Anambra Elections and the Phantom of the Opera



In 2018 the respected UK based Financial Times revealed that the yearly volume of trade in Anambra is estimated at $3 billion USD and conversion to local currency indicates that this is an economy that the trade numbers are in excess of N1.2tn. The above underscores the potential of the state, the vibrancy of the economy and the inherent capacity in the state to generate economic activities.

Anambra State arguably one of the most industrialised state in Nigeria has been governed by the All Progressives Grand Alliance ( APGA ). Flanked by River Niger in the Delta State  end of the state , Anambra state has a total area of 4,844 Square km and is the 35th state in terms of size , Lagos is the only state that Anambra is larger than with respect to landmass.

The November 6th gubernatorial elections in Anambra state has generated a lot of concerns and reactions across the country. Threats of violence, killings , destructions , arsons , general insecurity and threats of boycott by the Indigenous People of Biafra ( IPOB ) cast a huge shadow of doubt over the elections. 

However with the assurances by the security agencies and the comments by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the elections will be ‘embarrassingly transparent ‘ there are renewed hopes that the elections will most likely go ahead without hitches and that at the end of the process a governor with the mandate of the people will emerge.

Anambra State is a very strategic state in Nigeria , with the third highest HDI of 0.656 in Nigeria ( Only Lagos and Ogun is ahead) and major trading/manufacturing hubs in Nnewi and Onitsha the direction of the governorship contest is of utmost importance to Anambra people and the larger Nigerian population.

According to extant data from INEC , the elections will be contested in 21 Local Government Areas ( LGA ), 326 Registration Areas or political wards ,5,720 polling units and over 2.5m registered voters will decide the next governor . The state used to have 4,608 polling units but due to the increase of polling units , reclassification of voting locations and reassignment of polling units by INEC earlier in the year the polling units in Anambra state increased to 5,720.

Similar to a haunted in stage in the phantom of the opera , the gubernatorial elections have gone through several upheavals as the boycott of elections campaign by the Indigenous People Of Biafra ( IPOB ) not only created fear and palpable tension but it actually increased the political temperature of the state. Due to the  general compliance of the people of Anambra state and the Southeast geo-political zone with the IPOB declared sit-at-home campaign on Mondays most people were concerned about the safety of the electorates before, during and after voting on election day.

This dark clouds persisted in the state to the extent that most political actors in the state went underground after the brutal and mindless killing of Dr Chike Akunyili  by characters described as unknown gunmen few weeks ago. With rising insecurity in the state , killings , reported cases of politically motivated arsons, disruptions of campaigns by hoodlums and proliferation of various armed groups in the state comprising of state actors and non state actors there were calls for postponement of the elections by concerned Nigerians and Anambrarians.

Based on the aforementioned scenario the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN, threatened the declaration of a state of emergency in Anambra State . However the call was widely condemned  by political actors and the general public as most commentators posited that the responsibility to provide security is within the purview of the federal government.

Nonetheless since the federal government announced that a total of 34,587 police officers will be deployed to the state to keep the peace during the elections, in addition to the increased military deployments in the state and other security agencies  present in  the state there has been renewed confidence that the electoral process will proceed as planned. 

The communication by INEC that it will use the electronic transmission of results and its new Bimodal Voter Accreditation System ( BVAS ) technology recently tested in the Isoko South 1 bye election in Delta State, there’s confidence that the elections will be conducted transparently.

There are 18 political parties contesting for the gubernatorial elections but amongst keen political observers and commentators its a four man race. Based on party spread , candidate popularity , platform acceptability and political structure across the 21 Local Government Areas in Anambra State the four major candidates in the election are Valentine Ozigbo ( PDP ), Prof. Charles Soludo ( APGA ), Senator Ifeanyi Ubah ( YPP ) and Senator Andy Uba ( APC ).

A further introspection indicates that its becoming glaring that the race will largely be a narrow two horse race between Professor Charles Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party. Even though it appears that Soludo as he is fondly called is the most qualified in terms of academic pedigree but politically analyst believe that Valentine Ozigbo of the PDP is the most ready and most prepared of all the candidates. Interestingly the swift fence mending and brinkmanship of the PDP in uniting all factions has brightened the chances of the PDP while the division in APGA and recent defections in APGA which climaxed with the defection of the deputy governor is casting doubts on the perceived electoral fortunes of Soludo.

Irrespective of political leanings this is one political race to watch because how it pans out will be a likely foreshadowing of the 2023 elections. Who will emerge victorious amongst the political gladiators of Anambra ? How transparent will the elections be ? With electronic transmission of results  what will be the new role of political godfathers ? All these questions and many more will be answered in a few days as Anambra people decides where the pendulum of power shifts .

Written by Samuel Ibeh, a Political Analyst and Strategist. He tweets via @ibehsamuel and can be reached on [email protected]