“Why leave a party that will continue after you have left it in protest?…”
Days ago, an armada of IPOB motorcades carried out a sensitization demonstration in Anambra State, transversing the major cities and terminating in Awka, the capital. The IPOB members wanted to push home the decision of the Biafra agitation group that there will be no election in Anambra State unless the Federal Government fixes a date for a Biafra referendum before the November 18 set for the guber election in the State.
This hardline position of IPOB, following the directive to that effect by its leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has many merits and more demerits. First, election boycott can be achieved at a very great cost not excluding human lives. Once INEC decides to go on with the election, it can hold if enough soldiers are drafted and ordered to ensure that whoever wants to vote does so. IPOB members will then be left with no option other than to try a direct confrontation with the security forces that would want to create the corridors for those who would want to vote or they stay at home.
There is no doubt that unless IPOB issues counter directive, there will be voter apathy and consequent low turnout at the forthcoming guber poll in Anambra. Unfortunately, no matter the level of apathy, it will never invalidate the result since the constitution does not provide for an irreducible minimum voter turnout for the governor to stand elected. All the constitution guarantees is election holding in 2/3rds of the Local governments and in 2/3rds of the wards in those Local Governments and a simple majority afterward.
Given this scenario, can IPOB be able to ensure that voting does not hold in least 14 out of 21 local government areas of Anambra State? The answer is: yes and no. If IPOB will rise above the Nigeria military and other trigger-happy security agencies, yes election will not hold in as many as they would be able to use human shield to prevent. But the number of people that may die as a result can only be imagined. This is predictable because the Nigeria military has been indicted for killing protesting members of IPOB in peacetime. What then will such brutes do when they have orders to ensure election holds at all costs? Christ said: “For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Read Luke 23:31).
But will it not be contradictory for the same IPOB that chose to stay at home during the last May 30 Biafra Remembrance Day to avoid loss of lives through confrontation with the armed forces, the police and other security agencies and recorded a resounding victory?
It stands to reason that if IPOB wishes to maintain its nonviolent posture and push on with the Anambra election boycott, the only option left for it will be to stay at home again the day of election. But what will their staying away from the polls gain them? Very little if anything at all. O yes, not all Anambra people are IPOB members or even believe in Biafra agitation and there are also those who do not believe in the need for boycott, even where they support Biafra. These categories will vote. Even if they are in the minority, they would become a majority since the constitution allows just any number to elect the president and governor without minimums.
What is more, IPOB must have missed a lifetime chance to put one of their own in Government since majority of the Anambra youths share the Biafra sentiments and can guarantee victory for any their chosen candidates.
But this last option is what Nnamdi Kanu contends with. He told me when I argued for political participations for IPOB when I visited him in Kuje prison. He had remarkably argued that such an attempt would be a progress in error.
I had told Nnamdi Kanu in Kuje prison that IPOB could fight for Igbo rights and self-determination much better from within the political space by contesting elections and occupying the seats in both south east government houses, legislative assemblies and the national assembly. I mused about what it would be like to have a Governor Nnamdi Kanu or Senator Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB members occupying most elective positions accruing to the south east in the states, national assembly and government houses in the south east. I cited the facts that even terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah occupy elective seats in their nations’ parliaments.
In response, Nnamdi Kanu gave some insights into why it is not possible in Nigeria. One, there is no democracy in Nigeria so following the political route to Igbo liberation would be suicidal for the struggle, since our brand of democracy is carefully contrived to remove the people from deciding the winners of elections. He agreed that IPOB would easily win elections but insisted that the powers that be will always declare who they pleased as winners.
But wait a minute! The goal of political struggles, be they mere agitations or outright revolutions, is to gain power. So, why is IPOB shying away from gaining political power? It is contradictory to me, and Bola Ahmed Tinubu (in South West), Nyeson Nwike (in Rivers), Seriake Dickson(in Bayelsa), Adeleke (Osun State) and many others have demonstrated that elections can be won and successfully defended against the wishes of a ruling party. So why can’t IPOB take Anambra State since they can (they are really on ground) by fielding one of their own, or by supporting a party and a candidate that share the Biafra ideology, including the incumbent Governor Willie Obiano if he is one? That is why I ask: why should Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB walk out of a party that would continue after they have left it in protest?
But to be fair, Nnamdi Kanu is not totally wrong when the many issues up here for determination are objectively considered. Nnamdi Kanu says there is no democracy. Is he really wrong? If Anambra guber election is yet another process where votes will not count, then, the nation is set to prove Nnamdi Kanu right again.
Both the election boycott and election rigging and manipulation where the votes of Anambra people will never count cannot be allowed to hold out.
If IPOB members could just stay away from the polls and refuse to vote, there will be not much problem. After all, refusing to is legally allowed since not voting at all is a form of voting. IPOB would have registered a specific protestation but there is reason to believe that IPOB members would try to disrupt the polls as they have already started harassing aspirants.
Such poll disruption could provoke suppression from the security operatives and many scenarios are bound to come up. Most of all is avoidable deaths which I believe IPOB has tried to avoid of late which made it to stay at home rather stage street protests to mark the Biafra Remembrance Day on May 30 this year.
In the possible event that attempts would be made to disrupt the polls and the military trying to suppress the resistance, the election may become inconclusive, as was the case in Bayelsa and Rivers. If the crises persist, yes, the Speaker may have to take over. But even if the speaker takes over, he or she will not be there indefinitely, as election must follow in about 6 months as stipulated in the constitution. So, ultimately, election must hold and if it becomes clearly impossible to hold election in Anambra State, the constitution provides for a state of emergency with the President having the powers to appoint a sole administrator who can be a retired military general from any place in Nigeria.
Imposing state of emergency on Anambra state will cost IPOB more than it can imagine. Anambra people will revolt against IPOB and cause an implosion that will invert the Biafra struggle against itself. The reason for this prediction is simple: IPOB cannot single out Anambra as a guinea pig, and the only Igbo state to be without an elected governor in the south east. If the guber election is holding across the 5 eastern states, may be the scenario would be different. Anambra people I know will not be happy that other south east states are governed by elected governors while only it is ruled by a retired army general possibly from outside Igboland which is most likely to happen.
What is more, governorship election is not really a federal concern. IPOB should wait for presidential and federal legislative elections that are truly federal to call for such boycott.
If these are the only scenarios open, where then is the gain in the election boycott being canvassed by IPOB?
• Law Mefor is an Abuja-based Forensic/Social Psychologist and Journalist; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel.: +234-803-787-2893