The last governorship election held in Anambra State of Nigeria was in November, 2013. The consequential impact of the landmark Supreme Court judgment in OBI V. INEC on the electoral calendar of the Nigerian nation is that Anambra State now conducts its governorship elections two years prior to the general elections held nationwide. The State is now due for another governorship election. The electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission [henceforth in this article called the INEC], has slated the date of the epic contest to be 18th November, 2017. The incumbent governor, Dr. Willie Obiano of APGA party is contesting. He is squaring up with many opponents from other political parties. The atmosphere is gradually heating up. This is understandable. Now, we have the Indigenous People of Biafra [henceforth in this article called the IPOB]. They [the IPOB] are now concededly a factor in the political epic battle coming up. This is so not because the IPOB is a registered political party under the Nigerian laws. The IPOB is not even registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria and therefore enjoys no legal entity in the Nigerian nation. However, the IPOB activities and the consequences flowing therefrom now transcend both political/geographical boundaries. The Leader of the IPOB, Maazi Nnamdi Kanu, has taken a decision and consequently issued a directive to the effect that elections would no longer hold in Biafraland [a geographical entity whose map is steeped in acrimonious controversy and its boundaries still largely indeterminate]. Anambra is prominently sitting within the Biafraland. This is not in controversy neither is it being challenged by both the proponents and antagonists of Biafra struggle.
The present write-up is propelled by the strident opposition mounted by the IPOB to the conduct of the 2017 Governorship election in Anambra state. I choose to write on this topic principally because I am involved. I am involved because I am from Anambra State of Nigeria. I am involved because I am a youth [this writer is 28 years old] who has the better and larger part of his life [God being so gracious and sparing my life] to spend in the state. I am involved because it is my right to contribute in defining and protecting the future in which I will live and raise my kids. I therefore clearly have a legitimate interest in whatever plays out on the political scene of Anambra State of Nigeria. I have always intervened in the past [by way of constructive criticisms] in the affairs of the state. Now, more than any other time in our recent history, my contribution [by way of this article and other subsequent lawful measures if need be] has become of even greater necessity. In this article, I seek to examine the arguments in favour and against the conduct of the 2017 governorship election in my state as being canvassed by different quarters. The concatenation of this intellectual engagement would furnish an unassailable basis for the summation that the greater interest of Anambra State would be served and protected by the conduct of the election.

The IPOB it must be stressed is not the only group or movement canvassing for the establishment of the Sovereign State of Biafra. We have the Zionist Movement, the Biafra Independence Movement [BIM] led by Uwazuruike, Biafran Liberation in Exile [BILIE], the MASSOB and a host of countless others. What perhaps stands the IPOB out among the lots is its modus operandi [mode of operation] and methodology. It is the argument of the IPOB that by abstaining [boycotting] from further elections, the realization of an independent state of Biafra would be speedily actualized. They further canvass the view that unless the Federal Government of Nigeria names a date for the conduct of referendum in Biafraland, no election would hold thus the commonplace catchphrase “No referendum, no election”. They have gone further to euphemistically label 18th November, 2017 “ofe nsala day”. If the IPOB had stopped at directing its members to abstain from the polls, perhaps the present article would have been of no moment. But they did not stop at that. They have not only dominated the airwaves with their “no referendum, no election” mantra, they have now gone physical. In Onitsha, video evidence abound how IPOB members have interrupted state activities where the governor went for a football tournament. On another occasion, the Governorship aspirant under the PPA platform, Chief Godwin Ezemo, was confronted at a rally by the IPOB. Only recently, the IPOB members invaded and desecrated St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Ekwulobia in Aguata Local Government Area, where the Governor was to worship. From the account of the State Commissioner of Police, it took greater restraint and discipline on the part of the Governor’s security details to stave off what would have been a harvest of human casualties. Still recently, we read in the news that a coalition of militants have issued a stern warning to Anambrarians, to stay away from the polls on the 18th of November, 2017 or pay dearly for daring to defy the order of Maazi Nnamdi Kanu. It is noteworthy that many other Biafran separatist groups do not subscribe to the “no referendum, no election” mantra of the IPOB. Notable among the Biafran separatist groups that have disavowed the IPOB’s directive on Anambra election boycott is the BIM led by the founder of MASSOB, Raph Uwazuruike.   

