Soludo’s Road To Victory in Anambra
• His success, another lifeline for APGA • Big Setback For Peter Obi, Ngige, APC, PDP, others
Soludo, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) is on his way to becoming the next governor of Anambra State. The Nigerian Xpress writes on the victory of the candidate of APGA in the November 6 Anambra governorship election and the implications for major opposition parties that lost out as Nigeria heads towards 2023.
As the results of the Anambra governorship election trickle in late Saturday, Chukwuma Soludo, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, would have looked on and considered his ordeal trying to vote at his Isuofia ward, Polling Unit 2 of Aguata Local Government Area of the State worth the effort.
The APGA candidate’s nearly six hours stay in the polling unit as officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC battled to make their accreditation machine work was rewarded with a ‘massive’ 126 votes. His closest challenger at the polling unit was Valentine Ozigbo of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who scored five votes and Andy Uba of All Progressives Congress, APC three votes, respectively.
The former Governor of Central Bank also demonstrated his superiority over his two closest challengers in the result of the local government -Aguata- where incidentally the three of them hailed from. Soludo polled 9,136 votes with the APC candidate coming a distant second with 4,773 votes while Ozigbo of PDP trailed them with 3,798 votes.
INEC announced the shifting of the election in Ihiala Local Government Area to November 13, following alleged irregularities discovered in most communities in the council area.
Regardless, the APGA candidate’s pattern of victory continued to manifest as the results from the local government areas of the state where the election had been concluded came in.
With Soludo coasting home to victory, APGA has proven again that it is the party to beat at least when it comes to Anambra. The result also confirmed predictions that among the 18 candidates on the ballot, APGA, APC and PDP are the real contenders in the election.
Boasts by candidates of African Democratic Congress, the Social Democratic Party and the Young Progressives Party that they will cause upsets in the election turned out to be mere hot air.
The election was marred by isolated incidents of violence, disappearance or absence of electoral officers as well as failure to adhere to laid down process of accreditation in many areas as the retuning officers recounted when announcing the results in Awka on Sunday.
Also, there was a general poor turnout of voters in the first few hours after the poll opened. This was attributed to the fear of insecurity.
However, the turnout improved in most parts of the state later on as the confidence of the people was buoyed by the heavy presence of security operatives.
But despite the heavy security deployment, daredevil gunmen were still able to snatch ballot boxes from two polling centres at the Immaculate Heart Catholic Church and the St. Faith Catholic Church in Fegge area of Onitsha after they successfully scared away the voters and security operatives.
Also, INEC suspended the governorship election in Ihiala LGA of the state after the outbreak of violence in various polling units. Hoodlums who claimed that they were enforcing the already suspended stay-at-home order of IPOB had disrupted the voting process with the outbreak of violence in many areas.
Disenfranchised By BVAS
However, the biggest challenge for the election was the inability of INEC to deploy voting materials to many polling units on time as well as the failure of the innovative Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) devices deployed for accreditation of voters.
After spending a couple of hours at his polling unit due to the failure of the BVAS device to recognize his face for accreditation, Soludo lamented the slowness of the process and the breakdown of the BVAS system.
The APGA candidate arrived at his polling at about 12:15 p.m. but could not be captured by the BVAS system. “This BVAS technology is a complete failure, and by almost 1:00 p.m. in the day, voting is yet to start in most of the polling units in the state,” said the former CBN governor. He added that even in places where the devices were working, it took between 20 and 30 minutes to capture a voter.
He also noted that there were not enough INEC staff and security personnel in some polling units. “For example in Uke, there is a ward with 17 polling units but only five have INEC officials. The other 12, no officials. There is also the security issue, here in my polling unit, no single policeman. In Ihiala, I got a report that materials up until now have not left the local government. It is a very unfortunate situation. INEC should do the needful and make this process successful, ” he said.
Soludo who was able to vote after waiting in queue for about five hours was not the only one who was disenchanted with INEC over the poor logistic arrangement and failure of the accreditation system.
Dr Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment as well as the candidate of the PDP condemned the failure of the BVAS system. Ngige returned home from his Nkwoide Alor Ward 1, in Idemili South Local Government Area after the BVAS system failed to capture his face and fingerprint after several attempts. He said INEC should have done a test-run of their equipment a week before the exercise to prevent such failures.
“I think that the INEC would have put the BVAS machine to a mock election in another state before bringing it to Anambra to ensure that it works efficiently. I also suggest that the machines should be dumped after this election, else by 2023 when we go for the general election, it would still be the same case,” said Ngige.
On its part, the member representing Anaocha, Njikoka and Dunukofia in the House of Representatives, Hon. Dozie Nwankwo accused INEC of engaging in systematic rigging, following the failure of the BVAS machines at his ward, Enuagu Enugwu Ukwu Ward One, Units 003 and 004. Though the ward has two polling units with 466 registered voters, only 23 voters had been able to vote as of 11:50 a.m. Also, Dr Obiora Okonkwo, Governorship Candidate of Zenith Labour Party who voted after INEC staff spent about 30 minutes to capture him through the BVAS system lamented that many voters would be disenfranchised as a result of the poor functioning of the machines.
He, however, commended the level of security provided for the election. Ozigbo had also asked INEC to extend the duration of the exercise owing to reported problems encountered by its staff in the use of BVAS. “We recognise the peculiarities in the election; what that means is that if we need to extend the voting time, so we don’t allow people who are eligible not to cast their vote, it would be unfortunate,” he said.
