The recent attacks on two offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in two States of the South-West have been generating speculations among concerned residents who were shocked by the unexpected incidents.
In some other parts of Nigeria, especially in the South-East, many INEC offices have been set on fire by unknown individuals.
In many of the attacks, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were fingered as the masterminds. This is so because the group has continued to agitate for an independent nation, saying no to the 2023 elections.
Since the Tuesday incidents in Osun and Ogun, some Nigerians have speculated that the brains behind the fire attacks might be some Yoruba Nation apologists, who have not stopped threatening that there would be no elections in Yorubaland in 2023.
Like their IPOB counterparts, Oodua Republic agitators have insisted that there would be no elections.
Since 2021, the self-styled Yoruba freedom fighter, Sunday Igboho, and his spokesman, Olayomi Koiki, have insisted that there would be no elections next year.
Though Sunday Igboho has ‘lowered his voice’ since his ordeals in Benin Republic, however, he recently said there is no going back on Yoruba Nation.
“I, Sunday Adeyemo and all those who are following me on the issue of Yoruba Nation, there is no going back for us. There are talks around that we have stopped clamouring for Yoruba nation, that is not true, it is an unconfirmed rumour. We want Yoruba Nation.
“I want you, the Yoruba monarchs, to call a meeting, come together, you can see how our people are being killed everywhere, this is not good. Please come together and support us, may you live long. Yoruba Nation, no going back,” he said.
In March 2022, a group known as the Yoruba One Voice (YOV), said the 2023 general elections were not on its agenda but rather, the agitation for self-determination of the Yoruba nation.
Likewise in May, a group identified as Yoruba Referendum Committee (Agbajoowo la fi n soya) called on the lawmakers in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti States to pass into law, the Bill for a Referendum, which they claimed has already been sent to them twice.
Also, the leader of Yoruba Self-Determination Movement (YSDM), Prof Banji Akintoye, recently expressed optimism that Yoruba Nation would have been achieved before February and March 2023, when the elections would take place.
In less than four months to the elections, some agitators, who have not seen any signal that their plans for a sovereign State would materialise, could have resorted to self help, our correspondent gathered.
Professor Akintoye alluded to the fact that the young ones in the struggle are eager to have their own independent nation, stating that, “I know that young people want to jump now. But their elders would hold them back by telling them to wait, and that they should not jump yet.”
Akintoye added that there are about 200 groups in the mission for Yoruba independence.
“We have very many organisations in the struggle. They are up to 200. We deliberately did that from the beginning. Let there be many organisations and don’t let the authority be able to decipher who is who. That’s why we assisted many of our youths to establish their own organisations,” he added.
Earlier in the month of October, a coalition under the auspices of the Yoruba Appraisal Forum (YAF) had raised the alarm over alleged plans by Yoruba Nation agitators to cause violence and chaos in the South-West.
YAF National Coordinator, Adesina Animashaun, at a press briefing in Lagos State, said the objective of the secessionists was how to truncate the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
He alleged that some disgruntled persons in the South-West had been engaging in clandestine activities to spark off “killings, arson and mayhem that would undermine the electoral process and ultimately truncate next year’s elections” throughout the country.
According to him, the violence was planned to coincide with the campaigns by political parties in the six South-West States, as it was aimed at “re-enacting the arson and killings that characterised the unfortunate ‘Operation Wetie’ violence”, which he said took place in the First Republic.
“It appears the alarm raised by the YAF group was not taken seriously by security agencies and the resultant effect was what we witnessed last week in Ogun and Osun INEC offices,” a source told PRESSINFORMAT.
It would be recalled that some Yoruba Nation agitators recently attacked soldiers in Ota area of Ogun, carting away the rifle of an officer who also sustained injuries.
A senior security operative in the South West confided in our correspondent that the Yoruba Nation agitators are prime suspects in the unfortunate incident.
According to him, it was not a coincidence that the two INEC offices were set on fire same day, same time. He recalled that the two were torched with loaves of bread soaked with gasoline.
“This is really a coordinated attack by those agitators who do not want the 2023 elections to hold. They are seeing that everything is getting set and they don’t know what to do to stop the election.
“Politicians will not go and burn voters’ cards because they know their members would be affected too. They will rather find another way to rig elections,” the security officer spoke anonymously because he is not permitted to address the press.
In his own view, a public commentator, Alhaji Ola Animashaun, said anything is possible as far as the arson is concerned.
However, Animashaun wants security operatives to dig deep in fishing out whoever was responsible for the attacks.
“Nothing is impossible and anything is possible in Nigerian politics, Ogun State inclusive.
“But without necessarily being restrictive, I would rather wish politicians should be effectively ‘x-rayed’ in this instance. However, some anti-democratic fifth columnists could also be at work for some unexplainable agenda as it were.
“I think the 2023 desperadoes should not be off the radar of those looking into the Ogun/Osun (Ede) INEC area offices fire disaster. Coordinated or coincidental, some people somewhere, within or outside INEC, are in what can be called “desperate mode,” Animashaun stated.
Speaking, a political leader in Ogun State, Chief Dapo Adeyemi, opined that the attacks might be the handiwork of some politicians who are afraid of their seamy popularity among the electorate.
“It is not the first time that INEC facilities are being attacked or burnt. I am not sure the latest attacks, though happening in the South-West, could be the handiwork of Yoruba Nation agitators.
“One obvious fact is that the recent attack has political undertone and this is where the security agencies should ensure that the arsonists are fished out and their sponsors identified,” Adeyemi posited.
INEC, security agencies take actions
Meanwhile, at an emergency meeting of the Inter-agency Consultative Committee On Election Security (ICCES) held Friday to discuss the simultaneous attacks on INEC offices in Abeokuta South of Ogun and Ede South of Osun, it was resolved that security agencies would upscale intelligence gathering, sharing and utilising same to stem further sabotage.
The meeting, which was co-chaired by the Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd), was attended by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, representatives of the Armed Forces and others.
It was agreed at the emergency meeting that there would be the deployment of joint Security and Safety Teams to all INEC assets and facilities nationwide henceforth.
The teams, PRESSINFORMAT learnt, would include the police, Army, DSS, Civil Defence, the Federal Fire Service and others.
“The meeting appealed to Nigerians to continue to support the INEC and the security agencies to ensure a peaceful and secure environment for the 2023 General Election,” a statement released by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Security Committee of INEC, Maj. Gen. Modibbo A. Alkali (rtd) said.
Dialogue with secessionists for peaceful elections – Primate Ayodele to Buhari
On his part, the leader of INRI Evangelical Spiritual Church, Primate Elijah Ayodele, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to dialogue with IPOB and Yoruba nation agitators for the sake of peace during the 2023 election.
Ayodele maintained that now is the best time “to avoid the crisis planned to mar the 2023 general elections.”