The threat of disruption of Anambra guber election is real. The attempt to disrupt Anambra election by a section of Biafra agitators first came in 2017 when a group demanded the federal government to fix a date for a Biafra referendum before the November 18 set for the guber election in the state in that year. Somehow, reason eventually prevailed and the election successfully held.
Four years later, the sad refrain is sounding again. This time around, the situation is different. Eastern Unknown Gunmen (E-UGM) is now introduced into the mix. As if these potent threats are not enough, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) has issued a fresh notice to the effect that if their leader, Nnamdi Knau, is not released by the 4th of November, there would be a sit at home from 5th to 10th of November, the day Kanu is billed to appear in court again. Meanwhile, Anambra election is on November 9th and the president cannot order the release of Nnamdi Kanu without recourse to the court. If the people would sit at home, invariably, they will not be able to vote, suggesting that the threat this time around is far more potent and can be ignored only to people’s peril.
It is not clear what informed the days they have chosen but it will not be out of place to believe they have Anambra election in sight. The loss of political control of the south-east is becoming more and more embarrassing with the governors severally saying they have no powers to stop what is going on and its attendant calamitous consequences. Investigations show the governors do not also go to their offices on Mondays since sit-at-home began. If the governors with their obscene security measures are not showing up at work, why are they asking ordinary citizens to keep risking their lives and businesses?
The governor of Abia state, Okezie Ikpeazu, recently after visiting Nnamdi Kanu in a DSS facility in Abuja, declared to the media that the south-east governors cannot stop the sit-at-home. Anambra and Enugu states governors have also conceded Mondays to the non-state actors by moving Monday school day to Saturday, in another embarrassing acquiescence move. South-east is fast becoming an ungoverned space while the governors are there only in name, without any capacity to maintain law and order, calling to question the money they collect in billions in the name security votes and as chief security officers of their respective states.
Today, strange killers have unleashed anarchy and mayhem in Anambra state in particular and in the south-east in general, dramatically transforming the status of the zone from the safest place in Nigeria to home of unknown gunmen. With fear and shock waves spreading and escalating, INEC has sounded the alarm at least twice that the governorship election in Anambra state is being jeopardised by the rising insecurity. And now, the potent sit-at-home is set to ensure disruption of the exercise.
The attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami, has also recently warned that extreme measures could become necessary, including a state of emergency if insecurity worsens and makes holding the election dangerous or impossible. From the look of things, though Malami in his usual disingenuous characteristic, didn’t sound like a disinterested or genuinely interested party, a state of emergency in Anambra is no longer far-fetched in Anambra as in some northern states. The sentiment is that insecurity is worse in many other states of the federation with the federal government not responding with a state of emergency. But what if the federal government declares state of emergency in Anambra and in another state in the north? Will the critics not be silenced while Anambra and south-east live with the collateral damage?
For a fact, insincerity in Anambra is nothing compared to what has been happening in Zamfara where a military jet was shot off the sky by the so-called bandits; or Kaduna where people die daily from banditry and herders/farmers deathly clashes, and to say nothing concerning terrorism prevalent in Borno, Niger and so on. The Niger case is instructive because the governor alerted the world that he had lost control of parts of the state to bandits and terrorists, who have rendered the confiscated areas ungovernable and impose and collect tax and kidnap residents for ransom.
This government is well-known for playing politics with national security and therefore capable of instigating and acerbating what is happening in Anambra state for political gain. Anambra state is the gateway to the east and controlling it, to a very large extent, means controlling Igbo land. If a state of emergency is imposed, the federal government will have the constitutional powers to set aside the elected government and appoint a sole administrator, very likely a retired military officer who is also very likely not to come from the zone let, certainly not from Anambra state.
Even with the counter directive being issued by a section of IPOB leadership against sit-at-home, it has been largely observed in the south-east. Unfortunately, no matter the level of apathy, it will never invalidate the result of the election since the constitution does not provide for an irreducible minimum voter turnout for the governor to stand elected.
All the 1999 Constitution guarantees is election holding in 2/3rds of the local governments and in 2/3rds of the wards in those Local Governments and a simple majority afterward (see section 179 (2) which states: “A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being two or more candidates -(a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State”.)
Not all Anambra people are Biafra agitators; or even believe in the need for a sovereign Biafra, and there are also those who do not believe in the need for boycott or disruption of the guber election. These categories will vote. Even if they are in the minority, they would become a majority since the constitution allows just any number to elect the president or the governor without any set minimums.
If IPOB members could just stay away from the polls and refuse to vote, there would not be much problem. After all, refusing to vote is constitutionally allowed since not voting at all is a form of voting. Biafra agitators would have registered a specific protestation but there is reason to believe they would try to disrupt the polls, using the same method for enforcing stay-at-home.
In the possible event that attempts are made to disrupt the polls and the military trying to suppress the resistance, there are a number of scenarios. The speaker can take over if the election cannot be held before the expiration of incumbent Willie Obiano’s tenure. A state of emergency can also justifiably suffice and even if the speaker takes over, he or she will not be there indefinitely, as election must follow in about 6 months as stipulated in the constitution. So, ultimately, an election must be held, or a state of emergency would be imposed and renewed until such a time election can be conducted in a safe atmosphere.
Imposing a state of emergency on Anambra state will cost Biafra agitators more than they can imagine. Anambra people may revolt against Biafra agitations and cause an implosion that will invert the Biafra struggle against itself. The reason for this prediction is simple: Biafra agitators cannot single out Anambra as a guinea pig, and the only Igbo state to be without an elected governor in the south-east. If the guber election is held across the 5 eastern states, maybe the scenario would be different. Anambra people may not be happy that other south-east states are governed by elected governors while only they are ruled by a retired army general possibly from outside Igboland which is most likely to happen.
The window to avert this self-inflicted damage is shutting. South-east governors and other political leaders from the zone must rise and rally for a roundtable with the Biafra agitators, especially those declaring sit-at-home and enforcing it. The south-east political leaders, especially governors, abdicating their responsibilities is rather absurd and unthinkable. The only two reasons for why there is government are: protection of lives and property and welfare of citizens. Governments that cannot ensure these two fundamental reasons have lost legitimacy and have no further reason to stay in office.
Dr Law Mefor is a senior fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought. He can be reached via +2349056424375, [email protected] and on Twitter @LawMefor1.