the matter, it looks like an attempt to ensure that civil servants registered during the continuous voters registration exercise to enable them perform their civic responsibility in this week’s governorship election. But Governor Willie Obiano’s Director of Media Relations, Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, told The Nation in an interview in Awka, the Anambra State capital, last week that the government did not give such directive and that it is one of those tales concocted to discredit his principal.

His words: “That’s not true; that’s nonsense. Don’t give it a thought; perish the thought. Don’t forget that for some people, the time of political campaigns is the time of manufacturing of stories and fabrication of lies. So, they tell all kinds of lies. One must be cool-headed, seat down and analyse whatever one hears; you take the lies, which constitute the chaff and throw them away and you take the truth and deal with them.”

Be that as it may, opponents believe that there is more to it than meets the eye. As the candidate of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Chief Osita Chidoka, puts it, Governor Obiano is threatening civil servants in the state to vote for APGA or face victimization. A statement from the Osita Chidoka Campaign Organisation said: it has evidence that the Obiano government has threatened civil servants and teachers to vote for the ruling party or face victimization. The statement reads in part: “The Osita Chidoka Campaign Organisation has become privy, with documented evidence, of the threats by elements in the outgoing Governor Obiano’s administration to teachers and other civil servants in the state to vote for APGA in Saturday’s governorship election or face victimisation.”

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Tony Nwoye, equally agrees that for the Obiano administration is up to something with the directive to civil servants in the state. The Director of Media of the Tony Nwoye Campaign Organisation, Chief Charles Amilo, described the move as devilish. He said the mere fact that the government conjectured it means that it has plans of what to do with it.

Amilo’s words: “This is the era of internet and hacking, where you stay in Russia and hack into America and direct the course of elections there. The point is, we don’t know what they want to do with it. They did not just wake up and order workers to bring their voters’ card, so that they can photocopy it front and back; they must have plans of what to do with the cards. Somebody must have thought out how to use the cards to do something devilish during this election.

“All we can do now is to draw the attention of the general public to this devilish move. How can they ask people to bring their voters’ cards, so that they can photocopy it front and back? That is a devilish thought. It must have originated from somebody who has thought out a plan to do something sinister. This move is not transparent. Therefore, we must alert, to see how they want to use it to rig the election. We cannot just write it off. It will be to our own peril, if we do so.”

The media chief of the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer said APGA has a habit of rigging. He said: “It does not have a habit of pursuing an election. The 2010 election was won by Sen. Chris Ngige. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said 97,000 votes were enough to declare (Peter) Obi governor. If the ballot papers were to be available and recounted today, you will discover that Ngige won.

“In 2013, they had to deprive people from Idemili North, Idemili South, Onitsha South Okpoko and Orumba South the right to vote; there was no election in those areas. So, after the election, they said because there were no voting in five hundred and ninety-something polling units, election would be held in those polling units the next day, which was a Sunday. Our people protested that we cannot vote on a Sunday, but they did not listen. After that election, they allocated a number of votes to the man that is now in power and declared him winner openly.

“So, what I’m trying to say is that, this time around, they couldn’t understand this tsunami called Dr. Nwoye; he’s now a tsunami snowballing into a movement. If you had come to Njikoka on Sunday and saw what happened there, everybody who is anybody in politics in Njikoka is now on Tony Nwoye’s side. In the Omambala region, which is the governor’s home turf, Tony Nwoye is clearly on the rampage their too.”

The APC chieftain said Obiano is trying to replicate the sort of manipulation that took place four years ago. He said: “A few days ago, the police arrested one of their members with ballot papers at Orumba. This news is trending in Anambra at the moment. But APGA is denying that the man in question is not one of their members. They have not won any election since that of 2003, which happened because the people were desperate to get rid of former Governor Chinwoke Mbadiniju. In 2010, they rigged; in 2013, they also rigged. It’s now part of their culture. They can’t win any election without rigging.”

Amilo’s PDP counterpart, Chief Okey Muo-Aroh, however dismissed the allegations, saying that APGA lacks the capacity to rig. His words: “One thing you can be sure of is that you can only rig an election in an area where you have absolute control and influence. Despite being in government, APGA does not have the capacity to rig the election, because it is not in control in the polling units across the state. The fear of rigging the election can only be orchestrated from the APC angle, because it can use the police or the army to intimidate and make people run away from the polling units. That way, they can do some manipulation.

“The type of rigging APGA is trying to do is to use ordinary people residing in different areas of the state to intimidate others and make them run away from the polling units. But it is not going to work. We have people on ground all over the state that will monitor the process; because we have told our supporters to vote and wait to monitor the process, so they will not leave the polling area after voting. At the end of the day, the results of the election will be announced at each polling unit and later collated at the ward level. If some shenanigans happen between the ward and the local government collation centres, we would see how those can be sorted out.”

