How prepared is INEC in ensuring a free and fair election in Anambra State?
The level of suspicion, naturally, is very high and given the time with which the election is also coming up, we will try to do our best in terms of processes leading to the election. The process has been on going and we are looking forward to the day. On the part of the commission, I believe that we have been able to do our best in terms of preparation for the election but you also know that during the process, a lot of other stakeholders are involved. We do expect that the other stakeholders will complete the work so that on February 6, we will be having an election that hopefully everybody will be proud of
What of logistics problem?
Logistic problem has been one of the problems that we take serious. Fortunately, Anambra doesn’t have difficult terrain. But let me give you an example. When you conduct election in an area with difficult terrain, you contend with a lot of problems, one of them is moving materials from one part of the state to the other because materials will have to be distributed publicly on the day of election. By the time you finished distribution and electoral officers have to travel upward of three, four hours to their respective location, a lot of time would have been wasted. People would have been at the poling booths, waiting from 8 o’clock in the morning till 12 or 1 o ‘clock. So, right now, what we have decided to do is to see how we can expedite actions particularly with the assistance of the security agencies. If we can expedite the distribution of materials even may be before the day of the election, so that by 8 o’clock in the morning, electoral officers would be at their polling booths with the electoral materials and voting can commence. These are some of the logistic problems that we contend with. But as I speak with you, the materials are already on ground in Anambra State, both sensitive and non-sensitive materials. So we are looking forward to a very pleasant outing on Saturday
What of the security problem. Recently, there were incidents of violence, thuggery and kidnapping?
It is not just Anambra, I think basically, it has to do with the level of awareness and our political attitude. Also, the state of our economy is responsible for some of the attitude of our politicians, not to mention of course, what people considered as faulty electoral process. So, it is not peculiar to Anambra State alone. It is just that, it is an issue that generally calls for a decision on our part as a people to do the right thing. When I keep talking about attitude, these are some of the things I have in mind, factors that allow violence to thrive in election. The attitude of electoral management body, the attitude of politicians themselves and a lot of other factors. Cumulatively, we are aware that some people are in possession of arms and ammunitions. My worry is that if those arms and ammunitions are unleashed on the people, I wonder who will be left to be governed at the end of the day. I do sincerely think that what we should do is allowing the process to run. Let us allow the process to evolve, let us allow the process to go on and I believe at the end of the day we will be able to have a credible election
You are from Anambra State and election is taking place in your State, what role would you play as an individual and INEC commissioner to ensure that the election in the state is credible?
I am from Anambra State and I am a commissioner, but that makes me an interested party and I do know that in law as an interested party, what you do is to detach yourself. We looked at it, I discussed it with my colleagues and we generally agreed that I should be left out of the processes leading to the election. I requested and they saw reasons and they agreed with me. I am from Anambra State and I am very familiar with all the candidates, so this makes me necessarily an interested party and as an interested party, there is no reason for me to be part of the process. Again, as I said before, the level of suspicion is very high and so it is important in order to preserve the neutrality of the process, at least on the part of the commission, that I stay completely away and that is why I have stayed completely away from all the processes leading to the election and I will not be there on the election day.
I have kept myself away from all the processes leading to the election and I will not be there on the election day, even as I am out, there are rumours here and there. The most important thing is that we have agreed that I should step down from the centre forces leading to the election. So, it makes it totally impossible for me to be able to contribute to the process and that is why I do say that what we need is attitudinal change, let the people understand that this is our state as it were and let the best candidate win, that will certainly be my wish for all of them.
If you look at the gladiators, each of them are eminently qualified for that exalted office and that is why it is going to be a very close contest. I don’t envy the voters in Anambra State because they have difficult choice to make. It is an interesting development and I tell you quite frankly, we are showcasing our best in terms of this election and it is interesting. Anyone of them who wins, the state will be the better for it. So, I do sincerely wish all of them well but I tell you, each one of them is eminently qualified for that exalted office.
Do you subscribe to the view that the election will be an indication of what we should expect in the 2011 general election?
It is a prelude to the 2011 elections and that is why we should be able to give our best in terms of logistic arrangement and general conduct of the election. There are lots of apprehension and generally, people are anxious to see what happens. I subscribe to that and I believe that we will be able to give our best.
On the issue of election collation, how will it be this time around?
Collation starts at the ward level. Results are announced at the polling booths, there will be collations of results from different polling boots at the ward level, then from the ward level to the local government level before the state level where the result will be announced. We have over 4,600 polling units in Anambra State. So, the practice prescribed by law has always been to announce the results at the polling booth and do the collation from the ward level from all the polling booths at the various wards and from wards to local government level.
How many people are eligible to vote in this election?
I am not going to give you the exact figure in terms of the number of voters we have in the register. You will recall that we have problems with the register in Anambra State leading to the sack of over 8 electoral officers in the state. I don’t have the exact figure of what is in the voters register for the purpose of the election but I think it is not a secret.
We learnt that some of the cleared candidates plan to step down at the last minute. What is the position of INEC on this?
Unfortunately, it is of no consequence really because the ballot papers have been printed and the election will proceed, whether you step down or not. But you really cannot stop politicians, they are bound to align, but it is generally of no consequence. It is not a question of whether we allow it or not, what is the consequence? Nothing.
So, it will be too late for somebody to step down now.
It depends on how you look at it, for the commission, it is of no consequence, it is up to the politicians to see what they want to make out of whatever stepping down they want to make.
Really, it is not about Anambra State, it is about the democratic process generally. There is a need for attitudinal change and if we do that, I believe we will meet our desire. What desire, the need for us to have credible election in Nigeria. The attitude of do or die politics, stock piling of arms should be done away with and let us make it possible because there are some of these attitude that put a lot of constraints on election management body.