By Favour Goodness
About two months after the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) announced that it has suspended the weekly sit-at-home exercise for every Monday, the entire South East zone has continued to observe the exercise, leading to what the group describes as ghost Monday on a weekly basis.
IPOB in a message through its spokesperson, Mr. Emma Powerful had said that it decided to suspend the exercise because of the plea of the people, who were complaining of the dwindling fortunes of the South East, economically, because of the exercise.
The group said the suspension of the exercise would also help senior secondary students of the zone to sit for the West African School Certificate Exams (WASCE), and other artisans who survive through daily work would also be able to meet up with their activities. It said the only days the exercise would hold would be days that its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu would be taken to court.
But curiously, despite the suspension, states in the South East zone, including Anambra have continued to observe the exercise. Curiously too, people, suspected to be members of the group have always gone out to enforce compliance to the exercise every Monday to the extent of killing, maiming and destroying properties, even as IPOB has dissociated itself from it.
Many believe that the compliance this time is rather out of fear than of one’s volition, because of the violence that has recently been registered in the area.
As the Anambra governorship election draws near, with the seriousness with which orders from the group are taken, it is now clear that if the group decides to go the way it went in the 2017 governorship election, by announcing a – no referendum, no election – stance, it may ultimately achieve its aim.
In the last two weeks, despite the usual sit-at-home on Mondays, the group had announced that on Thursday of the previous week, and the Tuesday of this week would also be a sit at home day. Despite announcements by various state governments in the South East to dissuade people from observing the event, it was observed that the compliance was high, thereby scuttling the economic activities in the zone.
Gov.. Willie Obiano of Anambra state had before the exercise held a meeting with heads of banks in the state and markets, urging them to ensure they open for business. Obiano said there would be sanction for banks and markets that fail to conduct activities on sit at home days.
The governor also went out to ensure compliance, and it observed that in some banks where the governor visited, they opened for business and after the visit, they quickly shut their gates against customers, for fear of attack.
While the governor was last Monday trying to enforce compliance with his order for businesses to open at Eke Awka and banks around the Ukwu Oji area, banks in other parts of Awka and the state were securely locked up, to avoid attacks.
On Tuesday, just a day after the governor went round to ensure compliance; banks and markets and other businesses in the state securely locked their gates, in observance of a sit at home order by IPOB, to commemorate the invasion of Kanu’s home on 14th September 2017 by the military.
The near breakdown of security in the zone now seems to empower the group to incessantly declare sit at home exercises at will. A lawyer, Mr Ekene Obi said about the incessant declaration of Sit at home exercises and the near total compliance it registers each time said, “This is happening because people are afraid. How can government give order for the people to come out and do their business, and people will refuse to obey, instead they will obey a group that has already rescinded its own decision on sit at home?
“It is because there is no longer trust on the part of the government. They are telling people to come out, but they cannot secure the people. This week Monday and Tuesday, do you know the number of casualties that were registered?
What has the government done to avenge the lives of those who were killed, or replace the properties of those whose buses and motorcycles were burnt, since they were obeying government directive by coming out.
“Let me tell you, these days, even churches announce it to their members and they tell them to stay at home if there is any announcement for a sit at home, because they believe that government cannot protect. If for any reason a rumour flies around that some people, not even IPOB declares a sit at home on the day of the Anambra governorship election, I tell you, people will obey, because the security situation now is not the same like what we had in 2017, when people ignored the – no referendum, no election – mantra to go and vote.”
Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also alluded to their job for the Anambra governorship election being affected by the number of days there have been sit at home exercises. The resident electoral commissioner of INEC in Anambra, Dr Nkwachukwu Orji stated this in a press interview, during a workshop by the EMSC Amber Zone Implementers, organized by the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
Orji said the commission has launched a dashboard for the Anambra governorship election, billed to hold on November 6, and that the dashboard already has all activities of the commission for the election. “The dashboard will remind us ahead of time of the things we have to do in the nearest future, what we should do that we have not done, and things like that.
“Already, we have factored in the incessant sit-at-home exercises into our schedule. The exercise has been eating up into our time, and putting pressure on our work, but we have been adjusting to ensure we meet up with our schedule. For now, I can say that all arrangements are going on well, and we hope that it will continue to be so,” Orji said.
Though there have not been any indication that the election may be disrupted, but also there is belief that once the INEC gears its mind to conduct the election, the security agencies should be able to also provide marching power to ensure safety of the people for the election to hold.
Speaking in an earlier interview, the candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof. Chukwuma Soludo had stated that there is no reason why the Anambra election should not hold. He said: “Elections have held in terrorists ravaged areas of the north, so why won’t it hold here. It is even made easier by the fact that the Anambra election is a one-state election, so all attention, especially of the security forces can be focused here.”
As the November 6 date for the election draws close, there is however no indication that the election would not hold, as parties and their candidates continue to strategize on how they can win the election.
The special adviser to the chairman of INEC, Mr Mohammed Kuna has however reinforced the assurance that everything about the Anambra governorship election is one course. “So far, there is nothing the commission has set out to achieve that it has not achieved, so, despite the incessant sit at home protest, we are hopeful that nothing would stop the election.”