By Ikenna Omeje
The intensification of boycott campaign of the 2019 general elections by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South-East geo-political zone of the country is threatening the victory of the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Members of the group have been moving from street to street, market to market directing Nigerians resident in South East not to participate in the forthcoming general election on the grounds that it will ruin the possibility for a referendum to decide whether the people of the zone(southeast) will remain part of Nigeria or not.
Obinna Onyejeli, a resident of Onitsha who spoke with Nigerian NewsDirect said , “ Unfortunately, the IPOB’s election boycott message resonates nicely in this part of the country. Personally, I think there will be serious low turnout in this region during the voting.”
A 51-year-old business woman who sells fruits at Ogige Market in Nsukka said, “I obtained my Permanent Voter Card (PVC) about 5 years ago, but I will not vote. I will rather use the public holiday that will be declared by the government on election days to cook, clean my place and wash my clothes and those of my children.”
While expressing his displeasure over the acceptance of the IPOB message by some people in the zone, David Chiege, a resident of Abakaliki said, “That’s the dilemma most southeastern Nigerians find themselves in. We need to borrow sense from our northern brothers and come out to vote.”
This is definitely a threat to the chances of Atiku’s presidency in 2019 as the southeast is one of the strongholds of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), coupled with the fact that the vice presidential candidate of PDP is from the zone.
In mid November, some Igbo leaders, at a summit in Enugu, endorsed the candidacy of the PDP candidate.
This was made known in a communique which was read after the summit, by the former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) , Olisa Agbakoba .
Some of the prominent Igbo leaders at the summit were: Chief John Nnia Nwodo, President General, Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, a prominent constitutional lawyer, Dr. George Obiozor, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Senator Chris Anyanwu, Senator Ben Obi, Chief Achike Udenwa, Prof. Uche Azikiwe, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu, Senator Theodore Orji, Chief Emeka Ugwu-Oju, Chief Garry Igariwey, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, Mr. Frank Ogbuewu, Professor Osita Ogbu, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Chief Lawrence Nwuruku, Prof. Walter Ofonagoro, Archbishop Maxwell Anikwenwa, Commodore James Aneke (retd), Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, Professor Uzodinma Nwala, Senator Adolphus Wabara, Rear Admiral Alison Madueke (retd), Igwe Alfred Achebe, Obi of Onitsha, Prof. Anya O. Anya and Prof. Chudi Uwazurike, Major Gen. Obi Umahi (retd), Uzodinma Okpara, son of the former Premier of Eastern Region, Esom Nwafor Orizu, daughter of the former acting President of Nigeria, and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
The communique reads: “The Igbo people of Nigeria held a one-day non-partisan and inclusive Summit convened by elders, traditional and religious leaders on Wednesday 14thNovember 2018 to consider Ndigbo’s place in the polity especially in light of the forthcoming 2019 elections.
“The summit deliberated on the State of Ndigbo in Nigeria today especially after years of exclusion from the center. This country has never been so divided as it is today. We Igbo have always yearned for a level playing field with justice, equity and fairness.
“The Summit recognized the nomination of His Excellency Mr. Peter Obi Former Governor of Anambra State as the Vice Presidential Candidate of the PDP and fully endorses this nomination. It was acknowledged that this nomination puts Ndigbo back in the center of governance. It is therefore important that Ndigbo should rally behind the Atiku/Obi ticket.
“We identify with the Atiku/ Peter Obi ticket on the restructuring agenda as has been reiterated by 4 zones of the country namely: South South, South West, North Central and South East. We believe that as long as the federating units remain weak the center will continue to be weak. We equally move to appreciate the position of the Atiku/Obi ticket in promoting national unity. “In conclusion, the Summit reiterated that the time is now for Ndigbo to mobilize and organize effectively to realize the Atiku/Obi ticket. We are not campaigning against anybody; we are simply campaigning for our very survival. Igbo votes must count wherever Ndigbo live in Nigeria.”
In July 2018, IPOB had said that even one million groups/parties coalition against APC or President Muhammad Buhari will not stop him from winning the 2019 election.
