•Fear of IPOB, unknown gunmen may cause voter apathy —CDD

•Anambra election must hold —MASSOB

•Troops foil kidnap attempt of Orlu Catholic Bishop

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu & Kingsley Omonobi

THE candidates of All Progressives Congress, APC; All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the November 6 Anambra governorship election, yesterday, in a political debate, called for dialogue with the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a group agitating for the secession of the South-East from Nigeria.

This came during a Live Debate organised by Arise News.

Essentially, the debate centered on security, economy, infrastructure, education, healthcare, among other areas.

Expectedly, the candidates threw  punches at one another, including an attempt by Soludo to fault the certificate of the APC candidate, while Uba, on the other hand, told the APGA candidate that managing an outfit was not an assurance that such a person could perform as a governor.

Speaking on security and how to tackle the issues of secession and agitations by the  IPOB, the candidates all agreed that they neither condemn nor support the agitations of the group, insisting that their agitations could be tackled through dialogue, creation of jobs and youth empowerment.

The agitation by IPOB currently threatens the November 6 election as the group has declared a one-week sit-at-home in the South-East to demand the release of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

The one-week sit-at-home, a similar order which the people of the South-East have been observing every Monday, will commence November 5, which is just a day to the Anambra governorship election.

The Center for Democracy and Development, CDD, said fear of  IPOB and unknown gunmen may lead to low voter turnout in the November 6 governorship election in Anambra.

Although IPOB has denied being responsible for the attacks in the southeast, its sit-at-home order has heightened tension in the  state and other parts of the south-east.

But  the  Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, yesterday, has declared that the election must hold.

Asked to speak on IPOB and their agitation at the governorship debate, Uba said, “I believe in engagement. If you don’t engage them, how will you know what their problem is? I believe in engagement to dialogue because their problem is work.”

Soludo, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, also said the group deserves to be heard.

According to him, “I’m  on record to have said that IPOB deserves to be heard, that the agitation cannot be shot down by a gun.

“We need to have a dialogue, bring everybody to the table and discuss those specific issues that are their agitation.”

On his part, Ozigbo blamed the federal and state governments for the way the group’s agitation has turned out.

He said, “There are certain things IPOB does through agitation that I support. But when they get to some extreme, I condemn them.

“The real issue is where is the heart of all of this? If not for the way the states and the federal government have handled IPOB, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

“Let’s start by accepting responsibility. We created extremism, so we need the right person to inspire hope for that dialogue to happen.

“When they see you as the problem already, you can’t be the one to negotiate.”

He went on to call for the release of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu and for the group to be de-proscribed by government.

On insecurity in Anambra, Soludo said it “is politically motivated”.

“There are some people who think that they gain a political advantage by creating a sense of fear and insecurity so that they will have voters suppression,” he said.

On voter apathy that threatens the coming election, Uba said such had always been the case when it comes to elections in Anambra.

He, however, blamed the state governor, Willie Obiano, for the way he has handled the situation so far.

He said, “In this case, the governor has not done what he’s supposed to do.

“In 2007 when I ran for governor of Anambra State, I engaged the MASSOB group that was involved.

“I went to visit their leader, Ralph Uwazuruike in prison and talked to him about their stance against election in Anambra.

“I said let’s sit down and talk about it and at the end, we got it ironed out and there was election without violence.”

He said Governor Obiano and his APGA-led administration ought to engage those threatening the coming election to know what the problem is.

“The problem is unemployment, and that is why the violence is what it is today,” he said, promising to solve the problem if voted into power.

In his rebuttal to what Uba said about his party and the sitting governor, Soludo said the Senator only engages when he wants to contest in an election, adding that as soon the election is over, his voice is never heard again.

“I am the one who has engaged in and out of season,” he said.

“You were in the Senate for eight years and not one word about IPOB and  its agitation. You were only engaging when you want to run.

“Insecurity in Anambra started with the PDP government – orchestrated by my brother on my right hand(Uba) – kidnapping a sitting governor.

“The PDP legacy in Anambra burnt down the state. The violence, kidnapping and others were started by the PDP when Uba was at the engine room stoking up the fire.”

On his own part, Ozigbo blamed the APC and APGA, saying they have failed Nigerians in terms of security, adding that it’s time to go back to the security format of  a former governor of the state, Peter Obi who decamped from APGA to his party, the PDP.

He said, “About security, there is a lot we can do. We should go back to where Peter Obi left it – providing monthly money and vehicles to the vigilantes and making sure that they are well empowered.”

He said a thriving economy will be one of the measures needed to help tackle the insecurity in the state.

“When people are gainfully employed and busy, they will not transcend into criminality,” he said.

