The governorship election in Anambra State, which has lately appeared shaky on account of security concerns, comes up on Saturday, the 6th of November, 2021.
The election, a routine 4-year ritual, which ordinarily should pass without much ado, except for the dramatic displays and manipulating manoeuvres of politicians in trying to out do one another, has thrown up new realities and potentially ‘deitifying’ a group and a man many have over the years viewed with scorn and tagged criminals!
Though Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) have always been objects of controversies and divisive politicking and conversations in the South-East, both IPOB and its leader, Kanu have suddenly become the beautiful brides that politicians and other leaders of the zone are fighting hard to identify with and advocate for.
The current unfolding drama started when the candidate of the Young Peoples Party (YPP), Senator Ifeanyi Uba approached a court to allow him visit Kanu in the custody of the Department of State Services.
According to Uba, he made the demand because he needed to ask him somethings, things he never bothered to ask until he became the candidate of the YPP in Saturday’s election in Anambra.
Agitations for Kanu’s Release
Before now, when election was not at stake and no candidate needed validation, agitations for Kanu’s release were confined to press statements by IPOB and off course, the now super effective and well dreaded sit-at-home ordered by it.
For South-East leaders, Kanu was a plaque to be avoided by every and all means, especially if you want to remain in the good books of powers that be at the centre.
The attitude of the leaders of the South-East to Kanu was a direct contrast to how the people and leaders of the South-West rose to identify with Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho after the violent invasion of his residence in Ibadan by the DSS operatives and soldiers. Though many of those who spoke up for Igboho and spoke against the invasion do not believe in his successionist agenda, they nevertheless saw through the illegalities of the action of the security operatives.
In Kanu’s case, mum has been the word until it now dawned on the leaders, that hate him or love him, Kanu and his successionist group have become a ‘thorning’ factor in the zone and for peace to reign or for them to get validated with the ordinary people of the zone, you must speak up for Kanu, especially in this period.
Traditional rulers and religious leaders, who have overtime become unduly pliant and pandering to the wishes of governments at both states and federal levels, except for a few exceptions, set the stage for the current diluge of calls for the release of the embattled separatist.
Operating under the South East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Representatives of Igbo Archbishops and Bishops, they said the release of Kanu would de-escalate the rising tension in the zone, urging the federal government to take immediate steps to de-proscribe IPOB and release all IPOB members being held in various detention facilities.
“Flowing from similar initiatives taken to bring peace to other troubled parts of the country, we urge the Federal Government and other stakeholders to explore dialogue and negotiation in resolving critical issues that threaten national unity, cohesion, and development.
“We are of the firm belief that this act of courage and statesmanship is not only imperative but will speedily de-escalate the heightened state of insecurity and dislocation in the South East Zone.
“We call on the Federal Government to take urgent steps to demilitarize the South East Zone, more so as it has become apparent that a continued military siege on the region can only lead to heightened tension, skirmishes and endless bloodletting between the security agencies and our youths,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by Igwe Charles Mkpuma (Ebonyi); Eze Joseph N. Nwabeke (Abia); Obi Nnaemeka Achebe (Anambra); Igwe Amb L. O. C. Agubuzu (Enugu) and Eze Dr. E. C. Okeke (Imo), Dr Anthony J. V. Obinna (Catholic Archbishop of Owerri); Dr Emmanuel O. Chukwuma, (Anglican Archbishop of Enugu); Dr Chibuzo R. Opoko (Methodist Archbishop of Umuahia); Dr Valerian M. Okeke (Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha); Dr Uma A. Onwunta (Past Principal Clerk Presbyterian Church Nigeria); Bishop Obi Onubogu (Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria) and Dr Abraham Nwali (Chairman, CAN, South East Zone).
The traditional rulers and religious leaders however betrayed the purpose of their call for the release of Nnamdi Kanu and the demilitarization of the South-East when they appealed to IPOB to cancel all scheduled sit-at-home orders and shun any action that would disrupt the November 6 Governorship Election in Anambra State.
Throwing the Dialogue Kite
During the live governorship debate organised by Arise TV on Monday, 1st November, three front-running candidates in the Anambra election, Charles Soludo of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Valentine Ozigbo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Andy Uba of the All Progressives Congress (APC) all unanimously agreed that there was need for the Federal Government to dialogue with IPOB to douse the tension created by their agitation for succession.
Their call for dialogue with IPOB, and by extension, the release of Nnamdi Kanu, as they, alongside some other candidates later demanded in a joint statement, is perhaps the only meeting point for the three candidates, as they have been acrimonious and engaging in name calling on other issues.
