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Anambra Decides Today: Voter apathy, insecurity may throw up unpopular governor.

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FINALLY, the much awaited Anambra governorship election is here despite the uncertainties that trailed its preparations.

No fewer than 2.5 million registered voters are expected to decide the fate of the eighteen candidates whose names appear on the ballot paper, although many of the candidates could be classified as mere pretenders.

The greatest fear in the election is voter apathy which may be heightened by the threats of the unknown gunmen and the presence of military men in alomost all corners of the state. Going by what is on ground, an unpopular candidate may emerge as governor of the state if voters do not come out to discharge their franchise.

Insecurity, resulting in some killings in the south east caused so much tension before now. It was escalated by the inability of security men, especially the police, to protect citizens. Many policemen were even victims.

Mayhem reigned. Now security men, armed with heavy weapons are everywhere in Anambra. They appear so intimidating that voters may be frightened away from the polling booths.

In the past, voter apathy was always a major issue. For instance, In the November 2013 election, only 448,711 people voted out of 2.06 million registered voters, which was a mere 21.74 percent of the registered voters.

After that election, IPOB claimed credit for the low turnout, saying its activities made people to stay at home on Election Day.

A similar situation played out in 2017 when only 465,891 people out of 1,777,127 or 24% of the registered voters took part.

An international election observer, YIAGA Africa, which has deployed 250 election monitors tagged ‘Watching the vote’ to some polling units is also worried that voter apathy might seriously affect the eventual outcome of the election.

The organization, which has already set a situation room in the state said a situation where less than 25% of the registered voters come out to vote during elections in the state is unfortunate, adding that the political parties and their candidates have not been mobilizing their supporters adequately to participate in the election.

Signs that today’s election might experience even worse voter apathy started emerging early when, despite the call by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to the 138802 eligible voters who participated in the new or re-registration exercise in all the 21 local government areas to pick their voters’ card to enable them vote today, only very few did so, thereby indicating disinterest.

Another issue likely to influence today’s voter turnout is insecurity across the state which had frightened the people so much so that despite the fact that IPOB had said it was not against the conduct of the Anambra election, many people have chosen to stay at home.

Besides, many people also allege that the election has already been rigged and that their voting might not make any difference.

In fact, some people already trained by INEC as ad hoc staff are yet to decide whether they would still participate in the exercise in view of the security threats.

With INEC saying that each of the 5,720 polling units in the state would have at least four security personnel, many people fear that polling stations would be militarized, thereby discouraging people to come to their polling units.

The large number of security personnel, including the police and military, blaring sirens on the streets in the past two days and milling around the various communities, is scaring the people.

Recent killings in the state ahead of the election are not helping matters also as the fear is that the unknown gunmen might strike while voting is taking place.

Perhaps the most worrisome is the allegation by 17 out of the 18 political parties participating in the election that intelligence reports indicate that one of the political parties had connived with the electoral umpire to rig the election.

At a press conference in Awka, the Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, said the intelligence report had revealed that huge sums of money had been made available to some people who are strategically positioned in the conduct of the election.

Specifically, IPAC said it is worried that duplicate original result sheets have been clandestinely procured by some INEC staff with same serial numbers, including security code with the original copy to be used in the election.

“INEC must, to the satisfaction of all political parties participating in the election, investigate the complicity of its officials in the printing of fake result sheets intended to be used to falsify the result of the election to the advantage of one candidate,” IPAC advised.

However, the Commission has allayed the fears of the people, assuring that it is set to conduct free, fair and credible election today.

INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakub, at the stakeholders’ meeting in Awka urged people and groups to avoid spreading fake news.

He said: ”I want to assure all voters in Anambra State that in designing the sensitive materials for the election, the Commission has introduced additional visible and invisible security features, including different colour codes. Materials have also been customized by local government areas and polling units.

“Let me therefore warn those who may attempt to compromise the process that we have put in place sufficient safeguards to detect counterfeits.

We are also determined to prosecute perpetrators of electoral malpractice, including any election duty staff found to be complicit. The choice of the next Governor of Anambra State is in the hands of the eligible voters and their will must prevail.

“Anambra State will make history as the first governorship election in Nigeria in which the Commission will deploy the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) device. This new device replaces the Smart Card Reader (SCR) used in previous elections since 2015.

“We are satisfied with the pilot deployment of the BVAS in the Isoko South I State Constituency Bye-election in Delta State on 11th September 2021. The BVAS has the dual capacity for fingerprint and facial authentication of voters.

“This is to guard against voting by identity theft where one person uses another person’s Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) to vote using the incident form. With this development, the use of the incident form is abolished.

No voter without genuine PVC will vote. No voter who has not been successfully accredited electronically using the BVAS will vote.

“At the same time, the BVAS is also equipped with a camera. Therefore, it has the capacity to snap Polling Unit level result and upload same to the INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal so that citizens can view results as election is concluded in each polling unit.”

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