BusinessDay

What APGA’s victory means for peace in Anambra, South East

As rightly predicted by many political pundits, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) represented by Chukwuma Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has been declared the winner of the off-season gubernatorial election in Anambra State.

The election, which was keenly contested by 18 political parties, defied a lot of permutation around voter apathy and violence-ridden.

The successful exercise has left many people tongue-tied. But it was not without some technical hitches as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had to extend the time of voting on November 6 to accommodate more voters.

The election witnessed the massive failure of the Biomodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) in many areas due to a software breach.

Read also: Anambra guber: INEC declares Soludo winner

As a result of logistics reasons, INEC also shifted the election in Ihiala Local Government Area to Tuesday, November 9.

The winning party, APGA, was popularised by the late Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and until today, Ikemba Nnewi, as he was fondly called, is seen as the “guardian angel” of the party, even in death.

Many Anambra indigenes have also come to see APGA as “Nkea bu nke anyi,” and the sentiment has run deep and wide across the state.

Some analysts say that the little doubt about the possibility of APGA clinching victory wholesale this time around was centered around the entrance of the All Progressives Congress (APC) into the race and the past experience of the party’s pattern of winning its off-season election in some states.

Before the election, Anambra had been a war zone. A number of innocent indigenes had been killed by unknown gunmen.

A lot of government property, particularly those belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission had also been burnt.

The activities of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had become a threat to peace, not only in the state but also across the South-East geo-political zone.

Read Also: INEC declares Soludo winner

The weekly sit-at-home order by the IPOB had also become a burden on the people of the zone. The secessionist group had a few days to the Anambra election, announced a week-long sit-at-home to begin Friday, November 5 to 10, 2021.

It was meant to frustrate the election as a protest against the continued incarceration of Nnamdi Kanu and some other grievances against the central government.

But IPOB in a dramatic volte-face called off the sit-at-home order, urging the Anambra people to go out and vote.

The success could be attributed to the unseen hands of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, traditional rulers, religious and political leaders who reportedly prevailed on the IPOB to backpedal on the sit-at-home order earlier imposed on the state.

It was gathered that the decision was taken to ensure that an “alien party” does not take over the state.

BusinessDay gathered that the cancellation of the sit-at-home order enabled the people to boldly go out to exercise their franchise without fear of running into trouble.

It is expected that the Soludo/APGA victory would moderate the activities of IPOB in the state since the desired party has won the election.

Augustine Mbonu, an Awka-based political analyst, said the story would have been different if the APC had won the election.

“The Anambra people and indeed the entire South-East zone have every reason to be happy with the turnout of the election. That victory has saved a lot of troubles just like what happened in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari won the election against the then President Goodluck Jonathan. Had Jonathan won, there would have been chaos in the land,” he said.

Although the Federal Government through the security forces had deployed a huge battery of personnel to the state to ensure that security was not breached, indigenes and residents of Anambra were still apprehensive until the announcement of the cancellation of the IPOB’s sit-at-home order.

Peter Obi, a former governor of the state, in a statement last Friday suing for a free, fair, and peaceful election, also commended the IPOB for the change of mind on Anambra.

Pundits say that the high-level intervention that fostered the peace should be sustained and should not be allowed to fizzle away after the election.

Many people have expressed surprise that Anambra that was very much in the news for the wrong reasons suddenly became calm at a time no one expected respite.

Joe Igbokwe, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, wondered aloud that in the last 72 hours he has not seen or heard that IPOB members have murdered someone in the State

“In the last 27 hours, I have not heard that IPOB has murdered someone in Anambra. Are they on break or ceasefire? Igboland, the land of the will rising sun will rise again,” he said.

With the APGA victory, although the agitation of the IPOB was not very much about the government of Anambra State or a protest over what was done wrong or right by the incumbent administration of Willie Obiano, the wanton killings and the high-level insecurity in the state is expected to trend downwards.

“I live in Awka and have followed the level of insecurity which can only be equated with what the situation was in the days of ‘Bakassi Boys’. I think a lot of factors may have combined to worsen the situation in recent times. I think, one of them is the struggle for the leadership of the state by various political parties. Since 2017, this is the first time the APC’s involvement in Anambra became noticeable and it appears it did not just go down well with a number of people in the state,” Johnson Agu, a private sector player, said.

According to Agu, “The APC involvement also coincided with the trial of Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government led by the APC. So, the reading was that an enemy had come to take over the state. Do not also forget that the level of insecurity in Imo, an APC-controlled state, has to do with the political struggle for leadership. Governor Hope Uzodinma has said this so many times. Some Imo people are not happy that he is the governor and the process of his emergence has not gone down well with many.”

On his expectation now that the election has been lost and won, in relation to the level of insecurity in the state, Agu said: “We hope to see a return of peace, not just in Anambra, but in the whole of South East. Recall that in the last few months, the gunmen were targeting politicians and those moving with police escorts. It was a fight against perceived political enemies.”

A 300-level student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, who spoke with BusinessDay, expressed the optimism that peace would return to Anambra. He urged the stakeholders who prevailed on the IPOB to cancel the sit-at-home order, to continue to interface with the group for lasting peace in the state and the entire South-East geopolitical zone.

“I am not from South-East but secured admission into UNIZIK three years ago. When we came here, security concern was not as bad as it is today. Today, even our studies are being affected because of what is going on. No social life for us, nothing; everybody is so afraid that to step out of the campus gate into the town is done with utmost carefulness. Anambra nowadays is like a war zone,” the undergraduate who simply gave his name as Joe said.

According to him, “From what I see, it appears the activities of IPOB got worse with the extradition of Nnamdi Kanu and his trial. Again, the perceived injustice of the Federal Government against the South East is a sing-song here, and it is also a factor. “So, when the election was coming and the government deployed large numbers of security personnel as if it were going to the war front, it was misinterpreted by many people here that it was aimed at intimidating the people, particularly the opposition, to pave the way for Andy Uba. That perception was very strong, and it is said that perception is everything. So, on this score, the IPOB members appeared determined to frustrate the election by imposing sit-at-home on the people. I think their plan was to scare people away from the polling booths.

“I believe that whatever that the elders and religious leaders told the IPOB members did some magic. I also think the IPOB members were counseled to the point that they were able to realize that if they continued with the sit-at-home order, APC or any other party for that matter could take over the state. I think that was the clincher. I also think that going forward, I hope to see a change in their modus operandi, not only in the interest of Anambra State but that of the generality of the South East.

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.