2023: Uncertainty in South-East as politicians come under gunmen attack. There is growing concern that the democratic process in the South East region of Nigeria may be interrupted as election campaigns get under way.
This comes after a recent wave of unrest in the area, mainly by those who pose as unidentified gunmen and separatists.
The senator who represents the Anambra South Senatorial Zone, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, was attacked during the past two weeks, upsetting the tranquility of Anambra State. After attending a ceremony, Ubah was traveling in his convoy to his hometown of Nnewi when, at around 7 o’clock that Sunday evening, he was ambushed near the Nkwo Enugwu-Ukwu intersection.
A politician would not be assaulted in the State for the first time. Politicians have really been attacked throughout the whole South Eastern zone, with some of them dying as a result, while others have been abducted and then freed after being paid a ransom.
Some of people who have fallen victim include Mr. Obiora Agbasimalo, the Labour Party’s candidate for governor of Anambra State, who has been missing since his kidnapping just before the State’s gubernatorial election in November 2021. Prior to the election, Hon. Chris Azubogu, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor, was also assaulted, and several of the vehicles in his convoy were destroyed. Dr. Chime Akunyili, the late former information minister’s spouse and the Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Dora Akunyili, was also assassinated last year after being mistaken for a politician.
In Imo State, the mansions of the State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the Ohanaeze President General, Amb. George Obiozor, and senior PDP chieftain and former presidential adviser Ahmed Gulak were assaulted and destroyed. The attacks have persisted despite several attempts by the State administrations, and in Anambra too, a politician, Hon. Okey Okoye, and his assistant, Mr. Cyril Chiegboka, were abducted and killed. Additionally, former politicians have been abducted; one of them had a handicap and was later decapitated.
The Anambra State 2021 gubernatorial election, which was conducted in November, was nearly cut short because to the extreme levels of insecurity there. Even though it was upheld, certain areas of the state were prohibited from campaigning.
Attacks have also occurred in Ebonyi, Abia, and Enugu, among other states. Unknown gunmen recently attacked a Labour Party gathering in Enugu State’s Awgu Local Government Area.
There are worries that if it persists, the general election in 2023 may not take place in the South East, but various political analysts who spoke with DAILY POST had different perspectives on the potential that instability would prevent elections in the region from taking place.
There is nothing like an election not taking place in the South East; not even IPOB or anybody else can stop it, according to Mr. Emeka Ejiofor, a lawyer who talked to our correspondent. I am aware that if they are successful, they would reduce the number of potential votes in the zone and favor other candidates in other regions of Nigeria.
“You must comprehend what I mean; the only effect of the insecurity in the zone will be that either INEC staff are scared to visit certain locations in the zone due to insecurity, or they are able to visit such locations and ultimately fail to see voters, who will also not show up due to the same insecurity, and that would be regarded as an election having taken place. I believe this is the reason why insecurity in the South East is supported from outside the region. This is due to IPOB’s denial that they are involved, which raises the question, “Who are the individuals doing it?,” as we all assume IPOB to be the source of this vulnerability.
According to a different respondent, Mr. Christian China, a political analyst, the south-eastern region of the country was not exempt from the wave of violence that was sweeping the nation. As a result, elections in the region cannot be halted, unless one considers stopping elections nationwide because insecurity is pervasive throughout the nation.
He declared: “The State’s ability to safeguard its citizens has been gradually deteriorating in Nigeria. This has many different forms in every location, especially the southeast. Nigeria has reached a point where it is now uncertain if elections will be conducted in 2023. The fact that Nigerians, even policymakers, have these worries tells you all you need to know about the dreadful security scenario we found ourselves in.
“There are armed non-state players in the Southeast who have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with established politics. These newly formed armed organizations are motivated to attack the politicians they have repeatedly charged with undermining their separatist agitations, and they are tactically confident enough to do so. Even then, it still requires laborious work to distinguish between supported elements and violent criminals, terrorists, and freedom fighters.
“Given the region’s obvious support for a specific presidential candidate, I have heard hints that violence would be sponsored to sway Southeast voters. The administration must make every effort to regain operational authority over the area and drastically cut down on violent crimes. It is crucial to stress that Nigeria has fulfilled all requirements for military involvement in civil government. Nigeria shouldn’t take its uninterrupted democratic government for granted in light of the return of coups d’état in Africa.
In the meantime, IPOB has not done anything to persuade anyone that they are not to blame for the unrest in the region. This is due to some of their statements, which have been found in both the group’s verified and unverified communication channels.
As much as IPOB tries to disavow their involvement in the unrest in the region, Miss Ify Eze, a journalist, said: “It is still difficult to trust them. I say this because I’ve read their press statements in which they’ve made threats against people. So how can they threaten individuals so severely if they consistently claim to be a peaceful organisation, especially given that they are known to have the ESN, which carries weapons?
“Even while IPOB asserts that it is not to blame for the unrest in the South East, some of the individuals they recruited during their formative years and who have since split off may in fact be to blame for what is taking on there. We have witnessed it with the help of Finland-based Simon Ekpa, who regularly employs his sons to police the illegal sit-at-home exercise. Therefore, despite IPOB’s best efforts to disavow its involvement, it is nevertheless responsible for part of this insecurity.
She was right; there have been instances when IPOB has threatened violence against several people.
The group’s spokeswoman, Emma Powerful, has threatened the governors of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi.
The governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was recently accused of utilizing the Ebubeagu militia to assassinate IPOB members, is the most recent of these individuals to receive threats. Powerful said in a news statement that due to Soludo’s excesses, the organization has put its militant branch, ESN, on notice.