BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
Nigerians have before now, expressed fears and doubts about the possibility of the 2023 elections still holding due to scattered security threats across the country.
But the Independent National Electoral Commission, the umpire saddled with the responsibility of conducting the election, has remained resolute in its commitment to conducting the polls.
The incessant attacks on the personnel and facilities of INEC have now forced grey hair on the head of the national chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, and his staff as it has now become a recurring decimal with less than 50 days to the D-Day. The general elections will begin with the Presidential and National Assembly elections nationwide on February 25. What started as a child’s play, with threats in various parts of the country, has now grown into a monster.
In the South East, the unknown gunmen, said to be the enforcer of the crude culture of forcing people to sit at home on certain days, usually Mondays, and sometimes for three or four days at a stretch, has now taken on a life of its own that nobody knows what would happen with the 2023 elections in the geo-political zone.
While the fears continued to gain ground, those instigating the troubles changed gears and began a full-blown war against the conduct of the forthcoming elections by attacking the personnel and facilities of INEC, razing its offices, killing the staff and burning critical election materials, all in an effort to make good their threat that elections will not hold.
These dastard acts are on the rise in the South East where abduction, killing and burning of INEC staff and buildings with the aim to destroy critical election materials became almost a daily occurrence last year.
However, analysts have described what is happening in the South East region as a plot to destroy the voting power of the zone by politicians who are using miscreants to perpetrate the act. Some accused the politicians from the zone while others said it is a calculated effort to frustrate the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, who is considered as one of the front runners and whose major stronghold is the zone.
Ezra Jacobs, a lawyer and social critic, said the attacks on INEC facilities have now been domiciled in the South East region because the politicians from the zone are extremely selfish.
“We are not surprised that the South East region is now the centre of gravity in this condemnable act. This is happening because the politicians from that region are only interested in what they will get. They do not care what happens as long as they have their way either by hook or crook”
“We are not surprised that the South East region is now the centre of gravity in this condemnable act. This is happening because the politicians from that region are only interested in what they will get. They do not care what happens as long as they have their way either by hook or crook. That’s why the mess is overwhelming the governors. Look at the series of attacks being recorded in the zone. As INEC announced the collection of Permanent Voter Cards, hell was let loose. Then one would ask, what’s the reason behind it? Simple, it is politicians working hard to undo their opponents in the areas of their strength; so as to weaken them and their chances of winning in next year’s elections. This is horrible and condemnable, to say the least.”
He said a group of youth in the zone have been brainwashed by the desperate politicians to cause havoc and unleash terror on the people and they are having their way because the various state governors are not interested in ending the attacks to bring the situation to calm.
“The recent attack on the Owerri headquarters of INEC after which three corpses and two injured youth were paraded as the attackers is veritable evidence to the fact that the politicians in that region are culpable. Whether we like it or not, they are the financiers of these dastard acts of violence. I want to tell you that the poor performance of these governors is making them jittery. Those who are serving out their tenure and are eyeing the Senate seat and those who are eyeing the second term are all jittery. They don’t have the support of their people and with the BVAS they know the game is up, so they may have chosen to play the devilish act of destroying it, if you can’t have it.
“Late last year, the spokesperson for the Coalition of United Political Parties, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, raised the alarm about what the politicians and their political parties are doing in the zone with particular reference to Imo State. He even revealed what is happening now, and how the perpetrators planned to launch massive attacks on INEC and its facilities. It is either the governors or security agencies did not take it seriously or are accomplices; otherwise, the recent attacks would have been nipped in the bud. Even the utterances of these politicians across the political parties are violently coated. They invite their supporters and infuriate opponent supporters with their hate speeches against opponents. A typical example is the comments by Governor Charles Soludo against the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi. You know that the comment is still breeding bad blood in that state and the entire South East zone. That is why some people are blaming the attacks on the governors and their loyalists who want to destroy Obi’s stronghold before 2023,” he said.
A former PDP chieftain, Ikenga Agbala, alleged the numerous attacks are sponsored by both the PDP and APC who are out to undo Peter Obi.
He said they know that as long as Obi is in the race they don’t have any chance of getting the mandatory 25 per cent.
“There are no two ways about it. We know it is the PDP and APC that are sponsoring the hoodlums that are attacking the INEC facilities. They have been jittery since Obi joined the Labour Party and became people’s choice. Forget what anyone is saying, Obi has the votes of the South East. Those PDP and APC people are claiming what they cannot do. They know that a free, fair and transparent election in the region will produce 100 per cent votes for Obi and that is why they want to destroy the zone but it is too late. Obi is not an Igbo candidate; he is widely accepted so they should stop destroying our states because of their political greed. Basically, everyone is aware that it’s a plot by both the PDP and APC to stop Obi which, unfortunately, they can’t.”
