Anambra Governorship Election Campaigns & Related Issues: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
(A Joint Statement, 5th of November, 2013)-The Southeast Group 8 Rights Coalition is a coalition of eight like-minded rights groups of the Igbo Southeast extraction with thematic focus on building and sustaining democracy, citizens' rights, good governance and rule of law in Southeast Nigeria. It also fights for Igbo rights and interests in Nigeria including protection of top Igbo political and public service appointees at the Federal level provided they are not criminal appointees. It supports creative governance and fiscal prudency and opposes jamboree governance including huge public debt policy.
The G8 Rights Coalition does not support Igbo rights and interests that are repugnant to equity and fairness. This means that Igbo rights and interests should stop where those of other Nigerian nationalities begin. While the name Southeast G8 Rights Coalition remains, names of its participating groups are not steady. This method allows any group to opt out any time it chooses. It is also designed to ward off parochial interests and possible infiltration of the group by criminal politicians and their agents in Nigeria. The G8 Rights Coalition is coordinated by the secretariat of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law in Onitsha, Southeast Nigeria.
Anambra Governorship Poll & Its Campaigns So Far:
Out of 23 participating political parties in the poll, only four are “primus inter pares”. They are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LB) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The fifth visible party in the race is Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA). The five governorship candidates of the parties under reference are: Mr. Tony Nwoye PDP, Mr. Chris Ngige APC, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah LB, Mr. Willie Obiano APGA and Mr. Godwin Ezemo PPA. By global convention, issue based election campaigns are precursors of positive social change, decency and tranquility. Their collective outcome is free, popular and credible poll. Where these are patently lacking, insecurity and its perception holds sway. The result of this can lead to violence, low voter turnout and election rigging. Campaigns also include mounting of bill boards, pasting of posters and playing of jingles using audio-visual media, public sound system and traditional town criers.
Labour Party is so far leading other four main parties in terms of peaceful governorship campaigns. No strong evidence has been obtained linking it to destruction and defacing of its opponents' bill boards and posters including those in its stronghold areas like Nnewi where its candidate comes from. Our checks in Nnewi areas indicate that most of the posters and bill boards of its opponents are left untouched. There are very few isolated cases in the area linked to the party, but they are not sufficient. The LB's campaign jingles are also played on the Anambra Broadcasting Service belonging to the Government of Anambra State, which includes radio and television. The party has not been linked to any physical disruption of campaigns of other political parties in any part of Anambra State or planting of jeering crowds in any rallies or campaigns organized by other parties.
However, Labour Party is strongly accused of monetary and material inducement of members of the public especially the registered voters. Such material inducements include grading of some streets in the Ugwuagba area of Obosi in Idemmili North LGA of Anambra State and free distribution of premium motor spirit or fuel to selected members of the public. It was also accused of involvement in the purchase of voters' cards especially in the river line areas of the State where the poverty level still very high. Each voter's card is reportedly sold for N5, 000. The party was mentioned as being involved in the importation of people from outside the State during the continuous voters exercise that took place two months ago with a view to mass-registering them as voters.
The All Progressives Grand Alliance comes second in the rating as in peaceful poll campaigns. But the party, which is the State ruling party, is accused of using its apparatus to remove and destroy dozens of the bill boards belonging to the All Progressives Congress and its governorship candidate, Mr. Chris Ngige. The APC, on its part, was found to have embarked on indiscriminate and combative erection of its bill boards including in places not environmentally fit to erect such bill boards. Other APC's bill boards are said to have been erected against the procedures prescribed by the State House of Assembly. For the fact that the State Government was hash in its handling of the APC's bill boards' removal at the threshold of the campaigns, denies it the status of the “most peaceful election campaigner” in the Anambra State governorship poll, which has gone to the Labour Party. There are also pieces of evidence that in some places where the APC posters and bills are removed, those of APGA and its candidate are pasted or hung.
The Peoples Democratic Party comes third in the rating. This is largely because of the candidacy tussle, which ended yesterday at the Nigeria's Apex Court, which reaffirmed the candidacy of Mr. Tony Nwoye. Now that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has reaffirmed Mr. Tony Nwoye's candidacy, our searchlight will be beamed on his party's style of campaign in the remaining ten days.
The PPA comes fourth in the rating. Its campaigns so far have not breached the universal standards for election campaigns. It has so far conducted itself in a very civilized manner.
The post of “most violent and trouble-mongering Anambra governorship poll campaigner” goes to the All Progressives Congress and its candidate. The party has been strongly accused of “importation of jeering and booing crowds” into the campaign rallies organized by its main opponents for the purposes of disrupting them. The party's main target is the All Progressives Grand Alliance, which it considers as its main threat and challenger.
For instance, at the recent rally of the latter at the Onitsha Main Market, a “booing crowd” was reportedly planted. Complaints of disruption of church services by the APC have also been reported in different parts of the State. From Amichi to Mbakwu Communities; from Onitsha Prisons to the Immaculate Catholic Church in Onitsha; and from Awka to St. Gregory Catholic Church, Iyiowa in Ogbaru LGA of Anambra State. By Christian convention, late comers in any church service, are seen as recipients of “half blessings” and kept outside the church halls until the end of general sermons.
They are called “bad church attendants or church goers”. Good church attendants are those who get seated before the commencement of church services. They receive “full blessings” from the beginning to end. From our in-depth investigations, it is not that Mr. Chris Ngige and his supporters deliberately storm church services and disrupt same, but they have made themselves deliberate late comers, which disrupt church services anywhere they go by making the seated church attendants and presiding priests and bishops to be distracted. In such occasions, the church halls are flooded with brooms and posters while church services are in progress.
