The former director general, who was the lead speaker at the event, couldn’t contain her emotions, as she recalled in tears, her experience in the Nigerian civil war.
“I went to school in America for 10 years and nobody discriminated against me, and I come back home and somebody wants me to apologize for being an Igbo, I say no. But it does not mean I don’t love you, it does not mean we don’t love our fellow Nigerians.
She said the Igbo women would not want to have a repeat of another war and instead advised the government to embrace a dialogue.
According to her, “I remember very well what it was like, I remember that I lost my childhood, my innocence as a human being, as a 14-year-old, you are supposed to be doing what little girls do.
“We grew up very quickly, we grew up with dead bodies on the street. We grew up not having enough food to eat, and we grew up with children dying of kwashiorkor, with old people who could not get medication for their illnesses.”
She said she became an auxiliary nurse. “I am not sure I had more than one week training. There was no time. We were plunged into war, into trying to save lives, and many of our young people who were hardly prepared to fight, had to fight. And many of them died.
Onwenu, who said that her mother had to cater for the family at that time because they had already lost their father, said that her mother was wise enough to boil sea water to make salt. “Please try eating your food without salt, even a little of it, and then you will understand what I am talking about. Then if you had food and no salt, you were very lucky, because people didn’t have food.
“Who I am today is tainted by that experience, for good or bad. Everyone was hungry, including the soldiers who had to carry guns to fight, they too had kwashiorkor,” She recalled.
She said that the Igbos survived the war even though they lost millions of their people because they were hard working and industrious people, adding: “We managed to survive. And we came out of the war, it was an equalizer. Not everyone got the 20 pounds from the federal government after the war because most people didn’t even have a bank account to speak of. And we had to start again from scratch.”
Onwenu said that she was speaking for every woman who was going through pains right now for their children that are being killed, “Igbo women, Yoruba women, Benue, Hausa, Fulani, and any woman who has had to go through some kind of loss that we cannot make any sense out of.
“Why can we not have a country where our children can excel, where our hard working children can study, come out, have work, create businesses for themselves, and help their communities?”
She urged the government and the security agencies to respect the rights of agitators and listen to the reasons for their agitations through dialogue and help fish out the perpetrators of evil in the country, especially in the southeast.
“Some people want to agitate for a referendum, it is their right. It is provided for in the constitution, and some people want to cry out about their marginalization. It is their right, listen to them. You may not agree with them, but they have a right to speak.
“Don’t tag us as people who want to come and be destroying government properties. That is not us. That is not what we do, and we will never put up with a situation where people are doing that. We condemn it totally, whoever is doing it,” she said.
She said it is even more difficult being an Igbo and she has had to suffer for it.
“When somebody begins to tag you that because you are Igbo, you should be killed, because you are Igbo you shouldn’t demand for the things that belong to you, and because you are Igbo you should not express yourself? That is wrong and we say no!
“We are not going to apologize anymore for being Igbo, we are good people.
“We have come here together with one thing in mind; peace, love and equity. Stop the killings.
“Why do you want to create a situation where it seems as if Ndigbo are fighting, we do not want to fight. Like everyone else in Nigeria, we want peace, progress, and we are willing to work for it.
“Please stop killing our children. Living in Nigeria has become a hazard. We are begging and we are asking, let us sit down and talk about what is going on. Let us call our young people who are agitating and are not happy with the situation. Let us talk to them.
“Nigeria government, let us talk. The Army, let’s talk. Police, let’s talk anything but war. We don’t want it. But you cannot go on killing us. We are human beings. We feel the pain.
“Live and let’s live, sheath the sword Nigeria,” she said.
– June 11, 2021 @ 7:55 GMT |