The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has admonished the Nigerian government to be vigilant about the upcoming Anambra governorship election in order to ensure that last minute conflict triggered through the use of social media, short messaging services (SMS) are not utilized to disrupt the governorship election.
This was contained in a study released by the CDD, titled “No Election, No Referendum”. This study was carried out against the backdrop of threats by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) to stop the November 18, Anambra Governorship Election.
The leader of IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, had earlier posited that unless the Federal Government of Nigerian organizes a referendum to determine the status of the country, there would be no elections in Anambra State come November 18, 2017.
For IPOB, the boycott is itself a rejection of Nigeria's political structure. It is a way of protesting against Nigeria and all she stands for. IPOB describes the boycott as a potent weapon of civil disobedience to activate demand for referendum, the report noted.
In several of his press interviews Mazi Kanu has argued that the Anambra gubernatorial election would not hold.
The IPOB agitation has become frequent in recent months in the South-East geo-political zone of the country, after the release of Mr. Kanu from detention.
However, despite being proscribed as a terrorist organization, members of the group staged a demonstration in Onitsha, the Anambra State commercial nerve center, threatening voters not to come out and vote in the November 18 governorship election in the state.
On Friday, November 10, barely one week to the governorship election in Anambra State, the members of the group marched around some streets in Onitsha, Anambra State, chanting :“if you vote you will die. Don’t go out, stay in your house." The group vowed not just to disrupt the elections but also ensure a lockdown on the day of the election on Saturday, November 18, 2017.
The CDD, in its report, noted that both the state and Federal governments must not assume that the proscription of the group has weakened it in the scheme of things because proscription does not stop organizations from functioning.
The CDD report noted that the IPOB may attempt to enforce its call for boycott of the election at all costs and using all means to achieve that. This, the report argued, may lead to an outcome that threatens democracy not just in Anambra State but also in the South-east and indeed the country as a whole.
It argues that the destruction of lives and property cannot be entirely ruled out at this stage as the group may not only resort to confronting the security forces but may also attempt disrupting the electoral process. This is because they have been accused of harassing political party stalwarts and candidates, including a confrontation the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano during a church service on July 30, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Ekwuluobia.
The report, however, explained that with the determination of the state to conduct the election, it is likely to be conducted as planned as arrangements for massive deployment of security forces have already been concluded.
The CDD also advised that the security forces should be proactive in curtailing the excesses of the group but warned that excessive force should not be deployed in case of any skirmishes arising during the election, adding that the Operation Python Dance 11 has elicited so much pain and emotional anguish within the South East Region.
“Not all members of the community however believe that secession is the best option so the way the security forces operate will have consequences for which side increases its support”, the report said.
“It is also important to note that if IPOB engages in violence and disrupts the election and their activities lead to a declaration of a state of emergency on Anambra state, it is IPOB that will lose its social capital.
In that case, it is possible that the entire South-east may revolt against IPOB and cause an implosion that will invert the Biafra struggle against itself.
“There are already a number of unhappy citizens in Anambra State who believe that IPOB has singled their state as a guinea pig that will make them the only Igbo state without an elected governor in the South-east. Such an outcome, desired by IPOB would trigger a constitutional crisis as the term of the governor would have elapsed and a sole administrator will have to be appointed by the Federal Government. Imposing state of emergency on Anambra state if violence erupts and if the election fails to hold will cost IPOB and the state more than they can imagine.”
The report further argues that a successful election boycott by the IPOB poses extreme danger to the Federal Government and national politics as it will boost the confidence of secessionists and equally trigger the drive for other ethnic groups or sections of the country to toe the same line.
On the other hand, the report stated that a failure of the boycott will also place the Biafran struggle on the line, should Anambra people come out en-mass in November to vote.
“It is therefore imperative that the federal government avoid the use of force and especially militarization of the state to avoid low voter turn-out and also to avoid violence or a face-off with the remnants of the proscribed IPOB secessionist movement”, the report said.
The report noted that to make the election possible, voter education is imperative on the part of the political parties and INEC in order to avoid voter apathy and total boycott in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
It further disclosed that it is likely that six LGAs may witness low voter turnout if the IPOB carries out its threat of boycott and disruption of the electoral process, adding that these LGAs are the strongholds of IPOB and are likely to mobilize members and sympathizers to boycott or disrupt the governorship election.
“What this means, therefore, is that the election would hold in many LGAs but it may witness poor voter turnout or total boycott in the strongholds of IPOB in areas such as Ogbaru, Onitsha North and South, Oyi, and Idemili South”, the report said.
Nonetheless, the CDD posited that following Operation Python Dance 11 and the discontent it generated, the likelihood of having high voter turnout has become impossible.
It finally admonished the State, civil society and communities to be vigilant so that last minute conflict triggers via SMS or social media are not allowed to disrupt the election.