Isaac Adibe sat leisurely on a pavement along Ekwulobia road in Aguata Local Government Area, Anambra South Senatorial District, watching the deserted road on Friday.
The sexagenarian said he heard about the cancellation of the sit-at-home order given by separatist group, IPOB, on a radio breakfast news, but he had doubts.
His scepticism was fuelled by the attacks some members of IPOB, whom he called “thugs among them,” carried out on residents who breached the sit-at-home order.
Mr Adibe does his business in neighbouring Nanka, in Orumba North LGA, and he said he would brave it, nonetheless.
Asked if he would be safe, he said “why not since the sit-at-home has been cancelled.”
“People are afraid, that is the truth because those touts claiming to be IPOB will break your motor (car) if you come out. That is the fear of people. They don’t mind anybody.
“If you see what they do on this road,” he noted. “On normal sit-at-home days like this, they will rush to destroy your windscreen, mirrors.
“Where are you going to report them? If they do what they do and you go to the police, the police you are to go report to are also scared. Nobody is safe. You are having an issue with someone now, and you have nobody to report to. We are praying to God, if they cancel it.”
Even after the outlawed separatist group, IPOB, said it had cancelled its one week sit-at-home declared in Anambra, residents in some parts of the state have stayed off the roads.
PREMIUM TIMES reporters who visited towns in Aguata LGA, where the governorship candidates of the APC, APGA and PDP hail from, met deserted roads and locked stores.
A usually busy Ekwulobia junction where traders make brisk business and transporters collect passengers travelling around the state and to neighbouring Enugu was desolate on Friday.
Likewise, the road that leads to Isuọfia also had scant traction of vehicles except for few motorcycles and human movement and one beer and food joint.
Isuọfia is the hometown of Charles Soludo, the APGA candidate.
Other deserted towns and roads include those of Nkpologwu, Uga, Nanka, Nnewi, Akpo and Aguluezechukwu.
Not only are roads deserted and shops shut, some hotels, lodges and medical centres also said they were closed.
On Thursday, all the roads were bustling with life and trading continued into the night till as late as 10 p.m.
A representative of Landmark Diagnostics located on Ukpor road in Umudim Nnewi told PREMIUM TIMES over the telephone, Friday morning, that the laboratory would not open until Sunday afternoon.
Residents expressed palpable fear and uncertainty despite the cancellation of the sit-at-home order.
The spokesman of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra, Emma Powerful, had on Thursday confirmed to this newspaper that his group had indeed cancelled the partial lockdown order.
Turnout for election
Mr Adibe said he would vote and he believes his vote counts.
Three other residents interviewed said they will not vote. Their reasons ranged from fear to disinterest.
“I will go and vote tomorrow whether there is sit-at-home or sit-outside (orders) or not. If we don’t vote, the votes will still be counted even if there are two people. Why will I go inside? I must go outside to cast my vote because I want someone to govern Anambra,” Mr Adibe said.
“No Jupiter (one) can stop me unless INEC officers do not come tomorrow. I must carry my voter card outside to cast my vote, at least I have done my mind.
“I’m convinced that people will come out tomorrow too. If I don’t, another person who is not your candidate will be elected by mobilising their people to vote.
“They (politicians) have the power, they will call INEC persons to come so that their people can vote. You must go to your polling unit.
“I must go to mine unless God does not give life tomorrow,” he said, adding that he hopes to see a more peaceful Anambra after the election.
On the other hand, a motorcyclist who identified himself simply as Commander said he would not vote, but he would be out with his motorcycle to make money.
On Friday, he was one of the few motorcycles plying the deserted roads. He said he had been out since 4 a.m. transporting passengers around the towns.
Another resident identified simply as Dare said even though he participated in previous elections, he was not sure Saturday’s election was one he would want to participate in.
He cited distance as a reason and more than that, the fear of violence in past elections but expressed uncertainty about the Saturday election.
The Ondo State indigene, who has lived in Anambra for 18 years, said he is also living in the circumference of the known fear among the residents.
“I normally vote but I am not sure if I will vote tomorrow. Had it been that I am in my state, I could have dared anybody since it is my state but when you see these people you don’t know them.
“The guys that enforce sit-at-home often wear masks, so you have to behave yourself. Although nobody is happy about what is going on in this country, nobody wants to die.”
The group, which had used force to enforce its earlier sit-at-home protests in the South-east, had declared the sit-at-home in Anambra to discourage residents from taking part in the November 7 governorship election in the state.
The sit-at-home, which had been condemned by political leaders in the South-east, was billed to commence on Friday, a day to the election.
The police have, however, assured that adequate security would be provided during the election.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Echeng Echeng, said he is impressed with the level of security across the state ahead of the poll.
“What we are telling everybody in Anambra is to feel free at the sight of security men in their areas, because they are there to provide security and not to intimidate any lawful person.
“We have equally told our personnel to be civil to the people, but for anyone coming out to make trouble, let them deal decisively with such trouble makers,” he said.
The Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, had announced the redeployment of over 34,000 personnel of the force in Anambra.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also deployed 20, 000 personnel outside those from the military and paramilitary.
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