Today’s election in Anambra will go down as one of the most anticipated governorship elections in the history of Nigeria.
Already, it has set a record of being the governorship election with the highest number of candidates (37) in Nigeria’s electoral history.
Godfatherism, zoning, political vendetta and IPOB threat to boycott are some of the indices observers are expecting to play out in today’s polls with over 2.1 million registered voters.
The reason this election is holding today and not in 2019 with those of most other states is rooted in the controversial nature of Anambra politics.
In the 2003 Anambra governorship election, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, under former President Olusegun Obasanjo hatched the perfect heist that snatched the mandate of the then winner, Peter Obi, who contested under the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, then under the leadership of Chekwas Okorie.
The then PDP flagbearer, Chris Ngige, emerged winner against the people’s mandate. It took three years of titanic court battles for Mr. Obi to win back his mandate. Mr. Ngige was sacked by the Court of Appeal in March 2006 and Mr. Obi was sworn in two days later.
Interestingly today, almost all the characters that played a role in the 2003 controversy realigned under different parties to continue the unending battle for power.
Peter Obi is leading PDP to the polls, a party that denied him his mandate for three years. He is believed to be the godfather of the party’s flagbearer, Oseloka Obaze. Mr. Obaze meanwhile served as Secretary to the State Government under Mr. Obi and incumbent Governor Willie Obiano.
Mr. Obiano is still flying APGA’s flag after a scuffle with Mr. Obi. Meanwhile, Chekwas Okorie, APGA’s founding leader, is now in the same boat with Osita Chidoka in the United Progressives Party.
To complete the circle of realignment, Mr. Ngige who was once abducted as a sitting PDP governor, is now a member of the All Progressives Congress and is backing its candidate, Tony Nwoye. Both are former PDP stalwarts.
Another popular name apart from the major candidates, as today’s polls open, is Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). His group has vowed that the election will not hold until the federal government gives a date for a referendum for a separate state for Igbos of South-east Nigeria.
Blaring siren and the sound of roving helicopters have become common in Anambra in the wake of today’s governorship polls.
Apart from the stiff competition in the election, there have been security threats.
The secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, through its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, had earlier said unless the Nigerian State calls for a referendum to determine the status of the country, there would be no election in Anambra State.
Despite being labelled a terrorist organisation, members of IPOB staged a demonstration in Onitsha, the Anambra State capital, threatening voters not to participate in today’s election.
Last Friday, members of the secessionist group sang and marched around the commercial town, threatening to unleash mayhem on potential voters.
Today’s election proceedings is keenly watched across the world as its outcome will further chart a new course for Nigeria’s sovereignty and determine the measures being taking to stop unrest.
While the police have deployed 26,000 personnel for the election, the Civil Defence have deployed 13,000 personnel, officials said.
The Army and Navy are also believed to have deployed hundreds of personnel to maintain peace for the elections.
The police deployment comprise police special forces, police mobile forces, Counter Terrorism Units and Bomb Protection Units.
Others are bomb disposal specialists, as well as sniffer and attack dogs. Surveillance helicopters will monitor proceedings from the air, while there will be gunboats on the river Niger, plus 15 armoured personnel carriers and 303 patrol vehicles.
All these are measures put in place to ensure a smooth election and also ensure any threat by IPOB is not carried out. However, some citizens of the state describe the tactics as heavy handed which might have an impact of voters turn up.
“Helicopters are flying around since this week, police and army are everywhere as if its war and not election. I will just stay at home till the election is over any unexpected issue”, Kennedy Omenwa, a television repairer at Onitsha told PREMIUM TIMES.
7:41 AM: The city of Awka is absolutely calm with security almost every 5 minutes you ove, either stationed or mobile.
Security officials include Army, Navy, Police, and NSCDC.
At the RAC at Aguleri, the number of polling units are not pasted.