12th November , 2021
With the Anambra State off-cycle gubernatorial election now concluded, IDEAs radio returned to examine the IDEAs issues that were exposed as Ayo Obe interviewed Ene Obi, the Convener of the Civil Society Situation Room (CSSR), a coalition of over 70 civil society organisations, which was fully on the ground before and during the election.
Of course an election is an essential part of Democracy, the ‘D’ in IDEAs, but what was Ene’s view of the Integrity of the process. Ayo noted that while there had been so a great deal of focus on the security situation and the resulting security blanket over Anambra State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) appeared to have taken its eye off the ball as regards the logistics of the election.
The CSSR Convener agreed that the security threat from separatist groups and cultists or others using violence for the different political parties had had a bad effect on voter turnout, which was barely 10% of registered voters. She said that the in the run-up to the election the coalition had devoted much of its effort to persuading voters to come out, putting out radio jingles in Igbo, Pidgin and English.
Ene confirmed that there had been serious logistical problems, as poll workers arrived late, while INEC’s Bi-Modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) failed to work efficiently or at all, and this had led to lengthy delays on election day. She said that this was due to both the failure of ad hoc staff who had been trained in the use of the devices to report for duty because of the security threat, and the failure to properly calibrate the BVAS devices. However, these difficulties had been resolved although it meant that voting carried on much later than intended. The Situation Room Convener also noted that for the supplementary election at Ihiala on Tuesday 9th November, the BVAS devices had worked very efficiently. Although INEC would definitely be expected to do much better in coming off-cycle elections, on the whole, the election had met the Integrity challenge. Ene also confirmed that results declared at polling units were directly transmitted to INEC at Abuja and were being uploaded to its website. She felt that this had implications for the whole collation process.
Ene said that Civil Society Election Observers had witnessed several instances of vote buying right at polling stations: while some were discreet, others were done openly in front of police officers and other security agents attached to polling units, yet no arrests had been made. While this cast the Ethics of not only those involved in vote buying, but also the law enforcement officers into question, Ene was happy that the group’s Observers had been able to capture an instance where voters demonstrated their own commitment to upholding Ethics and Integrity when they rejected attempts to buy their votes and those offering money were berated by a woman voter.
Let us know what you think. Does the successful conclusion of the Anambra State governorship election show that the integrity of the electoral process in Nigeria is improving, or are you concerned that INEC barely managed to cope with a turnout of only 10%? Indeed, with such a low turnout, the question of whether Nigeria should set a minimum turnout for elections is still a live issue: what are your views?