Violence, killings threat to 2023 elections in Ebonyi

Unless nipped in the bud, there are concerns that rising spate of violence, killings, and attacks may determine the outcome of this year’s general elections in Ebonyi State.
Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi

Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi
Unless nipped in the bud, there are concerns that rising spate of violence, killings, and attacks may determine the outcome of this year’s general elections in Ebonyi State.
Since last year that the primaries, which produced candidates for political parties, were concluded, the political atmosphere in the state has taken another dimension with increased violent attacks on candidates, thereby creating doubts on whether the outcome of the elections will truly reflect the wishes of the electorate.
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For opposition political parties in the state, the story is not pleasant. They claim their campaigns have been attacked, which they said are, “politically motivated,” even as they call petitions for protection.

On February 5, the home of the chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Uburu, Mr Ene Odii was attacked during a meeting attended by the Senator representing Ebonyi South senatorial zone, Ama Nnachi by over 50 persons suspected to be working for the Ebubeagu militia.

The Ebubeagu outfit is a creation of the state government to promote security in the state.

It was gathered that the party’s governorship candidate, Dr Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii was billed to attend the meeting, but had not arrived when the group swooped on the meeting and unleashed a volley of gunshots that made the gathering scamper for safety.

On Wednesday February 1, gunmen stormed the venue of a meeting convened by the Senator representing, Ebonyi North, Chief Sam Egwu, at the home of Mr Michael Nwebonyi at Obeagu Abba, and shot sporadically to disperse the crowd and left many wounded.

Again, suspected political thugs were said to have blocked the road against PDP supporters attending a meeting called by Egwu at the residence of Senator Ngii Ngele at Amagu in Abakaliki council on February 4. The development was said to have forced the members back to their homes.

It was reported that after the incident, some persons swooped on the home of Ngii and shot severally before leaving the area.

On Thursday, February 2, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Prof Bernard Odoh was ambushed at Okpoto, Ishielu local government council, as he was returning to Abakaliki from a campaign rally.

It was gathered that his driver and an orderly were killed in the attack.  Another Police escort attached to him, who sustained gunshot wounds later died at the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital in Abakiliki.

It was not the first time Odoh was being attacked since he ventured into the 2023 general elections. In 2022, hoodlums suspected to be political thugs at a rally in Izzi Local Government Area, attacked him alongside his supporters.

It could be recalled that soon after the attack on Odoh in October last year, all governorship candidates under the auspices of Coalition of Frontline Governorship Candidates in Ebonyi State called the attention of the Federal Government to what they described as “ongoing plot to dismantle opposition voices in the state using the Ebubeagu militia.”

In a communiqué jointly signed by Dr. Edward Nkwegu (LP), Chief Ifeanyi Odii (PDP), Chukwuma Nwandugo (AA); Prof. Bernard Odoh (APGA) and Chief Sunday Opoke (YPP), they chronicled instances of attack, abduction and unexplained disappearance of people and called for immediate disbandment of Ebubeagu security outfit, saying it has turned into a political militia.
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They listed the flogging of civil servants, abduction of LP senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South, Linus Okorie, attacks on the APGA governorship candidate and his supporters, teargasing of Obedient supporters and sudden disappearance of Mr. Uzoma Ani, an aide to Odii, as some of the glaring cases of violent intimidation of the opposition.

The candidates further appealed to the international community, particularly the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and European Union (EU), as well as the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) embassies to investigate the alleged abuse of human rights by the Dave Umahi-led government.

Last week’s attack on Odoh was an indication that those perpetrating violence in the state ahead of the elections are not ready to beat a retreat, until their desires are achieved.

Confirming the attack on Odoh during a joint press briefing in Abakiliki last Friday, the state Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji and the State Consultant on Security, Stanley Emegha regretted the development but absolved operatives of Ebubeagu from it.
 
Emegha explained that the formation of Ebubeagu, translated from the neighbourhood watch to Ebubeagu and government is funding the outfit heavily.

According to him, the Ebubeagu operatives have limits to what they can do as contained in the law establishing the outfit and there are certain levels where they will alert the police for intervention.

