The Anambra electorate today trooped out en masse to choose the candidate who would steer the ship of their state for the next four years.
The election witnessed a large turnout of voters at most of the polling centres in the state despite a boycott order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
In the peak of its agitation in June this year, the secessionist IPOB under the leadership of Nnamdi Kanu had insisted that there would be no election in Anambra State unless the Federal Government called for a referendum in the South-East region of the country to allow the citizens of the region to decide whether they would remain part of Nigeria or whether they wanted a separate Republic of Biafra.
Kanu had also said the South-East would not participate in 2019 general election.
“There will be no senatorial, there will be no House of Reps, there will be no House of Assembly and there will be no councillorship elections in Biafra land if they (Federal Government) fail to call for a referendum,” he had said.
Kanu’s whereabouts has remained unknown since the clash between IPOB members and soldiers close to his family home in Abia State recently.
In his absence, remnants of IPOB continued to push for the boycott of the election, reiterating their threat to frustrate the gubernatorial in Anambra and warning prospective voters in the state not to participate in the exercise.
Just a few days to the election, a video clip had gone viral where a man could be heard saying that anybody who went out to vote “will die”.
The voice had threatened that if the Federal Government failed to produce Kanu, there would be no peace.
“Today, the 10th day of November, we are here to tell the people we are not afraid of the zoo,” the individual in the video clip said.
“We are not terrorists, IPOB is not terrorist, we are the Indigenous People of Biafra. As you can see, there will be no election. We are not going to vote. Nothing concerns us with election. We are not going to participate. As you can see, we are formidable…Come vote and die. If you vote, you will die,” the voice further said.
But the Anambra electorate seemed not to have taken the IPOB boycott threat seriously as they turned out in large numbers in most of the polling centres to cast their votes.
There were no visible signs of IPOB as at the time of filing in this report, even though some youths suspected to be members of the group were reported to have been sighted marching through some streets in Aguleri, Anambra East Local Government Area of the state.
The youths, who appeared menacing even though they bore no paraphernalia associated with the pro-Biafra agitators, did not disturb anybody. Residents, however, watched them cautiously.
Late arrival of materials, card reader malfunction cause apprehension, delay
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that voting started in some polling units in the state ahead of other units due to the late arrival of materials.
Though materials arrived at few minutes past 8am at Aguleri Ward 1 where Willie Obiano, the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), cast his vote and accreditation of voters and voting commenced on schedule, Obiano complained over the malfunctioning of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s card readers in many parts of the state.
Obiano, who was not able to use the card reader at his polling unit as the machine malfunctioned, cast his vote around 10am at Eri Primary School, Unit 004, Otuocha 1, Aguleri, before addressing his supporters and journalists.
At Umuchu Ward 1 in Aguata Local Government Area, Godwin Ezeemo, the governorship candidate of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), decried the late arrival of electoral materials as, according to him, INEC officials and electoral materials had yet to arrive at his polling unit in Igwebuike Civic Centre, Umuchu Ward 1, as at 9:50am.
Ezeemo, who was worried at the delays despite all the preparations by INEC, called on electoral umpire to extend the accreditation and voting time for the people of Umuchu Ward.
INEC officials and voting materials arrived at 8.20am at Nsugbe Ward 1, Ilo Abito Square, Unit 001, while accreditation and voting started at 9.30am. The ward has eight polling units.
Tony Nwoye, governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), cast his vote at about 12pmat Ilo Abito Square in Nsugbe Ward 1, Unit 2, before addressing journalists.
While commending INEC for ensuring that election materials arrived on time, Nwoye, however, accused the police of colluding with the APGA to rig the election.
Obiano accused of breaching Electoral Act
Meanwhile, Governor Obiano was accused of violating the Electoral Act after he addressed his supporters and journalists over the malfunctioning of the INEC card readers in many parts of the state.
Some activists accused Obiano of violating the Electoral Act, saying the governor’s address constituted a form of campaigning, which the law says must end 24 hours before voting.
“For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day. This refers to a registered political party or any person acting on its behalf during the 24 hours before polling day,” the Act reads in section 99 (1 and 2).
Abiola Akiyode, Transition Monitoring Group, condemned the governor’s action, describing it as a “temptation” the governor should have avoided.
“The most worrisome aspect (of this election) is that the governor came with a microphone to address the people. I think it is a sort of campaign. Since I have been observing, I have never seen any governor go to that extent to talk to people on election day. I think he should have avoided the temptation even if people are pushing him to do something”, she said.
Akiyode further alleged that the governor’s address was a form of campaign given its content and timing.
“What he spoke about is a sort of campaign. Saying that at the end of the day he would have cause to be happy. I think these are not things one should expect on election day,” she said.
Alleged secret buying of votes
Some party agents of one of the major political parties in the election were reported to have been secretly canvassing for votes and distributing various gift items to the voters.
In some polling units in Njikoka LGA, THE PUNCH reported that it observed party agents and supporters distributing cash and pairs of slippers to voters after ensuring that beneficiaries voted for their party.
Money was also allegedly distributed to voters at three polling units in Ukpo, Dunukofia LGA. Snacks were also given to voters.
ZEBULON AGOMUO & CHUKS OLUIGBO