According to the group, the coalition of APC, INEC, Army, Civil Defence and Police were more deadly than any coalition but called on the Biafrans, Middle belt and all the Southerners to boycott the 2019 elections. In a statement by the Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, the group said,” IPOB were fully aware that electioneering has never removed “a tyrannical dictatorship” in the history of the world, only disciplined popular resistance has.”
Powerful noted that there is no better, more clearly defined resistance, than that being offered by IPOB at this precise moment which is Self determination which he said is the solution to all the ills bedeviling Nigeria.
He said: “If the opposition likes let them bring 1 million groups together to form a coalition against APC, ‘Buhari’ or whosoever is hearing his name will still win hands down. This is because the coalition of APC, INEC, army, civil defence and police is more deadly than any coalition. The best option is to boycott the election, the fear of which will force them to soft-pedal. “We IPOB are asking for boycott of all Nigerian elections in 2019 in Biafraland, Middle Belt and the rest of Southern Nigeria as the only way to save lives, end all suffering in the land and entrench peace and unity.
“For anybody to describe the electoral dance of shame at Ekiti as “free and fair elections” means that Nigeria is yet to develop an appreciable sense of understanding of what democratic elections is meant to be.
“Under the current electoral conditions in Nigeria, a PVC has transmuted from a supposedly potent object of freedom to one of bondage. IPOB worldwide therefore wishes to restate categorically and for purposes of clarity that it would boycott all elections in Nigeria in 2019.
“Presidential elections next year will afford IPOB an opportunity to demonstrate our cast iron determination to set Biafra free by totally shutting down South East and South South. “Anybody campaigning, seeking or hoping to get IPOB to participate in any election is wasting their time. It has been established beyond doubt that PVC in Nigeria, as presently intended, is a tool of enslavement which IPOB can never be a party to.
“Should other parts of Nigeria wish to continue living in denial and keep participating in what is essentially an organised fraud, then they are welcome to do so. South East and South South will not vote.
“By going out to vote, instead of demanding their freedom, the masses are only helping tyrants legalise rigging and electoral fraud. What people are doing by voting is willingly and legally renewing their pain and suffering every 4 years.
“We IPOB understand more than most that only self determination for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria can guarantee, peace, freedom and the much vaunted unity. Only self determination through referendum can bring an end to the endless cycle of genocide, ethnic cleansing, Islamisation, criminality and hardship.”
The statement continued: “Unfortunately some South-East, South South and Middle Belt leaders are still chasing rats by pleading for more states and literally begging for restructuring, while their home is on fire. Instead of them to boldly proclaim that there will be no election without a referendum come 2019, they are busy repeating the mistakes of the past.
“There is no way out but for all Southern Nigeria and Middle Belt to collectively stand their ground, shun N4,000 per PVC as happened in Ekiti State and join IPOB to call for a referendum before any presidential election can be held. “Only this approach will yield a positive outcome. Anything else will result in the extension of this cruel barbaric regime for another four years at the end of which there will be no indigenous Middle Belt populations left,” Powerful stated.
On his own part, Azuka Onwuka, a public affairs commentator said ,”The reason the South – East voters will not boycott the 2019 elections is that they believe that boycotting the 2019 election is the same as voting for Buhari for another term. The only people , therefore , who will be happy to hear that people from Igboland will boycott the elections are supporters of Buhari and the APC. Even though IPOB has argued that election boycott will force the Nigerian government to grant IPOB the chance to conduct a referendum on Biafra, it is seen as illogical by many Igbo people.
“Last year, in spite of the campaign by IPOB for election boycott in the Anambra governorship election, election still held in the state, with the incumbent, Governor Willie Obiano, winning all 21 local government areas. Since after the election and the swearing-in of Obiano for a second term, IPOB has not shown how its boycott made its call for a referendum nearer. The Anambra election was a testimony that the election boycott campaign as a way to achieve the independence of Biafra has never made any sense to the Igbo people.”