He said, “You asked whether the attack happened, yes it happened and we are all aware of it. Five days ago, something happened at the border of Ebonyi/Enugu states, during which the lives of soldiers and policemen were involved. We did not accuse APGA, PDP or other political parties as masterminds.

“If it has happened to an APC member, we wouldn’t accuse anybody but it happened to APGA. We need to come together and talk about, which area we can contribute to secure our society. Instead, we blame one another to gain cheap political relevance.
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“We need to know that, we are all Ebonyians and every position is tenured. Hoodlums have shifted from attacking police to Ebubeagu, they are killing Ebubeagu Operatives. Do you know how many Ebubeagu people, we have written to the governor to assist in their burials?

“Ebubeagu operatives are being slaughtered like anything. And, we can’t accuse PDP or APGA but it is happening. We can’t lose hope and we shall continue to talk as a government because it is the sole responsibility of the government to provide adequate security of life and property in the state,” he stated.

Odii kinsmen in another alarm
While the state functionaries were busy washing their hands off the attacks, the Isuokoma community on Monday, asked President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene over threat to the life of their son, Ifeanyi Odii, who is the PDP candidate for the 2023 governorship election in Ebonyi State.
 
They made the allegations in the petition signed by Mr. John Nnanna Njoku, President-General of Isuokoma, Mr. Sunday Igne, the Youth President of Isuokoma, Chief Tony Anoke, Diaspora Leader of Isuokoma, Chief Augustine Chigbo Okoro, Coordinator of Isuokoma West Africa and Barr. Obasi Livinus Onu, Abakaliki Branch Chairman of Isuokoma. 
 
They called on President Buhari, Inspector-General of Police, Department of State Services, DSS, Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State Director of DSS and other security agencies to speedily come to their rescue, “to save High Chief Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii and the entire people of Isuokoma from the destructive tendencies of Governor Umahi.”
 
In the petition made available to The Guardian, the people viewed with much concern, trepidation and agony “the worrisome persistent unveiled verbal attacks and threats to the life of our son, Odii, by Umahi.” 
 
They alleged that the governor had in various forms and forums, glaringly demonstrated crass hatred and animosity against Odii following his aspiration and subsequent nomination as the PDP candidate in the 2023 governorship election in the state.
 
“We had ignored and taken with a pinch of salt the unprovoked dehumanising jibes aimed at Dr. Odii by Umahi. We continually dismissed Umahi’s aspersions on the personality of Odii as the ranting and whining of an uncomfortable player in a tough contest.
 
“There is no doubt that the recent outburst of Governor Umahi against security chiefs and agencies in Ebonyi State, in which he threatened to block and attack the convoys of opposition candidates in the state, was clearly targeted at our son, High Chief Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii. 
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“We are aware that Umahi has, in his characteristic uncivil manner, commanded the security agencies in the state to withdraw the security personnel attached to opposition candidates. 
 
“We see this as the governor’s desperate attempt to clear his way to have an easy ride to kill our son, High Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii. This latest show of acrimony jolted us to consciousness to give the governor’s machination and treachery the deserved serious attention, consideration and publicity.
 
“It is no longer news that Umahi formed the Ebubeagu militia, which he has utilised as a political tool to cow opposition to submission to perpetuate his unpopular political influence in Ebonyi State,” they claimed.
 
Odii’s kinsmen rued the number of lives that have been lost since Umahi became the governor of the state, noting that it was a matter of great concern.
 
According to them, “from the build up to Governor Umahi’s first tenure in office till now, murder is a recurring decimal in Ebonyi State. 
 
“Many people were gruesomely murdered in 2022 in Isuokoma, including the Palace Secretary, Chief Odii Nwachima; the President-General of Isuokoma Town Union, Dr. Ifeanyi Anthony Orji; Alhaji Iyioji, an Islamic cleric from Isuokoma; Chief Augustine Nwadibia, the owner of Galaxy Hotel at Nkwoagu Isu market; among others. 
 
“Mr. Henry Ezeani, one of the security aides to High Chief Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, was also murdered in the bloody attack at Galaxy Hotel, Nkwoagu Isu. The king of Isu community, HRH Ambrose Ogbu and Mrs. Juliana Uzor were also kidnapped in 2022 and they are still missing many months after their abduction.”
 