On or around the 28th day of June, 2017, the All Progressives Peoples Alliance [APGA] in Anambra State delivered a very powerful message to the Leader of the IPOB. The message reads in part: “Nnamdi Kanu’s call for a boycott of elections in the South-East, beginning with the governorship polls scheduled for November 18, 2017 in Anambra is irresponsible, irredentist and totally devoid of any focus. You must appreciate that for different logical reasons and perception, the Biafra concept has attracted favourable comments among our people, ostensibly borne out of the marginalisation of Ndigbo in the Nigerian state. While youths of the East are agitating for Biafra, the Arewa youths are equally restive; the same goes for NĂ­ger Delta youths and youths from Oduduwa states. In this popular agitation for Biafra, Ndigbo have not instituted a separatist movement or a terrorist gang as it were. We are more concerned about the continued existence of Nigeria under the present structural arrangement.”
The party [APGA] finally advised the IPOB leader to drop his “emperor” perception of himself “and humble yourself to the true leadership of Ndigbo for a proper and better articulation of the Biafra struggle.”

The  Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex socio-cultural organisation of the Igbo, on Thursday [29th June, 2017] disowned the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and his movement, IPOB. The President-General of Ohanaeze,  Chief John Nwodo, announced this while addressing the members of the Anambra State House of Assembly at the Legislative Complex, Awka, Anambra State. Now, hear him:
News that reached us in the past few days that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, has declared that there will be no election in Anambra State in November is shocking and disturbing. I hereby countermand that declaration as President-General of Ohanaeze. Whereas Ohanaeze understands the marginalisation and unfair treatment of Igbo which have given rise to self-determination movements in Igboland, leaders of these movements must not arrogate to themselves the supreme leadership of Igboland. Statements of the kind credited to Nnamdi Kanu are provocative, misleading and unproductive. Why should Anambra people be denied the opportunity to choose their own leader? Why should any of us who are not from Anambra, no matter how highly placed, descend into the arena and dictate for the Anambra people when to vote, whether to vote or who to vote for? Anambra, nay Igbo, are still part and parcel of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Yes, we are not happy with our treatment in Nigeria. Yes, some of us want Biafra. Yes, some of us prefer a restructured Federal Republic of Nigeria. But the fact remains that we are still part and parcel of the present Federal Republic of Nigeria, bound by its laws, no matter how repressive or unjust. Our approach to reforms of our laws, even if it leads to self-determination or restructuring, must be lawful. We must convince other Nigerians of our point of view, we must strive to make others share our convictions. Our language must be civil, respectful and lead to consensus building. We must resist any attempt to turn division amongst us, as to which way we must go, become a source of altercations between us. As we speak, very many of our people living in northern Nigeria are in complete awe and consternation regarding how safe they will be after October 1st. Other northerners living amongst us are also worried…I find no venue more suited for the statements I make here. Every constituent part of Anambra is represented here. I believe that the honourable members here are competent enough to carry the Ohanaeze message to every nook and cranny of Anambra State. We are happy with the peace that exists here. We are happy with the steady progress that Anambra has registered over the years. The next election can only improve not retard it”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights encyclopedically reaffirms that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be held by secret votes by equivalent free voting procedures. The purpose of holding an election in a democratic set-up is to determine the wishes of the people as to who should represent them in their legislative and executive set up. It is therefore necessary to ensure that any election conducted is done in a way that would substantially ensure that the main objectives are substantially met. See A.P.G.A. vs. OHAKIM (2009) 4 N.W.L.R. (pt. 1130) 116. What this suggests is that periodic free and fair election is a most vital condiment in the cooking pot of every democracy worth the name. We must quickly add that the periodic free and fair election under reference as contemplated by democratic norms must never be exclusive and contractive but must be seen as expansive and all-inclusive to the widest extent made possible by the organic law (the constitution) of the land which is the fountain and foundation of all electoral laws.

