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Newspapers, Columnist Commend INEC’s Handling of Anambra Governorship Election

Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC) National Commissioners, Mrs. Amina Zakari (left) and Alhaji Baba Shettima Arfo.

29th November, 2017

More national newspapers and columnists have joined President Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and several others in applauding the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) handling of the Anambra governorship election held on 18th November.

In an Editorial published on 29th November with the title, Commendable Efforts, and a rider – INEC, Others Deserve Praise For Ensuring Credible Election In Anambra, The Nation newspaper declared that all the reports released by local and international observers on the election affirmed that “the will of the people reflected in the result declared by INEC”. It described the feat as “an indication that the Commission has improved on the conduct of previous polls post-2015.”

It also noted: “While it has been pointed out that there were a few lapses, especially in terms of distribution of materials and arrival of polling officials at some units, there were no suggestions that certain areas were short-supplied to favour any particular party. All units eventually conducted the election and voters expressed their satisfaction. However, the number of card readers that malfunctioned showed that we are yet to master the technology. In some places where that happened, there was sufficient back-up and where that still proved unhelpful, the officials resorted to manual method of accreditation, with the concurrence of the party agents.

“The electoral commission showed that all the consultations and workshops held in conjunction with the participating political parties, non-governmental organisations and security agencies were fruitful. On the day, the security forces, especially the policemen, conducted themselves unusually with civility and decency, showing impartiality to all as attested to by all observers and participants. The political parties, too, deserve commendation as there were few cases of attempts at ballot-snatching.”

Similarly, in its editorial titled Lessons From The Anambra Gubernatorial Election, also published on 29th November, The Authority newspaper congratulated the Commission “for a job well done in the Anambra election.” It however urged INEC to improve on the electronic voting system in line with global best practices. It also wants the card reader machines enhanced. This is the second time the newspaper will commend the Commission in an editorial. In an earlier version published on 20th November, two days after the election, it said: “Kudos must of need go to INEC for the successful conduct of the election.”

Also, Chairman of The Sun’s Editorial Board, Mrs. Wale Sokunbi in her opinion article titled, INEC, Anambra Poll: A Good Outing published on 29th November, she wrote: “The Anambra poll was one in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) gave a good account of itself. It managed the entire logistics for the election in a manner that allowed for a seamless exercise. There was no need to either postpone the poll and the election was, mercifully, conclusive.  By Sunday morning, the day after the poll, many results had already trickled in and the direction the election was going was clear.

“The success of the Anambra election is good news for the country. It is an indication of what Nigerians can expect in the coming 2019 general elections. It is an indication that INEC can, indeed, deliver a seamless poll that will be conclusive and generally accepted as credible by the majority of the people and even international election monitors who monitored the exercise.

“INEC, in particular, deserves commendation for the selection of its ad hoc staff and result collation officials who handled the election. The ward collation officials were reportedly brought in from Calabar and highly respected professors were involved as collation officials. The politicians were not allowed to have a field day in the collation process, which led to the problems with some of the elections conducted by the electoral agency in the past. The conduct of the poll was such that even the losers have come out to congratulate Obiano and there is no serious attempt so far to challenge the result of the poll. Beyond the widespread acceptance of the poll result in the country, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) have validated the poll result. The two international organizations, alongside the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI), partnered with the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) on a project called Watching the Vote (WTV). They used what they described as a parallel vote tabulation methodology to compare the results they got with the results INEC came up with and declared that the INEC result is “consistent with the YIAGA WTV estimated range.” They, therefore urged Nigerians to have confidence in the result.”

She continued: “I congratulate the people Anambra, INEC, the police, the contestants and their supporters on the success of the election. Let INEC build on the success of this election in subsequent polls until elections are conducted in a seamless manner and without apprehension in the country. It is only then that Nigeria’s democracy can be said to have matured. Elections should not be a cause for fear and trepidation in the country. The electoral agency must always be on top of its game to ensure that our elections reflect the true will of the majority of the voters as has happened in the Anambra poll.”

The commendations followed similar views expressed by diverse stakeholders immediately after the election and were united in describing it as “credible, free, fair and transparent.”

Those who had earlier expressed satisfaction with the Commission’s handling of the election include the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Governor-elect, Willie Obiano, Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) among others.

The NLC, in a statement signed by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba described the election as “fair” and “a representation of the wishes of the electorate.” The statement reads in part: “We at the Nigeria Labour Congress wish to congratulate the people of Anambra State as well as commend INEC for the hugely successful election. The election, in spite of initial glitches, especially at its early stage, has been adjudged by not a few to be substantially peaceful, transparent, credible, fair and a representation of the wishes of the electorate.

“The outcome of this election has come as a pleasant surprise to APGA and non-APGA members, against the background of threats by IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra) to disrupt the election and fears in some quarters that there might be executive interference as in the days of yore when membership of the ruling party conferred automatic victory.

“We urge INEC to build on this success in subsequent elections as its credibility is key to the success or outcome of elections. INEC may wish to commence this process by early preparations as well as plugging identified loopholes in the Anambra election.”

To Fayose, the outcome was a sign that INEC had been listening to the cries of Nigerians. Speaking through his spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, Fayose said, “even though there were reports of malfunctioning of card readers, number of votes exceeding the number of accredited voters, and pockets of violence as well as buying of votes, the election was better than others conducted by INEC under the present government of the APC.”

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said: “I congratulate Governor Willy Obiano on his victory. But above all, I believe that the process matters more than the outcome. I commend the good people of Anambra state, INEC, security agencies, media, civil society organisations, elections monitors among others for making the election peaceful.”

The CNPP, in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Chief Willy Ezugwu declared: “We commend INEC for maintaining proven fairness and impartiality all through the process and the declaration of Chief Willie Obiano as the duly elected governor of the state.”

An obviously elated Chief Victor Umeh, APGA’s chief agent in the election also commended the Commission for conducting a credible election. His words: “There was tension that the results would be doctored. But today (19th November), all the local government results were the same as declared by INEC official. This is what we wish for the country – an electoral process where the people will choose their leaders by their votes. It’s a great day for politicians and the country.”