On Wednesday March 31 2021, a new trend was introduced in the contest for the November 6, 2021 governorship election of Anambra State, when one of the aspirants, Prof. Charles Soludo was attacked.
Soludo, who is running on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), was attacked at the Civic Centre in his Isuofia Community, Aguata Local Government council, where he had gone for a meeting with the youths of the area.
The bloody attack, allegedly carried out by some young men, resulted in the death of three police officers, guarding the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor. The boys were said to have arrived in the area in their Corona Toyota car and started shooting, while Soludo was about concluding his address.
The invading boys did not stop at killing the policemen; they also made away with the State Commissioner for Public Utilities, Emeka Ezenwanne, alongside his black Ford Ranger car. Although the police had since claimed that it had arrested four persons in connection with the incident, what had dominated discussions since the incident happened is the toga the state is wearing ahead of the November 6, governorship election?
Already, it is a crowded governorship election. No fewer than 25 persons have indicated interest in the sole slot with members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leading the pack. Campaigns, consultations and plots on how to scheme out one another are taking the centre stage. Foul languages, claims of turn by turn and whether the office should be zoned or not among others are easily noticed in the race.
While some of the contestants are said to be pretenders angling for the business side of it, others are insisting on running until a new governor emerges. There are those who also want the ticket of their political parties at all costs and would not accept anything other than the governorship ticket. The situation is making the game convoluted with other scheming that has gone into it.
Those who have reacted to the attack on Soludo expressed concerns that such was not in the character of politics and politicians in Anambra State. They had insisted that politics of the state had never been by gun. These thinkers had explained that unlike many states, political violence was not a common feature in electoral contests in Anambra, but that contestants had always engaged in litigation to have their way, pointing that the state had always received high number of petitions after every election and continued to keep the courts busy with pre-election cases. They said political contests in Anambra are usually fiercely fought through robust campaigns and substantial financial investments by public office aspirants, most of whom are richly endowed. They said that politicians in Anambra would not split the blood of their opponents to acquire political power.
However, there are those who countered and insisted that thuggery and other foul smells associated with politics had always dominated politics in Anambra State. This group of people made reference to the political turmoil that happened in the state between 2003 and 2006, when some sponsored thugs levied war on the state after failing to remove the sitting government and implant their own. The thugs who operated under police protection had visited mayhem on state institutions after failing to kidnap the governor whom they claimed derailed in an agreement reached with him before he became governor. The injuries created by that singular incident have remained with the state.
Before the Soludo incident, earlier in February this year, one other contestant to the governorship office, Val Ozigbo of PDP had equipment and canopies he had put at the venue of the kick off of a health walk vandalized by some political thugs.
The thugs allegedly invaded the Diocesan Church Centre Field, Nnewi, venue of the kick off of the health walk in the early hours of the day and destroyed the podium, sound equipment and canopies and set bonfire at Nnewi High School, earlier chosen to host the event.
It was learnt that the exercise had been held in Awka and Onitsha before the PDP aspirant, decided to replicate it in his Nnewi country home.
Ozigbo’s attack was the very first fear of violence in the coming election. In a statement after the disruption of Ozigbo’s exercise, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment in the state, C. Don Adinuba, had said the government and people of Anambra State were worried about some politicians’ determination to throw the state into chaos.
Adinuba had added; “On Feb 5, 2021, an ominous event occurred in Anambra State. A pavilion set up by someone who wants to contest gubernatorial vote in the state, Ozigbo, was vandalised by thugs, with a stern warning to the politician not to ever visit Nnewi to campaign for public office.
“The pavilion was not set up for a political campaign or rally but for a walk to keep fit by his supporters in the industrial town of Nnewi.”
The commissioner said Ozigbo’s opponents feared that the walk-for-life programme could be a subtle campaign for him to be known.
“If a mere subtle campaign by Ozigbo to create awareness about himself and his interest to participate in the PDP primary in June could attract so much hostility, we can imagine the extent some desperate politicians can go to silence their opponents when the campaign for primaries starts formally,” Adinuba said.
Reacting to the Soludo incident, Adinuba had told The Guardian that the government would do all in its power to protect life and property in the state. He insisted that efforts must be intensified to unravel those behind the incident.
The development, however, is beginning to heighten tension and apprehension in the state about the fate of the election. While many felt that it was part of the desperate efforts by politicians to unduly cling to power by scaring away those they felt were a threat to them, others insist that it was a clear case of what awaits the state as November 6 approaches. There are those who feel the attack was a continuation of the series of attacks that had been launched on the security agents in the state in the last couple of weeks in the state.