Speaking at the debate, Uba said: “I believe in engagement. If you don’t engage them, how will you know what their problem is? I believe in engagement to dialogue, because their problem is work.”
Soludo, insisted that the group deserves to be heard. “I’m on record to have said that IPOB deserves to be heard, that the agitation cannot be shot down by a gun.
“We need to have a dialogue, bring everybody to the table and discuss those specific issues that are their agitation”, he said.
Ozigbo, the candidate of the PDP, blamed the federal and state governments for the way the group’s agitation has turned out.
He said: “There are certain things IPOB does through agitation that I support. But when they get to some extreme, I condemn them.
“The real issue is where is the heart of all of this? If not for the way the states and the federal government have handled IPOB, we wouldn’t be where we are today.
“Let’s start by accepting responsibility. We created extremism, so we need the right person to inspire hope for that dialogue to happen.
“When they see you as the problem already, you can’t be the one to negotiate.”
Soludo Tactically Absolves IPOB
During the Arise TV debate, the APGA Candidate and former CBN governor, Charles Soludo made a tactical move at absolving IPOB from complicity in the mindless violence that have threated the November 6, 2021 election in Anambra State.
Soludo insisted that politicians, who are trying to draw advantage, are behind the growing insecurity in the state, while also making a veiled attack on the candidate of the APC, Andy Uba, who he said should be to tell the world why insecurity has persisted in the state.
He said: “There are some people who think they gain political advantage by creating a sense of fear and insecurity so that they can suppress voters. When Valentine [PDP candidate] talked about intelligence gathering, that intelligence gathering is everywhere.
“The insecurity in Anambra is a recent phenomenon. Very recently and I think my brother on the right-hand side [Andy Uba] when he responds might be able to tell a little more about part of the reason this is happening.
“But Anambra has remained largely, a safe haven: real estate booming, businesses booming, hospitality industry and so on and so forth.
“And recently, it is a challenge and the Governor as the Chief security has risen to the challenge. By the way, all the security agency as you know, are within the purview of the Federal Government but we’ve got a security architecture in which the federal forces have been working in tandem with the local vigilantes.”
For Soludo and other candidates in the Anambra election, whatever can be done to show sympathy with IPOB and its leader, absolve them and romance them will increase, not just their popularity but their chances at endearing themselves to the people at the grassroots, the main support base of the group and Kanu.
A Timely Word From WIC
The World Igbo Congress, WIC, an influential body of the people of the South-East, also joined in the new found love for Kanu, calling for his release.
According to WIC, in a statement by its Public Relations Officer, Hon Basil Onwukwe, it was miffed with the political developments in Nigeria, particularly as it relates to Anambra State and asked the Federal government and its apparatuses to de-escalate the tension and demonstrate a genuine desire to conduct free and fair elections to improve the country’s political and economic development.
The group also asked for the release of all detained Igbo youths, constitution of a wide political conference that will address pertinent issues of injustice and inequity in the polity to save the nation.
The statement read in part: “The heightened insecurity in a militarized Southeast Region explains it all and is driving the desire to abandon the election in Anambra State. It is worrisome that after the recent coordinated violence targeted to destabilize Anambra State, the security agents have not made any credible arrest of the killers.
“All the desperate plans to pitch NdiIgbo against each other has failed while deliberate attempt to replicate Imo State play book is in the works, but any decision to enthrone election by a selection of rejected candidates again in Igboland will not be acceptable.
“We urge the Federal Government to take an honorable decision of releasing innocent Igbo youths in various DSS custodies, including Nnamdi Kanu and constitute a wide political conference that will address the pertinent issues of injustice and inequity in the polity to save the nation. That’s what a Federal Government that sees all the citizens as equal partners should do,” Onwukwe said.
Nine Governorship Candidates Unite Over Kanu
In another rare display of unity by opposing camps, nine candidates in the Anambra governorship election called for the release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
They also urged the Federal Government to demilitarise the South-East zone in a bid to stem the heightened tension in the area.
The candidates made their position known in a statement jointly signed by Ben Etiaba, the AA candidate; Charles Soludo, APGA; Obinna Uzoh, SDP; Akachukwu Nwankpo, ADC; Onyejegbu Okwudili, APM; Ifeanyi Uba, YPP; Andy Uba, APC; Nnamdi Nnawuo, PRP and Obiora Okonkwo of the ZLP.
In their resolutions, they said: “We, the candidates in the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship Election, commit unequivocally to non-violence and the maintenance of peace throughout the duration of the election and beyond.
