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BY: Egbuna Amuta.

 Notwithstanding the ongoing frenetic efforts by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ahead of the 2019 general elections many citizens have remained cynical on whether the polls would be conducted in a free and fair manner. This is also in spite of the hype in the activities of politicians and political parties interested in the coming polls. The fear of the skeptics is anchored on the fact that most elections conducted in Nigeria since 1959, had hardly been credible. 

Nontheless, it should equally be pointed out that the outcome of a few elections in the country in the past truly reflected the real decisions of the electorate. However, the new wave of alleged vote buying and falsification of election results in staggered and by-elections conducted recently by INEC in some states in Western and Northern Nigeria seem to have justified the feelings of pessimists who believe that the results of next year's general polls in the country are already pre-determined. Also, the seeming partiality and high handedness often displayed by certain statutory security and investigative agencies against perceived opponents of the federal government have further tended to lend credence to the pessimism of the skeptics.
However, this type of mindset and attitude was to a large extent debunked by the Anambra electorate during the gubernatorial election in the state on November 17, 2017. 

Buoyed by the good governance and impressive delivery of democracy dividends by the state government sponsored by the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Anambra voters enthusiastically and overwhelmingly re-elected Governor Willie Obiano. Despite very strong suspicions that some of his opponents planned to rig the poll, majority the Anambra electorate voted massively for him and stayed behind at the polling booths after casting their ballots and ensured that their votes actually counted. In spite of the allegations of vote buying most of the electorate bluntly refused to be compromised by the inducement of unscrupulous politicians and their agents. They voted in accordance with the dictates of their conscience and returned Governor Obiano who is generally believed to be a superlative performer. The incumbent Anambra helmsman, in an unparalleled manner, won in the entire twenty one local government areas of the state. 

As a matter of fact, it is possible for the Anambra experience to be replicated by the Nigerian electorate in the 2019 general elections. Nigerian voters can vote for candidates and political parties of their choice at the state and federal levels of the executive and legislative arms of government, and go ahead to uncompromisingly protect their mandates. There is therefore no need for any right thinking person to allow himself or herself to be a victim of skepticism about the possibility of free and fair polls in the country. This is more so in this era when Nigerians are politically conscious than ever before. Today, there is so much concern in the country about its economy, security and unity. Little wonder there are strident agitations across the federation for the restructuring of the country's political system. 

Nigerians are therefore more equipped than ever to resist electoral malpractice.  Besides, the presence of local and international election monitors and observers with sophisticated technology at their disposal it would not be easy for poll riggers to perpetrate their nefarious activities. Again, it is likely that there would not be a lot of compromised security operatives to assist unscrupulous politicians. This is because elections would take place simultaneously in all communities and the seven hundred and seventy four local government areas in the country, in addition to the thirty six states of Nigeria, plus the federal capital territory, Abuja. Under such scenario, electoral malpractices would not be easy for evil minded politicians and their collaborators. 

It should also be emphasised that electoral fraud are easily perpetrated when there is palpable disinterest or aparthy by eligible voters. Poll riggers usually take advantage of voters aparthy and nonchalance to commit fraud with impunity.

The onus is therefore on the Nigerian electorate to be optimistic, upbeat and vigilant about the 2019 general elections. This would enable them enthrone governments truly chosen by them at the state and federal levels of government in Nigeria#

EGBUNA AMUTA, a Political Analyst,  writes from Onitsha

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