December 29, 2022

Attack on CUPP chieftain and the dangers ahead 2023




IT appears recent warning by the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba, on the danger posed by political violence in the current electioneering campaigns is yet to impact on the conduct of some politicians. 

Or how else do we explain last week’s attack by hooded gunmen and some security officials on the convoy of the spokesman of the United Coalition of Political Parties, CUPP, Ikenga Ugochinyere in Imo State? Reports had it that the convoy of the CUPP chieftain who is also the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate for the Ideato federal constituency in Imo State was blocked at about 7.30 pm in the Obiohia area of the state with an armoured personnel carrier after a well-attended and well publicised rally in Akokwa his home town.

 As the convoy approached, the attackers who had been laying in wait for their victim apparently sensing that he would be returning to Owerri after the rally, alighted from their vehicles and ordered all occupant of the convoy, including a pregnant woman, to disembark.

They thoroughly searched all vehicles looking for Ugochinyere. Unable to find him, they took away some vital belongings in the vehicles, including campaign documents. They even considered commandeering one of his vehicles but after consultations with a man in a sports utility vehicle with tinted glasses, they changed their mind.

The CUPP spokesman, who just finished addressing a well publicised and well-attended rally in his hometown, took time during the rally to address the threats he has been receiving from the state government. Of particular note was a trending audio conversation between him and an aide to the Imo State governor in which the aide openly dared him to return to Imo State, promising to send him to jail if he dares set his feet on the soils of the state.

 In a statement he issued after the attack, Ugochinyere accused the said aide of masterminding the attack on his convoy. He wondered why an individual, a civilian, would be allowed access to an armoured personnel carrier and a high number of security agencies in a desperate bid to waylay and possibly abduct an innocent citizen. But for the fact that his attackers failed to get at him, he feared that the plan was to abduct and kidnap him and heap the blame on imaginary sundry criminals. 

 The travails of the CUPP spokesman started some months ago after he exposed the monumental fraud in the voters register in some states of the federation, especially in the Oru Local Government Area of Imo State where the state governor hails from. 

In a world press conference addressed by the CUPP spokesman on the incident (now popularly referred to as Omuma magic), he exposed the monumental fraud in the voters register marked by double registration, fictitious and ghost entries. The register was padded with people whose names had no bearing with the dominant language spoken in the area even as photographs were shopped from calendars, almanacs and other public events. 

INEC response then was that it was yet to clean up the voters register and that the actual number of voters will only emerge after the clean up exercise. But at its third quarterly meeting with the leadership of the political parties, its chairman Yakubu Mahmood disclosed that after a rigorous clean up of the data using the Automatic Biometric Identification system, ABIS, more than 2.78 million names were identified and removed from the register as ineligible registrants.

Mahmood said 23 of its registration officers were identified for sanctions for involving in multiple and double registrations, among other infractions. Some of them made as much as 40 different attempts to upload a single ineligible registrant. All these go to confirm that the alarm raised by the CUPP was after all, very real. It was a patriotic assignment to insulate the voters register from being compromised by desperate politicians.

The commission had after the disclosure commenced the display of the register in the wards of the local governments of the country for corrections and objections. And when the figures from the objections are compiled, the number of ineligible registrants would further swell.

The point being made here is simple. And it is that since the exposure of this fraud in the voters register, the Imo State government has by every indication shown serious discomfort with the audacity of the CUPP chieftain.  The government had contrived charges to have the CUPP spokesman arraigned before the courts.

In one of those cases, Justice Binta Mohammed of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja quashed police investigation report and charges against Ugochinyere and described them as a product of illegality and an attempt to infringe on his fundamental human rights.

The court consequently set aside allegations of arson, attacks on INEC office, breach of national security and terrorism describing them as trumped up charges.  Another court process moved by the state government through Chinasa Nwanri, a special adviser to the governor, to silence Ugochinyere through the use of criminal summons for his arrest before an Abuja magistrates’ court also suffered a setback as Justice Hassan of an Abuja High Court issued a restraining order and stay of proceedings pending the hearing of Ugochinyere’s application for judicial review.

That was the position before Ugochinyere ventured into Imo State last week. Having fought through the judiciary to secure his rights, Ugochinyere believed the road for him to return to the state and continue his campaign was now clear. But things turned the other way as the Gestapo attack on his convoy would later reveal.  As things stand, he is scared for his life and the turn of events is bound to adversely affect the prosecution of his campaign.

The PDP in Imo State has strongly condemned the attack. They blame the incident on intolerance of opposing political views in the current electioneering campaigns even as they see a link between the manner in which the CUPP spokesman was attacked and the festering insecurity in the state. The party has therefore called on the IGP to arrest without further delay those fingered in the audio tape threatening to deal with Ugochinyere if he dares set his feet in the state.

Besides, the party also raised alarm about alleged attempt to frame trumped up charges against some of its popular candidates deploying questionable confessions from purportedly arrested gunmen to implicate them in the festering insecurity in the state.

The IGP had at a recent meeting of political leaders accused some unnamed governors as the main sponsors of the political violence that has been witnessed across the country.

Ubani, a public affairs commentator, wrote from Lagos