Muo-Aroh who is the Director, Media and Publicity, Oseloka Obaze Campaign Organisation said the calibre of people that will represent the PDP at collation centres are not the sort of people other parties can compromise or intimidate. He added: “We have the capacity and the ability to enforce our decisions. Anybody who comes believing that the police or the army can help him manipulate the result would be in for a surprise. We have a lot at stake, because this is an election that will determine the political future and political direction of some of us.”

There is mutual distrust among the major contenders. As the electioneering campaign enters the last phase, Obiano’s party which had earlier accused the APC of planning to use ‘federal might’ to rig the election, raised a fresh alarm. The APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Oye, last week Monday, alleged that two truckloads of electoral materials, including ballot papers, meant for the Anambra election were intercepted in a suburb of the capital.

But the Anambra State Police Command denied knowledge of the interception of any voting material. When contacted on telephone the Police Commissioner, Mr. Gamba Umar, described the allegation as lies, saying nothing like that happened.

Anambra State has been agog with political activities in the last couple of weeks. Obiano is believed to be facing a tough re-election battle. Observers have attributed this to two main reasons. The ruling party is going into this election as a divided house. Former Governor Peter Obi, who almost single-handedly made him governor in the last election, is not backing him this time around. Obi and Obiano fell apart almost immediately after the latter’s inauguration.

Secondly, though the governor is riding on the power of incumbency and to a reasonable extent has acquitted himself well so far in his first term, his opponents insist that he has performed abysmally in the last three and half years. In this contest, Obiano is fighting not just for his second term mandate, but also for the survival of APGA as a viable political platform. He is the only governor on the platform of the party, following the exit of Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.

The APGA flag bearer is faced with a stiff competition from the flag bearers of the APC and the PDP, Dr. Tony Nwoye and Mr. Oseloka Obaze respectively. Although the governor is riding on the power of incumbency and, to a reasonable extent, has been able to deliver so far, his opponents are not impressed with his performance and are determined to oust him from office. It is alleged that he has not been able to fix many of the roads that were flagged-off to secure his election four years ago, except few roads within his hometown of Aguleri.

For instance, Amilo said the only promise APGA made to his town, Enugu-Ukwu, which is also the hometown of the Deputy Governor, Dr. Nkem Okeke, was a three-kilometre road from Nkwo Enugu-Ukwu to the express. He said: “Go there now; they have destroyed peoples houses under the premise that they are going to widen the road. But no compensation was paid and flood is now raging the lower part of that road. Yet, the contractors have practically done nothing. Go to all communities in Anambra, it is the same story everywhere. I have argued it many times over; this government has failed. It has only succeeded in the direction of propaganda and fake news.”

One candidate who is leveraging on the governors’ flaws to escalate his prominence is Obaze, who was a senior United Nations official before serving as Secretary to the Anambra State Government in both the Peter Obi and Willie Obiano administrations. Besides his philanthropic nature that has endeared him to many electorates, one of his strengths is the support he is receiving from former Governor Obi, who appears to be the arrowhead of his campaign.

Obi has been rigorously campaigning for Obaze in some of the big markets in Anambra State. Obi’s influence is said to be a strong blow to contend with by the other parties, because he remains one of the most respected former governors of the state. Obi said during one of such campaigns: “I am fully in the PDP, and I am determined to campaign vigorously to sell our candidate. This campaign will not be done anyhow; it will be aggressive but without mudslinging. We will all be in the campaign together and we will run it like the PDP has never done before. We know where we left Anambra State and because Obaze was part of the success story and was instrumental to attracting most of the international donor agencies by using his contacts as a diplomat; he will be in a better place to continue from where we stopped. I am optimistic that if he becomes the next governor, Anambra will be better than what it is today.”

Obi said his reasons for fighting his successor were informed by the vow he made to the people in 2013. His words: “In 2013, I took Obiano around Anambra State, to the markets, to every part of the state and the people kept asking me if I was sure of him as they did not know him, but that they would vote him because of me. I told them I would be the one to lead a campaign against Obiano if he did not perform well in his first term. Today, can anyone show me what the governor has done within his first term? He has nothing to show for it.”

Nwoye is another strong contender. As aptly demonstrated during the flag-off of his campaign, he has the backings of President Muhammadu Buhari and all the APC governors. The former students’ union leader and grassroots mobiliser is believed to be the APC’s best chance of taking over the state at this point in time. He was the governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2013 election.

One of the factors in favour of the incumbent Governor Obiano is the zoning arrangement. Although both Nwoye and Obaze who are from Anambra North like the incumbent have signed an undertaking pledging to do only one term to complete the eight years allotted to the zone, indications are that, all things being equal, electorates from Anambra South would be more favourably disposed to back Obiano as a matter of expediency.

Nurudeen Adegbenro