Anambra election: Fear, doubts over November polls as Nigerian govt mobilizes against unknown gunmen

In less than one month, eligible voters in Anambra State will file out to elect a new Governor for the State. There have, however, been controversies over the election as many believe that the election is already threatened. This is because of the spate of violence in the state, which has for months remained sustained.

The first real doubt about the election holding first came in March 2021, when some unidentified gunmen stormed the home town of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Isuofia in Aguata LGA of Anambra State and attacked a gathering where he was speaking with young people about his vision for the state. Soludo is the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for next month’s election.

The gunmen came at a time when Soludo was still struggling as an aspirant to get the ticket of APGA. Even before the attack on Soludo, there have been sustained attacks on federal establishments, including Police Stations, Correctional Centers and burning of vehicles belonging to government establishments, including attack on INEC. The attack on Soludo, however, gave it a political coloration, leaving all with the question of whether the election would hold or not.

In the last few weeks, the level of insecurity in the State has become alarming. It came to the climax penultimate week when Dr. Chike Akunyili, the widower of the late former Minister of Information and former Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof. Dora Akunyili, was murdered in the most gruesome manner, along with eight others.

Before then, in Ajalli, Orumba North Local Government Area, a police station was attacked and two policemen killed. Also, the vehicle of a member of the House of Representatives and former PDP governorship aspirant, Hon. Chris Azubogu was attacked, and his driver killed.

The gunmen also set ablaze the offices of the Department of State Services (DSS) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Nnewi, Anambra State, leaving two people dead on their trail. Also set ablaze was the Nnewi country home of a Lagos-based chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Joe Igbokwe, and the home of another prominent son of Nnewi and former minister, Dr. Chu Okongwu, which was also invaded and burnt down.

In most of the incidents, eyewitnesses have pointed at the separatist group; Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), even though the group has been struggling to extricate itself from it. Those who have witnessed scenes of attack always say the heavily armed groups have always passed one message for their lucky victims who escaped alive to go and tell the concerned authorities that there will be no election in Anambra State.

Away from IPOB, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been in a war of words over who is responsible for the attacks in the State.

The APC had first accused APGA of not doing enough to stem the tide of insecurity in the state. Senator Andy Uba, the party’s governorship candidate, had accused Governor Willie Obiano of having a hand in the increasing violence in the State for the purpose of putting off the scheduled election.

Uba said with the huge monthly security vote collected by the governor and his wife, the security of the State ought to be better managed. Uba who spoke through the media director of his campaign organisation, Hon. Afam Ogene said: “Each time Gov Obiano clownishly adorns himself in military camouflage, does he do so for mere comic display?”

But in a swift response, APGA stated that by accusing Governor Willie Obiano of having a hand in the insecurity in the state, the APC was indirectly accusing President Muhammadu Buhari of ineptitude, since the president is the Chief Security Officer of the country.

The state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr C. Don Adinuba who also doubles as the Director of Media and Publicity of the Soludo Campaign organization, argued that the “Anambra APC indicts President Buhari anytime it comments gratuitously on a negative security development in the state. President Buhari, not Governor Willie Obiano, is the Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and head of all security agencies in the country. Security is on the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

“Each of the 36 state governors in the federation is merely the titular chief security officer of his state. No governor has control over the police force or the Department of State Services or the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in his state, let alone any of the Armed Forces. Even the Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG) is supervised by the state police command, like any other state vigilante service,” Adinuba explained.

As the brickbat continues, there have been arguments about whether there will be election in the state or not. Attorney General of the federation, Abubakar Malami reacting to this said the federal government was determined to ensure that elections hold, and that even if it means imposing an emergency rule in Anambra, it will not hesitate.

Malami has, howeve,r been roundly condemned for the statement, with many stating that he has an ulterior motive by making such an utterance, especially, being that he is a member of the APC campaign council in the state.

Governor Willie Obiano who visited President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue said: “I was warmly received today at the State House in Abuja by President Muhammadu Buhari. I reported the statement credited to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to him. The Minister had threatened that the federal government will impose a state of emergency on Anambra State over security challenges.

“The President assured me and Ndi Anambra that the federal government is not contemplating taking such drastic action. Rather, President Buhari said that the federal government will increase its support to security agencies operating in Anambra State to contain the challenges. Among other measures, the President said that there will be more booths on the ground”.

Obiano said that President Buhari frowned at those who use his name and that of the federal government to intimidate Anambra voters. “We also discussed the November 6th. 2021 Anambra gubernatorial election. President Buhari assured me that he will not support intimidation of the electorates in any form, and promised that the federal government will support INEC and other agencies connected with the election to ensure the conduct of a free, fair and credible Anambra gubernatorial elections”.

On the feasibility of elections holding in Anambra State, the federal government has responded by launching operation Golden Dawn, not only for Anambra State, but for the entire South east. DAILY POST confirms that there is a massive presence of the military and mobile police operatives in all corners of Anambra State.

Hon Emeka Aforka, a member of the House of Assembly, while reacting said: “Anambra has not recorded death above 15 persons since the new scales of violence in the state. For a state that has for the past 7 years enjoyed well-deserved reputation of being Nigeria’s safest and most peaceful state.

“Anambra has not recorded a fraction of casualties the nation has seen in places like Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Benue, Plateau, Yobe, Niger, Adamawa, Taraba, amongst others, where terrorists have killed several thousands of civilians and attacked military formations. The bandits operating in Northern part of the country have even brought down some sophisticated combat aircraft, were elections not held successfully in these states in 2019?

“Is the number of victims of the politically motivated violence in Anambra State anything near what the nation has seen even in such states as Imo and Ebonyi controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)? Why hasn’t Malami considered a state of emergency in these APC-controlled states? Anambra will hold its election, and it will be peaceful,” he declared.

Echoing same stand, A human rights Lawyer, Barr Kelechi Eze who spoke with DAILY POST said, “Let us assume that the insecurity continues, have there not been elections in other states in the North, even in the heat of terrorists attacks? I am very confident that elections will hold in Anambra. The state governor has said he is ready for the election, the APGA, APC and even PDP have also said same. So, is it people from other states as the governor has said that will come and destabilize what we are doing here?

“It is a one-state election, and so all focus would be here. I think the federal government can also mobilize to ensure that the state is better protected for the election.”

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