Indeed, following rising insecurity in Anambra State, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, once again warned, yesterday, that it could derail the November 6 governorship poll, if not nipped in the bud.
Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, has said that apart from the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, there are more than 30 other separatist organisations in the South-East zone of the country, and urged the government to address marginalisation, which he fingered as the root cause of secessionist agitation.
Speaking during an interview on a Channels’ Television yesterday, Abaribe said the regime of President General Muhammadu Buhari might crush secessionist agitators, but it would be difficult for the government to crush the ideology until it addressed the root cause of the problems and embrace dialogue.
Abaribe, who was deputy governor to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu in Abia State from May 29, 1999 till March 2003, represents Abia South in the Red Chamber.
Abaribe spoke as unknown gunmen murdered the central chairman of a Neighbourhood Watch group, Chinedu Uramah, and another personnel identified as Hillary Eze, alias Boy Akwuete, in Enugu.
Abaribe’s view elicited reactions from the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, Middle Belt Forum, MBF, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere; and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief Chekwas Okorie.
While the ACF asked the security agencies to invite and question Abaribe so as to identify and neutralise the agitators, Ohanaeze urged the Federal Government to address the cries of marginalisation in the South-East, noting that almost every church, town union and group is an agitator in the zone, now.
While Afenifere said the agitations call for a meeting of ethnic nationalities, Chief Chekwas Okorie said some of the agitators are no longer talking about marginalisation but outright exit from Nigeria, just as MBF and CAN agreed with Abaribe’s position that marginalisation is fueling secessionist agitations.
Abaribe lamented that the people of the South-East have been grossly marginalised and unfairly treated by the APC government.
The senator and two others stood as surety for detained IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu before he was granted bail by the Federal High Court in Abuja on April 25, 2017.
Kanu jumped bail same year, saying he fled Nigeria because of the extra-judicial attempt on his life in Abia in September 2017.
The IPOB leader is facing terrorism-related charges before Justice Binta Nyako and the case has been adjourned to October 21, 2021 for continuation of hearing.
Asked if he was a supporter of IPOB, Abaribe said: “I am a supporter of the cries of our people against injustice…I stand with my people.
“One of the biggest problems that the media also has is that they tag everything IPOB in the South-East. You won’t believe that there are more than 30 different separatist organisations – IPOB, MASSOB, there are so many and each one of them comes back to the same thing.”
“Why we are having separatist agitations everywhere in the country is that some people are unable to manage our diversity,” he added.
The senator also said that he does not regret standing surety for Kanu in 2017 and said, “I will still stand surety because you feel that you are being unfairly treated.”
Abaribe lamented that “the government of the APC has an aversion to dialogue” and must embrace such to quell growing agitations for fairness and justice to the Igbo people.
‘APC can’t make Igbo President’
Furthermore, the senator said the APC can’t produce an Igbo President in 2023, adding that only his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, can produce an Igbo President in the next election.
On the possibility of an Igbo President in 2023, Abaribe said: “The man who the shoe pinches knows where it hurts. The Igbo are the people in Nigeria who make conscious efforts of settling anywhere else without hurting their host.
“At any point, you have never heard that they kill and maim their host so they know how to aggregate everybody’s feelings — their customs, their laws, their norms, everything. And so, because of that we feel that the Igbo will understand you, will even have the time for you. Today, we don’t feel that this government has time for anybody.”
The Senate Minority Leader also said the PDP has not ceded the 2023 Presidency to the North because he has been part of all the “negotiations and the talks and I have never seen where there was any such ceding.”
Get Abaribe to identify the groups, ACF tells security agencies
Reacting to Abaribe’s comment that there are over 30 secessionist groups in the South-east, spokesman of the ACF, Emmanuel Yawe, said: “He should be invited by the security agencies to help identify the groups and devise ways of neutralize them.”
Meeting of ethnic nationalities needed – Afenifere
However, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi agreed with Senator Abaribe that there is an urgent need for meetings of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria to discuss various challenges bedeviling the country.
