…INEC, parties ignore threat
By Vincent Ujumadu and Omezia Ajayi
The position of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) that those hoping to vote in next Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State will die was yesterday dismissed by the Igbo socio-political group, Ohanaeze – Ndigbo. Ohanaeze-Ndigbo said the election must hold, pointing out that those calling for the boycott were enemies of the people.
The police also had strong words for IPOB, saying it had no authority to issue any statement as it remained proscribed.
On its part, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it would go ahead with the poll.
Political parties preparing to participate in the election brushed aside the IPOB call as they intensified their campaigns in different parts of the state.
Some members of the proscribed group campaigning for the separation of the Igbo from Nigeria had marched through some streets of Onitsha, on Friday, insisting that no election would hold in the South-East beginning with the Anambra election”,
They waved IPOB flags and distributed leaflets to warn residents against participating in the Saturday election. The group members asked voters to stay indoors on the day of the election. The Chairman of Ohanaeze – Ndigbo in Anambra State, Chief Okeke Ogene, in a response to the threat, yesterday, said those calling for the boycott of the election in the state were enemies of the people.
“ Anambra people have agreed that there will be election in the state. If there is any group saying there won’t be election, we want to put it to that group that the election must hold,,”Okeke Ogene said.
“Anybody insisting that there won’t be election in Anambra State is an enemy of the people. If such a group succeeds in creating confusion here, it will only be preparing a fertile ground for our enemies to penetrate our territory. And if such a thing happens, the next likely thing to happen is a state of emergency, which will not be in the interest of our people.”
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Garba Umar, on his part, warned that anybody operating as a member of IPOB was testing the might of the law, reminding the people that the governors of the South-East had proscribed the group.
The CP said:”IPOB is a proscribed organization and I had earlier warned the people of Anambra State to desist from associating with the organization and its activities. By circulating leaflets and directing people not to come out for the Anambra governorship election, these people want to sabotage the Federal Government’s efforts to maintain peace in the country.
“INEC and the security agencies have been preparing for a successful election on November 18, but this illegal group is determined to continue to cause confusion in the country.
Only last week, the police in Onitsha arrested two persons, Elochukwu Okolosi and Udeagha Ebubechukwu, at the printing press where they were allegedly working on IPOB documents meant for circulation.
“We wish to urge Anambra people to ignore these saboteurs by coming out to vote as the police is ready to provide adequate security during the election. The two persons will face the consequences of their action because they do not mean well for the people of Anambra State,” the CP said.
Umar also urged the people of the state to assist the police in tracking those whose objective was to scuttle the governorship election.
INEC assured, yesterday, that the Anambra will go on as scheduled.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard in Abuja, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the law is clear on situations that could warrant the postponement of an election, saying once a date has been fixed for an election, the exercise must go on as scheduled.
“Yes, INEC is going ahead with the Anambra governorship election. Once a date has been fixed for an election, the law is very clear on the conditions for shifting the date. So, INEC cannot just shift the date unless the conditions stipulated in the law play out, for example, if there is a major natural disaster like massive flooding”, he said.
The spokesperson, however, urged aggrieved groups in Anambra to refrain from any activity that could jeopardise the electoral progress of the state.
Though officials of political parties warming up to participate in the election declined to comment on the IPOB threat, yesterday, their body language indicated that it was a non-issue. While some of the governorship candidates were in some radio stations selling their programmes, some communities hosted some of the candidates and attendance at the rallies was heavy. For instance, the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, had a political gathering at the Dora Akunyili Women Development Center, Awka, while the All Progressives Congress, APC, held a mega rally at Alor, the home town of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, also had programmes in Awka and Onitsha.
Meanwhile, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, said it would be unfortunate if outsiders were making plans to scuttle the Anambra State governorship election.
Ikedife told Sunday Vanguard, last night, that it was the right of a people to choose who would rule them, adding that the continued threat by IPOB was becoming worrisome. He explained that it was obvious that most Anambra people want to participate in the election, adding that there were strong indications that all the people causing the trouble in the state were not from Anambra State.