FREEPRESS – 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.
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 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 move, 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.
07:38AM: Presently at the RAC situated at Aguleri. They are distributing the election materials, SPO not in sight. #SnapAndSend #AnambraEast
[07:52, 11/18/2017] Emmanuel Muruako CDD: Gridlock on the road. People did not adhere to the rule of no movement with vehicles. #TeamIhiala
Setting up of poling unit at unit 004 ABAGANA WARD 2
Corpers, electoral materials still awaiting departure at 7.45 a.m. at CENTRAL SCHOOL ABAGANA. A corps member said they were waiting for their vehicles. Some other vehicles were already occupied with materials and corps members. but they were yet to move.
Idemili North is peaceful. Security presence is high.
As at 8:05 am at St Peters, Ogidi ward 1 to Holy Trinity Ogidi ward 2, nothing is happening in both places.
Corps members stranded at Idemili North LGA as drivers who are supposed to convey them refused to show up with their vehicles.
However, it was learnt that the materials have been moved to the RAC centre; while those to use the materials were left behind.
08.19AM Business going on at Awka etiti. Seems people ain’t ready for accreditation
08:17 AM: At Awka Etiti… A few people are at the market going on with their normal business.
Vegetables and other food stuffs are on display.
Vulcanizers are working and other food stuffs are on sale.
A police van is stationed just ahead and they are mingling like it is okay for the market to be half opened.
Materials and personnel have not arrived at any of the 3 polling units visited in Onitsha North LGA as of 7:30 am. Ado girls secondary school, Awka road Onitsha, New era secondary school Omagba phase1 and Prince memorial high school. Some civil defence staffs are stranded. Meanwhile, there is adequate security on the major roads but not enough inside the streets.
8:30am: Materials arrived early at Dennis Memorial Grammar School Onitsha, Ward1. It has 4 polling units… Voter registration has not commenced. Few voters are already at the unit.
The ever busy streets of main market Onitsha has turned to a football stadium as citizens who are indifferent about the election get themselves busy playing football.
At ward 11, Onitsha High school which also doubles as a RAC, materials are yet to be moved to the various polling units as at 8:30am when voting is supposed to have commenced.
08.36 AM: Voting started at eri primary school otuocha ward 1 Aguleri, polling unit 005
Arguments over the payment of feeding allowance created a scene at the Nkpor RAC in Idemili North LGA. The argument created delays so that at 8.30 am the materials were just about leaving the centre.
The corps members insisted that they would not depart for the day’s job if their feeding allowances were not paid.
A corps member told PREMIUM TIMES that the matter was later resolved and that the corps members would be paid at their units.
8.37am: Names of those will be able to vote at nkpor ward 1.
There is heavy military deployment at Oyeagu Abagana, an IPOB stronghold in Idemili North LGA heightening fears of low turn out in the area.
At 8.52 am at Polling Unit 2, Ward 12, Onitsha North. They are still preparing for the voting process.
09.04am: Two more pulling Unit, including Ibenato Central school unit to move from the Otolo RAC.
09.07am: Security personnels on ground @eri 1 004 otuocha 1
As at 09.14 am, there are 327 registered voters @ CPS Ward 001/002 Ubuluisi-uzo community in Ihiala LGA.
Accreditation and voting have commenced at Ward 1, polling unit 002, All Saints Primary School Onitsha, Onitsha North LGA. There is, however, low turn out of voters because the process was not started on time.
8:54am: There are many cases of verification failure in the ward 1, polling unit 002, 003, 004 at All Saints primary school Onitsha. Voters are complaining about the delays.
Meanwhile, some voters are complaining of complete restriction of movement at housing estate 33 Onitsha.
“The army are conducting a thorough stop and search, they even asked people to go back in some case, I just managed to come out”, Ifeanyi Okoro, a voter, said.
At 8:33am, at Onitsha south, Ward 12 polling unit located at federal housing, the electoral officers are setting up the polling unit.
At 8.49am at the RAC in Otolo Nnewi, Corps members expressed reservations about going for the elections without security operatives in their vehicles to escort them.
