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Owerri Widows Saga: APC Has No Respect For Women – Fani-Kayode

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…Wants Police To Investigate Okorocha's Action
SAN FRANCISCO, February 23, (THEWILL) – The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation Sunday expressed concerned that the APC government in Imo State would deploy its officials (including the Commissioner of Information, Chief Chidi Ibeh and the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr Kenneth Emelu), the Nneoma Women leader, Mrs Getrude Oduka, Youth Leader, Mr Jeff Nwaoha and SSA Youth, Mr Samuel Godstime, as well as hired thugs to brutalise some women who were on a peace rally to support President Goodluck Jonathan and Prof. Viola Onwuliri, the Minister of State for Education.

“This is all the more so given the fact that these women are widows,” the Campaign Organisation said.

Expressing the concern at a media briefing in Abuja, the Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Campaign, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said the women were on February 10 brutalised in Owerri by agents of the Imo State Government in the course of their peaceful assembly to protest and pray for the women folks in the state against sudden widowhood.

According to the PDP Presidential Campaign Chief, ”The peaceful solidarity protest embarked upon by the Imo Widows Association, Jesus Triumphant Widows Association and Amuzi widows Association, etc., was in support of one of their own and current Minister of State for Education, Professor (Mrs.) Viola Onwuliri, who is our committed party leader in Imo State.”

He disclosed that “The women, in their thousands, all dressed in black had converged on the Roundabout, about three kilometers away from Government House, Owerri, as early as 8 am singing solidarity songs in support of our presidential candidate, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and Professor Viola Onwuliri.”

Expressing gratitude to the women for supporting the re-election bid of President Jonathan and for mobilising themselves in their thousands to work for the victory of Mr. President in the March 28 presidential elections, Fani-Kayode said: “It is pertinent to point out the fact that this solidarity march came exactly one week after the All Progressives Congress (APC) women, dressed in their uniform, held a protest rally, without any hindrance by the state government, against President Jonathan and Professor Onwuliri in Owerri. “

He however said: “Sadly, news of the march that was organised by the widows in support of President Jonathan was not received very well by the governor and the authorities in Imo state.

“Instead of protecting the widows and affording them their full constitutional rights, including the right to assemble, march and protest, well-armed hired thugs, who emerged from inside Government House, unleashed extreme violence on the harmless women in a despicable and frightful manner. Consequently they inflicted life-threatening and severe injuries on a large number of the widows.

“They were brutal, callous and unrelenting and they refused to exercise any restraint as they unleashed the most barbaric form of violence and fury on the helpless widows. Many of the women were badly wounded and still remain in the hospital. Others were traumatised and brutalised. Despite their screams, pleas and tears, the perpetrators refused to stop inflicting violence on them and instead they increased the brutality and fury of the attack. Some of the women were abducted and taken to Government House where they were further manhandled and abused.

“An NTA cameraman, Mr Etuk Henric, whilst he was filming the horrendous encounter, was viciously and brutally stabbed in the attack by the agents of the Imo State Government and he was left for dead. He was filming the whole incident but his camera was seized from him and the tape was destroyed. He is now recuperating at the Federal Medical Centre in Owerri.

“The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation is concerned that the APC government in Imo State would deploy its officials (including the Commissioner of Information, Chief Chidi Ibeh and the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Mr Kenneth Emelu), the Nneoma Women leader, Mrs Getrude Oduka, Youth Leader, Mr Jeff Nwaoha and SSA Youth, Mr Samuel Godstime, as well as hired thugs to brutalise our women. This is all the more so given the fact that these women are widows. Does the Governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, have no respect for women? Does he not fear God?

“Has he forgotten the special place that God has in his heart for widows? Is he a sadist, a misogynist or both? Does he not know that women are meant to be treated with the highest degree of decency and respect and they ought not to be beaten, wounded, stripped and brutalised by political thugs and armed men? Does he not know that his job as governor of Imo state is to protect all the women in his state and not just the women and widows in the APC?

“The Owerri saga is a reflection of the larger picture of the APC and its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari's aversion to women's rights and women's equality is well known and need not be documented here. This is a man who has stated clearly that if he is elected as President of Nigeria, one of the first things that he will do is to scrap the office of the First Lady. This is a man who never appointed any woman in his cabinet when he was military Head of State and neither did he do anything notable for women whilst he was a Federal Minister of Petroleum or Head of the Petroleum Trust Fund.

“It was clear before now that while the PDP-controlled Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan has consistently proved its commitment to women empowerment, the APC has continued to show that it does not care about the role women can play in its government at all levels. Instead of promoting and protecting women, the APC are busy traumatising and beating up widows in the streets of Owerri and turning them into second class citizens.

“We have taken note of General Buhari's promise to scrap the office of the First Lady in the event that he becomes President. However we know that our women folk, who deserve to play a key role in government, will not allow the retrogressive forces that the APC and General Buhari represent to reverse the gains that women have made under the Jonathan administration. We are confident that with their votes on March 28, they will sink the ambition of General Buhari and his APC.

“We are using this forum to call on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to act expeditiously on the petition sent to him by the leaders of the widowed women associations by investigating the attacks on them, arresting the masterminds of the barbaric act and prosecuting them in accordance with the law of the land. The IGP should also investigate the allegation of complicity of policemen in Imo State in the attack.

“The PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation hereby also calls on General Buhari and the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, to show remorse and condemn the barbaric act by the officials and agents of the Imo State Government who superintended over the brutalisation of our harmless widows. Buhari and his friends in the APC must purge themselves of their obviously strong anti-women sentiments. We know that the opposition party has a violent nature, but they should be able to draw the line by sparing women of their irresponsible and desperate fury.

“If Buhari and the APC refuse to tender an unreserved apology to the widows of Imo state w ithin a matter of days, then we reserve the right to refer to them as a party of women beaters and haters who have no respect for the female gender and whose desire and intention is to enslave, brutalise and torment our women. The truth is that only cowards, bullies and scallywags would unleash a group of violent and dangerous armed thugs against a group of defenceless, harmless and innocent widows.”