2019: Thoughts on Security Threats in Imo General Elections

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By Ogu Bundu Nwadike

IMO State, the heartland of South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria, has reportedly been counted among red flag states where the general elections coming up in a matter of few days and few weeks may be violent and crisis-prone. The commonest thing Nigerians do at the break of such news is to exclaim a frantic “I reject it”!

The discrepancy and caveat of faith in realities is that after all said and done, Que sera sera. All sorts of negative experiences will have their ways while humanity will have their faith-based says. Hence, irrespective of the alleged awaiting danger probably already dogging the conduct of the general elections in Imo State, our people are still able to look up and snarl “we reject it”!

The Holy Bible in the Book of St. James at Chapter 5 and in verses 15 and 16 admonishes thus: “15 And the prayer of the of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he had committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and prayer for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (NKJV).”

In Imo State one of the very few thriving economic activities is praying since that is the main purpose of churches and mosques. Unarguably, Imo people are majorly anointed prayer warriors. And with the myriad of temptations encountered by the embattled about to retire state governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, not a few people conclude that there is power from above by the Holy hand of God. “Akachukwu di na ya”!

What the foregoing has in relation with our topic in this short essay is that as the Bible says in Luke Chapter 1 verse 37, “With God (prayers) all things are possible”! To that extent, many an Imo indigene makes total recourse to prayers for all situations and circumstances. And the God of Elijah that answers by fire has always risen to the occasion in Imo State and made His Holy name further proud and better feared and revered.

However, the prevalent situation and circumstances in Imo State as the 2019 general elections load its last days clearly negates the aforementioned report that there will be a parabolic or metaphoric soaking of blood by dogs and baboons in the state. And we can authoritatively so aver because indeed there are no real warning signals to warrant flashing an alert or raising an alarm about threats to security in Imo State. We are Imo-based domestic chickens!

Let’s assert without fear of contradiction that there is reasonable peace and near tranquillity in Imo State. The major parties and their gubernatorial candidates are in true peace; namely Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, PDP; Senator Hope Uzodinma, APC; Senator Ifeanyi Araraume, APGA; Barr. Humphrey Anumudu, ZAP; Sir Okey Ezeh, SDP;  Chief Uche Nwosu, AA; Mr. Linus Okorie, YPP; Hon. Tony Nwulu, UPP, and the rest.

These leaders enjoy unhindered all their constitutional rights, particularly freedom of speech and freedom of movement. They meet at different social functions and express true democratic psyche of tolerance and accommodation of one another. And essentially their aides and supporters also exercise philosophical restraints that indicate that the parties and their candidates school their aides to maintain and sustain the existing pax Imo sans bitterness, acrimony, rancour, hate and social strife.

It is, therefore, unfathomable where the conclusion emerged that Imo State will boil over during the elections. The certificate of the blissful atmosphere shrouding the state up to this couple of weeks to the elections can be obtained from the appropriate authorities of the Imo State Police Command. It is apparent the assessors and predictors of doomsday in Imo State during the elections did not do a proper assessment of the peace and security situation on ground in the state before reaching and publicising their conclusion. In real terms, Imo State and Imo people are in peace and will not suddenly on February 16 and March 2 run amuck and burst into pieces.

However, in fairness to the whistle blower(s) who interpreted the security profile of Imo State and arrived at the conclusion of it being a danger spot, the build up to party primaries in the state was a bit jerky and bumpy. This is more so with the ruling party in the State, APC, where a faction, which styled itself as “Imo APC Coalition” emerged after the governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, presented his son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu as his de facto successor-in-office.

For few months the intrigues that accompanied the decision of the governor heated up the polity to a cautious level. This was as the faction that was in sympathy with the governor waxed strong in upholding his choice of successor. That was not to go down well with the coalition faction that had in its fold the deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere. The coalition, consequently promptly began to post very formidable sustainable resistance to the wish of the governor to enthrone his son-in-law as his successor-in-office.

That happenstance sincerely kept the state in a precarious situation at least for so long that some political observers and analysts feared there might be some sort of implosion that may earn unpleasant dividends. Interestingly, while the apprehension levels remained on the rising side, there was no more to it than usual political bickering and banters. Those by no means qualified to be glorified as a real signal of potential upheaval and strife during the elections.

Even when the quagmire and debacle dogged Imo APC into the specified time frame for the conduct of congress delegates and primary elections, and the heat rose again in degree as both factions conducted parallel primaries, producing parallel executives, delegates and candidates, there was still no reason to invite the fire brigade. Palpable peace was still the story in the state as citizens went about their normal businesses and runs without qualms.