His words: “Incidentally, President Muhammadu Buhari, in his appreciation of the necessity for dialogue, prescribed it as a way of resolving the lingering war between Palestine and Israel when he addressed the 2021 United Nations General Assembly. Why he is not allowing same to hold in Nigeria is beating one’s imagination.
“It is in that type of dialogue that everyone will express his or her feelings. In the process, frayed nerves will be calmed; new understanding concerning the basis of our togetherness will be established, thus engendering a more harmonious relationship among the citizens of Nigeria.
“On Abaribe’s disclosure that there are over 30 separatist groups in the South-East, Ajayi suggested that elders in the region should convey a high-powered conference between all the said groups and political office holders of South-East extraction.
“At such a meeting, participants need to be reminded that justifiable as their grievances might be, there should be no reason whatsoever to take it out on fellow easterners.
“Stopping students and pupils from classes is obstructing the educational advancement of the region. Forcibly preventing people from their daily activities is injurious to the welfare and economy of the region.
“Thus, while political actors and forces from outside the region are being challenged, the people of the South-East also owe themselves a duty to let their aggrieved youths realize one fact: fighting each other, killing fellow Igbo and hampering socio- economic activities in the region are serving the interests of their ‘enemies’ rather than their own interests. For, by the time the dust is settled, the lives of those who had been killed cannot be brought back — unlike properties that may be regained.
“This is a time for every ethnic nationality in Nigeria, especially those at the receiving end presently, to resist the temptation of fragmenting themselves. It is a time to bond together so as to be strong enough to effectively confront the traducers.”
Abaribe spoke the truth – MBF
On its part, the Middle Belt Forum, MBF, said the assertion of Senator Abaribe that marginalization is fueling over 30 secessionist groups and agitations in the South-East was nothing but the truth.
National President of MBF, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, told Vanguard in Makurdi that “Senator Abaribe is from the South-East and he knows what is happening in that part of the country.
“That figure of secessionist groups in that part of the country maybe an assumption or real but I agree with the fact that the secessionists, whether in Igboland or Yorubaland or even in the Middle Belt are real; people are not happy about the Nigerian state.
“It is because people feel marginalized, it is because Nigerians feel this government is not doing the right things; and they wouldn’t want to be subjected to this kind of governance any longer.
“They feel that the overbearing influence and the posturing of the North by trying to assume the status of lord over other Nigerians is pushing people to seek a different country. If things were right and this government were doing things right and people do not feel marginalized they would not want to leave this beautiful country.
“It is bad governance that has brought us where we are. In that regard I agree with Senator Abaribe 100 per cent. Marginalisation has pushed people to the wall; not only the secessionist tendencies as response to the marginalization, even the VAT thing and others, are all in response to marginalization. People feel that they are generating VAT and some others are enjoying the VAT, yet some of the items from where the VAT is coming from is banned or destroyed in their areas.”
Abaribe spoke fact of life, history – Ohanaeze
Concurring, National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Alex Ogbonnia said: “What Abaribe is saying is the fact of life and history. When President Buhari came on board, he made it clear that he is favourably disposed to those who voted him and unfavourably disposed to those who did not vote for him.
“How can you explain that out of 14 heads of security agencies 11 are from the North, three are from the South and none is from the South-East; and of Grade A ministers, none is from the South-East?
“So, if Abaribe said there are 30 secessionist groups in the South-East, he is economic with the figure because almost all churches, every group, town unions in Igboland are agitating for fair treatment of the Igbo.
“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is attracting Igbo compassion because the marginalisation is clear. Therefore, President Buhari should address the marginalisation and embrace dialogue. Anybody, who goes to bed thinking it is just happening in Igboland is mistaken because you know where it started but does not know where it will end.”
CAN fingers bad governance for proliferation of pro-Biafra groups
Also speaking, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said with the increasing level of perceived marginalisation of Ndigbo and disunity among Nigerians, the country is at crossroads.
The umbrella Christian body, therefore, said the nation is in dire need of capable leaders who can unite the citizens while making basic amenities available to them.
