By Chidi Nkwopara OWERRI
IMO is gradually wearing the unenviable toga of “a state of protesters,” as hardly any week now passes without any group staging a protest. Apart from Charly Boy who led a campaign against bad governance tagged “Our Mumu Don Do,” scores of the deaf and dumb, as well as Heartland Queens, the state’s female football players, blocked the Government House gate to vent their anger.
Charly Boy successfully mobilised thousands of students from the various tertiary institutions in the state, for the street protest, which kicked off from Imo State University gate and terminated at the Okigwe Road roundabout. He maintained that “citizens should not fear the government but government should fear the people.”
The heat generated by Charly Boy had hardly settled when the deaf and dumb mounted the stage with a long list of demands, including the payment of N12 million arrears of subvention. The female players were not left out in the gale of protests rocking the state. Theirs was hinged on non-payment of seven months stipends.
The protest by the deaf and dumb was Monday, May 31, 2017, and they sustained the outing far into the night, when no government official gave them a listening ear. They started mustering again two days later, at the old Garden Park, as the security agencies cordoned off the Okigwe Road roundabout and the entrance into Government House.
Speaking to South East Voice at the scene of the protest, through an interpreter, the leader of the group, Mr. Uzoma Edwards, complained about the poor learning environment for the deaf and dumb and non-release of arrears of subventions totalling N12 million. “We need employment, allocation of land to build a befitting place we can call our own and the reopening of the office of the special assistant to the governor on deaf and dumb affairs,” Edwards said.
He called for the splitting of the variously challenged groups into the deaf, the blind and the physically challenged, stressing that they will appreciate the relocation of a primary school for the deaf, from Wetheral Road, Owerri, to a safe and more conducive environment. “We also need the approval of the state government to host the sixth edition of the National Football Championship for the Deaf, scheduled to hold next year. Special Education is dying in the state and it needs to be restructured,” Edwards pleaded.
The plight of the Heartland Queens is no less pathetic, as they have been completely abandoned by the government.
Speaking on behalf of her colleagues, the Team Captain, Miss Best Osuji said: “We have not been paid for seven months. We have not been paid our allowances and bonuses for months. We are not happy with our Team Manager, Charity Enwerem.”
She has refused to draw government’s attention to our plight”. Some of the placards carried by the players read: “We are the breadwinners of our families; Government of Imo State, Pay us our seven months salaries; We are suffering”.
An analyst, who spoke to South East Voice yesterday on phone, opined that “there is the likelihood that we will witness more protests in the days ahead because the times are hard and succour is from the reach of Imo citizens”.
Only time will tell if this analyst is right or wrong.