With less than seven days to the highly anticipated 2023 general elections, the outgoing week did very little in calming frayed nerves amid mounting concerns about electoral security. The opening salvo came on Monday, 13 February, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that elections will not be held in about 240 polling units across 28 states of the federation during the February 25 and March 11 general elections.
The polling units are one in Edo, Kwara, Rivers and Zamfara States each and 38 in Imo State, which has the highest. INEC’s announcement, which raised eyebrows at election integrity amid concerns about disenfranchisement, was later supplemented by the explanation that the polling units will be abandoned because of the unavailability of registered voters, as this would help the commission refocus its logistics in populated polling units.
Also, on Monday, the Department of State Security Services (DSS) announced that it had invited former Aviation Minister Femi Fani-Kayode for questioning. The former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) member is being quizzed over his claims that some presidential candidates alongside some generals are plotting to scuttle this year’s elections and carry out a coup against the government. Fani-Kayode, who is also the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council member, was released about a day later.
This week also saw the major presidential candidates round off their campaigns—the APC had its final campaign event in Borno; the PDP in Adamawa and the Labour Party (LP) in Lagos.
The following are some of the incidents recorded the previous week that may have lasting impacts on the elections:
● 17 February: A man, Ebenezer Alaro, said to be an APC member in Ilesa town, Osun State, was killed by some yet-to-be-identified assailants. The press secretary to the Osun State House of Assembly’s Speaker, Kunle Alabi, said the Speaker, Timothy Owoeye, was saddened by the development and condemned the killing of Alaro, which, according to him, took place at about 1 pm on Friday, in front of his father’s house on Aromire Street, Ilesa. The APC alleged that a shop belonging to the APC Women Leader in Ward 9, Irojo, Ilesa East Local Government Council Area, popularly known as ‘Iya Ruka,’ was destroyed by suspected PDP thugs.
● 18 February: Hoodlums attacked the Ukpor High School training camp used by INEC to train its officials ahead of the general elections. It was gathered that the hoodlums invaded the school located in the Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State and disrupted the activities of the electoral commission’s trainers and trainees. However, nobody was killed in the incident.
On Monday, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) sounded like a broken record when they said they would not get involved in the elections and condemned the attacks INEC has faced in the South-East. The group’s spokesman, Emma Powerful, said that “The attacks on INEC facilities within this period are not supported by IPOB because that will not add any positive value to our struggle. We are only seeking Biafra freedom through peaceful means, and not through violence.”
Only a few days later, INEC officials were subjected to another round of attack, raising more questions about not only IPOB’s commitment to peaceful elections but also, in fairness to them, the fictionalisation of the movement, which the Nigerian government is yet to take seriously. As a result, the major threat to the south-eastern elections stems from the inadequate command and control of not only IPOB but also the Ebubeagu vigilance unit, who have been accused of going rogue and becoming politicians; mercenaries.
Overall, if the present general unrest arising from the cash scarcity, which led to the attacks on banks and traders in the South, is anything to go by, the security services will be required to be everywhere at once, and even with that, it may still not be enough to curb violence during the election, especially if less attention is paid to political actors who stand to benefit from the chaos.