state of flux

Nigeria’s Anambra State election will show where 2023 winds blowing

By Nwokoye Mpi

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Posted on May 17, 2021 10:22

Nigeria Separatist Movement © In this 28 May 2017, file photo, members of the Biafran separatist movement gather during an event in Umuahia, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi, File)
In this 28 May 2017, file photo, members of the Biafran separatist movement gather during an event in Umuahia, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Lekan Oyekanmi, File)

As gangs blast their way into prisons and kill police officers in the region, south-east Nigeria is gearing up for an election that could be a bellwether for the presidential poll in 2023.

When the people of Anambra State go to the polls on 6 November to elect a new governor, they will be also be dragged into a political battle over the presidential elections in 2023.

Activists believe that the turmoil sweeping through Anambra and the south-east region over the last six months is linked to the race for the presidency.

Some are convinced that the series of attacks on security agents, including the bombing of police headquarters and organised escape of over 1900 prisoners from the neighbouring Imo State, are intended to portray the south-east as an irredeemably secessionist region, incapable of putting up a qualified presidential candidate.

Others argue that it is a part of a wider plan to show how important the region is to the federation. They liken it to the violent campaigns in the south-west and south-south that ended up propelling candidates to the presidency.

I am from Anambra, I was born here, attended schools in this state, and I work here. One thing I can tell you is that the Anambra election is hardly predictable,” said Chris Ejiofor, a public affairs analyst.

Government security officials in Abuja blame the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a regional vigilante group, for the attacks. IPOB’s mercurial leader Nnamdi Kanu, said to be in exile in Europe or the United States, denies the group’s involvement and accuses all mainstream politicians of being complicit in the oppression of the south-east.

IPOB’s growing popularity in the region is sending a strong message to all parties competing in the Anambra gubernatorials (the state serves as the unofficial headquarters of IPOB). Kanu comes from the neighbouring Abia State and called for a boycott of the last elections in Anambra.

No one knows how that will affect turnout in the state elections this year or the national elections in 2023; but the number of registered voters and is lower in the south-east than other regions. This complicates the efforts of south-eastern politicians to stake a claim to the presidential ticket.

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