A former Acting Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC], Mr. Phillip Umeadi (Jnr.), Esq. [from Nri in Anambra State], has given an insight into the legal implications of elections not holding or the election being boycotted in Anambra. Let us invite him to speak:
The electoral laws, both substantive and adjectival, do not contemplate a situation where a people collectively and intentionally decide not to vote, but the laws address the implications of such an action as in where in general terms there is no election. In summary, the Federal Government will exercise its right to appoint an administrator for six months pending when INEC will conduct an election. The position is that the tenure of the current government will come to an end on a certain date as prescribed by law. When it happens and there are no elected personnel to take over the reins of governance, it creates a state of emergency that will lead to the appointment of an administrator. Since the agitation and the agitators cannot stop the interim arrangement of the appointment of an administrator, it raises the question – why did we then boycott the elections? Actions and reactions should be equal and opposite. We would simply have denied ourselves the opportunity of electing our officials into government. We would have jettisoned our right to decide that we must be governed well. All of these, especially our inability to stop the interim arrangement, make the boycott unnecessary. And I am being very kind as I can go down the lowest sewer for the most deprecating expletive to denounce the decision.” The Anambra election is our opportunity to elect our leaders and as I had argued earlier, the politics would have been to get a Biafra compliant governor in Anambra. (And) along with his colleagues, he can drive the project. What the constitution recognizes is the right to vote, but as is with every right, one can refrain from exercising it…Legally speaking returns at election are made on the basis of the people who came out to vote. Therefore if only 10 people come out to vote, a return will be made on the basis of 10. Is that the kind of election our people need? Surely more than 10 people will come out to vote because some voting points are located in people’s domain. If IPOB engages INEC officials with a view to stopping them from going to duty posts, then IPOB is engaging the federal might. They won’t enjoy anybody’s sympathy.”

I want to start my reflection by re-affirming that our country Nigeria is a nation whose democracy is founded on laws. Our nation is not on auto-pilot. Nigeria is neither a ghetto [where charlatans call the shots] nor a banana republic [where outlaws dictate the tone of public discourse]. Indeed, I can go on to state that Nigeria is not an asylum where lunatics and fringe elements preside. There is no argument that appointing a date for a referendum is just one step among many in the build up to the possible grant of independence to any people desirous of same. Dates for a referendum are not just given for the mere asking. They are not given on a platter of gold. They are not given as a routine. They are not given willy-nilly. It does not follow that when asked for, a date for referendum is given the same way morning must follow the night. Every procedure relating to referendum as a prelude to secession is tied to law. Such referendum processes are not at large. Indeed, under our present Constitutional  arrangement, referendum can only [legally] be ordered where the agitators have taken their agitations to the Court room for the enforcement of their human and peoples’ right to self-determination. Such tough legal duel will most likely terminate at the Supreme Court. If and when the outcome does not favour the agitators, then they have a case which they can put before regional and global bodies having exhausted all available domestic remedies. This can only be so because Biafra as an entity will at best remain a failed project without recognition accorded to it by the United Nation [an august body that understands that the balkanization of a country is not a tea party.]. Confirming this line of reasoning, no less a person than Distinguished Senator Ike Ekweremadu [a man occupying a commanding height in the field of law and former Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament] echoed this incisive view:
Beyond sentiments, it needs to be emphasised that Nigeria is a sovereign state, with a defined territory recognised by the international community. She is a member of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), among others. This territory includes the South-east region. While the right to self-determination is guaranteed under the international systems, specifically the United Nations and African Union, this right has laid down procedures that must be religiously followed. For instance, while the call for referendum is legal, they do not come by fiat. Referendum is the ultimate result of wide and long negotiations, consultations, and processes involving the international community as we have seen in the cases of Scotland in the United Kingdom, Catalonia in Spain, Quebec in Canada, and recently in Puerto Rico as well as the successful secession of East Timor from Indonesia, Eritrea from Ethiopia, and South Sudan from Sudan. Unless these due processes are observed, as in the case of Eritrea, East Timor, and South Sudan, such enclaves will not be recognised as sovereign states by the international community…There is also the case of Somaliland. Almost three decades after it declared itself a sovereign state from the Federal Republic of Somalia, the best the self-declared Republic (British Somaliland) has achieved is recognition as an autonomous state, but still part of Somalia in spite of the fact that Somalia is a failed state. We also have the Russia-backed breakaway Eastern Ukraine, which still uses the Ukrainian international passport and currency, several years after. It does not matter that it is supported by Russia, a world super power. In the Caucasus, the breakaway South Ossetia and Abkazia from Georgia are only recognised by Russia more than 10 years after. They can only travel as Russian citizens with Russian international passport. The international community still recognises them as citizens of Georgia”
There is a possibility that the drivers of secessionist agitations among us are yet to avail themselves of this crucial position of the law as amplified above. This seemingly lack of intellectual content in the separatist push may have led the former INEC Chief [Umeadi] to lament that until the people that will provide the intellectual argument are allowed to lead the agitation, which he doubted, “it will remain a successful agitation in attention-seeking. The issues will be addressed as stated above so, we can stop making “noise”, but the idea of an independent state of Biafra will remain a mirage.” [https://guardian.ng/politics/between-separatist-agitations-and-democracy-in-anambra-guber-poll/].

