It is not only Anambrarians that had a morbid fear of what might happen in Anambra on November six, the day of the governorship election. Other Nigerians, mindful of the escalating level of violence in the South East in the last few months, must have thought it would be a major miracle to conduct a free, fair and credible election in that state. Even though thousands of policemen, civil defence staff and soldiers had been shipped into the place with their intimidating implements of violence delivery, the fear still remained that the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) was capable of springing a violent surprise.
It had given a sit-at-home order which covered the period of the election, the aim of which was to make the election arrangement a nullity. It had earned for itself a terror reputation in the manner it had treated, without mercy, anybody who disobeyed its order in the past. No one who disobeyed its orders lived to tell his story if found out. So there was fear, uncertainty and tension in the air. You could cut them with a blunt knife. Many people wondered whether the election would hold as many ad hoc staff recruited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had thrown in the towel out of fear of the unknown.
Many people also wondered whether the huge contingent of security men was not brought to compromise the election process. Many other people wondered whether people will actually risk their lives by turning up to vote knowing that IPOB informants are probably looking out for those who would break the sit-at-home order. Mercifully, on the eve of the election IPOB announced that it had withdrawn the sit-at-home order and that people were free to go out and vote.
But there was still a huge level of uncertainty in the air and many voters were likely to choose the option of keeping out of harm’s way by staying at home instead of throwing themselves under the bus. From the figures released it is clear that there was a serious voter apathy. But the good thing is that the election was largely peaceful and violence-free. The credit for this must go to the security agents who appeared to act largely in a professional manner. There were only few untoward incidents reported during the election.
This is evidence that the security officials have apparently learnt their lessons and were fully aware that their steps were closely watched by observers, civil society activists, media men and women and other interested groups that were there to monitor the professionalism or otherwise of the security officials. Credit must also go to various influential groups in Anambra and Igboland who persuaded the IPOB fellows to rescind their order. These groups include the South East Governors’ Forum, religious and traditional leaders, prominent politicians and other well-meaning Nigerians.