I was almost lynched for being Igbo − Onyeka Onwenu
Nigerian singer popularly called Lady of Songs, Ms. Onyeka Onwenu, on Thursday recalled her agonizing experiences as Director-General of the National Centre for Women Affairs before her disengagement by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying she was almost lynched by staff during handover.
She also alleged how Fatwa (death sentence) was passed on her by some staff because of her uncompromising stance against graft, adding that during her handover, she was embarrassed and molested by some highly placed Directors of the NCWD.
In a statement obtained by journalists in Abuja, Onwenu specifically demanded for a probe of the Ministry of Women Affairs and NCWD because of certain shady deals.
Such probes, she said, would root out bad eggs in the system who are not ready to assist in the realization of the change mantra of government.
She said, “The abuses and lack of cooperation from a mother Ministry (of Women Affairs) from those who felt that the centre overshadowed them, to the extent that they tried to discourage others from working with us, were just a bit much for my comfort. I did not lobby for the job in the first place and I was not going to lobby to keep it. I actually looked forward to leaving. But some people were going to exact their pound of flesh.
“They organized some staff, mostly northerners, invited the press and set about to disgrace themselves. By mid-afternoon, while the Heads of Department were putting together the handover notes, they seized the keys to my official car, even with my personal items still inside. Threats began to fly. “That Ibo woman must die,” “we will disgrace her”. Their chief organizer, the acting DG (name withheld) went about whipping up ethnic sentiments against me.
“Late 2015, the same officer had gone to the centre’s mosque to ask for the issue of a Fatwa against me, claiming that I was working against the interest of the North. We nipped that in the bud by calling a town hall meeting and asking that proof be provided. The Fatwa was denied and peace reigned for a while. Police was called in to the centre to escort me out and avoid bloodshed as I disengaged. Eventually, in the midst of insults and name calling, with an angry baying crowd, some of whom were brought in from outside, I entered my official car and left.
“I was initially dismissed as just a musician. When that did not work, I was targeted and abused for being an Igbo woman who came to give jobs to and elevate my people while sidelining them. When these detractors could not provide answers to the spate of improvement we were bringing, they resorted to sabotage and blackmail. The first such salvo was fired when the Senate Committee (on Women Affairs) visited on an oversight mission a few months after my arrival. All three generators at the centre were cannibalized, overnight, just hours to the visit.”
According to her, when the call came on Sept 13 2013, to serve the country two years and five months, she took it as a call from God and answered in the affirmative.
She also denied threatening to take the President to court for her to disengage, describing the allegation as the handiwork of mischief makers.
Onwenu said, “Why would I? Is it not within his authority? Even if it were not, is the Center my personal property. I had done my best and if it was time to go, it was that simple. Life continues. I had a thriving career before my appointment. The Center did not make me. I have so much to do. I am a multi-talented, multifaceted and multitasking child of God. By His grace, the future is greater. So what is the problem?
“Let me say here that the Federal Government should really look into the parastatals and take note of the fact that many people who work on them do not have the requisite qualification. Many contribute nothing and many see their job as personal entitlement. They are owed because Nigeria belongs to them and them alone.
“Somehow, these people were given the impression that they could attempt to do what they did to me and nothing would happen. That is very sad indeed. The Ministry also has a case to answer. They helped to create that impression. A situation where the Ministry could invite a management staff to a trip abroad without informing the DG and the staff would only inform her principal via text message, from the Airport as she is leaving the country, creates an atmosphere of indiscipline and anything goes. The Ministry should restrain itself to its spelt out function and not undermine the authority of the DG.
“Finally, I declare that I am a Nigerian citizen who should enjoy the rights attendant to that privileged. I am Onyigbo and proud of it. I respect myself and I love and respect all for who they are. We are all God’s children. No one has the right to insult or abuse me or deprive me of my rights. Nigeria will not hold unless and until we all come to that realization.”