In Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria, political contests are usually fiercely fought through robust campaigns and substantial financial investments by public office aspirants, most of whom are richly endowed.
Unlike in many other parts of the country, political violence is not a common feature in electoral contests in the state, instead, contestants engage in litigation to have their way.
This may explain why election tribunals in Anambra State receive higher numbers of petitions after every election, while the regular courts continue to deal with pre-election matters long after the contests had ended.
The only politics related crises witnessed in Anambra was in July 2003 when a sitting governor was abducted. Also, in 2004 when strategic public assets, including the Government House Complex and Anambra State House of Assembly complex, were burnt down.
During the period, there was a contest among the politicians over the control of state resources irrespective of the fact that a government was in place.
Apart from the above incidents, electioneering and election-related contests in the state have remained peaceful.
However, a significant setback to the established culture emerged on Saturday when a peaceful programme, called, ‘Walk for Health,’ organised by Mr Valentine Ozigbo, an aspirant in the Nov. 16 state governorship election, was attacked by some unidentified persons.
Ozigbo had been organising in Awka, the state capital, for some time but took it to Nnewi on the day in an attempt to extend it to other parts of the state to sell his candidature.
Some citizens have condemned the attack and urged all aspirants in the election to ‘keep their dogs in chain.’
The people also asked the police to investigate the matter and bring the culprits to book.
The state government described the attack as irresponsible and an apparent deviation from the norm in Anambra State politics reputed for its high level of solidarity and social harmony.
In a statement, Mr C-Don Adinuba, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, said the government and people of Anambra State were worried about some politicians’ determination to throw the state into chaos.
Adinuba said “on Feb 5, 2021, an ominous event occurred in Anambra State. A pavilion set up by someone who wants to contest gubernatorial vote in the state, Ozigbo, was vandalised by thugs, with a stern warning to the politician not to ever visit Nnewi to campaign for public office.”
“The pavilion was not set up for a political campaign or rally but for a walk to keep fit by his supporters in the industrial town of Nnewi.”
The commissioner said Ozigbo’s opponents feared that the walk-for-life programme could be a subtle campaign for him to be known.
“If a mere subtle campaign by Ozigbo to create awareness about himself and his interest to participate in the PDP primaries in June could attract so much hostility, we can imagine the extent some desperate politicians can go to silence their opponents when the campaign for primaries starts formally,” Adinuba said
A social commentator, Mr Chima Christian, said political gangsterism was brewing in Anambra and must be condemned and nipped in the bud.
Christian said while the Anambra political space could be accused of many vices, violence was not one of them.
“We will only hope that this madness does not repeat itself, not in Nnewi or indeed any other part of Anambra.
“No one has ever slapped or bullied his way into Anambra’s seat of power, those who hope to govern the 21st century Anambra by the sheer brute force will learn the hard way,” he said.
Sen. Ifeanyi Ubah and Rep Chris Azubuogu, both aspirants in the election and indigenes of Nnewi, also condemned the attack and promised to assist in identifying those responsible and punishing them.
Ubah, representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the Senate, said the attack on Ozigbo was a deliberate attempt to ridicule Nnewi town by destabilisation agents.
Uba said in a statement signed by Kamen Ogbonna, head of his Media and Strategic Communication, promised to join efforts to ensure it did not reoccur.
“I condemn in totality this attack as well as the emerging plot by the perpetrators to ridicule the peace-loving people of Nnewi town who are renowned for their hospitality and peaceful disposition.
“I wish to sound it categorically clear to these agents of destabilisation that such actions are alien to Ndi Anambra and all parties contesting for gubernatorial primaries must observe the highest decorum in conduct and actions.
“I, therefore, call on the security agencies to, as a matter of urgency, fish out those responsible and bring them to book to unravel the real plot behind the violent act.
“Aspirants must eschew thuggery and internal rancour but rather go about the business of wooing their delegates in pursuit of party ticket peacefully because peace is the greatest panacea to the development of any state,” Uba said.
On his part, Azubogu, representing Ekwusigo/Nnewi North/ Nnewi South Federal constituency, expressed sympathy for Ozigbo over the incident.
Azubogu, a PDP member, in a statement released by Ikechukwu Onyia, his Media Officer, said the attack was barbaric more so when it was on a sports-related activity.
“My brother, Val, I just read on the media of the condemnable act, which in no way represents our party or our people.”
“I stand with you to ensure that the culprits are brought to book. Just to assure (you) of our regards,” Azubuogu said.
However, Chief Jude Emecheta, a politician, said the attack was an isolated case, adding that he was not worried because Anambra was not known for violent political campaigns or elections.
Emecheta said Anambra South district was sophisticated and cultured and that he had no fear that such an act would not repeat.
However, he advised politicians, especially aspirants, to avoid desperation as only one person would occupy a political office at a time, and only the one ordained by God would win.
Emecheta advised the youth not to allow themselves to be recruited as thugs but to interrogate the aspirants and candidates’ promises to know the one that offered them the opportunity for a better future.
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