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How women led protests in Imo over elections

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By Chinonso Alozie, Owerri

For sometime now, women from the rural areas in Imo State have been conveyed from their communities to Owerri in order to stage protests and counter-protests in the name of politics.

*Women protesting against Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Owerri. Photo by Chinonso Alozie

South-East Voice learnt that it has exposed the women to serious dangers.

In Imo State, in the period leading to general elections, women have been reportedly injured, teargassed by security operatives and in most cases, the innocent women clashed with opponents of their sponsors.

Sometimes, these women are not properly informed on the reasons why they were asked to come out and protest.

Just like in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, thousands of widows protested in front of Imo Government House. They were reportedly beaten while scores were badly injured including a photo journalist, Etuk Eric, who was rough-handled.

Still in 2015, when the immediate past president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan was visiting His Royal Highness, HRH,  Eze Cletus Ilomuanya, among other notable traditional rulers to have an interaction with them along Concord Avenue in Owerri, women said to be loyal to Governor Rochas Okorocha protested at the venue where the then President Goodluck Jonathan and Imo monarchs were having a meeting. Of course, the women were dispersed with teargas and some of them got injured as they tried to take cover.

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Similar incidents happened within that period.

This time around, it was the 2019 general elections that brought the women out again, making several demands.

It is getting tough, as the fallout of the National Assembly elections in Imo State had charged the political atmosphere. Women were seen engaging in protests and counter-protests.

Hundreds of women from Imo West Senatorial District, which has 12 local government areas, have demanded the cancellation of the controversial results in which Governor Rochas Okorocha was declared winner.

Days after, scores of women supporting Okorocha protested against APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, warning him not to step his feet in Imo State.

The women led by Okorocha’s appointees, Gertrude Oduka and Ijeoma Igboanusi said they were not happy that the National Working Committee of APC suspended Okorocha from the party as a result of alleged anti-party activities.

However, the women from Imo West Senatorial District, led by the zonal Woman leader, Mrs. Ihejiagwa Oby told South-East Voice that they decided to protest because the original results of Imo West election was not declared, adding that they were saddened by the way the returning officer announced the results under duress.

During their protest to the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Owerri, the women said: “The Presidential and National Assembly elections were marred by irregularities in the state especially in Imo West Senatorial District.

“It is also important to note that the women of Orlu zone are protesting against the brutal assassination of two of our sons at Ejemekwuru during the governor’s campaign rally in Oguta LGA and property of people were destroyed.

“The Resident Electoral Commissioner, it is obvious that lives are at risk if a chief security officer of the state could use the military as well as the police to perpetrate electoral mayhem against the citizenry.

“We want to use this opportunity to tell you that there was use of power to intimidate collation agents in Mmahu in Ohaji/Egbema LGA and forced them to rewrite results for him.

“However, you will agree with us that in an atmosphere of rancour, crisis and electoral fraud, free, fair and credible election does not exist in our democratic process.”

On their demands regarding the governorship and House of Assembly, elections in the state and the level of involvement of security agencies in the state, the women said: “Therefore, the military and other security agencies should desist from being used by electoral umpires to rig election anymore in the state. The military must adhere to their primary responsibilities and their due area of assignment or duties as specified by law.

“We, however, call on the Brigade Commander of 34 Artillery Brigade Obinze to warn and caution his boys from getting involved in electoral fraud for whatsoever reason may be behind their engagement in such act.

“We also call on the Commissioner of Police to give same sense of orientation to his men. The Nigeria Police should not perpetrate electoral fraud against the wishes of the people.

“In our passionate appeal, we pray that security agents should be agents of peace and harmony in the electoral process. They should exhibit high sense of decorum for the growth of the democratic system in Nigeria.”

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