Then came the period when the trouble in the APC, like an infectious disease reared its head in the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, where for political brigandage, plans for delegates election and primary election were drowned with fraudulent irregularities and malpractices, the hallmark of which was the sale of party tickets to the highest bidders or loved ones. A lot of money running into billions of naira was allegedly obtained by tricks by a certain cabal in the APGA, who refused to reimburse the huge fees collected from delegates and aspirants. There was tension, no doubt, but it never crystallised into a reason to tag Imo State as red flag zone in the period of the elections.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Imo State had no issues with preliminary elections such as congress delegates and the eventual primary elections. The Imo PDP conducted a very free, fair, transparent and credible primary election. By the end of the first week of October 2018, in accordance with INEC set time table, all primary elections by all political parties had been concluded. In fact, in a popular parlance in Imo State, the conduct of primary and congress delegates elections that heralded them ended in praise. There were no crises beyond normal internal crises. Rather, there was an atmosphere of bliss in the state.

That period was followed by the campaigns. The ban on electioneering campaigns of the presidential candidates and the National Assembly candidates and campaigns for the governorship candidates and the State Houses of Assembly candidates were lifted the months of November and December 2018 respectively.

Now, while it is true that altercations still reigned in the APC and APGA, there was visible peace in all other parties in the state. This is of particular relevance to the Imo PDP where the party leaders and members with their 42 candidates led by Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha had posted a very impressive crisis-free campaign rallies that were billed for the 27 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state. As at Saturday, February 2, the Imo PDP had held their campaigns in 22 of the 27 LGAs, likely to conclude the rallies by Friday, February 8. And not a single report of provocation by rival parties or violence within the party or by opponent parties has been reported or recorded in the state.

The few other major political parties besides the PDP have also been posting pockets of rallies across the state. Yet, there has been no incidence of intra-party and inter-party brouhaha. To the surprise of many political pundits, all have remained calm and peaceful in Imo State as the end to the official period for the campaigns keeps drawing nearer. There have been well-focused and issue-based campaigns, especially by Imo PDP, where the gubernatorial candidate, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, with other seasoned leaders and members of the party have taken the PDP message of getting Nigeria working again as well as liberating Imo people and rebuilding Imo State to the electorates across the State.

Dispassionately thinking and speaking, one must give it to Imo PDP leaders and members for their enviable style of politicking and persuading the masses wherever they drove their campaign train to. No other party in the State has been able to organize themselves as Imo PDP has continued to do by criss-crossing the entire length and breadth of the State, meeting Imolites in the hinterland and grassroots. Some pundits have since argued that the capacity shown by Imo PDP and Ihedioha in their campaigns at both the urban and rural areas of the State must have further endeared PDP to the people of Imo State. That is by the way, anyway!

On February 16, 2019, the presidential and national assembly elections will hold. That is just few days away. Then on March 16, 2019, the governorship and state assembly elections will hold. That is four weeks after the presidential election. What may require clarification from the sources of the envisioned violence in Imo State during the elections is whether the statement was an item of the predictions and prophecies of doom that are contrived and hawked by some men of God or whether they were statements that were based on verifiable factors.

With the election countdown erasing the last days and the political atmosphere in Imo State still remaining calm and peaceful, it is, perhaps, becoming apparent that there will not be any ruffling of the peaceful ambience to characterise the 2019 general elections in Imo State.

The Imo State Police command has lived up to expectation, engaging critical stakeholders in Imo polity. The police have intermittently cautioned the politicians against the deployment of hate speeches and provocative utterances that may aggravate violence. They have also charged politicians not to engage any acts capable of undermining the sustainable peaceful socio-political environment that has subsisted successfully since the lifting of the ban on electioneering campaigns and even before that time.

The role of Imo police achieving the reign of peace in the state cannot be over-emphasised. However, much of the accolades, encomiums and applause must go to the political parties and politicians in Imo State, who have displayed sustainable faith in the quintessential democratic psyche of tolerance and respect for rule of law in pursuit of their respective political agenda.

It is believed that the atmosphere of camaraderie that must have been tacitly instituted by the politicians and political actors in Imo State will so remain until the voting is over and results announced and accepted by all to whom it may concern. When that happens, as it looks very good and set to happen, then the counting of Imo State among potential danger spots in Nigeria in the general elections would have been rubbished and discarded as prophecy of falsity against the state and the people. Let there be peace in Imo!

 

*Nwadike is a journalist and public affairs analyst based in Imo State. Tel. 08037146635

– Feb. 6, 2019 @ 18:35 GMT |

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