By Emmanuel Onwubiko
By a little after 3am in the wee hours of today’s morning, I was awoken by a chat informing me of the possibility that the election may not be taking place in seven Local Government areas of Imo State.
The Senior Director of the headquarters of the independent National Electoral Commission, who brought this sad tale, also tasked me to find out why this is so. The Director expressed shock, consternation and disappointment that the insecurity in the South east of Nigeria has been allowed to degenerate and is now a hydraheaded monster. The person expressing this worry is not even Igbo Speaking but he is genuinely concerned about what has gone on for two years now in the Igbo heartlands.
Although I admit from the word go that there is no justifiable reason on why election should not take place in 21 local government Councils of Imo State both on Saturday 25th February 2023 being the Presidential and National Assembly poll and Gubernatorial poll coming up sometimes in March, exactly on March 11th 2023.
This is so because for populations in a chunk of the entire local councils in Imo State to be denied their Constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights to vote, it therefore means that the Country’s military and the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari have surrendered to the whims and caprices of agents of instability and destabilization. It was said before that government is the wielder of the most overwhelming force of controlled violence. But to see the unfortunate degeneration of Nigeria into a hige ungovernable spaces in which armer terrorists are permitted willfully by the Central government to operate and kill at will, represents the most significant act of treachery tolerated, incubated and waged by members of the powers that be.
The fact is that for a Nation to actually and practically beat her chest and say that it has sovereign authority over a geopolitical entity, it can do so with certainty when the armed forces under the direction of an effective political leader can guarantee territorial control.
The Armed Forces of Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari therefore should be made to give account should this unfortunate scenario happen and the electoral umpire actually fails to conduct election in 7 local Government Area of Imo State.
Be that as it may, it is so obvious that the military and police have actually failed to be on top of the situation of widespread insecurity and killings that have escalated in the South East of Nigeria since the last two years when President Buhari ignited this climate of unease and insurgency by picking and detaining the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
Besides, the tempo of the violent killings and attacks of government and private housing assets, keeps increasing as soon as there is a landmark negative development regarding the prolonged detention of the IPOB leader and thousands of his supporters by the military, police and the Department of State Service (DSS).
With the brazen disregard of the court of Appeal, Abuja, judgment freeing Mazi Nnamdi Kanu after all the charges of terrorism slammed on him by the Federal government led by Muhammadu Buhari was handed down and disregarded by the President, an erstwhile military despot, the rate of targeted execution of individuals in the South East by fringe groups purporting to be advocating secession from Nigeria, escalated.
So President Buhari it is fair to state here without any shadow of doubts that, is solely responsible for the violence in the South East by his actions and inactions.
I want to say right away that there is no justification for the spate of killings. No amount of injustice by President Buhari should justify the kind of destruction and killings that some armed non State actors and even State actors have unleashed on the South East thus making politics a point and kill adventure.
Aside from the Universal fact that politics is expensive, indeed very costly, what is now very burdensome is the fact that politicians who are desperate for the spoils and privileges of office in Nigeria’s kind of parasitic politics, have now started paying killers to assassinate any strong rival they perceive as a huge threat.
The resurgence of the Labour party now all over Nigeria once Peter Obi enlisted as its Presidential candidate, this means that the credible candidates in that party, especially in the South East, are now on the line of fire.
Many candidates of the Labour Party have paid the supreme price only for aspiring to be elected in the different capacities either within their states or to gain seats in the National Assembly in Abuja, which is obviously the most juicy legislature in the whole wide World. Those in the position of political authority, perceive that because Peter Obi is credible and loved by millions of Nigerians, it therefore follows that anyone aspiring for political offices under that party’s platform poses a threat to the ruling party especially in the South East. But this is a fallacy because it doesn’t follow that once Peter Obi is credible then everyone running for offices in Labour Party is credible. From from it. One issue that motivate the competitive type of politics is that politicians in Nigeria see their election as opportunities to Rob the Country of her resources and amass illicit wealth.
