IDEAs Episode 92 issues in the Anambra Gubernatorial Election: interview with Cynthia Mbamalu

Episode 92 Blog – 29th October 2021

IDEAs issues in the Anambra Gubernatorial Election: interview with Cynthia Mbamalu

With just over a week to go before the Anambra State off-cycle governorship election, Ayo Obe interviewed Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programs at YIAGA Africa who is leading the organisation’s ‘Watching the Vote’ project in Anambra State.  Such an election clearly answers to Democracy, the ‘D’ in IDEAs, but what was Cynthia’s assessment of the Integrity of the electoral process: was the Independent National Electoral Commission prepared for the poll?  She referred to YIAGA’s Pre-Election Observation Report which raised certain concerns, including the failure of INEC to commence the collection of Permanent Voter Cards for the over 70,000 newly-registered Anambra State voters.  However, she noted that election stakeholders had continued to show determination to ensure credible and peaceful conduct of the election, and that both INEC and the Police in the state had given assurances of their readiness for the poll.

Mbamalu noted the serious security situation in the run-up to the election, the most well-known of which was the seven day ‘stay-at-home’ order by secessionist groups which would cover the period of the election, but there had also been an increase in the activities of cult members – a phenomenon that had been observed in the run-up to other off-cycle gubernatorial elections.  Against a background of reports of preparations for violence by the supporters of the main contenders, Cynthia addressed the question of Accountability for the security and safety of voters and poll workers.  She considered the impact that the combination of security threat and a government response of a heavy security blanket might have on voter turnout, particularly in view of the state’s history of low voter turnout, with only 22% having voted in the 2017 election, remarking that for the contending political parties and contestants, a low turnout suited them as it made manipulation of the election easier for those who were able to organise their own supporters in sufficient numbers to get them over the line first.

The Integrity of the security blanket thrown over the state was considered, remembering the last time a similarly heavy security presence was seen in Ekiti State in 2014 and was generally seen as designed to ensure the victory of the candidate of the then ruling party at the centre: while there could be no denying the security threat in Anambra 2021 – might similar motives be discerned if the security operatives failed to behave with impartiality and Integrity?

Listen to the programme and let us know what you think.  Are INEC and the Nigeria Police Force exuding an air of confidence that is reassuring to ordinary voters, or are they coming across as complacent?  Does a heavy security presence reassure the ordinary voter, or does it make all but the most committed and organised party supporters prefer to stay away from the polls in order to avoid being caught in any crossfire?  Should Nigeria set a minimum turnout for a valid poll to address this problem?

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