“We urge all our supporters and other stakeholders to commit fully to these ideals and refrain from any act that may imperil the election.
“In order to eschew all acts that may torpedo the forthcoming election, we urge the Federal Government to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and representatives of Igbo archbishops and bishops.
“We urge the Federal Government to take urgent steps to demilitarise the South-East zone and stem the heightened tension, skirmishes and endless bloodletting between the security agencies and our youths.”
They however called on IPOB to avoid actions that would hinder the smooth running of the election.
“We urge IPOB not to do anything that would hinder or be seen to be hindering the smooth running of the forthcoming governorship election in Anambra State and to cancel all scheduled sit-at-home orders, as these have already caused untold hardship for our people.
“We call on the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Armed Forces, other security agencies and all stakeholders to discharge their mandates in accordance with law and in a fair and just manner,” the statement added.
Doyin Okupe’s Attempt At Profiting From Kanu’s ‘Beatification’
A presidential aspirant and former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, also joined in the call for the release of Kanu from detention, describing him as more important than the Anambra State governorship election.
He said: “The Anambra State election is no doubt a security nightmare and a major cause for concern for many Nigerians. Whether we like it or not, IPOB has become an established “Army of Resistance” for self-determination in the South-East.
“Also, we must come to accept that the Biafra ideology has come to stay. Although it is self-evident that the major stakeholders of these movements are predominantly youths, the adult themselves share the concerns of these fighting youths even though they may prefer a different approach to achieving the same goals.
“Unfortunately also, concurrent events in the nation make the counsels of the elders untenable and therefore unacceptable to the warring youths.
“The police have deployed 34, 000 officers. We do not know the numbers for the military and civil defence institutions. To the average citizens in Anambra State, this militarisation and over-policing, though inevitable, can nevertheless, be comforting.
“From my own projections, no fewer than 50% of normally voting population, purely out of fear and apprehension, will stay in their houses and avoid voting. If this happens, the election itself becomes substantially flawed. This is because a major ingredient of democratic suffrage, ‘free and fair’, will be absent.
“While one must of necessity concede to the Federal Government that it should not normally tolerate or succumb to internal threats to peace and good order, perhaps, it’s now time to seek the seemingly elusive peace in the South-East.
“I hereby call on the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu, if that will bring peace in the South-East zone, especially Anambra State. Nnamdi Kanu should be released for the sake of peace and order in that region. Nigerians are in pain. Nigerians are suffering and we can’t afford war whether local, regional or national. We don’t need it. We need peace.
“Nnamdi Kanu is more important than the Anambra State governorship election. We need peace in all parts of this country, and if the release of Kanu will bring peace in Anambra State and the entire South-East zone, please the Federal Government should release him now.
“I call on the Federal Government at this point of our national history to invite the leadership of IPOB to a peace meeting. The Government should listen to the complaints of the youths from the South-East region and see how a true solution can be negotiated.
“I say this as someone who was part of government when Boko Haram was in its wake or infancy. The presumed might of the Federal Government made it look preposterous for the government to call a rag-tag group to a negotiating table.
“Now after more than 10 years, thousands of deaths, human tragedies and millions of internal human displacements, and with billions of dollars down the drain, I am convinced that it was indeed an error not to have negotiated for peace ab initio.
“Historically, since the mid-1900s, no insurgency, once fully established, lasts less than 15 years on the average. This is what I will like to remind this administration. Nigeria cannot afford to sustain another major internal rebellion, for another 15 years.”
The barage of calls for Kanu’s release and advocacy for dialogue with IPOB, have shown that the successionist group and its leader have become factors that cannot be discounted in the South-East and indeed Nigeria, if things must run normally. It also shows that Nigerian leaders, especially those of the political genre, are incapable of handling situations and correcting wrongs until things get out of hand and fire brigade approaches are employ to scratch the surface without getting to the root of the issues at stake.
The current beatification of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has also successfully projected Nigerian politicians as a selfish lot, who are only after profit from situations, no matter how dire they maybe.
The current clamour for Kanu’s release and dialogue with IPOB are from people who never spared a thought for him and the group, but now supposedly championing his cause just to advance their selfish cause and feather their political nests.
Whatever happens on Saturday in the Anambra election, Kanu and IPOB have successfully proven that they are a force, a potent one in the scheme of things in the South-East and by extension, Nigeria, no matter how crude their methods are. It is now left for the Nigerian government to either heed the various calls or falter an obvious opportunity for wrongs of several years to righted!