From Charles Otu, Abakaliki
A female Rights Group, Advocacy for Political Equality in Nigeria, APEN, has condemned what it described as the inhuman treatment meted to a female member representing Afikpo North East State Constituency in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon. Mrs. Maria Ude Nwachi.
The group also declared it would withdraw its support for Governor David Umahi if his intimidation and denial of the female lawmaker continues, alleging that the governor is insensitive to women and unfair to their rights.
The group in a statement issued in Abakaliki by its South-East Zonal Vice Chairman, Mrs. Veronica Okwuegbu among other issues reacted to the news in the Social and mainstream media that a female legislator in the Ebonyi State House of Assembly was denied a Christmas largesse of N3.5m and 100 25kg bags of rice given to all her colleagues to be shared to their constituents this yuletide.
According to the statement, “On the Christmas eve when we read about allegations that one of the very few women in Ebonyi politics, Hon Maria was denied what others were given to celebrate the season, most of our members had dismissed it as mere social media buzz. Our findings however did not only prove the story to be true but also unearthed some other ill-treatment that she has been receiving in the House of Assembly.
Or how does the government of Ebonyi State want our members to believe it is gender sensitive when one out of the only two female of a 24-member House is treated with disdain”?, it queried.
The group also condemned the denial of their victim her constituency project fund even when she has already executed so many projects with her personal money and handed same to her community. “At least, we are aware that Hon. Maria is the first politician to have constructed a modern public toilet facility valued at over N50m for her Afikpo people at the Eke Market, Afikpo. Before now, this used to pose a big challenge to the people. How then can the government of Ebonyi State refuse to pay her back the money she spent on some constituency projects which had since been approved and others given”?
The group threatened not to support any longer, the re-election bid of the governor of the state, Engr. David Nweze Umahi if the issues of marginalization and maltreatment of women are not addressed and apologies unreservedly tendered to some affected persons, especially Hon. Maria whom it recalled had been indefinitely suspended from the House for about three times on flimsy reasons of her passion for photography.
“The fact the government must deal with is that she (Hon. Maria) is fast becoming a rising star without any godfather in politics. She won her election in 2015 on the platform of PPA which had no structures in place in Ebonyi and she is yet again running for the House of Representatives seat on the platform of ANN in 2019. When then has it become a crime not to belong to a party in power when they are 91 political parties in the country or not to have a godfather in politics?”
The group however encouraged women in politics, especially those running for elective positions in 2019 not to be deterred by their gender or any campaign of calumny and blackmail they may encounter but like their male counterparts, set their eyes on the goal which is the political position they are aspiring to.
It also promised to support the victimized lawmaker, Hon. Maria and other female aspirants running for elective positions in any possible way they can to actualize their ambitions as it reiterated that Nigeria’s development won’t be fast until mothers are given their pride of place in politics.
Also reacting, some of her constituents, Engr. Vincent Ewa and Mr. Michael Oko Uche both condemned the action of the PDP government in Ebonyi State, describing it as extreme pettiness for anyone to engage in any form of fight or denial of right of a woman.
“We heard and also read about the denial of the Christmas gifts to our lawmaker by the governor, but we thought it was only a joke until we paid her Christmas homage and discovered it was true. The things she normally does for us during this Christmas for the past three years like giving us some 25kg bag of rice and cash was not done and the celebration of the yuletide was generally a dull one for her constituents and supporters”, Ewa said in an interview.
In his reaction, Mr. Oko Uche, a 56 year old farmer said, “This should stand condemned because she has been kind to her people and a tremendous blessing to all, particularly our people of Ehugbo (Afikpo). And for anyone to want to hurt Maria is to hurt the entire Afikpo zone. I think they have to tell us her sins or pay for this evil treatment”, he asserted, threatening to also withdraw his support for the governor in 2019.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on State Assembly Liaison, Prince Sunday Ugwuocha when contacted said he was not aware of the development. “I am not in Abakaliki now but I will investigate it and get back to you when I return”, he told our correspondent on the telephone.