History will be made on Saturday when the over 2.5million registered voters are expected to troop out to elect the next governor of Anambra state who will succeed the incumbent Chief Willie Obiano.
We challenge the security agencies deployed for the exercise not to leave any stone unturned to ensure adequate protection for the electorate, INEC officials, poll observers before, during and after the exercise.
This is in addition to guaranteeing the safety of lives and property of the citizens some of whom have been forced to bear the brunt of several security breaches in parts of the state in recent months.
We recall vividly that the people of the state have not been sleeping with their two eyes closed on account of an upsurge in violent criminal activities and the murder of some citizens including many security operatives, Dr. Chike Akunyili, widower of the late former Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili with accusing finger pointing at the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, an allegation promptly debunked by the group.
But despite the public outcry over the killings, perpetrators of the dastardly acts and other similar atrocities are yet to be apprehended by security operatives.
And as if to compound the already charged atmosphere across the state, the IPOB as part of strategies to ensure early freedom for its detained leader, Maxi Nnamdi Kanu handed down an ultimatum for the Federal Government to effect his release or before today (Thursday) or forget the governorship election.
The consequences of Kanu’s non-release, according to the group, include a weeklong sit-at-home in the entire South East geo-political zone beginning from tomorrow (Friday).
Sadly too, if enforced, such lockdown as experience has shown, will wreak incalculable havoc on the November 6 election even as IPOB further warned residents of the zone against flouting the impending directive.
Kanu has been detained by the Department of State Services (DSS) after he was renditioned from Kenya to Nigeria in June this year by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
We implore the IPOB to avoid any untoward action that may likely jeopardize the smooth conduct of the election holding in the next 48 hours since it is obvious that the Federal Government seems not prepared to yield any ground in granting unconditional freedom to its leader given recent comments on the issue by Loretta Onochie, Buhari’s aide on the issue.
Rather than enforce a lockdown that may result in the shedding of more innocent blood as a result of continued detention of Kanu, it is clear to all that allowing the Anambra people exercise their franchise to chose from the 18 governorship candidates cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC offers the best hope for the state.
It should also be emphasized that any disruption of the process will portend grave socio-economic and political consequences for the people as the eventual winner of the election may not represent the popular mandate as majority of the electorate would have been denied their civic duty of electing a governor of their choice.
Similarly, the electorate would have to live with the sad reality of government elected by the minority in the next four years even if it introduces draconian policies which completely runs contrary to the tenets and principles of democracy, described as government of the people, by the people and for the people.
We, therefore fully endorse recent comments by elder statesman and Chairman Ohanaeze Ndigbo Council of Elders, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu who made a passionate appeal to the people of Anambra state to sheathe their sword, allow peace to reign for the crucial November 6, governorship election to hold as the state and Ndigbo would be the ultimate losers of that doesn’t happen.
Describing Anambra State as a cradle of development and achievements in education, politics, industry, commerce and religion, he maintained that Onitsha was the first port of call in 1857, when the white missionaries came to Igboland with numerous positive effects on the state to show case for that.
According to him, the state has produced such great patriots as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who blazed the trail of Nigeria independence, Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu, the former Vice President of Nigeria Dr. Alex Ekwueme, all late and the first African elected Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaokwu, among others even as he recalled with nostalgia that the heroes left indelible legacies that portray Ndigbo and Anambra people as great people and appealed that the present generation should not destroy such legacies.
However, in our estimation recent decision by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba to deploy top Police brass that include two Deputy Inspectors General of Police( DIGs), five (5) Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs), 14 Commissioners of Police (CPs), 31 Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs) and 48 Assistant Commissioners of Police (ACPs) to coordinate human and other operational deployments in the three Senatorial Districts, 21 Local Government Areas and the 5720 polling units in Anambra State is reassuring and commendable.
The team headed by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Joseph Egbunike, also involve the mobilisation of 34, 587 police personnel who will work very closely with other security agencies not only to stabilise the prevailing relative peace in the state but create a conducive and enabling environment that will guarantee peaceful conduct of the election.
We call on all security operatives on ground across the state saddled with smooth exercise not to shirk their responsibility as only their best will be acceptable to the electorate, the state and the country at large.
Maximum protection should also be guaranteed to the over 25,000 INEC staff both permanent and ad-hoc that would conduct the election even as we welcome the commission’s group insurance policy for the affected employees in the event of the unexpected.
Politicians and contestants must shun desperation and the do-or-do attitude often blamed for the violence, thuggery, vote buying, ballot snatching and other electoral malpractices that characterized past elections in the country.
Like every contest where a winner and losers must emerge, we implore the contestants especially candidates of the leading political parties such as the All Progressives Congress, APC, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP to educate their supporters to comport themselves peacefully before, during and after the election. Therefore, we fully endorse the Peace Accord signed by the political parties on Wednesday in Awka to abide by the poll outcome as part of peace building efforts especially after the exercise.
The electorate must be told in clear term that the governorship seat is not worth the blood of anyone and that only one out of the 18 flag bearers will ultimately be declared winner of the election even after law-abiding citizens freely perform their civic responsibilities without molestation or intimidation.
However, even as we wish the Anambra electorate a successful poll, the losers are encouraged not to resort to self help, but fully avail themselves of the judicial process to get justice in case they are not satisfied with the result of the gubernatorial exercise in deference to the rule of law as that is the legitimate path to toe.