With a 12-day ultimatum handed the Federal Government by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for the “unconditional release” of their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, failure of which the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State may not hold, the stage appears set for a seven-day lockdown of the South East Zone.
And the group has also warned residents of the zone against flouting the impending sit-at-home directive, stressing that doing so amounts to testing the resolve of the people on the Biafra project.
According to it, shutting down the area for “just for one week to secure our permanent freedom” is not such a high price to pay since “we have been enslaved and caged enough by the Fulani-controlled Federal Government of Nigeria and its allies.”
IPOB’s threat notwithstanding, political parties participating in the election are unperturbed about the threat from the secessionist group over the election, even as they insist that nothing would derail the process, especially since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already issued guidelines for the exercise.
Interestingly, while the Police High Command kept mum over the threat by IPOB when approached by The Guardian, key political parties are of the view that, with improved security, the campaigns are going on as scheduled.
Indeed, all attempts to get the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Commissioner of Police (CP), Frank Mba, to comment on the development proved abortive as he neither picked his calls, nor responded to messages to his mobile phone.
On its part, the INEC declined making any direct comment over the fresh threat.
However, its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, informed The Guardian that the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) meeting, which comes up tomorrow (Monday, October 25) will deliberate on the way forward for the Anambra election.
Asked if INEC was considering postponing the election as a result of the insecurity in the state, Okoye said he could not comment on the issue until after the meeting.
IPOB in statement signed by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, yesterday, gave the Federal Government up till November 4 to release Kanu unconditionally, or it would commence a one-week lockdown in the region effective November 5.
The group explained that the one-week sit-at-home order, which would end on November 10, was to press for the release of their leader whom the Federal Government was prepared to keep in incarceration ad infinitum for nothing.
The statement read: “Following the adjournment of our great leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s court case to 10th of November 2021 by the Federal High Court, Abuja, we, the great movement and family of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), wish to inform Biafrans, friends of Biafra and lovers of freedom that IPOB will lock down Biafra land from November 5 to 10 except Sunday, November 7, a day our people worship the Almighty God, Chukwu Okike Abiama, if the Nigeria government fails to release our leader unconditionally before November 4, 2021.
“Our leader, Onyendu Mazi Nnamdi Kanu must be released unconditionally on or before November 4, 2021 because he has not committed any offence known to any law. Failure to release our leader on or before November 4, 2021, our one-week sit-at-home begins on November 5, 2021 till November 10,” the group said.
The statement continued: “Although we quite understand the pains and adverse effects of this option on our people, we are compelled to take it to achieve a better purpose in the collective interest of Biafrans. We have taken time to analyse what transpired on October 21 when our leader was arraigned in court and discovered that the Federal Government is not sincere, and only wants to humiliate him and keep him perpetually in DSS custody to rot there.
“We all saw how lawyers, journalists, Igbo delegates and respected traditional rulers and other people who came from all around the world to witness his court case were restricted and denied access into the court premises by security agents who kept them outside under the scorching heat of the sun. What a humiliation and wickedness!
“We cannot accept that anymore. We can never allow our leader Onyendu Kanu to be tried secretly, and we can never also allow him to be tried under Sharia law under any guise. Nigeria must follow international laws in handling our leader.
“Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is in a DSS dungeon today because of his passion for Biafra’s independence, and we must sacrifice all we can to ensure that he regains his freedom. He has sacrificed so much for us all, so we must be prepared to sacrifice a little for him. Unless the Federal Government releases him unconditionally before November 4, we shall sacrifice one week for him as a warning protest to convey to our oppressors, that Nnamdi Kanu represents over 70 million Biafrans. He is innocent of all the charges preferred against him. As long as he is in detention, our individual businesses do not matter so much because he is suffering for us all and we can’t abandon him.”
While regretting the inconveniences that the development may cause the people, it is stated that a “necessary sacrifice we need to make until we have our full independence. Nobody resident in Biafra land is expected to flout this directive as doing so amounts to challenging the will of the people on the Biafra project.
“This one-week sit-at-home is also to let our oppressors understand that we are not going to tolerate any plan to torment, or abandon our leader in the DSS’ custody through frivolous court adjournment. Any plans to subject him to trauma in detention through long adjournment while real terrorists and mass murderers are having fun across the country cannot fly.
Nnamdi Kanu must be freed because he committed no crime. Asking for referendum so that Biafrans will decide whether or not they want to continue as part of Nigeria is no crime. He should not suffer for seeking justice for his people.
“We have been enslaved and caged enough by the Fulani-controlled Federal Government of Nigeria and its allies. If we shut down Biafra land just for one week to secure our permanent freedom, it is worth the sacrifice. Everybody should brace up for this sacrifice.”
As political parties remain unconcerned about the threat, the Political Adviser to Governor Willie Obiano, Chief Ifeatu Obi-Okoli, stated, however, that APGA was not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that it retains the state.
“These things are distractive and APGA cannot give in. There are over 5, 000 polling units in Anambra State, I don’t see how IPOB will go there and stop people from coming out to vote.
“There will be an election. The constitution did not specify that a certain number must vote in any election for the winner to emerge. The only thing is that there may be low turn out of voters, but that does not mean that Anambra people will not vote.
“We have seen several threats to the coming election, but none has marred the process. November 6 will come and go. It will not mark the end of Anambra State. Those issuing threats can continue to do so. What I think is that there should be dialogue on this agitation for Biafra. It is not all the time that we should resort to threats. The election has been fixed and nothing will stop it. We are looking forward to that date and I am fully convinced that Anambra people will not accept anything that can derail the process.”
The Anambra State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chief Okelue Madukaife, while reacting to the threat said that the party was going into the election to win.
“Everybody is looking forward to this election. INEC has issued its guidelines and APC is following it patiently. We cannot submit this process to any kind of threat. In the last one week, with improved security in the state, we are busy with our campaign rallies. It will even get better within the election week. There is no cause for alarm. We are not afraid of threats by anyone over the election. Our people will vote on November 6. I don’t see IPOB or any other group stopping us on that day”, he said.
Also, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cautioned that stalling the poll would be in the interest of no one in the state.
The Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Ndubuisi Nwobu, said, “We are not afraid of threats by anyone over the election in Anambra State … It is not even in the interest of those who are issuing the threats. We have seen similar threats before now, yet it did not stop us. We are going ahead with the election. So, the PDP is not bothered about what they are saying.”
On his part, the governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC), in the forthcoming poll, Akachukwu Nwankpo, has called on the government to free Kanu and embark on dialogue as the best way out of the challenges fuelling agitations for self-determination.
Akachukwu said it would be tantamount to self-deceit for anybody to think that the incarceration of Kanu would end the agitation for self-determination and sweep the injustices pervading the states of the federation under the carpet.
According to him, the detention of Kanu would make millions of his cult followers restive, as he has built a large network of adherents some of who he might not be in a position to control, and who may resort to self-help, if he is still left behind bars.131