They alleged that: “these murders and cases of kidnapping happened in Isuokoma when it became clear that our son, High Chief Dr. Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii was waxing strong enough to clinch the governorship ticket of the PDP. 
 
“It is also worrisome that the Engr. Umahi-led government of Ebonyi State has not made any effort to investigate the murders and cases of kidnapping in Isuokoma in 2022, especially the murder of Dr. Ifeanyi Anthony Orji, who was the President-General of Isuokoma Town Union, and HRH Ambrose Ogbu, the king of Isu Community. This is disturbing. 
 
“He should, therefore, allow Dr. Odii to legitimately pursue his political ambition. Enough of this hatred! We can no longer condone it. We cannot keep quiet to allow Governor Umahi to destroy our illustrious son, Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, who is the leading candidate in the 2023 governorship race in Ebonyi State,” they added.

 PDP warns
The PDP through its campaign council in the state has stated clearly that nobody has the sole capacity for violence, saying it was genuinely concerned about the life of the Ebonyi people.

“Although we have the means and capacity to fight back, but like former President Goodluck Jonathan once said, no ambition should be worth the life of an Ebonyi indigene,” the campaign council said.

Speaking through its Director General, Chief Austin Edeze, the party stated that the objective of the sporadic attacks on the opposition was to dislocate the peace in the state, adding however, that it would not stay aloof over the development and the degenerating insecurity in the state.

He said: “It has become expedient for us to express our disgust and dissatisfaction over the escalating man-made insecurity in Ebonyi, manifesting in sporadic attacks on the opposition groups.
 
“In the buildup to the commencement of electioneering campaigns in the country, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had stridently and ingloriously declared that it would take victory at the polls at all costs. These attacks are unacceptable, absolutely condemnable and uncalled for.
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“Democracy does not limit anybody from contesting elections and nobody has the legitimate authority to stop the electorate from voting for any candidate of their choice.

“In that case, we hereby entreat President Muhammadu Buhari, Inspector General of Police, Director General of State Security Service and the Chief of Defence Staff, to bring the situation under control and stem dislocation of peace and security in the state.” Umahi reacts
Reacting to the allegation by kinsmen of Odii, Governor Umahi, through his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Francis Nwaeze, dismissed it as coming from political jobbers.
 
He said the governor had been open minded in dealing with members of the opposition parties in the state, stressing that he allowed them access to campaign venues in the state. 
 
While stating that he was yet to see the petition, Nwaeze said: “I don’t know where that thing is coming from; I don’t know who signed the said petition; people can just come together, sign any document. I wonder where the governor is playing a role in such a matter.
 
“What I can always assure you is that this is political time; people are just looking for a brand they will dent and possibly use it to grow themselves. 
 
“The governor has been very open minded; a couple of days ago, the two major opposition parties in the state and at the national level, all of them were given the state’s stadium to come and do their rally, even the security of the people, the governor minuted to the Commissioner of Police to ensure that the people are secured. 
 
“If the governor is against them, he may not have approved the stadium, even in other states, the government may not release such a facility, but in Ebonyi State, the governor will just make it available.”
 
He equally described as unfounded claims that the Ebubeagu security operatives were being used to oppress members of the opposition political parties in the state. 
 
“They are doing wonderfully well in the state and their target is criminals and nothing more. Those things are mere fabrications just to make news,” the governor’s aide said on Ebubeagu.
 
A chieftain of the LP in the state, Joshua Nwakpa however, told The Guardian: “The way it is, it might be difficult for anyone to operate during elections proper without a gun.  We signed a peace accord that has been thrown to the gutters due to desperation. Democracy is about the people and their willingness to go with anybody they have confidence in. Anytime, this is determined by the sound of the bullets, then it is no longer democracy”.

He stated that it was important that those who arm other people for the purpose of creating fear and violence should realise that, “they can only govern those who are alive.” He called on the politicians to go about the 2023 elections with the interest of the people at heart and ensure the exercise is free, fair and credible.
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