Un­der­cur­rents of IPOB threats and Anam­bra poll

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - PANORAMA - From Lawrence Njoku (South­east Bureau Chief)

“It is be­lieved that the con­stant threat to the Anam­bra elec­tion and by ex­ten­sion, the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, were part of the rea­sons for the al­leged in­va­sion of the res­i­dence of Kanu dur­ing the mil­i­tary ex­er­cise as well as the pro­scrip­tion of IPOB by the South­east gov­er­nors and Igbo lead­er­ship. In­deed, the Anam­bra elec­tion and the fresh threat by IPOB have as­sumed dis­cus­sions in sev­eral quar­ters. At every road junc­tion where news­pa­pers are sold, peo­ple now gather freely to talk about the is­sue. The de­vel­op­ment is not only un­set­tling the elec­torate but also putting the elec­tion in jeop­ardy as many are ex­press­ing fears that there might be bloody con­fronta­tions af­ter all.

The threat against the bal­lot by mem­bers of the out­lawed In­dige­nous peo­ple of bi a fr a (Ip ob) in the satur­day gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion ina nam bra is not only an af­front against democ­racy but may af­ter all bean in­stru­ment in the hands of des­per­ate politi­cians to thwart the process

IT is ob­vi­ous that Anam­bra is ripe for gov­er­nor­ship elec­tion. The at­mos­phere in the state also bear cre­dence that this is elec­tion time in the state. How­ever, while ev­ery­thing is look­ing up to the elec­tion, how it could be achieved in the face of the plethora of threats and other sundry and sour feel­ings from cer­tain quar­ters has be­come the big­gest chal­lenge of stake­hold­ers in the state.

The elec­tion is be­ing con­tested by 36 can­di­dates drawn from dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Th­ese can­di­dates have toured the nooks and cran­nies of the state to can­vass for votes and show­case how much they could be used to turn the for­tunes of the state around if given the op­por­tu­nity. Since last week how­ever, th­ese ef­forts have come un­der se­ri­ous threats by ac­tiv­i­ties of cer­tain groups and in­di­vid­u­als, who ei­ther want the process stopped or call for its boy­cott by the elec­torate.

One of them, a hu­man rights lawyer, Jezie Eke­ji­uba, who dragged the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) to court over al­leged dis­obe­di­ence to a sub­sist­ing Court of Ap­peal or­der, is ask­ing that the elec­tion be stopped pend­ing the res­o­lu­tion of the mat­ter. Also the pro­scribed In­dige­nous Peo­ple of Bi­afra (IPOB) has threat­ened to deal with any­one found vot­ing on Satur­day. There were other ru­mours of clan­des­tine moves to de­rail the process by cer­tain power bro­kers in the state, who are said to be un­com­fort­able that al­low­ing it to hold, could jeop­ar­dize their po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness in­ter­ests among oth­ers.

Of all th­ese how­ever, the threat by the IPOB seems to be more wor­ri­some and catch­ing at­ten­tion and re­ac­tions of the pub­lic. This fol­lows the be­lieve by many that for the group, which went into obliv­ion in the wake of the re­cently con­cluded Op­er­a­tion Python Dance 11 that led to the flee­ing of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu to an un­known des­ti­na­tion, to have sud­denly res­ur­rected to protest the process, speaks vol­umes on what awaits the ex­er­cise.

The IPOB had or­ga­nized a protest march around Onit­sha axis last Fri­day, where it al­legedly threat­ened “death” on any mem­ber of the pub­lic who comes out on Satur­day for the pur­pose of vot­ing. Emma Pow­er­ful, the Me­dia and Pub­lic­ity Sec­re­tary of the group, had told re­porters af­ter their protest march that it was a demon­stra­tion to no­tify the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment that the group was alive and de­ter­mined to achieve Bi­afra.

“If you vote you will die. Don’t go out, stay in your house. If you vote on Novem­ber 18, you will die. We are not run­ning around for the zoo,” he was quoted to have said as the mem­bers sang while march­ing around the com­mer­cial town of Onit­sha, next to the River Niger.

He had con­tin­ued: “There will be no elec­tion. We will not par­tic­i­pate, we will not vote. Noth­ing con­cerns us with any elec­tion. We are for­mi­da­ble. We are in Onit­sha to tell the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to pro­duce Kanu. They should re­lease all the Bi­afrans in Nige­rian pris­ons. Any­body doubt­ing the resolve of IPOB un­der the supreme com­mand of Nnamdi Kanu is mis­taken. We will put Anam­bra State on lock­down on Novem­ber 18. This is a taste of what is to come. Nige­ria should be pre­pared.”