While other political parties and their candidates attend church services with few aides and sizeable supporters and get seated usually before the commencement of services, the APC is in the habit of large recruited crowd movement. Some, if not many members of the crowd are the “dregs of the society” with common trait of unruly behaviors. They are used to mount bill boards, paste posters, destroy and deface bill boards and posters of their main opponents and infiltrate the camps of their main opponents as “booing and jeering crowd” and false alarmists. The recent fatal stampede at the Uke Adoration prayer ground that took the lives of 28 people is a clear case in point. The false alarmists had planned to cause the stampede earlier in the late night of Friday, November 1st, 2013 when a false alarm of sudden snake appearance in the arena was deliberately raised by the planted crowd to cause unquenchable commotion.
Our investigation into rampant destruction of bill boards and defacing of posters also indicted the APC and its candidate. This is most likely to be revenge over the State Government's ordered dismantling of campaign bill boards deemed environmentally “ugly”, which substantially affected those of the APC. Apart from interviewing some residents and traders in the areas where such destroyed bill boards and defaced posters of the APGA and its candidate are located, our field investigators sighted some APC supporters yesterday, being 4th of November, 2013 in Onitsha, Awada, Nkpor and Ogbaru areas. The supporters while pasting their party and its candidate's posters engaged in malicious and reckless defacing and removal of other posters especially those of APGA.
While the supporters of other parties leave their opponents' posters untouched and paste theirs in other blank spaces, the APC supporters, seemingly working on instructions, remove and deface those of other parties especially APGA before pasting their own. Our several visits to Nnewi (stronghold of LB), Idemmili North & South (stronghold of APC), Aguata (stronghold of PPA), Anaocha LGA and Omambala zone (strongholds of APGA and PDP), showed that most of the bill boards and posters of the opponents of the domiciled political parties and their candidates are left untouched except in Idemmili North and South LGAs where many bill boards and posters of the APGA and its candidate are either defaced or destroyed. The despicable conduct of the APC, which is strongly being fingered, has also been imported into Awka with a number of the APGA posters defaced or destroyed.
APC is strongly accused further of commissioning some people including women to trace many registered voters to their residencies and market places, using the recently released copies of the final voters' list Such voters are induced to tender their voters' cards whereupon the polling unit and other code numbers are copied in exchange for cash gifts. Others are recruited into certain committees and made to give up their voters' cards or their pin numbers and ordinary passport photographs.
They are said to be paid “one month salary” of up to N15, 000 and given other cash sums and indoctrinated on how to recruit others. These categories of people are tagged “special agents”. This despicable and criminal exercise has been widely reported especially in Awada, Okpoko and Ogbaru areas of the State. Similar patterns may have been applied to hoodwink voters in other parts of the State. This may most likely be a new innovation in election rigging industry, which may be called “forensic poll rigging software”.
Issue Based Campaigns:
Most of the participating political parties in the Anambra Governorship race are far from engaging in issue based campaigns. Rather than convincing the voters by showing them the masterful ways they intend to transform the State if elected, most of the parties and their candidates resort to guerrilla warfare by peddling lies and falsehoods using the instrument of sectionalized media. Some contestants are not even aware of the existence of Exclusive, Concurrent and Residual Legislative Lists of the Federation that divide items of governance jurisdictions among the three tiers of Federal, States and LGAs. Some have promised to do things that are purely outside their jurisdiction like building cargo “international” airport, providing steady power supply, building seaport, etc. Others have promised “free medical services”, “free secondary and university education” and “constant increment in workers' salaries”.
All these lofty promises are not accompanied with forensic disclosures as per the effective sources of resources mobilization with which to implement the lofty programs. The silence of these candidates and their parties, other than APGA, on how monies will be sourced without mortgaging the future well being of the State by reckless loan borrowings and over-bloated governance including jumbo security votes, clearly shows that the low debt records of Anambra State is a gold mine for these contestants. In other words, their sole hope is returning the State to the status of “a highly indebted State”. Lagos State presently owes a total debt of N330Billion locally and internationally. Campaigns deceits such as the foregoing are called “psychology of politics” or “confusion of many for the parochial interest of the few”.
Lastly, we have also observed that Anambra State is being invaded by some strange faces including social miscreants and recidivists hired by desperate politicians and their parties from neighboring States of Delta, Imo and Enugu. All these are to step up criminal activities of various forms and shapes including politically oiled abductions, real, perceived and false armed robberies and other street criminal activities like youth militancy and pick-pockets.etc.
Extensive intelligence information gathering and other preventive policing measures should be put in place by the present Government of Anambra State and its security agencies to ward off these precursors of anarchy threatening to mar the popularity and credibility of the all-important governorship poll. The collective security of Anambra State of Nigeria must not be compromised and any political party or candidate found fanning the embers of violence must have its wings clipped within the law.
From the forgoing, therefore, the Anambra Governorship Poll campaigns are facing several challenges, which must be nipped in the bud and disallowed from resulting into uncontrollable social disorders capable of robbing the crucial poll of popular participation and credibility. We wish to use this medium to congratulate the Labour Party for emerging the “most peaceful Anambra Governorship Poll campaigner” so far. The winner and the runners up like APGA, PDP and PPA are urged to refuse to be provoked by their opponents and embrace peaceful campaigns premised on issue based electoral campaign messages.
For: Southeast Group 8 Rights Coalition:
1. Emeka Umeagbalasi: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
2. Aloysius Emeka Attah: Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch
3. Justus Uche Ijeoma: Society Watch (a membership project of Intersociety-Nigeria)
4. Peter Onyegiri: Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy
5. Samuel Njoku: Human Rights Club, Anambra State Branch
6. Alexander Olisa: Forum for Justice, Equity & Human Rights
7. Anthony Emeka Itanyi: Southeast Emancipation Network
8. Onyeozielu Ujunwa: Committee Against Political Crimes in Nigeria