Call it pride, call it immodesty, this writer is confident in announcing that Anambra ranks first ahead of all other South-Eastern States in all the indices of good governance and in distribution of dividends of democracy to the citizens. This is a state with the best network of roads in the whole of the Nigerian federation and the least indebted state. From the inglorious era of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju, tremendous efforts have been made to gloriously change the narratives of Leadership model from the time of Dr. Chris Ngige, Mr. Peter Obi and now Dr. Willie Obiano. All these superlative achievements would not have been possible but for the wonderful and well-informed choices made during periodic elections by Anambra citizens. It is therefore a most unfortunate irony and comical that individuals from states that are known to be afflicted with infrastructural bankruptcy and cursed with pronounced leadership convulsion would be seen advising Anambrarians to avoid the polls scheduled for 18th November, 2017. They should tell it to the marines. Such directives can only be found in books like Alice in Wonderland. It is akin to a tale told by an idiot full of sound fury signifying nothing [apologies to Williams Shakespeare]. In the light of the legal adumbrations hereinabove highlighted, anybody who chooses to deploy other means than those legally accepted means capable of advancing the Biafra agitation is nothing but an anarchist. Ndigbo have a saying that “ebe onye bi ka ona-awachi”. This literally translates that “Where a man lives, he guards”. Anambra is indeed “our own” and I must sound selfish here. Boycotting election [from clear legal perspective] will by no means advance the cause of Biafra. Election boycott and Biafra realisation have no nexus. That is trying to confuse apples with oranges to only score a point in attention-seeking. It is at this juncture that I entirely endorse the conclusion of Anambra APGA that “Nnamdi Kanu’s call for a boycott of elections in the South-East, beginning with the governorship polls scheduled for November 18, 2017 in Anambra is irresponsible, irredentist and totally devoid of any focus”. I equally endorse the view of Ohanaeze Chairman [Chief Nnia Nwodo] that “We are happy with the peace that exists here. We are happy with the steady progress that Anambra has registered over the years. The next election can only improve not retard it”. Those who do not know the laid down procedures or are unwilling to follow the internationally recognised procedures for secession should leave the business of Biafra agitations alone. They should humble themselves and go into the lecture room of international law or seek for a crash programme on international law. Abstaining from election is a choice. However, going further to disrupt electioneering processes [like football tournaments, campaign rallies] and invading and desecrating the sacred places of worship [as witnessed in Ekwulobia] are acts clearly outside the meaning of the word “boycott”. Those are acts of outlawry. They are forerunners of anarchy. Anarchy is antithetical to democracy. Anarchists are anti-democratic forces that must be opposed whether in Nigeria or Biafraland. Anambra State has values that distinguish it from the lots. We cherish democracy and its pristine values one of which is freedom of thought and speech. We are republican. We abhor anarchy and view tyranny with disgust! People who wish to deal with us must respect our values. In every democracy, while the minority will always have their say, the majority will have their way. In every democracy, no one man has the monopoly of the knowledge of what is good for a people. A people have the right [in every democracy] to reject even what is good for them. Advocates of election boycott must begin to learn, accept and live with this democratic truth. May those who are actively seeking to return our dear Anambra state to the wasteful and inglorious days of Mbadinuju be dismayed and turned back. This is because, they are our enemies. For seeking to precipitate anarchy in the state of the iconic departed Supreme Leader of Biafra [His Excellency Dim Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu], they are enemies of Biafraland. They have no respect for the cherished memories of our departed Supreme Leader who [in his matchless wisdom] established APGA as a political party in the Nigerian Federation. A party which the current IPOB Leader [Nnamdi Kanu] once headed its UK Chapter. Nnamdi Kanu has not told us what has changed between then and now. On my part, I have my permanent voter’s card (pvc). And God sparing my life, I will be at my polling unit to make a wise choice in taking my Dear State to a more enviable height. I choose to stop here.

7th August, 2017.

JOHNMARY CHUKWUKASI JIDEOBI, Esq. is a Criminal Defence Attorney based in Abuja and could be reached on truedemocracyfornigeria@gmail.com

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