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Insecurity, killings threaten Anambra governorship election

By Lawrence Njoku, Southeast Bureau Chief
05 October 2021   |   4:16 am
There are disturbing sound bites from Anambra state. The way it is, uncertainties now hover around the state over what the November 6, governorship election portends.

Obiano. Photo/facebook/ facebook.com/WillieObiano/

There are disturbing sound bites from Anambra state. The way it is, uncertainties now hover around the state over what the November 6, governorship election portends. Will this election hold? If it eventually holds, can the outcome reflect the wishes of the people, among others? Can what is happening now go as part of an attempt to subdue opponents usually associated with Anambra elections?

These are pertinent questions that now disturb the polity. The Anambra electorate needs an answer to assure them the election will hold. This is because, what ordinaryily should pass as a peaceful exercise is fast undermining the state, as it has seriously exposed the underbelly of the security of the state. Anambra has become a killing field with other wanton destruction of state institutions and property.

The ordinary people of the state are confused and worried over their future and that of the state, owing to the activities of some gunmen, who prowl the nooks and crannies of the state, looking for targets.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that these gunmen not only attack politicians, they also attack harmless and unarmed citizens and police officials, as well as set property ablaze. In all these attacks now unsettling a state and putting the 2021 election in the state in jeopardy, no breakthroughs in the form of arrest had been recorded.

One attack and killing that jolted residents even beyond the state was the one carried out last Tuesday leading to the death of a renowned medical doctor, Dr Chike Akunyili. The owner of St Leo’s hospital, TransEkulu, Enugu, was the husband of the late Prof Dora Akunyili, former Director General, National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Chike Akunyili

Unlike his wife, who cheated death along one of the streets in Anambra State, several years ago, when some assassins attacked her convoy in an attempt to hack her down over the drug war which she waged, Chike was not that lucky as he was felled by the bullets of some unknown gunmen, who attacked his vehicle at Umuoji, in Onitsha.

Various accounts have trailed his killing. Sources said that at least six other persons were killed in other parts of the state the same day Dr Akunyili was gunned down.  He had attended an occasion of the University of Nigeria Nsukka Alumni Association (UNAA), Onitsha branch, held at the All Saints Cathedral Church. He was there to receive a posthumous award of the association in honour of his late wife, Dora, who died in 2014, and was on his way to Enugu when the unknown gunmen killed him at Umuoji in Idemili north local government of the state.

Akunyili had celebrated his 70th birthday earlier in the month. During the occasion, which he celebrated with members of the Bigard Memorial Seminary School, Enugu, he had paid glowing tributes to his late wife as well as the grace of God that had sustained his family as well as other blessings that had continued to come his way.

Sources said Akunyili left immediately after receiving his wife’s award and was seen off by his son, Obumneme, who also attended the ceremony. But they were not together when the assailants struck. The late father and his team was said to have taken the old Onitsha–Enugu road only to meet their death at Nkpor. Those at the vicinity of the sad event said the gunmen were probably attracted to his vehicle by the policeman sitting in front of the car and then opened fire on the occupants.

A viral video that circulated of his killing showed that Akunyili who was dressed in a brown suit had his face shattered with bullets and laid face down in the pool of his blood. Many residents have tried to ask several questions about his killing. Was it political? He was not a politician.  Was it a case of mistaken identity? He had paid due diligence to his medical practice all his life and had maintained his cool since his wife was snatched by death some years ago.

Sources stated that he decided to attend the occasion from Enugu where he resided and does his medical practice, “since it was meant to honour his wife whom he loved so much”. It was gathered that at the event, he had paid glowing tributes in honour of his late wife and promised to support the organisation. He was said to be at the event with his son, Obum, who works with the Anambra state government.

A day earlier, the former acting State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Dr Dan Ulasi was kidnapped. Ulasi was released several hours later. Ulasi was kidnapped alongside his driver at Nnewi.

Reports that emerged after his kidnapping indicated that his abductors were working for a notable politician. He had reportedly said after his release that the phone calls being exchanged between his captors and their boss pointed in the direction of a politician.

Similarly, reports also went out the same day that the whereabouts of the Labour Party (LP) candidate in the state, Obiora Agbasimelo became unknown after his campaign train was attacked at Nkpor, near Onitsha.
It could be recalled that earlier, another politician, Nnamdi Nnoruka, then being touted to clinch the ticket of the Labour Party, abandoned the race after he was kidnapped and allegedly moved round parts of the state in the booth of his car.

Those who have watched the political situation in Anambra State would readily agree that the state is reeling on a dangerous slide.  The state is fast acquiring another ugly notoriety by the level of killings being recorded daily. Residents can no longer sleep with their two eyes closed.  Reports of kidnap, killings, robbery and banditry have become recurring.

A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), John Okenwa told The Guardian that campaigns of the political parties and other political programmes in the state are now thwarted, “because some of us still live in fear about the motives of those prowling the state with guns and other dangerous objects”.

