By Tony Icheku
Former Governor of Anambra State, Dr. Chimwoke Mbadinuju has joined the controversy trailing the February 6, 2010 Anambra State governorship election, waving it off as “an exercise not worth the effort” Summing up after a critical review of the elections, he predicted setback for Nigeria’s democracy if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as presently constituted is allowed to get away with its deficiencies and repeat what it did in that election in the 2011 General Elections.
Speaking in Abuja, Mbadinuju observed that INEC failed to live up to expectations of Nigerians who hoped Anambra’s election would be a test case for the Commission to perfect its act ahead 2011 General Election. He contends that despite that apparent facade of calm during the elections, several controversial issues which would need judicial interpretation to resolve were thrown up, not least the disenfranchisement of over 75% of the voting populace. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: what is your position on the outcome of the February 6, governorship election in Anambra State?
First, before the election, there was a court order. The Federal High Court, Lagos ruled that the election be cancelled and gave constitutional reasons to support their ruling. According the court, the constitution provides that the Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who makes decision for the Commission, should be 13, but four can form a quorum. Unfortunately, only three made decisions concerning the Anambra election and the court ruled it foul.
The constitution said four constitutes a quorum, but they were only three, it therefore ruled that the election should be cancelled. But INEC chairman decided to go ahead, so anybody who decides to go to court to challenge relying on the court order to cancel the election which was disobeyed may have a case.
“Secondly, the Chris Ngige camp is saying that Peter Obi was declared winner in error because he did not meet the constitutional provision of 25% in two-third of the local government areas (LGAs). There are 21 LGAs in Anambra State and two-third is 14. They are saying that he did not get one-quarter of the votes, that is 25% in 14 LGAs, but the APGA people are claiming that they got the spread required, but it is the court or tribunal that is going to look at this and say this is what it should be.
Thirdly, and I think the most important of all the issues is the disenfranchisement of so many people who had their voters card. Out of 1.8 million registered voters, only 300,000 more or less voted, that is not democracy. If these people choose not to vote, it’s a different thing, but these people came to the polling booths where their names were supposed to be, but their names were not there, but strange names were found in the register instead, strangers, people who live outside the state. It is not fair, that is not democracy.
Watching the scene from Anambra State, it looked quiet, no shooting, no killing, but when you look at the nitty-gritty of it all, it is not worth the exercise, that is the general feeling. People have been saying that whatever happens in the Anambra election would give a clue of what would happen in the General Election of 2011. If what happened in Anambra happens in the whole country in 2011, then we know that there will be no election.
Remember how many police they said they sent to Anambra State? 23,000 or thereabout? There was a good number of police presence in one State, in 2011 you will be dealing with 36 states, how many police do we have to cover every state? And do we really need that number of police? In addition, the Army was there too, there was Civil Defense, vigilante and all sorts of security people. When will we overgrow these things? In Ghana, there was no policeman on the street the day they had their general election. Why should always repeat the same experience and we say we are learning and yet we learn nothing. Chairman Iwu should sit up, he is a man who has paid his dues, but he should sit up.
Q: Do you agree with suggestions that Prof. Maurice Iwu should be removed?
Does he want to continue? That is what we should ask him if you say people wants him to be removed. His tenure ends in May, does it not? And President Yar’Adua does not like to extend any person’s tenure, he has not done it even once. And now we are hearing rumors that the Senate wants the General Elections to be held in November this year, so a new person coming in June, will he have enough time? If Iwu have a enough time, the tendency would be half bread is better than none, so go ahead (laughs).
Q: You were present at a forum of Anambra PDP stakeholders who are trying to broker peace in the party, but members of the party in the National Assembly were absent. Why?
I do not like post-mortems in most of the things I do, I want to do my own things very well and get results. Once you fail and begin to do post-mortems, that is neither here not there. PDP knew that they were faced with difficulties from the start: the emergence of Soludo as candidate and the number of aspirants, 47 persons that collected forms for the race, paid N5 million and another N10,000 for every voter in the ward and things like that. It was unprecedented and people were already agitated and disgusted before the election began. But one thing is that Soludo remained optimistic from the beginning to the end. I like optimism, but it must be based on something, if it is not based on something it becomes naivety. Was he aware he was not standing on a solid ground? At one time, he was quoted as saying that because he passed all his exams at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, that this one of governorship election, he has already scaled through. You don’t talk to people like that. Politicians have different tongues, you must get people to vote for you even if you have to lie on the ground, there are people you must visit, there are those you must call on phone, there are all sorts of network you must use to get majority of the voters. I wish he has seen me in my campaign of 1998/1999, people throng out to hear me, even as governor. You should carry people along. You have to play politics, at one time, I told them that in my position as governor that when I talk you better know what I am saying because I can talk as governor and talk as politician. So you get yourself extricated from a difficult position, so humor is basic.
What we did at Transcorp Hilton on Monday night was post-mortem and I made it clear that PDP as a party made mistakes since 2003. It was the former chairman of Police Service Commission, Simon Okeke who pointed out that since the party stopped my second term aspiration in 2003 that there has never been any peace in the PDP. If I was allowed to go for a second term according to the existing gentleman’s agreement in the PDP that every PDP governor will go for second term, if I had a second term, at the end of it I would hand over to another PDP person, there would have been no way any other party would come into power in Anambra. But because I was chased out as it were because they wanted to make a chance for somebody else.
Q: In effect you are saying that PDP is the cause of its own problem?
It was caused exactly by PDP, and I quoted from the Bible, from Revelation 2.5: “Remember from whence thou has fallen, go back and do your first work” In other words, you were doing something proper, but at a time, you failed, so the Bible said remember from that point where you failed. Go back, it does not mean keep going. God does not build on the foundation of injustice, whenever there is injustice, God does not build on it. He would allow you to go back, correct yourself, which is not what PDP has done in Anambra State, and they are expecting good result and praying that God will help them, God will not, and He has not. I made it clear to them, that we should tell ourselves the truth, we have failed and we have fallen. We must remember at the point where we failed and go back there, and pick it up, then God will be with us, otherwise we will keep failing. We have scheduled another meeting for February 27 in Awka.
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