2019 Elections in Ebonyi State – by Onyedikachi Udi ESQ

Elections are one of the canons of a democratic society. To many, it signifies a time of rebirth, rekindled hope and transition. A time to retain power or oust an unpopular incumbent from a political position and a popular candidate voted in. Youths look forward to attaining the legal age to join in making this choice. It has become the voice of the common man and a tool in making the peoples mandate shine. Without a free and fair election, democracy becomes merely a theoretical concept only fit to be studied and theoretically analysed. In societies where elections are characterizes by violence, gross electoral malpractice, government interference and money politics, democracy is suppressed.

The 2019 elections have come and gone and the winners sworn in but the irregularities that
characterized the process in Ebonyi state still loom in the heart of its residents and electorates.


Prior to the election there were grave concerns over the conduct and possible outcome, many believed that just like in previous years, it may be marred with violence. The campaign witnessed the annihilation of minor political parties and their candidates; they were almost unnoticed due to inadequate campaign and poor press coverage.

There was also the apprehension of whether the election will take place in war prone zones in the state and a growing concern over the safety of the persons living in these areas during the election. Weeks leading up to the election, there were reports of the attacks and disruptions of the All Progressive Congress(APC) rallies in Ebonyi, Onicha and Ohaozara local government Areas of the state; also about thirty houses were razed down at Izzi-west constituency in a politically inspired clash by political party members. It was however alleged that these attacks were occasioned to inspire fear in the heart of the electorates in the constituency and discourage them from voting. The streets were graced with torn campaign posters and acid bathed billboard photos.

There were rumours of planned attacks on the INEC offices around the state. This rumour prompted a massive deployment of law enforcement agents to the INEC offices around the state. This gave room for some unscrupulous law enforcement agents, who took advantage of the situation to bully innocent civilians who dare get close to the roads leading to these offices. The atmosphere further escalated tension in the already tensed environment.

As the days drew near, excitement once more filled the air as many travelled in and out of the state to participate in the elections. The excitement was however short-lived and election fever once more crept in after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the postponement of the election on ground of logistics challenge and sabotage on the commission’s efforts. The presidential election was shifted from the 16th day of February 2019 to the 23rd day of February 2019 while the governorship and state legislative elections were shifted from 2nd march 2019 to 9th march 2019. Once more the general spirit was downcast, the enthusiasm died and discouragement set in.

However in retrospect, the rescheduling of the elections proved to be a blessing and a curse to the peculiar Ebonyi polity. It was a blessing because it gave time for a dousing of the already very pent up and potentially explosive polity that preceded the postponement. Furthermore, security agencies had more time to plan and strategize against new hazards that had not been anticipated.

It was a curse because democratically, it discouraged many from coming out a second time to cast their votes in the elections. This was especially true for those who had travelled to their home polling units to exercise their franchise. It was very manifest in the very abysmal turnout of voters during the elections.


On the 22nd day of February 2019, being the eve of the presidential election, a politically
inspired attack was carried out on some innocent individuals in a drinking bar in Ndiegwu Amagu village of Ikwo local government Area of the state resulting in the death of two persons while about three persons were severely injured.

Voting commenced on each day at an average of about 9.40am, the level of voter turnout was abysmally low compared to previous years. A Factsheet on the elections in the state revealed that there were about 1,459,933 registered voters in the state, 1,299,043 collected their permanent voter’s card but only about thirty-five percent of these came out to vote.

There were isolated reports of violence in some polling stations from the stationary and roving observers of HRCRC. Notably also were reports of intimidation of the INEC ad hoc staff in different polling units in Afikpo, as well as reports of ballot box snatching in Okposi Umuagara. It was also reported that in Oriuzo, a school building where the voting materials were kept was set ablaze alongside the motorbikes belonging to individuals packed within the vicinity.

Youth participation was relegated to thuggery by political overlords; even if not as rampant as prior elections. Security agents and political thugs were used in the intimidation and harassment of voters; voters in many polling units also complained of being forced to thumb print ballot papers in the presence of law enforcement agents who were eager to please their preferred candidates while browbeating opposition party members into acquiescence.

Remarkably, there was widespread cases of vote buying and inducements particularly in polling units in Ohaukwu local government area of the state. Allegations of domestic observers influencing the election by coarsing voters to vote for their preferred candidates cropped up as well.

A major controversy of the Election process in Ebonyi is that in all the Local Governments Areas in the state except Abakaliki Local Government Area, there was a major discrepancy between the number of registered voters in the presidential election and governorship election.
Though tales of these vices trilled the air during the elections, it is also worthy to note there was peaceful election in different parts of the state.

In a bid to ensure peaceful election in the state, the HRCRC did the following:

  1. Implemented a Peace Electioneering Project funded by the Irish Aid and St Patrick’s Missionary Society geared towards training on Non-Violent Response to Conflict formajor electioneering stakeholders.
  2. Training for her branch members across the state on effective Election Observation and
  3. Advocacies to the Commissioner of Police, the Comptroller of Prisons, Traditional Rulers and Town hall meetings in each senatorial district to ensure a nonviolent free and fair election.
  4. Conducted post-election evaluation with civil society organizations with the view to
    determine the impact of its election sensitization project in the conduct of the election
    and collect data on other electoral issues.


  1. To curb bribery and vote buying, the people should be empowered economically because
    it is unlikely that one who is gainfully employed and whose standard of living is high can
    be bought out by unscrupulous politicians bent on winning at all cost.
  2. A bold and vibrant press can help to guarantee credible elections. There should be a factual and balanced reporting of all election related issue and effective early warning system put in place in areas prone to electoral violence.
  3. Surveillance and recording systems should be mounted on pulling units and collation
    centres to ensure a more transparent election.
  4. Politicians should be made to publicly denounce participating in any form of electoral violence. Thus, they should be held accountable by prosecution in violation of
    these oaths or fined heavily.
  5. Domestic and international election observers should be timeously deployed in other to
    effectively monitor elections.
  6. Political parties should respect their parties’ constitution and avoid undue influence on
    party members to vote for a particular candidate against their individual wishes.
  7. INEC needs to undergo continuous restructuring especially in areas of staffing and
    staff development; and also imbibe the culture of early training of ad hoc staff to ensure
    effective service.

Overall, there was a drastic decrease of violence in 2019 election in the state compared to previous electoral years but much is still needed to be done to attain a better electoral atmosphere; an atmosphere devoid of voter fatigue, election fraud, voter apathy, violence and other election related vices. In other to achieve this, we must be ready to accept positive electoral reforms, take back the real power from the few unruly politicians bent on forcing their will on the masses. We must be ready to hold each other accountable, and ensure that our vote counts while shunning all forms of violence and bribery.

2019 Elections in Ebonyi State – by Onyedikachi Udi ESQ

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