For instance, the law makers at the National Assembly of Nigeria are the highest paid anywhere in the world including even in the developed western societies like Britain and the USA. These attacks of labour party aspirants is escalating because the Presidential Candidate of the labour Party Mr. Peter Obi is seen as charismatic and about the less of all the evils running for the top most political office in Nigeria. Politics in Nigeria has always been winners take all, but there is now a new dimension making it a point to kill adventure. The following killings have taken place.
The Labour Party (LP) candidate for Enugu East Senatorial district, Oyibo Chukwu, has been killed last night and burnt to ashes by his assailants. Oyibo, a lawyer, was said to have been attacked while returning from a campaign trip in the Agbani area.
It was gathered that he was burnt inside his vehicle, and three persons were suspected to be with him in the vehicle. However, it could not be confirmed how many of the occupants were killed.
Information about the attack was made known by the Labour Party in Enugu State.
It was also gathered that the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the state, Uche Nnaji, was also attacked at the spot where Oyibo was killed.
The Labour party’s House of Assembly candidatevin Onuimo Imo State was earlier killed by assassins. The incident happened in the early hours at Mr Eleghu’s country home in the Umucheke community of Onuimo council.
The assassins, set his home ablaze after killing him and also burnt down his vehicle and other valuables.
Some weeks back, an LP women leader in Kaduna Victoria Chintex was killed.
Gunmen have equally targeted offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission in the South-East state in the past months. The most recent one which happened a few days back claimed some lives.
But INEC said critical materials were not destroyed in the incident.
“The attack affected the part of the building occupied by the Election and Party Monitoring (EPM) Department and one official utility vehicle (a Toyota Hilux pickup van) were burnt,” INEC’s National Commissioner Festus Okoye said in a statement hours after the incident.
“This is the third attack on the Commission’s facilities in Imo State in less than two weeks following the earlier attacks on our Orlu LGA office on Thursday 1st December 2022 and Oru West LGA office on Sunday 4th December 2022.”
Not long ago, the abducted Sole Administrator of the Ideato North Local Government, Imo State, Christopher Ohizu, was beheaded, filmed and posted on the social media but the Imo Statevpoloce command, the Department of State Services and all the security agencies could not arrest the killers or prevent this primitive act of criminality from happening.
This is as some politicians in the area are reported to have fled to Imo State capital, Owerri for their safety following the killing.
It was gathered that Ohizu’s abductors had allegedly received N6 million ransom before beheading him on Sunday.
Ohizu was abducted with bullet wounds alongside two others after his country home at Imoko community in Arondizuogu area of the state.
The gunmen also razed the LGA premises.
Viral videos of his beheading surfaced online on Sunday evening.
A source said: “They beheaded the Ideato North Sole Administrator on Sunday. They posted the video of his beheading with his phone on his own WhatsApp status. This was how people got to know that he has been beheaded.
“He was sliced after collecting ransom of N6m. He was killed in such an inhuman way. The videos are terrifying. May God heal our land.”
Following the murder of Ohizu by gunmen other council members and members of All Progressive Congre (APC) have reportedly gone under ground .
It was reliably gathered that politicians have fled the council for Owerri, state capital of Imo state.
A source said that the beheading of the council boss has instilled fears in the hearts of other notable politicians forcing them to flee the area to where they consider safe.
He also said that there were fears and apprehension for the lives of APC ward chairman and a member of the campaign council who were abducted alongside the deceased sole administrator. Mires when all security apparatuses in Imo State are compromised and weak.
The source said: “Since the ugly news of the beheading of Christopher Ohizu, filtered in, most of the politicians including notable members of the APC have fled for Owerri for safety as they longer feel safe.
“There are fears that those who were abducted with the Sole Administrator may have been killed as well, because those who had abducted them have not contacted their families ever since.
“So, we are afraid that they have also been killed. As I speak now, even workers did not turn up for duties.”
From Southern Kaduna comes the story that gunmen had killed the women leader of the Labour Party (LP), Victoria Chintex in Kaura LG of Kaduna State.
