On 10th of September, 2013, the acting Chairman of the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC), Mr. Sylvester Okonkwo announced the shifting of the Local Government poll earlier fixed for 5th of October, 2013, to 14th of December, 2013. One of the main grounds upon which the LGA poll was shifted was given as the inability of about 27 political parties that indicated interest in participating in the poll to submit their candidates’ list in line with the ANSIEC electoral guidelines. The difficulties associated with the obtainment by ANSIEC of the certified true copy of the INEC’s register of voters for the poll was cited as another reason for the LGA poll shift.
It is recalled that the leaderships of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law and Anambra CLO had on 15th of August, 2013 written the Anambra Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof Chukwuemeka Onukogu and the acting Chairman of ANSIEC, Mr. Sylvester Okonkwo, upon which we pointed out serious challenges threatening the successful and credible conduct of the two crucial polls and demanded that they be frontally addressed. We also demanded that the LGA poll date should be slightly adjusted to the second week of December, 2013 so as to give room for popular participation upon tackling of the laps complained of. One of the challenges pointed out is the possible unavailability of the Anambra LGA’s voters’ register to be used for the poll. INEC had earlier announced 17th of October, 2013 as a date for final display of its Anambra voters’ register; expected to be derived from the supplementary voters’ list and the main voters’ register as against the 5th of October, 2013 date fixed for the shifted LGA poll. Similar challenges threatening the credibility and popularity of the two polls were also pointed out in our (Intersociety) public information of 21st and 24th of August, 2013.
We at Intersociety see the adjustment of the Anambra LGA poll date as a two-way traffic; one showing that the two electoral commissions especially the ANSIEC have listening ears and the other exposing the gross incompetence of the two electoral commissions in conducting the two crucial polls on the basis of popular participation and administrative competence. Though Anambra State has earned notoriety as one of the States in the Nigerian Federation that has not held polls into her LGA System since December 1998, but our insistence on holding such polls popularly and credibly knows no bound. It is on indisputable record that no popular and credible Local Government polls have been organized in Nigeria since December 1998. In other words, the last time popular LGA poll was held in Nigeria was in December 1998; during the expiring military regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar. Subsequent LGA polls organized since then have grossly run short of international demographic and enfranchisement standards. This has lightened calls for abrogation of State Independent Electoral Commissions created by Section 197 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 amended in 2011 and taking over of their functions by INEC. Anambra State as Nigeria’s electoral Promised Land must always lead the way and avoid returning to electoral dark ages during which the dregs of the society took over her hallowed political corridors and turned them into an enclave of banditry and brigandage. Research has shown indisputably that demographic correctness, security and safety are the three pillars of popular polls in Africa including Nigeria. Where there is demographic correctness; the concerned electoral umpire is administratively competent. It also engenders security and safety, which encourages large voter turnout. Any poll grounded on demographic correctness, security and safety, is beyond judicial revocation on account of judicial review or enquiry afterwards. Where these are the norm, the excesses of errant politicians and their political parties as well as tainted adjudicators in the temple of justice will be cut to sizes.
There is no doubt that many, if not most registered political parties in Nigeria are the major generators of poll rigging and poll violence in the country. They are expressly aided by corrupt and immoral judicial officers who dish out summary orders and verdicts with utter alacrity. The unfolding despicable events in Anambra State are a case in point. The quality of people fielded by some political parties in the forthcoming Anambra governorship poll is alarmingly shocking. For instance, out of four major political parties and their candidates jostling for the crucial governorship poll; that is to say All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, All Progressives Grand Alliance and People’s Democratic Party, it may most likely be correct to say that at least three of their candidates fundamentally fall short of political aristocracy and charisma. In the raw eyes of popular and credible poll, they are pretenders, but from the prism of poll rigging and brigandage, they are real and mean. They are exponents of robotic electoral mandate and opponents of living electoral mandate. To clip their wings and confine them to the tight dictates of popular poll contest is a serious challenge facing INEC and the security agencies.
Finally, we remain resolute in our demand for free; credible and popular polls in Anambra State on 16th of November, 2013 and 14th of December, 2013, respectively. To this end, INEC and ANSIEC must live up to their statutory duties and responsibilities. On the part of INEC, all the challenges that can mar the credibility of the crucial governorship poll such as reported existence of polling centers in unapproved areas of the State, missing 53 polling centres in nine LGAs and 93,000 double registration said to have been found in its voters’ register; should be frontally addressed and timely too. All fictitious names and confirmed dead voters should be expunged and those with voters’ cards pinned down to existing polling centers across the State, whose names and pictures got missing through “either data virus attacks” or “ deliberate manual deletion”, should be allowed to vote on voting day. Also, the emergence of some buccaneering characters into the crucial Anambra governorship and LGA races has made it imperative for the Federal and Anambra State Governments to step up forensic security in all parts of the State to ward off any security threats and unnatural unsafe conditions between now till after the two polls.
The ANSIEC on its part, must not slumber as it has previously done that necessitate several postponements of its LGA poll dates. We demand nothing short of epochal and historic popular LGA poll, befitting the State’s current enviable status in the global free and popular poll index. The 14th of December, 2013 date for the poll must be realistic and final. The State Electoral Commission must issue fresh or adjusted guidelines excluding the conduct of fresh party primaries to all participating political parties and the Anambra Public as a matter of utmost immediacy.
The number of political parties that return their candidates’ lists within stipulated time should be allowed to contest and their candidates’ names and their parties’ logos printed on ballot papers. The issue of whether or not an “acting chairman of the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission” can legally and administratively conduct the LGA poll in acting capacity, should also be legally resolved; likewise the appointment of the substantive chairman of the Commission by the Governor upon his or her confirmation by the State Legislature. Our questions are: Is it true that there is a subsisting court order hindering such substantive appointment?
If yes, what type of court order? Is it interim or ex parte, interlocutory or perpetual? If no, what is holding the appointment of the substantive chairman of the ANSIEC?
Chairman of the Board
Comrade Justus Ijeoma
Head, Publicity Desk