Anambra Gubernatorial Election
“Historic Low” Voter Turnout Partly Reflects Growing Lack of Confidence in the Electoral System
The much-awaited November 6 gubernatorial election in Anambra state has come and gone with a former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as winner. He secured 112, 229 votes (doubling the vote of his closet runner up, PDP candidate Ozigbo who had 53, 807 votes) and won 19 of the 21 local government areas of the state.
H.T Soweto (DSM Executive Committee)
This victory has come for Soludo after a previous failed attempt at the position in the year 2010. He defeated both the candidates of the APC (which is the national ruling party) and the PDP (the main bourgeois opposition in the country and his former party through which he contested in 2010). However the APGA, the political party through which he has come to power has been a ruling party in Anambra state for 16 years. Thus Soludo’s tenure is therefore going to be more or less a continuation of the past. This in a way is a manifestation of the saying: “the more things appear to change, the more they remain the same”.
Because of his education and technocratic background as CBN governor under the second term presidency of President Obasanjo, some believe his victory may mark a departure from the rule of the crude and corrupt politicians and that his regime will usher in economic progress and development. This illusion will soon be shattered.
Quite remarkably, the elections defeated all doomsday predictions. A major pre-election concern was that the elections would not hold or if it did, would be suffused in cataclysmic violence. This apprehension was due to the initial stance of the Biafra separatist group, Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which had declared “a sit-at-home order” to coincide with the election. But at the last minute, apparently due to pressure from the South East political and business elite, the IPOB withdrew this declaration thus paving the way for the elections to hold. Apparently elated by its “success”, INEC has dubbed the election “a great test for democracy”. However, as will be seen in the coming months, the fact that the election held “successfully” has not resolved any of the fundamental contradictions plaguing the State and the region.
Typical Election: Vote buying and violence
Despite the last minute retreat of IPOB which prevented large scale violence, there was nothing free or fair about the November 6 elections. The only thing is that given the avoidance of the doomsday expectation, any other violence or crises that broke out on that day is seen as not so important. Yet the election held in the same typical manner as previous elections.
Observers monitoring the election reported incidents of vote buying and failure of accreditation devices – Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), among others (ChannelsTV.com). Voting started late in many centres as materials arrived late. Irregularities and rigging were the order of the day. Channels TV reported that in Oba 1, in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, one of the ad-hoc staff “carted away 41 result sheets out of the 42 and that is why elections did not hold”. Similarly, in Ihiala local government, in spite of the deployment of 43, 000 police officers and hundreds of other security agents including soldiers, no elections took place on election day as INEC was unable to get election materials into the community due to violence. This necessitated a supplementary election on Tuesday November 9. Elsewhere, pockets of violence also broke out.
‘Historic low’ Voter Turnout
Out of 2,466,638 registered voters as announced by INEC, only 253, 388 voted in the elections. This translates to 10 per cent, that is, “one in every 10 registered voters in the State’s 21 local government areas consisting of 326 wards and 5, 720 polling units” (Premium Times, 10 Nov 2021). Premium Times, which before the elections had released a report showing that Anambra state has a history of low voter turnout, described the turnout in the November 6 and 13 gubernatorial elections as an “historic low”.
This low turnout is not simply a product of fear over the security situation in the South East even though this played a role. Rather, it reflects something more serious – a growing lack of trust and confidence by voters not just in the Anambra State but across Nigeria in the electoral and political system. For instance, in the 2013 and 2017 elections when there was no fear of insecurity, voters turnout in Anambra State was 25 percent and 21 percent respectively. Also, in the last two electoral cycles across Nigeria (i.e. 2015 and 2019 general elections) as well as off season elections, INEC has reported lower than 35 percent voters’ turnout.
In a way, a “civic rebellion”, as Premium Times dubbed it, against capitalist sham democracy is underway and this could be a harbinger of revolt and social revolution as more and more people, because of their experience of failed promises of capitalist politicians, come to the conclusion that real change would not come though the ballot.
Working Masses and Youth have to be Prepared for Struggle
Obviously, the people of Anambra state are right to heave a sigh of relief over the fact that the elections held “successfully”. No doubt the alternative could have been worse. However, Socialists must also warn that nothing fundamental would change for the better under the regime of Soludo unless workers, youth and poor masses of Anambra state are prepared to fight for their interests.
First, APGA has been in power for 16 years with little or nothing to show for it. This election means that APGA, despite its history of non-performance and the especially anti-poor character of the outgoing Willie Obiano regime, has managed to retain its rule for another four years. Whether or not this would mark a resurgence for the party in the region is yet to be seen.
The National Question could have also played a role in Soludo’s victory as many see APGA as representative of the Igbos’ aspiration for self-determination. Therefore, the election was more or less a referendum over the role of the Buhari APC government in brutally suppressing pro-Biafra agitation which culminated in the arrest and detention of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu and not necessarily an endorsement of either APGA or Soludo.
Soludo himself is a dye-in-the-wool advocate of neo-liberal capitalism. His regime as CBN governor between the year 2004 and 2009 saw him support and implement pro-capitalist reforms in the banking sector and the economy. Interestingly on 16 September 2019, Soludo was appointed by the President Muhammadu Buhari regime as a member of the newly formed 8-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC). His membership of APGA notwithstanding, this means he is as much responsible as other members of the cabinet for the economic crises, joblessness, high cost of living and mass poverty experienced under the Buhari regime.
Experience shows that the only way forward for workers, the youth and poor masses in Anambra State, the South East region as well as all over Nigeria is support for an alternative political party like the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) and struggle for the emergence and building of a mass workers party through which APGA, APC, PDP and all pro-capitalist parties can be kicked out of power. Only the enthronement of a workers and poor people’s government armed with Socialist policies and planning including public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers control and management alongside respect of democratic rights including the right to self-determination can satisfy the socio-economic and democratic desires of the oppressed working and toiling people all over Nigeria.