The incumbent governor of Nigeria’s southeastern Anambra state was on Sunday declared the winner of an election which voters and candidates said had been marred by widespread irregularities.
The polls on Saturday in one of Nigeria’s most politically turbulent
states are the first in a cycle of state and federal votes culminating in presidential elections due in April 2011.
Diplomats and investors hope Africa’s most populous nation can avoid a repeat of the chaos seen during the 2007 elections which brought President Umaru Yar’Adua to power, polls marred by widespread ballot-stuffing and voter intimidation.
But the signs from Anambra were not promising.
Voters complained their names were not on electoral rolls, while the main candidates — including even the winner — complained of irregularities.
“Peter Obi of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), having satisfied all requirements of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner,” chief electoral officer Josiah Uwazuronye announced at the INEC electoral commission headquarters in the state capital Awka.
Obi won 97,843 votes, beating ex-state governor Chris Ngige of the opposition Action Congress party with 60,240 votes.
Former central bank governor Chukwuma Soludo of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took 59,355 votes while ex-state governor Andy Uba of the Labour party polled 26,106 votes.
But voter turnout was extremely low, according to INEC figures. Just 301,232 of 1.84 million registered voters took part, a figure partly explained by so many names being missed off the electoral register.
Even Obi initially refused to vote, saying his own relatives were missing from the electoral list and that similar problems were being encountered across the state, but he later returned to the polling station to take part.
Checkpoints jointly manned by police and soldiers were withdrawn from the streets on Sunday and the state capital Awka and commercial hub Onitsha were calm, with many people in church, apparently relieved that there had been no unrest.
“It is to the great credit of the people here that the election was run peacefully yesterday. However, our visits to polling stations at a number of locations suggest that there were irregularities,” British Deputy High Commissioner Richard Powell told Reuters.
“At some stations there was late arrival of materials, some of the (electoral) registers appeared to be incomplete. I would say a lot of work would need to be done if next year’s election were to run smoothly and I hope that the Nigerian authorities would address this as a matter of urgency,” he said.
SOURCED FROM REUTERS