It said such leaders should be those who are bold enough to demonstrate fair play and justice, stressing that without doing so, agitations by secessionists will continue to mount.
CAN’s Director of National Issues and Social Welfare, Bishop Stephen Adegbite, said this in an exclusive chat with Vanguard while reacting to Senator Abaribe’s claim that over 30 secessionist groups exist in South-East, which according to him, highlights the marginalisation of the people.
Adegbite said: “Nigeria is at a crossroads, and the situation is becoming alarming. The country is not in a good shape. But you can’t blame the citizens because it is a problem of bad governance. That is why more people and groups are clamouring for secession from Nigeria.
“Unless the Federal Government brings Nigerians together to sit-down and discuss the structure and unity of this country, there may be no end in sight for the agitations. If someone is not comfortable, the tendency to complain and seek to get out of the situation will arise. So, let our leaders ensure that Nigeria is governed properly.”
Some agitators no longer interested in Nigeria —Chekwas Okorie
To Chekwas Okorie, marginalisation may have triggered the agitations but some of the agitators are no longer interested in Nigeria and are leaving the government without an option.
His words: “Yes, marginalisation may have triggered it but it is no longer so now. Some of us politicians are regarded as traitors for seeking how to address the marginalization. They want a sovereign territory. The man who first agitated for Biafra, late Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, said Biafra with territorial integrity is no longer feasible except with the force of arms and the Igbo cannot afford it.
“So, the Igbo should be resolute about what they want. Igbo leaders have reached out and want an equitable Nigeria. Exiting Nigeria is not an attractive option for the Igbo. There is need to engage the agitators directly, and ensuring good governance in Igboland will make more and more of the agitating youths to have faith in Nigeria. Our governors have not discharged themselves creditably on this score.”
Meanwhile, fear has gripped the people of Igbo-Eze North Local Government Area of Enugu State following the murder of the central chairman of their Neighbourhood Watch group, Chinedu Uramah, and another personnel identified as Hillary Eze, alias Boy Akwuete, by unknown gunmen.
The incident, according to sources happened at the early hours of Tuesday morning when the victims and other members of the watch group who were equally injured were in their head office in the council area.
It was equally gathered that after the gunmen had killed their victims, they also set three security vehicles belonging to the watch group ablaze before fleeing the scene. It was also learned that they cut off the genitals of the security boss and fled with it.
While reacting to the development, the chairman of the local government, Prince Ejike Itodo, confirmed that there is tension in his council area, adding that he had already called a security meeting to restore normalcy.
Vanguard also learned that the late security boss served as the deputy chairman of the former administration of Neighbourhood Watch group in the local government and was made the chairman following the level of competence he exhibited during the last regime.
It was also learn that while the late security boss hailed from Umuida, the second victim hailed from Amufie, both in the local government council.
Ahead of the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State, the INEC has again raised the alarm over the heightened wave of insecurity in the state, saying it could derail the electoral process if not nipped in the bud.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu stated this at the emergency meeting of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security, ICCES, in Abuja, yesterday.
“You would recall that during our last quarterly meeting held about four weeks ago on 9th September 2021, we received briefings and reviewed preparations for the forthcoming Anambra State Governorship election. You may also recall that a major concern raised by members was the security situation in the State in particular and the adjoining states in general and how this might affect preparations and possibly the conduct of the election. Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated markedly since our last meeting. Many innocent lives have been lost and property destroyed.
“From the reports we have received, the stated goal of many of the attackers is that the governorship election scheduled for 6th November 2021 must not hold. This is worrisome for the commission. We are deeply concerned that specific electoral facilities and materials could once more become targets of attack.
“Recall that in May this year, our state office at Awka was attacked and all the non-sensitive materials assembled for the election at the time were destroyed. In addition, our store, collation centre and the main office building were either totally or substantially damaged. The Commission also lost several vehicles to be used for the election,” he stated.
Yakubu added that the commission has almost fully recovered from that attack, as the destroyed buildings have either been completely repaired or are nearing completion while it has also fully replaced the materials destroyed.
