There are indications that despite the threat by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to lockdown Anambra State and other South-East states for five days, including the date of election, Anambra people are eager to participate in the election to elect a new governor.
While a number of people spoken to by NEWSMEN are keen on voting, some people believe that the threat may lead to voter apathy, but also insist that they are sure the threat will not stop the election from holding.
IPOB had last weekend, through its Media and Public Secretary, Emma Powerful declared a one week sit-at-home protest from November 5 to November 10, in all states of the South-East, to prevail on the Federal to release its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
A release by Powerful stated that, “Following the adjournment of our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s court case to 10th of November 2021, by the Federal High Court, Abuja, we the great movement and family of the Indigenous People of Biafra wish to inform Biafrans, friends of Biafra and lovers of freedom that IPOB will lock down Biafraland from 5th of November to 10th of November except Sunday, November 7th, a day our people worship the Almighty God if the Nigeria Government fails to release our leader unconditionally before 4th of November 2021.
“Our leader, onyendu Mazi Nnamdi must be released unconditionally on or before November 4, 2021 because he has not committed any offense known to any law. Failure to release our leader onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu on or before November 4, 2021, our one week Sit-At-Home begins on November 5, 2021 till November 10.”
The group continued that: “Although we quite understand the pains and adverse effects of this option on our people, we are compelled to take it to achieve a better purpose in the collective interest of Biafrans.
“We have taken time to analyze what transpired on October 21 when our Leader was arraigned in court and discovered that the federal government is not sincere and only wants to humiliate him and keep him perpetually in DSS custody to rot there.
“We all saw how lawyers, journalists, Igbo delegates and respected traditional rulers and other people who came from all around the world to witness his court case were restricted and denied access into the court premises by security agents who kept them outside under the scorching heat of the sun. What a humiliation and wickedness!
“We cannot accept that anymore. We can never allow our leader onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kano to be tried secretly and we can never also allow him to be tried under Sharia law under any guise. Nigeria must follow International laws in handling our leader.
“Unless the federal government releases him unconditionally before November 4, we shall sacrifice one week for him as a warning protest to convey to our oppressors that Nnamdi Kanu represents over 70 million Biafrans. He is innocent of all the charges preferred against him. As long as he is in detention our individual businesses do not matter so much because he is suffering for us all and we can’t abandon him.
“We seriously regret the inconveniences this may cause our people but it’s a necessary sacrifice we need to make until we have our full independence. Nobody resident in Biafra land is expected to flout this directive as doing so amounts to challenging the will of the people on the Biafra project.”
Although no mention of the Anambra governorship election was made in the release, there is a general belief that the group targets to disrupt the Anambra election, which would hold on Saturday, November 6.
A coalition of civil society organizations based in the South-East, under the umbrella of Coalition of Southeast Democracy and Human Rights Organizations (CSBDHROs) during an international press conference held in Enugu said the action of the separatist group was targeted at the Anambra election, which is billed for November 6.
Addressing NEWSMEN, the organizations said disrupting the Anambra election would not be of any benefit to the struggle embarked upon by IPOB, rather, it would aid emergency rule in Anambra State, which they said will not be to the advantage of Anambra people.
Chairman, Board of Trustees of International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Mr Emeka Umeagbalasi, who addressed journalists on behalf of other rights organizations, called on IPOB to rescind their decision, while also calling for the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
“We are calling on our brothers (IPOB) not to toe that line (disrupting election). When a group tells you that they will lockdown the South East from November 4 to November 10, and we know that Anambra has election on November 6, what does that tell you? The election is the target.
“We want to tell the IPOB people that nobody knows it all. We have been fighting their cause for a long time, because we know that what they are doing is within their fundamental human right. But we want to tell them that once in a while, they should make consultations.
“They should sometimes reach out to people like us. The people you see here are leaders of CSOs, and seminal thinkers in the South east, ideas are our currency. We implore them to come to us and exchange ideas once in a while because no one knows it all,” he said.
Meanwhile, NEWSMEN findings showed that the threat by IPOB may cause voter apathy, but not to the extent of stopping determined people from voting. Two residents of Okpoko community in Onitsha, Mr Vincent Eze and Mrs Virginia Uzo, who spoke to our correspondent on Wednesday, said they were ready to participate in the election.
Eze, a trader at Ndida Market said: “I live here in Okpoko, and my house is not very far from the polling station where I always vote, so I do not see going out to vote as being dangerous.”
Uzo on her part said: “I will go out to vote on election day. I have heard there will be a lot of security, but we are not counting on them for protection, but my confidence is that, even on sit at home days, we have always moved around and in this community. We know ourselves here, and when we have new faces that are coming to make trouble, we will know them. In this community, everybody knows the other person,” she said.
Admin Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Anambra, Mr Chima Duruaku, who spoke during a stakeholders’ meeting in Awka, said there were peculiarities about the forthcoming election. He said the insecurity in the South east would definitely affect the election, but praised the resilience of the commission to continue with the election and also the support of the federal government.
“Times are changing, and things are not the way they used to be. If we are conducting an election in Edo, we can use the Edo model, but the way things are today, you can not use the Edo model to conduct an election in Anambra. INEC must come to Anambra with the Anambra model.
“We (INEC) have been stretched to our limit throughout this election. We live in a time when even to transport non sensitive materials like generators, you have to send security men to go with the driver. Sometimes the drivers come back and tell you they will not go again if you don’t send the military with them. It is that bad.”
Reacting to how the threat by IPOB and the insecurity in the zone may affect the election, a candidate in the election, Dr Obiora Okonkwo of Zenith Labour Party who spoke to our correspondent, expressed optimism that the election will hold and successfully too.
He said, “Don’t forget that there has always been voter apathy in Anambra state, even when there were no threats. In the last election, just 230,000 people determined the winner by voting for Chief Willie Obiano, what that tells you is that this year, the winner of the election may score less than 150,000 votes. But the important thing is that a winner will emerge.
“So, this year, we are not going to witness too much turnout, but we are very confident that the election would hold. I am also very confident of winning the election. We know who our supporters are, and we know where to find the vote. I come from the Central senatorial zone, and I’m the only candidate from the zone, which has the highest number of votes in the state. So we know where the votes are, and whether apathy or not, we already know those who will vote for us,” he said.