Card reader not working at Bishop Patterson Junior Seminary Mbosi Ward 20, Polling unit 004. Incidence form is being used.
At Ward 008, Odata central school 11. Uzor Akwa. Voting started at 9:20. Voters are complaining that a second polling unit meant to be there, PU 004, is absent.
A voter was causing trouble. Harassing the INEC officials. A security official stepped in.
There are a total 752 voters on the register of the polling unit.
Although election is supposed to commence at 8 a.m., most of the poling units visited at Idemili north were yet to start the voting proper as at the time of filing this report (9.15am).
The situation has been blamed on logistic problems and poor arrangements by INEC.
09.23am: People still waiting for election materials at idemili north ogidi ward 2
09.23am: Emejulue /Ajasa market Onitsha. People buying and selling
09:33am: At ward 001 003, accreditation has started fully at Ihiala LGA.
09.27am: At otolo nnewi ward 2 Enem hall…The election materials just arrived now..the environment is serien..people are waiting
09.28am: Inec officials arriving at polling station.Ogidi ward 1 … Idemili team reporting.#snapandsend#
09.30am The situation of the card reader being explained to an Inec superior @eri 1 004 otuocha1 #snapandsend
09.38am: Onitsha North LGA, Ward 11, PU 009 have not started accreditation and voting
09:39am Onitsha North LGA Onitsha sports club, Ward 11, PU 012 Have started accreditation and voting
09:46am Onitsha North LGA, Iweobi Open space Ward11, PU 013 have started accreditation and voting. They started around 9am and the smart card reader and everything is working perfectly..
9:39am: At anglican girls Uruagu Nnewi (super rac) some inec adhoc staff refusing to leave for their various PUs because of money issues #snapandsend teamnnewi
The man on brown native was just arrested for impersonation of two PVC. He claimed it belongs to a friend who is on his way @ ihiala LGA Ubuluisiozor ward 001
09:52am: There is a problem between Inec media and inec officials @St augustine church#Anambra East.
The inec officials and some people are shouting at the media for snapping and intruding without their permission.
The Inec media are arguing that they dont have to power because they are all from Inec.
09.53AM: Corpers fighting over election materials…..Guess there is lack of materials here….. Ogidi ward 1..idemili team reporting.
09.56am: Governor just arrived @ eri primary sch 004 otuocha 1
Osita Chidoka, the UPP candidate, arrived his polling unit 030 at Central School 3 at 9.55am, but the officials at the unit just started setting up.
Voting began a little behind schedule at about 10 am at Enem ward, Abada junction polling station in Nnewi visited by Premium Times.
But most of the voters were seen milling around obviously waiting for party officials to share money to them before they vote.
They ignored pleas from electoral officers to go and vote and were seen chatting.
But at Ihialla Local Government, a mixup by INEC officials seems to have delayed the commencement of voting.
An electoral observer told our correspondent that voters refused to vote because electoral officers mixed up the electoral materials.
According to him, in some polling stations where there are supposed to be about two or three polling units, materials for just one polling unit were provided.
At Idemili North, Amaugochukwu Hall 1, Watching the Vote by YIAGA, an NGO, reports that “accreditation and voting was disrupted by two unknown gentlemen. INECofficials scampered for safety with the ballot papers but returned later to continue with the voting. Upon return they discovered the card reader and ballot box have been taken away. Accreditation and voting are now on hold.”
The UPP candidate, Osita Chidoka, voted at 10.15 a.m. at his polling unit at Central School Obosi.
The UPP candidate Osita Chidoka voting at 10.15am at his polling unit at Central School Obosi
10:06 Manual accreditation going on @PU 003 Ubuluisiozor ihiala LGA
10.07am: Governor Obiano leaving the polling unit @ eri primary sch 004 otuocha ward 1#snapandsend
10.19am: Voting and accreditation in progress @ CPS 1 ward 003. Voters turned out enmass to exercise their franchise. The PO, APO’s and all INEC official are working happily