Fear of IPOB, unknown gunmen may cause voter apathy —CDD

In a briefing issued ahead of the election, CDD said the possible low turn-out of voters would weaken the mandate of the elected governor.

“Despite the likelihood that elections in some form will be held in Anambra on November 6, it is also likely that the context of insecurity, a measure of latent public support for IPOB’s cause, the heavy deployment of security forces, and the acrimonious political competition leading up to the poll will depress voter turnout, leading to an even higher level of voter apathy than has typically been witnessed in Anambra elections.

“This is a concerning outlook for several reasons. The first is that high voter abstention rates mean that instances of election malpractice such as vote-buying or rigging which have proven impossible to eradicate in Nigerian elections will have an even more dramatic impact on the final outcome.

“Secondly, the heightened possibility of low voter turnout risks weakening the mandate of Anambra’s next governor, given the likelihood that he will be elected by only a fraction of the entire voting population.

“Such a circumstance will serve to increase the already high degree of alienation a substantial proportion of citizens feel towards the state, as indicated in the emergence of non-state armed groups such as IPOB and the “unknown gunmen.

“Finally, high-levels of voter abstention would likely also serve to reinforce the argument repeatedly advanced by groups such as IPOB that the Nigerian electoral system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be jettisoned as a whole.”

CDD said in the light of the worrying repercussions of a failed or widely boycotted election, relevant  stakeholders should exhaust all reasonable avenues to ensure that the democratic franchise of Anambra voters is protected and delivered.

Anambra election must hold — MASSOB

MASSOB said it has considered the political, economic, and social implications of not having an election in Anambra State and the political implications of imposing a non-representative of Ndi Anambra as their governor, and came to the conclusion that Anambra election must go as fixed by INEC.

To this end, MASSOB said it has mandated its coordinators at all levels across the state to monitor and ensure that credible election is conducted in the state.

The pro-Biafra group said its position on Anambra governorship election is for the interest of Ndigbo as “we can never allow or give unfortunate legal room for outsiders to dictate our political and economic future”.

MASSOB also said supporting the Anambra election “does not mean the derailment of  the struggle for the actualization of Biafra and its restoration”, insisting however that “we must always consider the overall interest of Ndigbo first before a group or individual interest”.

The  group, therefore, urged the Anambra people to come out on Saturday to elect their Governor.

In a statement signed by its National Director of Information, Comrade Edeson Samuel, MASSOB said: “The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, under the leadership of Comrade Uchenna Madu, after our national meeting presided by our leader has declared as follows:

“That having studied the political, economic, religious and social implications of not having a credible election in Anambra State and the political mourning that may erupt by imposing a non-representative of Ndi Anambra as their governor, MASSOB declares that the Anambra Governorship election slated for November 6th, 2021 will hold as announced by INEC.

“That the Anambra State governorship election must be peaceful and credible as MASSOB has issued out instructions to our 21 Local Government Areas coordinators, 3 senatorial zonal leaders, 310 provincial administrators, and all MASSOB securities to assist in effecting a peaceful and credible election in Anambra State.

“MASSOB encourages the Independent Electoral Commission to go ahead without distraction in conducting the governorship election this weekend.

“MASSOB advises the people of Anambra State and other residents in Anambra to go out to exercise their fundamental and constitutional rights of electing their next governor because Anambra political space will never be in a vacuum.

“MASSOB’S position on this weekend Anambra governorship election is for the interest of Ndigbo. We can never allow or give unfortunate legal room for outsiders to dictate our political and economic future.

“That MASSOB’S position does not mean derailment of the Biafra struggle for actualization and restoration. We must always consider the overall interest of Ndigbo first before a group or individual interest”.

Troops foil kidnap attempt of Orlu Catholic Bishop

Meantime, troops conducting Exercise Golden Dawn Sector 3 have foiled an attempted kidnap and robbery of Most Reverend Augustine Ukwuoma at the Orlu Diocesan Catholic Secretariat, BSC Road, Orlu Imo State.

A statement by Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, Director, Army Public Relations said “The troops in response to a distress call at about 2:30 am on Sunday 31 October 2021, swiftly moved to the scene forcing the assailants to take to their heels thereby abandoning their mission.

“The Bishop, his Secretary, and Assistant Secretary are safe and unhurt.

“Troops will continue to deny freedom of action to members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra/Eastern Security Network, IPOB/ESN, and other criminal gangs operating within the sector especially as the elections in Anambra State draws nearer and during the yuletide season.’’

“Members of the public are advised to report the suspicious movement of criminals as well as hideouts of the outlawed IPOB/ESN to law enforcement agencies as the group is only out to intimidate, steal and kidnap law-abiding citizens for ransom.”

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