The biggest preoccupation of Imo rural communities as the off-cycle gubernatorial election is two days ahead, November 11, 2023, seems to be safety, rather than who wins.
Most meetings being called by agents of the candidates are either being shunned or end up in disagreements over getting the assurance of voting for one candidate or the other.
Many communities in the Owerri senatorial zone seem to be worst hit in the fear and confusion because the man they fought for the last time is not on the ballot, BusinessDay has learnt.
There also seems to be big confusion over which party to align with in the absence of the unifying force for the zone four years ago, who is not in the race this time around.
Inquiries by news teams around Imo communities indicated fear as the number one factor. Some villagers said their sons in Owerri warned them to stay away from trouble (meaning, staying away from voting).
They reported that their sons said they now close their shops in Owerri by 4pm and sneak home to stay safe because of fear of thugs roaming the streets since the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) national president, Joe Ajaero, was beaten to pulp few days ago.
Three political parties are viewed as evenly matched: APC (now ruling both the state and at the centre, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) that had controlled the state for years and claimed to have won the last election, and Labour Party that has emerged as Obi-dients shaking eastern and other regions).
Many camps still loyal to Emeka Ihedioha (then of the PDP) told newsmen that they were going to vote wherever he voted. Many however, fear that voting would never be free in the presence of terrible narratives and underground threats being passed to monarchs, community leaders and youth leaders.
Voter apathy is thus, feared in Imo rural communities.