The threat is not com­ing for the first time; the IPOB had sev­er­ally threat­ened the com­ing elec­tion. In fact, a few months to the Op­er­a­tion Python Dance 11, its leader, Kanu had said in an in­ter­view that the only thing that could make the elec­tion hold was if the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment gave a date for Bi­afra ref­er­en­dum. He had said that boy­cotting the Anam­bra elec­tion was a pre­lude to what could hap­pen in the South­east in the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.

“Watch what will hap­pen; that elec­tion will not hold, not when I re­main the leader of the IPOB. We have done our sen­si­ti­za­tion and we will con­tinue with it. We don’t carry arms, we don’t force any­body; but I am con­vinced that the peo­ple will not vote be­cause they lis­ten to us, they also be­lieve in us and gov­ern­ment con­tinue with their pro­pa­ganda. We will know who is on ground on that day,” Kanu had said.

It is be­lieved that the con­stant threat to the Anam­bra elec­tion and by ex­ten­sion, the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, were part of the rea­sons for the al­leged in­va­sion of the res­i­dence of Kanu dur­ing the mil­i­tary ex­er­cise as well as the pro­scrip­tion of IPOB by the South­east gov­er­nors and Igbo lead­er­ship. In­deed, the Anam­bra elec­tion and the fresh threat by IPOB have as­sumed dis­cus­sions in sev­eral quar­ters. At every road junc­tion where news­pa­pers are sold, peo­ple now gather freely to talk about the is­sue. The de­vel­op­ment is not only un­set­tling the elec­torate but also putting the elec­tion in jeop­ardy as many are ex­press­ing fears that there might be bloody con­fronta­tions af­ter all.

Those sym­pa­thetic with the group in­sist that the elec­torate will not vote on Satur­day as a mark of sol­i­dar­ity with the as­pi­ra­tion for the re­al­iza­tion of the Re­pub­lic of Bi­afra, a quest which they be­lieved is achiev­able by civil dis­obe­di­ence and other meth­ods.

But there are those who be­lieve that IPOB has be­come a pro­pa­ganda tool and pa­per tiger, which has en­gaged more in talk­ing and threats than prac­ti­cal ac­tions. They in­sist that the threats are not real and far from be­ing achiev­able. They re­fer to Kanu’s “dis­ap­pear­ance” and in­abil­ity to con­tinue with the strug­gle af­ter his res­i­dence was al­legedly in­vaded and his in­abil­ity to prac­ti­cal­ize the “threat” to stop Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari from step­ping into the soil of South­east, say­ing that “Buhari has come, he has marched and slept in the South­east, what has hap­pened?” The pres­i­dent ar­rived Abaka­liki yes­ter­day on a work­ing visit to Ebonyi and he is ex­pected in Awka to­day to round up the cam­paigns of Tony Nwoye, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) can­di­date.

Mazi John Uka, who claims to be­long to the group, told The­guardian at Ed­in­burgh round­about, Enugu, where mem­bers of the group clus­tered around a news­pa­per stand that, “You will see what will hap­pen on Satur­day. If they (se­cu­rity agents) stop our mem­bers in the town, will they also stop them in the vil­lages? We have said there will be no elec­tion and there won’t be any. Let them con­tinue to waste their time and re­sources plan­ning an event that peo­ple will not par­tic­i­pate in.”

How­ever, Head of the Move­ment for the Ac­tu­al­iza­tion of Sov­er­eign State of Bi­afra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu, told The Guardian that the al­leged threat against the elec­tion was “purely an IPOB pro­gramme.” Dis­tanc­ing his group from the threat as well as in­sist­ing that the IPOB was mis­quoted, Madu stated: “The is­sue of boy­cott of Anam­bra elec­tion is an ini­tia­tive of IPOB and they are en­ti­tled to what­ever they want to do con­cern­ing the elec­tion to press for the re­lease of their mem­bers. But we be­lieve that the elec­tion will come and go and the ag­i­ta­tion for Bi­afra will con­tinue.

“But I also be­lieve that the IPOB was mis­quoted. I don’t be­lieve that IPOB should say that peo­ple in­clud­ing their mem­bers should die be­cause IPOB has mem­bers in al­most every po­lit­i­cal party par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Anam­bra elec­tion. It is true that all of them may not be­lieve in Bi­afra strug­gle for one or two rea­sons, but it is not enough to wish any­body dead. All I know is that elec­tions will come and go and those of us in the strug­gle will con­tinue un­til the task is re­al­ized. For us, we are not stop­ping any­body from vot­ing on Satur­day and we are not ask­ing peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate,” he stated.

