By Ogechi Okafor
Like many people, both indigenes of Anambra State and others who do not hail from the State, I watched the drama of the absurd on the Anambra Cargo Airport land with disappointment and regrets. The furore that suddenly burst on this much awaited project was unexpected and unnecessary. Then, as a woman, I still feel the pain of the womenfolk being used as pawns in competitions for power and money.
How come that a much publicised project which took off three years ago in 2018 is only now being discovered to be characterised by irregular land acquisition?
Where were the organisers of the women’s indecent march and name – calling when the Ivite – Umueri lands were acquired between 2005 and 2010?
Now, because our rural women are largely illiterate, it was easy for those with hidden agenda on the airport land to hide the relevant facts and manipulate the women into an abusive demonstration.
A well researched commentary on the ugly protest against the Governor Willie Obiano government by one Okechukwu Anarado showed clearly that the land appropriation was done by the Chris Ngige and Peter Obi governments. The widely circulated article also revealed that up to sixty percent compensation were paid by past administrations.
In effect, the present government’s involvement was only in paying the balance of the due compensation and development of the project.
Those mobilised village women we saw on video would not have known this history of the matter. Their outbursts, their ranting, the chorusing of repeated lines, were firm indications that they did not have a grasp of the main issue.
Bad faith behind the riot is seen in the failure to engage the State Government on any perceived objections the community may have had. But was this a community agenda? Why were the State House of Assembly member for the constituency; the traditional ruler; local Church personage and other influential leaders not part of the agitation? This rank of leaders along with the town’s business and civil service elite were in a position to dialogue with the State Government for peaceful resolution of any differences between the two sides.
The agitation had to take another turn, a deplorable path because there were personal interests of desperate actors to be pursued.
It does not take rocket science to see that those who engineered the recent discontent were targeting land business deals for themselves. The Anambra International Cargo Airport is at advanced stage of development and this has brought significant increase in the value of land in the area. What we are witnessing is positioning for an expected land boom. Only a cartel will close its eyes to the huge economic and social benefits from the operation of the airport. Who, if not the host community will be the greatest direct beneficiaries from the airport? How then could the community be fighting against it’s own fortunes?
This was rather a clique at work. And they amply proved their impersonation. To fail to make representations on supposedly community matters and proceed to make primitive dramatizations of persecution is dance of the absurd. It exposes an intent to armtwist, if not blackmail the Government.
Enough of this belittling of women in the name of protest. Will the women be included in the sharing of any land the Government concedes to the community? Where did the menfolk of Ivite – Umueri go on that day? And the odd few that were seen, why were they not half naked too? Would it not have painted a convincing picture of collective lament for the men to have joined in exposing their bodies!
Again, I say enough of this discrimination against women. This is the twenty-first century, an age of gender equality, an age of female emancipation. Enough of this absurdity of cheapening womanhood under the trickery of fighting community interest.
Let the genuine representatives of Ivite Umueri engage in continued dialogue with the Government for the well-being of the town and Anambra State as a whole.
Ogechi Okafor, a gender rights activist, wrote from Onitsha.