In first quarter of last year, Ogbozala Autonomous Community in greater Opi in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State was in the news following the strange emergence of a cult of randy youths who had delight in raping women old enough to be their grandmothers. The phenomenon baffled a lot of people. Many reasons for this anathema were advanced by several schools of thought who tried to provide answers for the bestial acts of the youths.
Until the intervention of the famous Umuada Igbo, a socio-cultural organization of eminent Igbo women led by Kate Ezeofor, octogenarian women in the beleaguered community which has qualified for modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, lived under constant fear of being raped by youths who serially assaulted their hapless victims.
There was, however, respite after the intervention of the Lady Ezeofor-led women organization until the youths arrested for the heinous crime were discharged by the court for what the presiding magistrate called; “want of diligent persecution.” So, the town was peaceful and grandmothers had their peace until the boys who were charged to court were discharged.
Soon after their return, the rape of grandmothers started again. A source told Daily Sun that some bewildered citizens who tried to unravel the reason for the strange phenomenon in the once peaceful Opi attributed it to another kind of mental sickness that has diminished the sense of decency of the promiscuous youths.
Others say the gang belonged to a cult that demands that every member must rape 25 old women as pre-condition for benefit. Other bizarre reasons have been advanced by people for the unnatural behaviour of the Opi youths.
Daily Sun also discovered that beyond the façade of the Opi imbroglio is another simmering feud engendered by the scramble for a whopping sum of money expected from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as compensation in respect of buildings and farmlands which it acquired for the planting of high tension electric masts in the community.
Daily Sun gathered that because of the enormity of the sum expected from PHCN there is an on-going tussle between some influential members of the community who had allegedly planned to corner the money and shortchange the bona-fide owners.
The President General, Ogbozala Town Union, Chief Emma Ugwu, who was recently attacked in his business premises located along the Enugu Makurdi expressway near Opi junction told Daily Sun that he suspected the attack was the handiwork of those who had planned to secretly evaluate the said farmland and building and collect the compensation which runs into millions of naira.
As this was on, recently Opi women rose up again in protest over the sharing formula adopted in some bags of rice given to the community by a serving commissioner from the area. The protest was widely reported in the media. Since the publications, there have been reactions from many quarters prompting the Mayor of Nsukka City Council, Mr Tony Ugwu, to convene a security meeting with Ogbozala community leaders.
At the end of the meeting, Daily Sun spoke with the traditional ruler of Ogbozala, Igwe Fabian Ogbuabor, the Opi Youth Association General Secretary, Mr James Ezema, the Councilor representing Ogbazala, who is also deputy leader of the council, Ezema Bertrand, the leader of Ogbozala Opi Women, Mrs. Patience Abonyi, and the President of Opi Town Union, Chief Emma Ugwu.
According to Ezema, more efforts are needed to stem the rape menace, saying that although the community has been making effort to curtail the problem of rape but the efforts were not enough.
“The government has done the much it could. Umuada Igbo have also done their best. It is on record that since after the intervention of Umuada Ndigbo, organization the community was peaceful and the rapists went underground, especially after the arrest and detention of some of the suspected rapists,” the councilor said, adding that the recent protest by Opi women was about rice gift and not rape of old women.
“The photographs in some newspapers and their caption did not represent the true picture of what transpired in Ogbozala on February 8. The protest was about rice gift and not rape. The women said that the way the rice given to them by a commissioner from the area, was shared was not fair. There was no recent rape in the community. The photograph was in bad faith. We are appealing to the media to be careful the way they publish things”, Ezema wtrned, describing the publication as a deliberate malicious act by some people in Ogbozala.
Also speaking, the Ogbozala Traditional Ruler, Igwe Ogbuabor, a former secretary to the state government of Enugu State, described the February 8, demonstration as politically motivated.
The traditional ruler maintained that the last protest was not about rape. “What is happening in the town is that some people are angling and aspiring for political positions in the town using their influence and women to make the community ungovernable.
“To any sane mind, it is not understood why young boys should chose to rape grandmothers. Since April last year, we have been fighting and fighting this menace. We empowered the women to raise fund to fight criminality of rape, but I am not happy that the women are spending the money raised to fight the criminality, to pursue negative publicity in order to make cheap political point.
“I thank the Chairman of Nsukka Local Government,. Tony Ugwu, who called us to a meeting to discuss the issue of negative press report about Opi. The photograph was stage managed. What I know is that the women disagreed with me over my sharing formula for rice gift to the community.
“All efforts I made to call their leaders to reason with me over the formula fell on deaf ears. These things were stage managed. The issue is about rice, not rape. I appeal to the media to heed the appeal made by our people to stop putting us in negative publicity,” the monarch pleaded.
Also speaking, the Ogbozala Women leader, Mrs Abonyi, said: “The truth is that the February 8, demonstration has nothing to do with rape. It was purely a demonstration about rice given to us (women) by a commissioner, Engr. Iyke Ugwuegede, which was diverted.
“We have three autonomous communities – Ogbozala, Idi and Ibeku. We rejected the three bags of rice given to us by the Igwe because our investigation showed that the commissioner gave us 10 bags of rice. So, when our Igwe gave us three bags, we rejected it. So, after our meeting on February 8, we decided to go on demonstration to protest the sharing formula. I am surprised that the photograph in the newspapers said we were demonstrating against rape. Since the incident of last year, no rape has occurred in Ogbozala.”
Also, the President General, Ogbozala Town Union, Chief Ugwu, said: “After the incident of last year, no rape of old women had occurred in our community. The demonstration of February 8, which photograph was published on the front pages of newspaper is not about rape, but about rice.”
There was a lone case of a girl, who was raped at Ibeku autonomous community, but the victim is from Ogbozala, the rape did occur in Ogbozala.
“The demonstration of February 8, which photograph was published in the front pages of newspaper is not about rape, but about rice. The women demonstrated about rice given to the community by the Commissioner from Opi.
Also the President General Ogbozala Town Union, Chief Ugwu said: “After the incident of last year, no rape of old women had occurred in our community. There was a lone case of a girl, who was raped at Ibeku autonomous community, but the victim is from Ogbozala, the rape did occur in Ogbozala.
The women demonstrated about rice given to the community by the Commissioner from Opi. We are surprised to see that photograph, which was credited to News Agency Nigeria (NAN) in the newspapers. The misinformation is the handiwork of disgruntled elements in the town, who lost in the town union election and since then have been causing disaffection and chaos in the community, manipulating the women.
For the Nsukka City Council boss, Mr Ugwu, the NAN photograph was done in bad faith.
“I am an advocate of freedom of Information Bill, but every freedom has a responsibility attached to it. I am surprised that no write-up accompanied the photograph published by the newspapers. However, I held a meeting with the stakeholders of Ogbozala community and during the meeting we discussed extensively and discovered that the women actually demonstrated, but about rice gift sharing formula and not about rape. The local government is still trying to unravel the myth of the rape saga. This is so because until now, nobody has come to us to say she was raped and when some suspects were taken to court, nobody came forward to say she was raped. We believe seriously that the recent demonstration was related to leadership tussle in the community and was instigated by some elements in the community. We call for calm and a stop to negative publications that demean our image,” Ugwu said.
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