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09.11.2021 Feature Inside Ihiala LG, Where Anambra Governorship Election Didn’t Hold

Published 9th Nov, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi and Daniel Ojukwu

Despite the heavy deployment of security operatives for the governorship election in Anambra State, personnel of the Independent National Electoral Comission (INEC) were scared of conducting the poll at Ihiala Local Government Area of the state, FIJ can report.

Of all the 21 LGAs in the state, Ihiala brought many expectant observers within and outside Anambra to a shock after Ahmadu Umar, the collation officer, declared on Sunday that election did not hold, without offering any reason.

Few moments after Ihiala’s instance was reported, Michael Otu, the collation officer for Orsumoghu North, made a similar statement that “as far I am concerned, there was no election in Orsumoghu North,” accusing the electoral officer of conniving with the police to harass him while he was supervising the collation of results for Orsumoghu North.

After several hours of deliberation, spanning into 12am on Monday, the electoral panel headed by Florence Obi, the returning officer for the Anambra election, accepted the Orsumoghu North results but declared the election inconclusive because of Ihiala.

Signpost indicating approach to Ihiala LGA | Photo Credit: Gabriel Ogunjobi

With many still curious about why election didn’t hold in an entire local government with 326 polling units, FIJ visited the local government to find out what happened.

Across the two-hour journey between the junction to Nnamdi Azikwe University, popularly known as UNIZIK, and Uzuoakwa community in Ihiala, FIJ reporters counted over 15 primary, junior and senior secondary schools that were shut, including Odoata and Okongwu Grammar School, around 12 noon on Monday.

Nnewi Community quiet as residents observe sit-at-home order | Photo Credit: Gabriel Ogunjobi
Shops closed on Monday | Photo Credit: Gabriel Ogunjobi

Before Saturday, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had threatened to enforce its sit-at-home order across the five states of the southeast but they abruptly suspended it to allow Anambra voters exercise their franchise.

Indeed, the sit-at-home order was observed in Anambra on Monday, with many shops and markets closed as well.

PALPABLE FEAR

“We don’t know what happened. Everywhere was scanty, nobody came out,” John Ikechukwu began as he expressed disappointment in the denial of his right to vote.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why INEC Didn’t Declare Soludo Winner

“In Awka and many other places, people came out and voted. Here, INEC officials came but there was no security operative on ground, so they were afraid and left.”

Ikechukwu was referring to Odoata secondary school, being one of the polling units, when he added that “that place is a very open and officials will not be able to contain the violence without the security men if anything happens”.

Ihiala LGA

From the inception of democracy in Nigeria, elections have always been characterised by violence to the extent that they don’t easily make headlines anymore except in cases of bloodletting.

FIJ later discovered that barely a month ago, there was violence at his exact junction in Orsumoghu.

READ ALSO: FLASHBACK: What Happened the Last Time INEC Declared Elections Inconclusive

On October 12, gunmen attacked campaigners of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and opened fire, disrupting activities and sending fear through the town as captured in a report.

It was further gathered that most of the INEC personnel assigned to Ihiala remained at the local government secretariat without mobilization. Those assigned to polling units a few kilometres away showed up but also returned after three to four hours without accrediting any potential voters.

READY TO VOTE

Onyerimba Okafor, a local, spoke to FIJ about the situation in his community. | Photo Credit: Daniel Ojukwu

Asked if he would vote on Tuesday, Onyerimba Okafor, a local said, “There was insecurity, and this is a target. All of us were ready for election, but we waited at the polling unit, nothing happened.

“INEC staff were at the local government, they didn’t come out to the polling unit in Our Ladies hospital. Police and soldiers were patrolling, they did not stop to go to any polling unit.

“There were a lot of problems here, INEC staff were around but they were at the local government.”

READ ALSO: BREAKING: INEC to Hold Supplementary Anambra Gov Election on Tuesday

When asked if any of the residents in his village approached the local government to complain, he said no one would listen to them as they had no voice.

“They spent almost all the whole day there. How can they explain to us when we are not on the same level with them?” he asked rhetorically.

“The politicians see us as nothing, so whatever thing they have, they discuss it within themselves. We are ready for election, we thought it’ll be yesterday, if they bring election today, we will vote. We are ready.”

Onyema Ezuma, another local, told FIJ that no one was able to report crisis in the area. He said even party agents present at the polling units could not be heard.

“Ordinary party agents don’t have power. If they attempt to report, nobody answers them. In Orsumoghu, there is always shooting; there is unrest there. You cannot go there without your bullet proof vest.

“Well, you journalists are immune to gunshots. Once you wear your bullet proof, you won’t have a problem covering the election there. As for us, whenever they are ready to have the election, we will go out and vote.

“Every day, there is insecurity. You cannot tell an Orsumoghu man to come out to vote; his issue is insecurity, there is always shooting every day there, and it is a village in Ihiala.”

Prior to the election, Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector-General of Police, deployed over 30,000 police to ensure free and fair election. For the supplementary election to hold only in Ihiala, the security will have to be ramped up.

Published 9th Nov, 2021

By Gabriel Ogunjobi and Daniel Ojukwu

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