Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Voter Apathy and Possible Pockets of Violence – Key Public Safety and Security Issues during the Anambra Governorship Election on Saturday 18th November 2017

As the November 18, 2017 Anambra gubernatorial election draws closer, the relevance of Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) cannot be overemphasized. The group is strategically relevant because of its threat to ensure large scale election boycott and the security implications arising from such threats and government’s response mechanism. Accordingly, this study found that the November 18, 2017 governorship election will likely experience low voter turnout neither as result of history of voter apathy in the state, nor because the people are afraid of IPOB, but because the people are afraid of the conduct of the security agencies especially the police and the military. However, stakeholders during the validation of the research report contend that IPOB threat level has significantly gone down especially after the operation python dance II and government proscription of the group and its activities. In as much as the IPOB open activities has dwindled, the group’s underground  activities could still lead to voters’ apathy whilst at the same time create an opportunity for political parties to further intensify mobilization of the people that could lead to massive voters turn-out.

For the security flash points, the study observed that there will likely be election day violence and post-election violence in some locations such as IPOB strongholds – Ekwulobia, Nnewi North, Nnewi South, Ihiala, Ozubulu, Ubuluisiuzo, Okija,  Ekwusigo, Nkpor, Obosi, Ogidi, Awka and Agulu. The Election Day violence will likely result from clash between IPOB members and security agencies if non-coercive security approach is not deployed. It is possible that post-election violence could crystallize if APGA loses the election to APC.

Finally, beyond the IPOB ‘no election campaign’, there are other security threats like the possible use of vigilantes and informal police groups by the politicians for violent activities is also not ruled out. The study further note that if INEC fails to fully use the digital card reader for the voting process it may trigger post-election violence arising from lack of trust in the voting process. While the expectation that government at the national level would deploy national security apparatus to support a particular candidate is also worrisome. This has created a general sense that ‘the fear of federal government militarizing the state is more than the fear of IPOB’ – this is however a major factor that could engender voters’ apathy during the November 18, 2017 gubernatorial election in Anambra.


Federal Government
The federal Government must employ dialogue above raw force in engaging dissension. As a result, there is need to provide alternative narratives (peace messages) by government institutions like National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ministry of Information, etc, to counter ‘no election’ campaign by IPOB.

Election Management Body
INEC must conduct itself as an independent umpire by ensuring that the card reader machines work properly during the election. Any suspect of bias or foul play on the part of INEC, could trigger revolt from the people. Election materials must also arrive timely and other voting processes commenced as at when due. After voting activities like counting, collation and announcement of results must be done in transparent manner that will not endanger peaceful conduct of the election.

Anambra State government:
The incumbent government must demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship and be willing to accept the election results regardless of the outcome rather than allowing its supporters go violent when results are being released.

Security Agencies:
The security agencies must conduct themselves in professional manner all through the election circle. In the event of peaceful demonstration, the security agents must recognise the right of people to peaceful demonstration while well trained anti-riot security agents should be used to disperse rioters in the event of violence.

The police should intensify its effort in ensuring security of lives and property during this period particularly, there should be periodic security assessment meeting with owners of hotels. This is because illicit and clandestine activities of suspected parties’ thugs happen there.

Political Parties and Candidates:
Political parties should carry out their political campaigns and rallies within the ambit of the laws. Party agents must be well trained to understand proper conducts on Election Day so as to avoid undue interference with INEC officials. The social contract and peace accord that will be agreed and signed by candidates should be strictly adhered to, and supporters of the candidates must be educated on the need and import of such social contract and peace accord. Accredited political parties agents must be available at the appropriate time and venue to inspect sensitive electoral materials to avoid any suspicion that could lead to violence.

Town Unions:
Town unions mobilize their communities to participate peacefully in the election. President Generals must remain non-partisan and cooperate with INEC and security agents by ensuring that violence do not erupt in their various communities.

Security Agencies
IPOB members do not have voters card and if the security agents on Election Day patrol could adopt ‘operation show your voters card’ in a non-coercion manner, this will go a long way to eliminate infiltration and possible miscreants. There should a securitization of polling booths through motorization, air and through data. There should be central call-in and toll-free lines that will receive calls if there is violence anywhere. This central base should be made effective and should also control the field security agents and send them to areas that have security problem.

Civil Society Organisations
There is need for increased citizens’ engagement by the civil society to dissuade the erroneous impression that has been created in the mind of the people about security agents especially the military. This sensitization should be done through traditional, religious and the institutions of President Generals of different town unions in the state. There is need to teach the public what they should know about election security agents and their conducts and other security issues


The CLEEN Foundation (formerly known as Centre for Law Enforcement and Education) is  a non-governmental organization established in January 1998 with the mission of promoting public safety, security and accessible justice through the strategies of empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes and publications, in partnership with government, civil society and the private sector. CLEEN Foundation has Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights based in Banjul, The Gambia. 


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