A stake­holder, Chief Ugo Ofodile how­ever cau­tioned on a move that could de­rail the peace of the state, stress­ing that it was not in the in­ter­est of the peo­ple of the state for any­body to trun­cate the pace of democ­racy un­der what­ever guise.

“Anam­bra peo­ple are peace lov­ing. Enough con­scious­ness has been built over this elec­tion and the peo­ple are de­sirous and look­ing for­ward to the poll on Satur­day. I do not think that they will fall to this cheap pro­pa­ganda that they should not come and vote,” he ex­plained.

The Se­na­tor rep­re­sent­ing Anam­bra North, Stella Od­uah, while re­act­ing to the de­vel­op­ment, warned that the state risked be­ing de­clared a state of emer­gency should the peo­ple heed the call by the IPOB and urged the elec­torate to come out and ex­er­cise their fran­chise.

Ac­cord­ing to Od­uah who is also a for-

mer Min­is­ter of Avi­a­tion, “Our con­sti­tu­tion does not al­low for half-a-minute space be­tween the in­cum­bent ten­ure be­ing over and the next ten­ure. There­fore, if we fail to come out and cast our votes to have a new gov­er­nor, what will hap­pen is that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment will pro­vide an ad­min­is­tra­tor and de­clare a state of emer­gency.

“It means that democ­racy will elude us. The ad­min­is­tra­tor that would be gov­ern­ing us would not be whom we voted for or whom we de­sire; that is not what we want. There­fore, we must not al­low our­selves to be dis­en­fran­chised; we must make sure that we come out on Novem­ber 18th and vote.”

The lat­est threat by IPOB may have given cre­dence to the con­cern re­cently raised by for­mer Abia State gov­er­nor, Orji Uzo Kalu that the out­lawed group had thrived be­cause some politi­cians in the zone wanted to use the mem­bers to pros­e­cute and win elec­tions. The ob­ser­va­tion, which was not de­nied any­where, has man­i­fested in the cam­paigns of the gov­er­nor­ship can­di­dates as some have not openly con­demned their pro­scrip­tion but have shown their al­le­giance to the group.

The United Pro­gres­sives Party (UPP) can­di­date, Osita Chi­doka did not only visit and con­trib­ute to the re­lease of Kanu from prison, he also re­ceived the Bi­afra ag­i­ta­tor at his Obosi coun­try home. At the cam­paign tour that brought him to the Enugu Sports Club last week, he con­demned the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and South­east gov­er­nors for pro­scrib­ing the group.

In the same vein, the APC can­di­date, Nwoye picked Mr Dozie Iked­ife jnr, whose fa­ther, Dr Iked­ife, the for­mer Pres­i­den­tGen­eral of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is a known pro­moter and grand pa­tron of IPOB. The Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) can­di­date, Oseloka Obaze, also taunted Gov­er­nor

Wil­lie Obiano dur­ing the gov­er­nor­ship de­bate held on Sun­day, for al­low­ing his col­leagues pro­scribe the IPOB. Those close to pol­i­tics be­lieve that a ma­jor plank in the cam­paign strat­egy of some politi­cians was badly re­moved by the pro­scrip­tion and the quiet stand of the out­lawed group and that their ‘res­ur­rec­tion’ was needed to ad­vance their gu­ber­na­to­rial quest.

It is how­ever left to be seen how th­ese threats will im­part on Satur­day’s poll. How­ever, Po­lice have as­sured elec­torate of the state of their safety, ask­ing them to dis­re­gard the threat by the group as that which would “as usual amount to noth­ing.” Nkeiruka Nwode, Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer of the Anam­bra Com­mand, had as­sured that ad­e­quate se­cu­rity ar­range­ments has been made to en­sure pro­tec­tion of lives and prop­erty, even as she warned trou­ble mak­ers to stay away from the state.

“In the same vein, the APC can­di­date, Nwoye picked Mr Dozie Iked­ife jnr, whose fa­ther, Dr Iked­ife, the for­mer Pres­i­dent-gen­eral of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, is a known pro­moter and grand pa­tron of IPOB. The Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) can­di­date, Oseloka Obaze, also taunted Gov­er­nor Wil­lie Obiano dur­ing the gov­er­nor­ship de­bate held on Sun­day, for al­low­ing his col­leagues pro­scribe the IPOB. Those close to pol­i­tics be­lieve that a ma­jor plank in the cam­paign strat­egy of some politi­cians was badly re­moved by the pro­scrip­tion and the quiet stand of the out­lawed group and that their ‘res­ur­rec­tion’ was needed to ad­vance their gu­ber­na­to­rial quest.

IGP, Ibrahim Idris

INEC Chair­man, Mah­moud Yakubu

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