With the deluge of complaints, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Anambra State, Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji told journalists that the Commission would extend the voting time and allowed voting to continue till Sunday if necessary.
He added that the Commission had also deployed its technicians to polling units across the state to tackle the problem of the software glitches. He also said that the commission faced transportation challenges in some locations as a result of apprehension over insecurity. According to him, some of the transporters that were mobilised and had collected 50 per cent of their sign-on fee backed out at the last moment, leaving INEC’s ad-hoc staff stranded. He also said some of the trained ad-hoc staff backed out at the last moment.
However, in another briefing later on Saturday, the REC said the glitches experienced by the BVAS machine were substantially addressed and most of the voters on queue in areas where there were problems were able to exercise their franchise. “The report we got from our field officers and independent observers, convinced us that most voters were able to vote with the BVAS, following the extension of the voting period to 4 pm and our regulation that any voter on the queue at the time must be allowed to vote.”
A group, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law claimed that 70 per cent of voters who came out to be electronically captured to vote were not able to vote as a result of the failure of the accreditation device. Also, an election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa criticised the deployment and non-functionality of BVAS, saying it had received reports of the BVAS failure to authenticate voters’ fingerprints and photos even where voter’s details were confirmed on the voter’s register.
But the REC said INEC did not receive reports of any location where the sustained malfunction of the BVAS led to no election at all. “Results for polling units are already being uploaded in our IRev portal and registration area and the registration area collation has been progressing well,” said the REC.
Big Loss For Andy Uba, APC, Ngige
Like Soludo, two other leading candidates also won in their polling units. The PDP candidate scored 75 votes in his polling unit 010 Social Centre, Ward 005, of Aguata LGA, to beat his closest rival, Soludo, who got eight votes.
Also, Andy Uba defeated the PDP and APGA candidates in his polling unit. The APC candidate scored 80 votes while Soludo scored 10 votes.
However, the Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke, who defected to the APC, lost his Umueze Awozu, Enugwu-Ukwu Ward 3, Polling Unit 005, to APGA.
Andy Uba, who was governor of Anambra for some days in 2017 also failed in his bid to return to the state’s government house despite the massive defection of serving officers of APGA, including the deputy governor to APC ahead of the election.
With his loss, APC has also failed to expand its footprint in the Southeast where it is already the governing party in Ebonyi and Imo, two of the five states in the region.
APC gained Imo and Ebonyi states through a court order and defection respectively.
There were fears that APC is desperate to win the governorship election as part of the moves to expand its footprints ahead of the 2023 election.
Thus, there were wide allegations that the Federal Government may deploy its might in terms of security and monetary resources in the plot to foist Uba on Anambra.
The APC had also hinged his campaign on the need to bring Anambra State into the mainstream of national politics.
However, some chieftains of APC in Anambra, including Ngige did not support the candidacy of Uba because of the disagreement over the primary election that produced him until the last minute. For example, Ngige was not part of the campaign.
Uba’s loss of the election again demonstrated that the Southeast has remained impenetrable for APC at least through the ballot.
Setback For Peter Obi, PDP
Also, the loss by Ozigbo is a setback for members of PDP who are still rejoicing over the success of their National Convention.
Though the Southeast is believed to be the stronghold of the PDP, the party had suffered a reversal of fortune in the region where it now controls two of the five states. The party had lost two states – Ebonyi and Imo to APC after the 2019 general election.
So, victory in Anambra would have signified gradual recovery of ground for the PDP in its major stronghold and even boost chances of politicians of Igbo stock being considered for the 2023 presidential ticket of the party as some of them are already clamouring for.
This was unarguably why PDP chieftains led by former Governor Peter Obi supported Ozigbo, brazing security challenges to campaign for him earlier in the week in Awka, the State capital. Ozigbo is said to be the godson of former Governor Peter Obi who is believed to also have his eyes on the PDP’s presidential ticket.
Hence, the loss of Anambra is a blow to the bid by leaders PDP leaders to expand PDP to expand the footprints of their party and get more states on board as they launch the bid to take over power from the APC. Also, the status of Obi, who had also in 2017 failed in his bid to deliver Anambra to PDP as a chieftain of the party in Anambra will now be called into question.
Soludo’s Victory, Second Chance For APGA
On the contrary, Soludo’s victory has again solidified APGA’s 16 years of control of Anambra State. Analysts had expressed fears that the loss of the governorship election may throw the party into a crisis it may never recover from.
Thus, aside from his general promise to the people during the campaign which many Nigerians will be waiting to see how he actualizes them when he assumes office, analysts believe that the victory is also an opportunity to begin a process of rebuilding confidence among teeming members of APGA.
Many of the party members are disenchanted with Governor Willie Obiano as reflected in their mass defection before the election.
Also, the party was factionalized with two claimants to the governorship ticket before the Supreme Court affirmed the candidacy of Soludo.
Many party members, including Bianca, the widow of the late Biafra warlord, Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, blamed the mismanagement of affairs of the party by Obiano for the situation.
Indeed, Bianca had in a statement she issued 48 hours before the election, accused the governor of hijacking the structure of the party and running it like a cult in conjunction with his hirelings. Bianca who nevertheless predicted that Soludo would win the election also accused Obiano of poor performance with claims that most roads across communities in Anambra are in a bad state.
Thus with the victory, APGA leaders led by Soludo now have the opportunity to rebuild the party as a strong force in Anambra, the Southeast and probably, across the nation.