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Anambra 2021: Sit-At-Home Order Threatens Election’s Credibility As Candidates Failed To Condemn IPOB

Many civil society organisations have expressed worry over possible clashes between IPOB members and the police on election day.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to hold the governorship election in Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. The election will take place amid a threatening sit-at-home curfew announced by the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

The sit-at-home order is a protest against the arrest and detention of Nnamdi Kanu,  the IPOB leader by the Nigerian Government. 

The sit-at-home that has crippled the business and social life of the Southeast region started a few months ago – forcing communities, markets, schools, banks, motor parks, and even worship centres in  the region to stay at home on Mondays- or risked being attacked by members of the IPOB’s Eastern Security Network (ESN) who move around streets to ensure compliance.  

They frequently have confrontations with security operatives, often leading to fatalities. The enforcers have a history of attacking residents who defy the order either by killing them or destroying their businesses.

Though the Nigerian Government says it is ready to conduct a hitch free election with maximum security, the IPOB members had declared a one week sit-at-home protest from Nov. 5 to 10, a move many analysts believe could sabotage the conduct of the Saturday’s governorship election. As if to confirm its disdain for the election, IPOP said the protest would be relaxed on Sunday, Nov. 7, to allow people to go to church.

While some security and political analysts already urged INEC to dialogue with IPOB, the Commission ruled out the possibility of engaging the separatist group, insisting that the election would go on as planned despite the rising cases of killings and attacks in the region.

The development has, however, triggered worry amongst residents who told HumAngle that IPOB members are deadly and can go any length to hurt anyone who disobeys their order.

Candidates failed to condemn IPOB

HumAngle, however, observed that the three major candidates in the upcoming election, found it difficult to condemn the actions of IPOB militants during  the Arise News debate on Monday, Nov. 1. Analysts also believe that the three candidates missed the opportunity to address the core issues affecting the well-being of the people of the state. 

The candidates – Andy Uba of All Progressives Congress (APC), Chukwuma Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were selected out of the 18 that have been cleared for the election.

For the trio, they believe it is necessary for the government to dialogue with IPOB before, election despite being proscribed by the government.  

The candidate of PDP, Ozigbo, blamed the ruling APC at the federal level and APGA-led government in Anambra for indiscriminate killings and all forms of attack in the state.  

“In life, I have seen good men do wrong things, and I have seen wrong men do good things. So, it’s always good to get to the activities of any group or any person, and support what is good and condemn what’s bad. There are certain things IPOB does, through agitation and on things that happened, that I support. But when they get to some extreme, then I condemn,” he said.  

APC candidate, Andy Uba, on his part said “I believe in engagement. If you don’t engage them, how will you know what their problem is? I believe in engaging in dialogue, because their problem is work.”

The candidate of APGA, Soludo, said insecurity in Anambra “is politically motivated. There are some people who think that they gain a political advantage by creating a sense of fear and insecurity so that they will have voter suppression.”

“The agitation cannot be shut down with a gun. We need to have a dialogue, bring everyone to the table and discuss specific issues that are their agitations,” he said.

Sources within the three political parties told our reporter that the failure of the candidates to condemn IPOB was deliberate to not get a backlash from the militants who already threatened to ensure that elections would not be held.  

Sit-at-home threatens election’s credibility 

In its latest publication ahead of the election, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), had said activities of IPOB will lead to low voter turnout in Anambra and this will threaten the credibility of the election.  

“Despite the likelihood that elections in some form will be held in Anambra on 6 November, it is also likely that the context of insecurity, a measure of latent public support for IPOB’s cause, the heavy deployment of security forces, and the acrimonious political competition leading up to the poll will depress voter turnout, leading to an even higher level of voter apathy than has typically been witnessed in Anambra elections,” part of its statement read.  

CDD also noted that the fact that IPOB’s sit-at-home orders have, over the past three months, been greeted with a measure of public compliance particularly in Anambra  State, suggests that IPOB’s threats to lockdown the state during the election are not  mere bluster.

While the Nigerian police have announced the deployment of about 35,000 police personnel, as well as several senior police officials, CDD argued that “the possibility that the election will be held amid boycott will elevate the threat of election day clashes between IPOB members and the police, weakening the quality and credibility of the electoral outcome.”

As the election draws nearer,  Igbo Elders Consultative Forum on Tuesday asked the Nigerian Government to immediately demilitarise the Southeast and embrace dialogue in order to forestall any security threat to the governorship election. 

Will the election really hold amidst threat to lives and properties? This is the question that heaps around the neck of many Nigerians like ants surrounding cubes of sugar.  

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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