The Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, has warned that the Nigerian government must be vigilant to ensure that last minute conflict triggered via SMS or social media contents are not allowed to disrupt the forthcoming Anambra governorship election.
The CDD, in a paper titled “No Election, No Referendum”, made the observation against the backdrop of threats by the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB to stop the November 18, Anambra Governorship Election.
The IPOB, through its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, had earlier said unless the Nigerian State calls for a referendum to determine the status of the country, there would be no election in Anambra State.
In series of press interviews and YouTube videos, Mr. Kanu insisted that the Anambra election would not hold.
The IPOB agitation had in recent months protested several times in the South-east region, after the release of Mr. Kanu from detention.
But despite being labelled a terrorist organisation, members of the IPOB staged a demonstration in Onitsha, the Anambra State capital, threatening voters not to participate in the November 18 governorship election in the state.
The CDD, in its report noted that government must not assume that the proscription of the group has rendered it ‘toothless in the scheme of things’ because proscription does not stop organisations from functioning.
It noted that the group may attempt to enforce its boycott of the election at all cost and this 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.
“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 elections.
“We cannot completely rule out the possibility of IPOB trying to disrupt the polls as they have been accused of harassing political party stalwarts and candidates, including a confrontation with incumbent Governor Willie Obiano during a church service on July 30, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Ekwuluobia,” the report said.
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 warned that the security forces should not use excessive force 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 Igbo community.
“The Nigerian State must accept that the attachment to Biafra among a part of the Igbo community is real and deep-rooted and force cannot drive away such sentiments. 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.
“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 disgruntled 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.”
The report further pointed out 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 ‘facilitate referendum for Biafra Republic.’ It said this will equally trigger the drive for other ethnic groups or sections of the country to toe the same line.
On the other hand, it said, 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 Nigerian government desists from using force and militarising the state to avoid low voter turn out and also to avoid violence or a faceoff with the IPOB secessionist movement”, the report said.
Therefore, the report noted that to make the election possible, voter education becomes extremely important on the part of the political parties and INEC.
The report went further to disclose that it is likely that six LGAs may witness low voter turnout as a result of the IPOB call for election boycott, adding that these LGAs are the strongholds of IPOB and are likely to mobilise members and sympathizers to boycott the governorship election.
“What this means is that the election would hold in many LGAs but it may witness poor voter turnout in the strongholds of IPOB in areas such as Ogbaru, Onitsha North and South, Oyi, and Idemili North and South”, it said.
The report explained that the assurance from 179 communities under the aegis of the Anambra State Association of Town Unions (ASATU), is a positive sign that would facilitate mobilisation of voters. This, it explained, is because the unions could mobilise vigilante groups in their various communities to checkmate the activities of the IPOB during the governorship election since Anambra State has one of the strongest density of vigilante groups in the South-east.
“Nonetheless,” the CDD posited, “following Operation Python Dance 11 and the discontent it generated, the likelihood of having high voter turnout is low.
“Finally, the State, civil society and communities must be vigilant that last minute conflict triggers via SMS or social media are not allowed to disrupt the election.”
Read the full CDD report here.