By Egufe Yafugborhi
PORT HARCOURT – TWO prominent Rivers state women, Annkio Briggs and Ibim Semenitari Friday clashed over globally trending revolt by women of Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, LGA, against armed soldiers invasion to hijack collation of March 9 elections results in the locality.
*Women protesting against Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in Owerri. Photo by Chinonso Alozie
At a gathering in Port Harcourt to advance the feat by the daring Ogu Bolo women as motivation towards “Mobilising and Raising Women’s Voices Against Elections Violence”, the duo Semenitari was further pitted against Ann Kio over the election killings in Abonnema, Akuku Toru LGA of the state.
While rights activist, Ann Kio, Convener, Niger Delta Self-Determination Movement, NDSDM, saw the Ogu/Bolo women as having awaken new female power to achieve credible elections in Nigeria, Semenitari, former Rivers Information Commissioner reasoned that the women took unnecessary risk.
Ann Kio said, “What Ogu Bolo women did is something historic. Over the critical issues generated by the 2015 elections, it was stated, and clearly so that the Army has no role to play in elections.
“No space for the military in collation centers where votes are being counted and results declared. What the Ogu Bolo women have done is to strengthen women to know their rights to determine who they want to lead them through the ballot without anyone compromising their stand.
“They have shown the rest of the women how to resist any attempt by any one, be they politician or armed soldiers to deny them their franchise to chose the leaders they want. It is an inspiration we must not allow to die, but to rather canvassed to spread to all the places”
Semenitari, also one time caretaker boss of the Niger Delta Development Commission, in her appraisal noted that even as they were being celebrated, the Ogu Bolo women may have taken unnecessary risk which could have resulted in painful consequences as there should be more far reaching, safe measures to assert their electoral rights.
Semenitari said, “As women, we are the largest in number, we are the ones who sing and chant slogans the most during campaigns. Still we are the cannon folders thrust to the front line when violence breaks because the Army and Police won’t shoot women.
“How can be sure we will be safe all the time under such thinking, because when bullets fly, they don’t ask which party we belong or what sex we are. We lost an innocent, promising girl. People who died are our sons, daughter, fathers, mothers, maybe boyfriends or girlfriends.
“Rather than be cannon folders, let us as women begin to set standards we know are acceptable. Standards that will not make us risk our lives as cannon folders. We can say as women, if elections were to hold, we will not vote for anyone promoting violence. If we see signals of violence, we will not accept.”
Clash over Abonnema killings
Apparently blaming Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, for recent fatal election clashes in Abonnema, Ann Kio, a native of the Abonnema said, “My people were killed because one man picked someone we don’t know to make him governor and further knocked the heads of two of our sons together.
“You came to the community, picked one man to be governor. You left the one before, picked another without caring who we want. You don’t pick who the people don’t know. You knocked the heal of two Abonnema sons together. When you saw them bleeding, you went to a neighboring community to pick from another party not known.
“If you destroyed your party, consequently left out on the ballot for an election and you want to lobby people to vote for another party where your interest lies, you don’t do that on a Thursday before elections on a Saturday. You just created deaths for Abonnema while your community is safe.”
Responding, Semenitari said, “We just must get over the circle of hate. This is not the time to apportion blames.The conversation is to encourage as many women to take more decision making responsibilities. We must fight to occupy more leaders position.
Part of the problem is that when we shake the basket (struggle for political power) you don’t find many women. We are majority, we must support our own. We must demand more. If we continue to trade blame and promote hate, we will not get where we want to be”