At Uruagu Nnewi, no fewer than three politicians lost their lives recently following a gun attack during a political meeting. One Dr Nelson Omenugha, allegedly escaped unhurt from the attack, but they succeeded in setting his Hilux vehicle ablaze.

Sources said campaign vehicles and campaign rallies have become targets of the hoodlums, who have allegedly insisted on thwarting the November 6, governorship election.

Since the advent of the unknown gunmen in the southeast region this year, which ravaged police stations, killing officers and dispossessing them of their arms, Anambra State has remained at the receiving end of the assault.

In April this year, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof Charles Soludo escaped death in the hands of gunmen.  It was during a political meeting he convened. But while he escaped unhurt, three police officers attached to him were killed.

The incident, it was gathered, occurred at the Civic Centre in his hometown of Isuofia, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, during a political gathering.

Earlier in the month, the former traditional ruler of Mkpu-Nando community in Anambra East council, Igwe Alex Edozieuno and his driver were assassinated by gunmen.

The traditional ruler who was one of the Monarchs dethroned last year by Governor Willie Obiano for allegedly accompanying a prominent son of the state to see President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja without government permission. He was killed along Aguleri –Ayamelum road, Otuocha, in the council area.

Condemning the spate of attacks in the state, Governor Obiano had stated that from his findings, “Offices of some political parties, branded campaign vehicles and individuals occupying them have been attacked with killings and burning of vehicles observed”

Announcing a twenty million naira reward for useful information on perpetrators of the illicit crimes in the state, he added: “Other innocent road users have become victims of this menace with many losing their lives and others, their properties.

“Between Sunday 26th and September 28th, 2021 attacks on citizens at Oko, Agulu, Obosi, Nkpor, Nnobi, Nnewi and other places have left about ten (10) people dead including an illustrious son of this State, Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of late Prof Dora Akunyili who was reportedly gunned down yesterday around Nkpor.

“These are our own people dying every day and for what reason? Ndi Anambra, these attacks and accompanying deaths cannot be justified and must stop now. I have therefore conducted an extensive security meeting and have directed all Security Agencies to step up and confront this monster ravaging our land. I charge everyone involved in the security architecture of Anambra State to take this threat to our livelihood and boldly rise to confront the same. Everything that needs to be done will be done and no stone will be left unturned in this effort. My directive to this effect is clear and I urge every security personnel on duty in Anambra State to do his utmost best to secure our people”.

And PDP suspends campaign
PERTURBED by the killings, candidate of PDP in the election, Valentine Ozigbo, has temporarily suspended his campaign rallies. A statement by his campaign organisations media and communications director, Aziza Uko, Mr Ozigbo said: “In the past few days, we have witnessed an alarming escalation of deadly violence in Anambra. We lost an eminent son and several others in what appears to be a renewed violent campaign by bandits.

“A prominent Nigerian public servant, medical doctor, and a stalwart of PDP, Lawrence Ezenwa, was killed in Nnewi South Local Government Area of the state. Ezenwa, who is from Abia, was visiting his wife’s village, Ukpo in Nnewi South, when he met his demise. His driver was also shot and killed. On the same day, a vehicle belonging to a federal lawmaker, Rep. Chris Azubogu, was attacked and his driver killed in cold blood.

“As a leader, I find the latest violence disturbing and condemnable and I call for a stop to all acts of violence, particularly against the innocent. Due to this development, and in line with my belief that no life is worth anybody’s ambition, I suspended all my campaign rallies and public appearances scheduled for this week. Every life is precious and ought to be protected and preserved,” Ozigbo stated.

The PDP candidate added; “Every lawful step must be taken to address the growing incidence of insecurity in Anambra and the South-East.”

Describing the violence in the state, ahead of the upcoming governorship poll, as alarming, he called for its immediate end. There are signs that other candidates may be forced to toe similar path and suspend their campaigns “until security improves.”

Obiano reacts
CONDEMNING the spate of attacks in the state, Governor Obiano stated that from his findings, “Offices of some political parties, branded campaign vehicles and individuals occupying them have been attacked with killings and burning of vehicles observed”

Announcing a twenty million naira reward for useful information on perpetrators of the illicit crimes in the state, he added: “Other innocent road users have become victims of this menace with many losing their lives and others, their properties.

“Between Sunday 26th and yesterday 28th September, 2021 attacks on citizens at Oko, Agulu, Obosi, Nkpor, Nnobi, Nnewi and other places have left about ten (10) people dead including an illustrious son of this State, Dr Chike Akunyili, husband of late Prof Dora Akunyili who was reportedly gunned down yesterday around Nkpor.

“These are our own people dying every day and for what reason? Ndi Anambra, these attacks and accompanying deaths cannot be justified and must stop now.

“I have therefore conducted an extensive security meeting and have directed all Security Agencies to step up and confront this monster ravaging our land. I charge everyone involved in the security architecture of Anambra State to take this threat to our livelihood and boldly rise to confront the same. Everything that needs to be done will be done and no stone will be left unturned in this effort. My directive to this effect is clear and I urge every security personnel on duty in Anambra State to do his utmost best to secure our people”.