Soludo, while reacting to the attack however, expressed shock with the way and manner it happened, even as he added that he would be surprised if it was politically motivated.
“I am friends with virtually everybody contesting for the office. I don’t think it is worth the blood of even a chicken let alone that of a human being. So I will be shocked that it was politically motivated and it was aimed at me directly.
“But part of the thing fuelling this is the abduction because the person they abducted has a relationship with me and the government of the state,” he explained.
Activities of unknown gunmen who have attacked and killed several police officers, Prisons and Navy staff in the last one month have enlivened worries among the residents. Those who carried out the attacks had made away with guns belonging to their victims and have left no traces.
No fewer than 15 police officers, Prison officials and Navy had been killed at various locations in the state with guns taken away and police stations attacked in some cases.
One of the politicians in the state, who spoke to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity, stated that the attack on Soludo followed a similar terrain that had been on for days in the state, stressing that it would be important to allow the police to do their investigation and come up with their findings.
The politician, who is an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, noted that the state had witnessed massive killings of police officers in the last one month, stressing that: “this latest killing agrees with the trend that has been happening in the state.
“So I do not think the politician was the target. I do not think that this is raising the bar because if the target was the politician, I believe they would have got him. Anambra has not known peace for some time now. We should be worried about those attacking the police and their facilities in the state. Who are they and what do they want? I don’t believe that these attacks have anything to do with the November 6, governorship election or with any politician. We are not known with violence and in the exercise that is to come, I doubt if any violence could be created such that it would disrupt it in the state,” he added.
National President of the International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative (IS4-PAHRI), Comrade Osmond Ugwu, stated that the attack whether it was targeted at Soludo or not had raised the ante and could mar the chances of the state to produce the best candidate in the election if care was not taken.
Ugwu noted that the attack was aimed at destabilizing Soludo or creating fears in the residents of the state, so as to scare them from participating in the November 6, governorship election. He stressed that the government must work to reassure the people that all would be well in the process.
He said: “I see it as part of the problems of our electoral system. It can be regarded as true election violence in view of the election coming up in Anambra state. Soludo has been seen as a very serious contender for the office. I suspect some other political opponents may not be comfortable with him.
“Beyond that, it is a condemnable act intended to intimidate the system because if the main victim being Soludo is not courageous enough, he can chicken out of the race. I believe the sponsors have a target and the target is to intimidate him or distract him. It shows the porous nature of our security system. How can such a thing happen and nobody was arrested on the ground? It should not happen in the first place. It is not healthy for our democracy; it is not healthy for our electoral system and not healthy for good governance.
“Anambra has cheqeuered history of violence and all forms of arbitrariness. There is political thuggery from the time of Ngige, when a governor in office was almost kidnapped and till today, nothing happened to those who orchestrated that violence because of the support of the people at the top.
“I think that the attack should be looked into by the federal and state governments. There should be proper investigation to ensure that the people are not denied opportunity to vote in the election. Those responsible should be arrested. There are those using these boys. The aspirants should also condemn it because it is Soludo today, it could be another person tomorrow. The atmosphere should be made free for all contestants to participate so that the best candidate can emerge. A political atmosphere that is convoluted will not allow the best candidate to emerge,” he added.
A Chieftain of the APGA in the state, Chief Cosmas Umeh, stated that political gangsterism was brewing in the state, agreeing that though the state had maintained low rates of violence, “those who want power by force are not resting on their oars to force it on the people.”
He added: “What the average Anambra person wants is a smooth and peaceful transition of power. The people are not ready for this kind of development that now unsettles the state. For us in APGA, we have always gone into any process believing that there is always tomorrow for the state. When you scare away the people and force yourself into power, there is always the court that we can resort to for justice to be ventilated.”
So far, the state police command has stressed that it would live up to the billing of the people in ensuring a free and fair election in the state. The Command said it had arrested four persons who have also confessed to the attack, assuring that it was on top of the situation.
But what seemed to be the lowest point in the claim of the police is the fact that, aside from failing to react to the attack, the state official who was waylaid by the gunmen in his vehicle has remained in captivity (as at time of filling this copy). It can also not be said that the command had arrested any of the attackers of policemen and their facilities in the state.
However, while the Police continue to ponder on the best way to tackle the security challenge ahead of the election, pundits would want to know why the attack should be launched at Soludo’s country’s home in the full glare of his kits and kins? Was it to show that he is not wanted in the race or to show that his people are not in sync with him in his governorship ambition? Time will indeed tell how the November election will be prosecuted.
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