Publicity secretary of the LP in southern Kaduna senatorial zone, Edward Buju revealed this in a statement on Tuesday.
According to Buju, she died on Monday after gunmen invaded her residence in Kaura and shot her.
Her husband was also said to have sustained gunshot injuries and is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility.
“The Southern Kaduna (Zone 3) Labour Party commiserates with the party chairman and his excos in Kaura local government area, over the untimely demise of our mother and sister, Mrs Victoria Chintex, woman leader, Kaura local government area, who was killed yesterday (Monday) by some unknown gunmen in her residence in Kaura,” the statement reads.
Buju described the deceased as “industrious, hard working and a dedicated party leader”.
He charged LP members at all levels in the state to pray for the repose of her soul.
“More so, as we await the burial plans by the family, the Zone 3 Labour Party will give support to her family,” Buju said.
On behalf of our presidential candidate, Peter Obi; our gubernatorial candidate in Kaduna state, Jonathan Asake; the party senatorial candidate for Southern Kaduna zone, Mike Auta, we call on the people of Kaura LGA, to be law abiding as vengeance is of the Lord.”
The incident was equally confirmed by Mr. Arabambi Abayomi, the party’s National Publicity Secretary,
Arabambi who spoke to Vanguard on the telephone disclosed that the party will ensure it engages the police to investigate the ugly incident.
The involvement of money in politics is also the main motivation for these attacks.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had said that over N500 billion old naira notes stashed by politicians yet to return to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Abdulrasheed Bawa stated this when he appeared on Channels TV’s Politics Today.
The EFCC chairman added that the commission had a lot of information on some of the means politicians were devising to buy votes during elections.
He said, “The only option politicians have now is to buy votes, as BVAS will do a lot of wonders. They want to maximize the numbers they have. That is the intelligence we have and I am happy that all the security agencies are working to make sure the election is successful.
“Some people stashed money for the purpose of the election. Even as of today we still have over N500 billion old naira notes that are yet to be returned to the CBN. And the CBN has printed N500 billion new naira notes which is in circulation.
“We have our own way of getting such Intel and God willing we are going to use it maximally this time around.”
So politics in Nigeria being seen by politicians as money making gambit has made those seeking for political offices and those holding public offices as endangered species.
It is reported that gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped the wife of the traditional ruler of Amuro autonomous community in the Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State, Ugoeze Umugborogu.
Apart from kidnapping the monarch’s wife, the rampaging gunmen also burnt the country homes of the chairmen of All Progressives Congress and Labour Party in Amuro ward.
The development caused panic in the community as residents fled their homes.
A source who doesn’t want to be mentioned told the media that the attackers set the houses ablaze as soon as they arrived at the compounds.
“They equally razed the house of the APC chairman in the ward. This is going out of hand. The government should come to our rescue.”
Okigwe LGA has in the last few months become a hotbed for criminal activities.
Just on Tuesday, some gunmen razed five houses in Amagu Ihube community in Okigwe LGA which included the houses of the state commissioner for youths and sports, Emeka Okoronkwo, a former Dean of the Law Faculty of the Imo State University, Nnamdi Obiaraeri, a retired Director of State Security Service, Nnaemeka Ngwu and two others.
Gunmen had last week razed the country homes of the Labour Party House of Assembly candidate for Okigwe LGA, Nnaemeka Obiaraeri and that of the Director General of the candidate of the Labour Party Okigwe North House of Representatives election, Okey Unam.
It is obvioysly late to expect that President Muhammadu Buhari will change his lackadaisical attitudes to the spate if insecurity. The best bet is to await the result of the election to see if the will of the people won’t be subverted. If the President elected by the majority of the voters emerge on Saturday after the poll, it will be the first major assignment of the winner to do something fast about the state of insecurity as soon as he is sworn in on May 29th. It is self evident that the ineffectiveness of President Muhammadu Buhari has turned politics into a do or die affair or what we can now call a POINT AND KILL ADVENTURE.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and was NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.