Anambra Governorship Election And INEC’s Hide & Seek

IfeanyiChukwu Afuba

Nigeria’s electoral body, INEC, is about to reverse to the atrocious days when Maurice Iwu told Nigerians that the environment for free and fair elections did not exist.

The list of political parties’ candidates for the November 6, 2021 Anambra State governorship election released by INEC on Friday, July 16, 2021 after contradictory declarations and time – buying shuffling on some issues, give worrying indications that manipulation of election processes is afoot.

The Yakubu Mahmoud-led INEC position on the state of the nominations of the APGA, PDP and APC does not make common sense. It only makes sense on the slippery playground of hidden agenda.

Consider the swift response of INEC to the said enquiry by a mere observer, Omas & Partners legal firm, on APGA’s ad hoc delegates congress and contrast it with the inaction on the rights of a participant in the election process, namely, APGA. INEC’s secretary had fired a response with despatch on June 18 to the curious letter of Omas & Partners dated June 16, 2021. But the same efficient INEC could neither move hands nor legs to publish the particulars of Professor Chukwuma Soludo as APGA governorship candidate in compliance with the Electoral Act. APGA national chairman, Victor Oye in an open letter on July 16, 2021 tasked the Commission in clear terms: “The Act requires the Commision to publish the particulars of candidates no later than 7 days from date of receipt of the nomination. APGA uploaded Soludo’s nomination and received stamped copy July 2, 2021. INEC ought to have published it not later than 9th of July.”

So what was INEC waiting for after the deadline for nomination of candidates on July 9, 2021? Defeaning silence has been the answer from our responsive INEC ever since.

Interestingly, the same INEC through its Publicity & Voter Education office had in one breath tried to fault APGA on the processes of its primaries and at the same time endorsed the party’s compliance with the legal requirements as well as outcome of its primaries.

The listing of Hon Chuma Umeoji, a man who bought his nomination form from the Oye leadership of APGA, was screened and disqualified by the same leadership as the governorship candidate of APGA must rank as one of INEC’s audacious maneuvers in the Anambra governorship process. The electoral body’s plea of court order for the action, rather than exonerate it of vested interest, actually intensifies the impression of partisanship on it’s part. Why was INEC silent on the other court orders on the same matter? Why did it single out the pro – Umeoji order for obedience? Why has it been unable up till now to put forward the grounds that made the Jigawa State High Court pronouncement superior to those of the federal and Anambra State High Courts which mandated it to accept Soludo as the governorship candidate of APGA?

INEC’s inconsistencies is all too evident in the contradiction of it’s position on PDP’s case and that of APGA. Leaving the PDP column blank on the basis of withholding court order while declaring an APGA candidate in the face of conflicting judgements bothers on enlightened self interest. The two scenarios are substantially of the same import, just different on the surface.

But INEC’s somersaults came out forcefully in it’s recognition of Andy Ubah as duly nominated candidate of the APC. The scandal surrounding APC’s primaries, publicly corroborated by 12 of the governorship aspirants and leader of the party in the State, Senator Chris Ngige, is unknown to INEC. To make matters more interesting, the Commission’s Chief Press Secretary is reported in The Nation of June 30, 2021 as saying that it’s report on primaries of political parties is not for public consumption! A roundly denounced APC primaries report is strictly for internal use but APGA’s pre-primaries process can be made available to whoever requests it in record time!

What the INEC has succeeded with its pick and choose administration of the Anambra governorship process is to portray the Commission as compromised. It has awakened Ndi Anambra to be on the alert.

Someone should tell the critical players at INEC that Anambra State has come a long way in her democratic and development journey. The last two attempts at seizing the State’s governorship with sleight of hand in 2003 and 2007 crashed with ignominy. Ndi Anambra are poised for a continuation of the developmental strides of the Willie Obiano administration in the next democratic dispensation. They are prepared for a long walk to secure their gains.

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