He said: “This rapid recovery has only been possible because this is an off-season election. We have sourced some of these materials such as the 326 electric generators and vehicles destroyed in the attack from neighboring states. However, should we again lose vital materials and facilities, the ongoing preparations will be adversely affected.
“The commission is particularly concerned about the safety of voters and election day staff, including security officials who have also become the targets of these attacks. The thousands of young Nigerians that we intend to deploy for the election, most of them National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members and university students, need to be reassured of their personal safety.
“At the same time, deployment for the election will involve the movement of huge consignments of sensitive and non-sensitive materials to the 21 Local Government Areas of the State, 326 Wards or Registration Areas and 5,720 Polling Units. That means over 6,000 locations to be protected. If we add that to about 26,000 officials that will be deployed for the election, we begin to appreciate the magnitude of the challenge of securing the Anambra Governorship election which is only thirty-two days from today.
“Perhaps never before in our history has the importance of election security in a governorship election been this urgent. The Commission is aware that this is by no means an easy task. We appreciate the enormous challenges that the security agencies are presently facing in Anambra State, which entail not only securing the electoral process, but also enforcing law and order generally. This is particularly worrisome because the security agencies have also become prime targets of these mindless attacks.
“It is in the light of these recent and seemingly escalating threats to the election that the Commission has convened this emergency meeting. We will continue to work with the security agencies and in consultation with respected opinion leaders in Anambra State and the National Peace Committee to ensure that these hit-and-run attacks do not derail the electoral process”, Yakubu stated.
The INEC boss assured the people of Anambra State that the Commission is determin-ed to proceed with the election as scheduled. To underscore this determina-tion, the Commission is implementing two more activities on the time-table for the election in the next few days.
“The register of voters will be presented to political parties in Awka on Thursday 7th October 2021. On the same day, the Commission will publish the final list of candidates for the election.
“We are confident that at the end of this meeting, we will firm up on specific measures necessary to further guarantee the safety of all persons involved in the election from the voters, election officials, observers, media organizations and the security of election materials”, he added.
Co-Chairman of ICCES and National Security Adviser NSA, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno, retd, who was represented by Sanusi Galadima, reiterated the position of the Federal Government to address security challenges in the region.
He said: “As we are all aware the Anambra State gubernatorial election, is barely one month away and the security threats posed by violent activities of separatist groups in the South-East are bent on scuttling the election in the state in furtherance of their separatist agenda.
“Undoubtedly, this constitutes a clear and present danger to the nation’s democratic process and consolidation.
“I wish to state that ONSA, is working assiduously with relevant security and intelligence agencies towards arresting the foregoing ugly trend and other associated security challenges in the South-East zone and beyond.
“This determination of the presidency is already being translated into action by the recent joint military operation, code-named ‘Golden Dawn’ in the South-East as well as other security operations across the country.
“This is in addition to the increasing collaboration between the Federal and South-East Governors towards addressing the underlying socio economic drivers of insecurity in the region.
“Once again, ONSA wishes to reiterate the Federal Government is committed to the protection of lives and property of all law abiding citizens before, during and after the elections, while finally calling on all peace-loving Nigerians of the South-East extraction to join hands with constituted authority to promote peace and development across the region and beyond,” he added.
Reps urge NSA, security agencies to end killings, insecurity in Anambra
Meantime, the House of Representatives, Tuesday, urged the National Security Adviser, NSA, Babagana Monguno and all the security agencies to deploy all necessary machinery to Anambra to end the wanton killings and the menace insecurity in the State.
The charge was sequel to a motion titled: “Urgent need to curb the increasing spate of killings in Anambra”, by Hon. Chris Azubuogu under matters of urgent public importance considered at the plenary.
In the motion, Azubuogu, a victim of attack had recalled the incessant killings in the state, calling for urgent intervention of the House.
He said that the peaceful state of Anambra had become a theater of war.
Reacting, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila decried the current situation in Anambra State. “We all heard what happened to you in the past couple of days. The situation in Anambra is very critical,” he said.