2023: Uncertainty in South-East as politicians come under gunmen attack
As electioneering campaigns get underway, there is increased apprehension that the political process may be disrupted in the South East zone of Nigeria.
This is following the recent spate of insecurity in the zone, especially by persons who disguise themselves as unknown gunmen and separatists.
Last two weeks, the peace of Anambra State was disrupted by an attack on the Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial zone, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah. Ubah was moving in his convoy, after attending a function, and was headed to Nnewi, his home town, when he was attacked at Nkwo Enugwu-Ukwu junction at about 7pm that Sunday.
It would not be the first time a politician would be attacked in the State. In fact, in the entire South eastern zone, politicians have come under attack, with some losing their lives in the process, while others have been kidnapped and released after payment of ransom.
Some of those who have fallen prey include: the governorship candidate of Labour Party in Anambra State, Mr Obiora Agbasimalo, who is still missing since after he was kidnapped close to the November 2021 governorship election in the State. Hon Chris Azubogu, who was a governorship aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was also attacked before the election, and some vehicles in his convoy damaged. Dr Chime Akunyili, husband of the late former minister for information and Director General of NAFDAC, Prof Dora Akunyili was killed last year too, after he was mistaken to be a politician.
In Imo State, former PDP chieftain and former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak was also killed, while the homes of the State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma and the Ohanaeze President General, Amb. George Obiozor have been attacked and burnt down. Despite several efforts by the State governments, the attacks have continued, and in Anambra too, a lawmaker, Hon Okey Okoye and his aide, Mr Cyril Chiegboka were kidnapped and beheaded. Former lawmakers have also been kidnapped, and one of them who was also living with disability was also beheaded.
The insecurity especially in Anambra was so rife that the Anambra State 2021 governorship election which was held in November was almost truncated. Even though it held, some parts of the State were ruled out for campaigns because of violence.
Other States, Ebonyi, Abia and Enugu have also had their fair share of the attacks. Not long ago, a Labour Party meeting in Enugu State was attacked by unknown gunmen in Awgu Local Government Area of the State.
The fears are that if it continues, the 2023 general election may not hold in the South East, but some political analysts who spoke to DAILY POST were of varied opinions about the possibility of insecurity stalling elections in the zone.
Mr Emeka Ejiofor, a lawyer, who spoke to our correspondent said, “There is nothing like an election not holding in the South East, not even IPOB or anyone can stop it. What I know they may succeed in doing is that they will whittle down the number of prospective voters in the zone, and give advantage to other candidates in other parts of Nigeria.
“You need to understand what I mean, the only thing the insecurity in the zone will do is that, either INEC staff are scared away from going to some places in the zone because of insecurity, or they are able to go to such places and at the end, they fail to see voters, who will also not turn up because of the same insecurity, and that would be counted as election having held. That is why I personally think that the insecurity in the South East is sponsored from outside the zone. This is because IPOB, which we all suspect to be the purveyors of this insecurity, have denied that they have a hand in it, so who then are the people doing it?”
For another respondent, Mr Christian China, a political analyst, the south East was not an exception to the spate of violence ravaging the country, and such cannot stop election in the zone, except the contemplation may be for the whole country, as insecurity is generally rife in all zones.
He said: “Nigeria has been witnessing a gradual decline in the State’s capacity to protect its citizens. There are many manifestations of this in all the regions, including the southeast. As of today, Nigeria has gotten to a level where there are doubts as to whether elections would be held in 2023. That those doubts exist in the hearts and minds of Nigerians, including policy makers, tells you all you need to know about the unfortunate security situation we found ourselves in.
“In the Southeast, there are armed non-state actors who have openly communicated their disappointment with establishment politics. These emergent armed groups have both the motivation and tactical confidence to attack politicians who they have severally accused of sabotaging their separatist agitations. Even at that, painstaking efforts must be made to differentiate between violent criminals, terrorists, freedom fighters and sponsored elements.
“I have heard insinuations that violence could be sponsored to suppress the votes of the Southeast region given the manifest support the region has for a particular presidential candidate. The government must do everything it can to take back operational control of the territory and reduce violent crimes to the barest minimum. It is important to warn that Nigeria has checked off all the boxes for military intervention in civilian administration. With the resurgence of Coups D’etat in Africa, Nigeria should not take its unbroken democratic governance for granted.”
Meanwhile, IPOB has done very little to convince all that they are not responsible for the insecurity in the zone. This is because of some of their utterances, which has been seen in both the known channels of communication of the group and the unverifiable ones.
Miss Ify Eze, a journalist said: “As much as IPOB tries to exonerate themselves from the insecurity in the zone, it is still hard to believe them. I say this because I have read their releases where they have threatened people. So, if they continually lay claims to being a nonviolent group, how can they threaten people that much, especially as they are known to have the ESN, which bears arms.
“Even if IPOB claims not to be responsible for the insecurity in the south east, some of the people they recruited during their growing days and who have broken away could be responsible for what is happening in the South East. We have seen it with the Finland-based Simon Ekpa who declares sit at home at random and has continually used his boys to enforce the banned sit at home exercise. So, no matter how much IPOB tries to exonerate itself, it is still culpable for some of this insecurity.”
True to her words, there have been cases where IPOB has threatened violence against many.
In several press statements, the spokesperson of the group, Emma Powerful has threatened Ebonyi State governor, Engr David Umahi, Imo State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma.
The latest of such persons to be threatened is the governor of Anambra State, Prof Chukwuma Soludo who was days back accused of using Ebubeagu militia to secretly kill IPOB members. Powerful in a press release had said that the group has put its militant wing, ESN on alert over the excesses of Soludo.