ALL eyes are on the security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure a transparent and credible process as the Anambra governorship election holds on Saturday. The exercise is unique in many ways as political analysts believe it will largely reveal the commission’s readiness for the future conduct of elections and foreshadow the 2023 general polls alongside the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections fixed for next year. It is also coming amid a volatile security environment in the state.
And according to INEC, the financial cost of conducting the Anambra poll is huge compared with those of Ondo and Edo states that were held in 2020 because of the amount involved in reconstructing the commission’s offices torched by hoodlums during the turmoil in the South-East. It is an unstated contest between the might of the Nigerian state and separatist groups demanding an independent country of their own.
That unfortunate reality is enough to nudge voters and lovers of democracy in the state to protect the exercise. INEC can encourage them by inspiring confidence in the ballot by ensuring a transparent and neutral process in electing a new governor.
Unrest and fear have gripped the South-East in recent times, especially over secessionist agitation being promoted by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra. But INEC is expected to douse the embers of distrust by deepening the ethos of democracy. The people themselves should buy into the ideals of democracy and do everything to safeguard them. Fostering democracy enhances prospects for economic growth and social welfare.
In the overall interest of the state, the people should continue to support and uphold democratic values against anarchic practices. INEC must ensure adequate fool-proof protection for its officials and ad-hoc staff to encourage them to give their best and work without panic. It is pertinent to note that the failure of the electoral staff to discharge their duty feely would cast a pall on the credibility of the process.
The security agents are critical to the poll considering prevailing circumstances, particularly as IPOB had declared a one-week sit-at-home in the state ahead of the election. But that should not be a cover for the Federal Government to militarise the election. The people should be allowed to freely cast their votes without let or hindrance. It is for eligible voters to discharge their civic duty and the task of government to assure them of their safety.
Rather than molest a genuine electorate determined to contribute to democratic ideals, security forces should go the extra mile to rid the exercise of crooks and charlatans that set out to undermine the process. They should keep them at bay from the polling units and forestall any planned acts of voter intimidation and inducement, ballot snatching and molestation of party agents, voters, and INEC’s officials alike. The police must change their tactics and strategies to foil overt or covert plans by groups or individuals to compromise the election. They should gather intelligence and use modern security tools to execute their operations to protect the integrity of the election. Civil society and election monitoring teams should keenly observe the exercise to reflect the precise outcome.
The credibility of the exercise should resonate hugely in their ability to ensure the safety of lives and property before, during and after the election. They must not fail to deliver.
Shady politicians will always look for ways to circumvent the process to realise their selfish ends, but both the security agents and stakeholders must join forces to thwart their plans. The task is for everyone to expose evil; they should not remain aloof in the face of anti-people acts. Every voter should know that though democracy aims to empower the best of leaders with workable ideas for the benefit of society, essentially, it is about what the people make of it notwithstanding the lofty principles fused in it.
Notably, a leader, no matter how highly or lowly endowed in terms of insight and performance, cannot be greater than a country. Therefore, it is striking to be aware that at the end of the day, leaders’ decisions will have a far-reaching effect on their countries. Thus, it is the definitive reason why voters must not concede the entire electoral process to politicians and go to sleep. Public office-seekers should be driven by the code of selfless service and not a parochial mentality of greed.
Political parties have a legal and moral burden to play by the rules. They should see the contest as a call to serve and not a do-or-die affair. In that regard, they should compel their candidates to do the same to expand the concept of service above self. It also behoves the incumbent governor to provide a level playing field for all contenders regardless of political affiliation, status, or gender.
Influential groups and leaders in the state should rein in the IPOB and get its assurance not to disrupt the election; an act that may intensify misery and poverty in the state and the South-East region. The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, has timely warned against disruption of the election, noting that the adverse consequences would be a major setback for the Igbo aspirations. Above all, treading that path against wise counsel may eventually become an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The world is watching. INEC and the security forces cannot afford to disappoint the country.