Ahead of Saturday’s Anambra State Governorship election, some notable South-East leaders, under the aegis of Igbo Elders Consultative Forum (IECF) has warned the people against boycotting the election.
The forum’s Chairman and former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, who spoke on behalf of the forum, gave the warning on Tuesday in Abuja at a media conference.
He said voter apathy or boycotting the elections would be counterproductive and might give victory to an ‘unpopular’ candidate.
He also said that embracing dialogue would facilitate the peace process and restoration of normalcy in the South East and the country at large.
This is as he urged the Federal Government to immediately demilitarise the region and embrace dialogue with all stakeholders to resolve any security threat to Saturday’s election.
He also demanded the release of over 5000 Igbo youths arrested by security agencies on the suspicion of being members of the security arm of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
He lamented that movement from one city to the other in Igboland had become a nightmare with several police and military checkpoints littered all over the place.
He said that people in the South-East no longer slept with two eyes closed, because of the unwarranted and sporadic gunshots, lamenting that nobody was willing to accept responsibility for the ugly development.
He urged political parties, their flagbearers and supporters to shun any activity that would prove inimical to smooth conduct of Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
Ezeife said, “The increasing insecurity in the South East has taken a frightening dimension and remains a terrible and worrisome puzzle that must be addressed for the Independent National Electoral Committee, INEC, to conduct a free, fair and credible election scheduled for November 6, 2021, in Anambra State.
“We, therefore call upon the Federal Government to demilitarise the South East, as well as take other necessary administrative and non-kinetic measures to restore peace in the zone, thus paving way for smooth conduct of the scheduled Anambra State election.
“Similarly, Federal Government immediate release of over 5000 Igbo youths arrested by security agencies, and dumped in different detention camps in various parts of the country under dehumanizing conditions in the name of unknown gunmen, IPOB, ESN, among others, will facilitate peace process and restoration of normalcy in the South East. A political solution through the instrumentality of dialogue with all relevant stakeholders is key to the present security imbroglio in the South East.
“It is our firm belief that a secured and peaceful environment is indispensable for the conduct of free, fair and credible election in any democratic state, including Anambra State.”
He added that the unprovoked military invasion of the Izombe community in Oguta Local government of Imo State, where over 70 houses were said to have been destroyed by the enraged soldiers, and others in various parts of the state have aggravated the insecurity situation in the South East.
While saying that the Federal Government was central to the restoration of normalcy and peace in the zone, the former Anambra State governor urged other stakeholders to rise to the occasion of ensuring the security of lives and property in Igboland.
He said, “We also appeal specially to our youths, including members of the IPOB, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOP), and other similar groups, irrespective of their grievances and agitation, to give peace a chance for the smooth conduct of the Anambra State election.
“The media reports that IPOB has rescinded its earlier order of the sit at home during the election deserve a special commendation. We thank them very sincerely for this patriotic decision of allowing the election to hold in Anambra State on November 6 as planned.
“The forum shares some of your grievances and agitations but believes that dialogue and non-kinetic measures by all stakeholders will facilitate the peace process in Igbo land. It is not in our interest to turn Igbo land into a battleground; hence we appeal for your understanding and cooperation for lasting peace in our land.”