Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State is battling widows in his domain who were allegedly beating up by his supporters while they are protesting the harsh treatment meted out to one of their members, Viola Onwuliri, minister of state for education
| By Maureen Chigbo | Mar. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
WIDOWS in Imo State are angry with Governor Rochas Okorocha who is seeking for re-election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Their anger is because of the beating supporters of Okoroocha gave to them while they were matching in support of Viola Onwuliri, a widow and minister of State for education and to drum up support for President Goodluck Jonathan.
The travail of the widows started two weeks ago when a group of thugs in Owerri, unleashed terror on them, leaving them with multiple injuries. The widows numbering more than 2000 under the aegis of Imo Widows Association, IWA, were drawn from the 27 local government areas of the state assembled at the Okigwe Road roundabout few meters to the Government House, Owerri, in the morning to protest some of the injustices meted to the minister of state for education. The women alleged that a group of women suspected to be Imo State government agents last week in Owerri accused the minister of killing her husband professor Celestine Onwuliri who died in a plane crash.
According to Daily Times Online, while the widows who were assembled peaceful with their placards, a group of young men suspected to be cultists emerged from nowhere hauling sachets of pure water on them before flogging them like a common criminal. Some of the placards read, “An injustice to a widow is an injustice to all”, “Governor Rochas Okorocha leave Prof. Viola Onwuliri alone”, “Onwuliri had assisted us a lot’’. Daily Times reported that the angry mob, who were physically supervised by the Kenneth Emelu, state commissioner for Youths and Sports, cornered the widows at Item Street which is the adjoining street to Wetheral Road where they beat them up to stupor. As the widows were running away for their dear lives some of them fell into the gutter and sustained various degree of injures.
Narrating their ordeal, Edith Anjiwo, leader of the widows, said that a group of young men emerged from nowhere at the old Garden Park and started banging on their vehicles as well as ordering them to enter into their cars. “We were in Owerri to let the government know that it is not good to disparage or maltreat any widow. The attack on us was uncalled for and unwarranted because we are harmless’’.
It took the intervention of combined military, police and other security agencies led by commander 34 Brigade Obinze, Brigadier-General Lanre Bello to control the situation as some women who were mobilised by the state government started to be violent by also attacking the widows.
It was not only the widows who sustained injuries in the crisis. Eric Etuk, a camera man from the Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, who was covering the protest was molested and his camera was taken away by the hoodlums. Etuk, who bled profusely, said that all his personal effects were also taken away.
However, Chidi Ibe, state commissioner for information and strategy, applauded the beating of the NTA Cameraman, saying that, he was hired by Onwuliri to cover the event. Governor Okorocha, who addressed supporters on arrival from Abuja, alleged that Onwuliri sponsored the crisis, adding that the widows who were clothed in black came from Abia state. He warned the Abia State government not allow her women to be recruited to cause crisis in Imo State.
Notwithstanding Okorocha’s allegations, on February 22, Hundreds of widows in Imo State decided to take their case to God as they declared fasting and prayers and cursed Governor Okorocha and his supporters for allegedly peddling falsehood that the widows placed a mock coffin at the gate of Government House, during their protest.
Ijeoma Nwabueze, chairperson of Imo Widows Association, expressed shock that rather than condemned the beating of the widows, Okorocha and Eze Ohiri-led council of Ndi Eze, resorted to blackmail and falsehood to disparage the innocent widows and cover the atrocity the youths had committed against their mothers. “We pray that if the allegation of parading a mock coffin is true, then whatever Ndi Eze Imo wish of them, let it come to pass. But if not, may coffin never depart from their families and the Almighty God, who is the husband of the widows, should visit their wives,” she prayed.
The association of widows also cursed traditional rulers, who attended the cleansing ceremony and the hoodlums, who were allegedly mobilised by the state government to flog and inflict injuries on them. “Those who knew that the governor and the traditional rulers’ accusation is false and are promoting it, there is a curse attached to such atrocity and also, whoever may have participated or engineered the attack on the harmless widows, who merely engaged in a peaceful protest, cannot go unpunished,” they said. They stated that the wrath of God of widows would also visit two commissioners in the state and a top female official of the state Universal Education Board, SUBEB, for allegedly supervising the beating of the widows and alleging later that the widows were found with a mock coffin.
The widows prayed for quick recovery of those who sustained injuries during the protest, including Mary Mgbehuge from Umunna autonomous community in Onuimo Local Government Area of the state, who had a broken leg.
Nonetheless, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation, PDPPCO, has demanded apology from Governor Okorocha and General Muhammadu Buhari, All progressives candidate, APC, presidential candidate, over the incident of February 10, where certain widows in the state were allegedly assaulted. Femi Fani-Kayode, director of Media and Publicity of PDPPCO, told journalists in Abuja, that the attacks on the women were carried out by aides of Governor Okorocha, saying: “The hired thugs emerged from inside the Government House and unleashed extreme violence on the harmless women in a despicable and frightful manner.”
Fani-Kayode mentioned some top Imo State government functionaries as the alleged masterminds of the attacks on the widows, noting that the widows were attacked because they were drumming support for the PDP presidential candidate. “Instead of protecting the widows and affording them their full constitutional rights, including the rights to assemble, march and protest, well-armed hired thugs, who emerged from inside Government House, unleashed extreme violence on them,” he said.