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2023: Fear Hits South-East As Gunmen Attack Politicians

There is growing concern that the democratic process in the South East region of Nigeria may be interrupted as election campaigns get under way.

This comes after a recent wave of unrest in the area, mainly by individuals who pose as unidentified gunmen and separatists.

The senator who represents the Anambra South Senatorial Zone, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, was attacked during the past two weeks, upsetting the tranquility of Anambra State. After attending a ceremony, Ubah was traveling in his convoy to his hometown of Nnewi when, at around 7 o’clock that Sunday evening, he was ambushed near the Nkwo Enugwu-Ukwu intersection.

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A politician would not be assaulted in the State for the first time. Politicians have actually been attacked throughout the entire South Eastern zone, with some of them dying as a result, while others have been kidnapped and later released after being paid a ransom.

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Some of people who have fallen victim include Mr. Obiora Agbasimalo, the Labour Party’s candidate for governor of Anambra State, who has been missing since his kidnapping just before the State’s governorship election in November 2021. Prior to the election, Hon. Chris Azubogu, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor, was also attacked, and some of the vehicles in his convoy were destroyed. Dr Chime Akunyili, husband of the late former minister for information and Director General of NAFDAC, Prof Dora Akunyili was killed last year too, after he was mistaken to be a politician.

In Imo State, the mansions of the State governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the Ohanaeze President General, Amb. George Obiozor, and senior PDP chieftain and former presidential adviser Ahmed Gulak were attacked and destroyed. The attacks have persisted despite numerous attempts by the State administrations, and in Anambra too, a politician, Hon. Okey Okoye, and his aide, Mr. Cyril Chiegboka, were abducted and killed.
Additionally, former lawmakers have been abducted; one of them had a disability and was later beheaded.

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The Anambra State 2021 governorship election, which was held in November, was nearly cut short because to the extreme levels of insecurity there. Even though it was upheld, certain areas of the state were prohibited from campaign because of violence.

Attacks have also occurred in Ebonyi, Abia, and Enugu, among other states. Unknown gunmen recently attacked a Labour Party gathering in Enugu State’s Awgu Local Government Area.

While various political analysts who spoke to Newsmen had differing ideas regarding the prospect of unrest delaying elections in the region, there are concerns that if it persists, the 2023 general election may not take place in the South East.

Mr Emeka Ejiofor, a lawyer, who spoke to our correspondent said, “There is nothing like an election not holding in the South East, not even IPOB or anyone can stop it. What I know they may succeed in doing is that they will whittle down the number of prospective voters in the zone, and give advantage to other candidates in other parts of Nigeria.

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“You need to understand what I mean, the only thing the insecurity in the zone will do is that, either INEC staff are scared away from going to some places in the zone because of insecurity, or they are able to go to such places and at the end, they fail to see voters, who will also not turn up because of the same insecurity, and that would be counted as election having held. That is why I personally think that the insecurity in the South East is sponsored from outside the zone. This is because IPOB, which we all suspect to be the purveyors of this insecurity, have denied that they have a hand in it, so who then are the people doing it?”

According to a different respondent, Mr. Christian China, a political analyst, the south-eastern region of the country was not exempt from the wave of violence that was sweeping the nation. As a result, elections in the region cannot be halted, unless one considers stopping elections nationwide because insecurity is pervasive throughout the nation.

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He said: “Nigeria has been witnessing a gradual decline in the State’s capacity to protect its citizens. There are many manifestations of this in all the regions, including the southeast. As of today, Nigeria has gotten to a level where there are doubts as to whether elections would be held in 2023. That those doubts exist in the hearts and minds of Nigerians, including policy makers, tells you all you need to know about the unfortunate security situation we found ourselves in.

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“In the Southeast, there are armed non-state actors who have openly communicated their disappointment with establishment politics. These emergent armed groups have both the motivation and tactical confidence to attack politicians who they have severally accused of sabotaging their separatist agitations. Even at that, painstaking efforts must be made to differentiate between violent criminals, terrorists, freedom fighters and sponsored elements.

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“I have heard insinuations that violence could be sponsored to suppress the votes of the Southeast region given the manifest support the region has for a particular presidential candidate. The government must do everything it can to take back operational control of the territory and reduce violent crimes to the barest minimum. It is important to warn that Nigeria has checked off all the boxes for military intervention in civilian administration. With the resurgence of Coups D’etat in Africa, Nigeria should not take its unbroken democratic governance for granted.”

In the meantime, IPOB has not done anything to persuade anyone that they are not to blame for the unrest in the region. This is due to some of their statements, which have been found in both the group’s verified and unverified communication channels.

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Miss Ify Eze, a journalist said: “As much as IPOB tries to exonerate themselves from the insecurity in the zone, it is still hard to believe them. I say this because I have read their releases where they have threatened people. So, if they continually lay claims to being a nonviolent group, how can they threaten people that much, especially as they are known to have the ESN, which bears arms.

“Even if IPOB claims not to be responsible for the insecurity in the south east, some of the people they recruited during their growing days and who have broken away could be responsible for what is happening in the South East. We have seen it with the Finland-based Simon Ekpa who declares sit at home at random and has continually used his boys to enforce the banned sit at home exercise. So, no matter how much IPOB tries to exonerate itself, it is still culpable for some of this insecurity.”

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She was right; there have been instances where IPOB has threatened violence against numerous people.

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The group’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, has threatened the governors of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, and Ebonyi State, Engr. David Umahi.

The governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, who was recently accused of utilizing the Ebubeagu militia to assassinate IPOB members, is the most recent of these individuals to receive threats.
Powerful claimed in a news release that due to Soludo’s excesses, the group has put its militant wing, ESN, on alert.

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