IPOB moves to sabotage Anambra governorship election

Candidates For Anambra Governorship Election, Andy Uba (APC), Charles Soludo CFR (APGA), Valentine Chineto Ozigbo (PDP), and Ifeanyi Ubah (YPP): IPOB plots to sabotage the election

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

In a move obviously aimed at sabotaging the November 6 Anambra governorship election, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB on Saturday announced that it will lock down the south-east if Nnamdi Kanu, its leader was not released from detention by 4 November.

Justice Binta Nyako of Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had ordered the detention of Kanu in the custody of Department of State Services, DSS on Thursday after he pleaded not guilty to fresh 7-count charge bordering on alleged terrorism and treasonable felony slammed against him by the Federal Government.

His lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor also said he will challenge the competency of the new charges. Consequently, the court adjourned hearing of the case to 10 November.

Kanu Must Be Brought To Court

IPOB had earlier threatened to declare one month sit -at- home over the Southeast if Kanu was not brought to court for last Thursday’s trial.

The threat followed failure of the DSS to produce him in court on July 26 for continuation of his trial which has been stalled since November 2017 when he jumped bail and ran away from the country.

But Justice Nyako had directed that Kanu whose trial resumed about three days after he was repatriated to the country from Kenya in a special operation by the Nigerian government and Interpol on July 2021 must be present in court during the next hearing.

Igbo social cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other stakeholders in the Southeast had also ahead of the trial appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that Kanu was brought to court last Thursday.

Kanu’s lead counsel had also in a press conference held last Wednesday said people in the Southeast still obey the every Monday’s sit-at home order declared by the secessionist group to protest detention of Kanu was because they believed that the IPOB leader is dead.

He said, “We also wish to state that the current tension and regular Monday sit-at-home being observed by our people in the South East, despite the exercise being called off by our Client’s peaceful movement, is steadily gaining momentum because our people are yet to see and believe that our Client Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is still alive.

“This suspicion was further fueled by his non-production in Court on the 26th day of July 2021, for no tangible reason.”

DSS complied with the directive of the court as well as the appeals by various stakeholders by ensuring that Kanu was present in court last Thursday.

The photographs the leader of IPOB took with his team of lawyers in the courtroom were generously published and have been circulating in the social and mainstream media.

Indeed, former governor of Anambra State who also claimed to be the leader of the Igbo people in Abuja who was in court to witness last Thursday’s trial but was denied entry into the courtroom had predicted that the November 6 Anambra governorship election will be very peaceful with the reassuring public appearance of Kanu.

Sabotaging Anambra Election With Lockdown

But the hope was dashed in a statement by the proscribed separatist group signed by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, announcing that it will enforce fresh lockdown in the Southeast between November 5 and 10.

It added that the lockdown was in reaction to detention of its leader in DSS custody and other things that happened in court last Thursday.

“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 (IPOB), wish to inform Biafrans, friends of Biafra and lovers of freedom that IPOB will lock down Biafra land from 5th of November to 10th of November except Sunday, November 7th, a day our people worship the Almighty God, Chukwu Okike Abiama, if the Nigeria government fails to release our leader unconditionally before 4th of November 2021,” the statement read.

“Our leader, onyendu Mazi Nnamdi must be released unconditionally on or before November 4, 2021 because he has not committed any offence 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.

“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 analyse 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 the 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 Kanu 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.

“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is in the DSS dungeon today because of his passion for Biafra independence, and we must sacrifice all we can to ensure that he regains his freedom. He has sacrificed so much for us all, so we must be prepared to sacrifice little for him”.

Though the secessionist group said the lockdown will be over the entire Southeast, there is no doubt that its real target is the Anambra governorship election.

Going by the experience of its ongoing lockdown on Monday, IPOB will unarguably make the job of conducting the election difficult for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC with the one-week sit-at-home which it said will begins on November 5, a day before the poll.

Gunmen, suspected to be members of Eastern Security Network, ESN, the militant arm of the group have been enforcing the existing stay-at-home order with killings and destruction of property of those who violated the order.

This is despite the claim by the group that it has called off the stay- at-home order. The fear of the gunmen has thus effectively kept the people off the streets and businesses under lock in most parts of the Southeast every Monday.

With with its new lockdown commencing a day before the election, INEC may find it difficult to deploy logistics for the election while those recruited to serve as ad-hoc staff in the election may not even turn up for the job.

Also, most voters many not turn up at the polling units on the voting day and the group may have set the stage for the governorship election with the lowest turnout in Nigeria’s history.

Overwhelm Anambra With Security

But IPOB’s threat to sabotage Anambra election and indeed, ensure that no election hold in the Southeast until the organization of a referendum to decide if the people of the region want to remain in Nigeria or want their area to be carved into independent republic of Biafra is not new.

Before now, gunmen, suspected to be members of IPOB’s ESN had attacked and burned down facilities of INEC in various parts of Anambra State. Gunmen have also attacked campaign of political parties contesting in the Anambra election, in the process killing a couple of politicians.

The office of INEC in Awka, the state capital was attacked on May 23, while gunmen also attacked members of the APC during the party’s rally at Uruagu, Nnewi, leading to the death of a party chieftain, on September 26.

Also, a car belonging to Nelson Omenugha, the leader of Chukwuma Soludo campaign team was set ablaze in Nnobi, Idemili south LGA with three people killed some days later. On its part, INEC had expressed concern that the violent attacks may frustrate the election.

Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman recently said the commission is worried that the violent attacks in Anambra were aimed at stopping the governorship election .

He said while the commission has almost recovered from the destruction of some of its election materials and that if it again loses vital materials and facilities, the ongoing preparations will be adversely affected.

Yakubu also added that he is concerned about the safety of voters and its staff, which include members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), during the election.

In reaction to the spate of violence, the police said last week that it will deploy over 30, 000 police officers and three helicopters among others for the election. Also, Nigerian Army has said it will deploy its troops in nooks and crannies of Anambra during the election.

Adn during his meeting with service chiefs and other leaders of security operatives at Aso Rock presidential villa last Thursday, President Muhammadu Buhari said every measure necessary must be taken to ensure that the violent attacks did not frustrate Anambra governorship election.

National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno disclosed this while briefing journalists about the outcome of the security meeting the president had with service chiefs. He said the president gave the order due to the heightened security challenges in Anambra.

He said, “The president has directed that under no circumstances will anything be allowed to stop the elections from taking place successfully. The people have a right to vote and select their leader. No group or individual will be allowed to stimulate anarchy and chaos, leading to murderous activities.

“The president has made it very clear that the armed forces and all law enforcement agencies must make sure that the elections take place, even if it means overwhelming the entire environment with the presence of security agencies.

“There are so many implications for elections to be sabotaged by non-state actors. In the first place, we are in a democracy; secondly, it is important to note that if these non-state actors should succeed in destroying the potentials for orderly elections, then it is natural that other parts of the country would also want to copy this same situation,” he added.

But the problem is that the people of Anambra may just decide to stay at home in deference to the order of IPOB.