In a recent report, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, was said to have wept in prison on learning about the destruction of the Igbo land by some miscreants masquerading as members of the group.
The IPoB leader was quoted as emphatically disowning those carrying out the attacks on INEC facilities. He equally condemned the devilish orders to sit at home which has led to the killing of several innocent sons and daughters of Igbo land. He denied ever giving such orders and asked the people to ignore the sit-at-home orders and go about their businesses without fear of molestations but this has not changed the situation as the faction loyal to Simon Ekpa, the self-acclaimed second in command to the incarcerated IPoB leader, has continued to encourage the carnage.
This has led to youths from the zone to call for the arrest and repatriation of the Finland-based lawyer to face the law. As proof that Kanu wasn’t involved in the ongoing carnage, his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, late last year, filed a suit against Simon Ekpa, which commenced at the FCT High Court, Abuja.
Ejiofor in a statement on his official Facebook page then announced that, “Today we formally commenced a legal action before the FCT High Court Abuja against Simon Ekpa which action is founded on a plethora of grave infractions arising from his violent, disturbing and false declarations.
I may not release further details here so that it will not prejudice the robust legal actions already lined up against him and his cohorts. It shall be coming in piecemeal. This is the first batch”
Ejiofor further stated, “I also want to assure Simon Ekpa and his cohorts affected by this compelling legal action that no matter the country you people believe to be hiding under its sovereign protection, the full arms of the law shall certainly catch up with you all, in the legal onslaught already commenced. This is just one in the long line of compelling civil and criminal litigation coming your way. The hour has come and I wish to reiterate that you, Simon Ekpa, cannot escape from the long arms of the law.”
Nnamdi Kanu’s younger brother, Emmanuel, also joined the Igbo youths to condemn and accuse Ekpa of working for the destabilization and destruction of Igbo land in the guise of agitating for Biafra.
Emmanuel Kanu said, while calling Ekpa a paid agent that “It beats the imagination that somebody who claims to be fighting for the cause of Ndigbo will at the same time be engaging in activities injurious to the same people.”
He said Ekpa could not claim to be championing the Biafra cause, when in fact, he is making life painful and miserable for the people. There is no doubt he is working for some people because no true-blooded Igbo will do something to jeopardize the lives of Igbo people. He further stated that his elder brother had always said that he cannot take a life because he doesn’t give life. So, why will people take other people’s lives?
The Igbo apex socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, has also taken the matter beyond the governors of the five states that made up the organisation but charged the governor of Ebonyi State and all political leaders from the Senatorial zone of Simon Ekpa to compel him to desist from his evil activities as the Organisation has begged President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to stop the carnage taking place in the geopolitical zone.
Before the President General of Ohanaeze, George Obiozor, passed on recently, spokesman of the apex Igbo group, Alex Ogbonnia, said in a statement, “The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, Ambassador Prof. George Obiozor and indeed, all well-meaning sons and daughters of Igbo land, with all sense of responsibility, hereby call on the Regent of Umueziaka community, the home of Simon Ekpa; the Chairman of Ohaukwu Local Government Area, Ikechukwu Odono; the member representing Ohaukwu South in the State Assembly, Chinedu Onah; member for Ohaukwu and Ebonyi Federal Constituency, Chukwuma Nwazunku; the Senator for Ebonyi North, Sam Ominyi Egwu and the governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi, to rein in Simon Ekpa and compel him to desist from his unreflective youthful exuberance.”
Speaking specifically on the mid-December attack on Owerri headquarters of INEC in Imo State, the Commission’s Director of Security, Lebari Nduh, said that the Commission needs credible intelligence reports to be able to nip such attacks in the bud. According to him, it is about time the citizens get involved in the protection of INEC critical infrastructure by simply providing credible intelligence to enable relevant Federal Government agencies to move to prevent such attacks on INEC facilities.
Asked if the incessant attacks on the Commission’s offices will not affect the smooth conduct of next year’s general election, Nduh said INEC is on top of the situation as no attack can stop it from conducting a free, fair, credible and inclusive election in 2023.
On whether the INEC server is not susceptible to cyber-attacks before, during, and after Nigerians have cast their votes in 2023, the Director of Security stated clearly that the Commission is adequately prepared to deal with whatever challenges will occur during the elections.
Nduh said, “I want to align myself with the promises made by INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, that the Commission is more than prepared for the elections. He has also told the nation that attempts have been made to hack the INEC server during past elections but the Commission’s IT engineers were equal to the task.”
Nduh insisted that INEC cyber security is top-notch and is capable of dealing with any issues that will arise as Nigerians go to the polls on February 25,