I was persecuted at NCWD because I am Igbo, Onyeka Onwenu alleges

Immediate past Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Onyeka Onwenu, has accused people from the northern part of the country of persecuting her while she headed the agency.

Onwenu and 25 others were sacked as chief executives of federal parastatals by President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday.

Appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan on Sept 13, 2013, the art legend said she did her best in two years and five months under very difficult conditions.

Apart from self-entitled and unmotivated staff, she said her job was made particularly difficult by “a remnant who felt that the Centre was their personal preserve and that the position of Director General should only go to someone from their part of the country.”

In a statement made available to Qed.ng early on Thursday morning, Onwenu alleged that “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 a Senate Committee visited on an oversight mission a few months after my arrival. All three generators at the centre were cannibalised overnight, just hours to the visit.”

While denying any suggestion of tribalism or nepotism, she accused the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development of lack of cooperation and undermining her authority.

“The abuses and lack of cooperation from a mother Ministry, 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,” she said.

On the day of her disengagement, she said some people “organised some staff, mostly Northerners, invited the Press and set about to disgrace themselves.

“By mid afternoon, while the heads of departments were putting together the handover notes, they seized the keys to my official car, even with my personal items still inside.”

She labelled the acting Director-General as chief organiser, who went about whipping up ethnic sentiments against her.

“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.

“At no time during this melee did I threaten to sue Mr President for asking me to disengage.”

Advising the Presidency to take note of the fact that many people who work for the g0vernment do not have the requisite qualification, she said many contribute nothing and many see their job as personal entitlement.

“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 realisation,” she concluded.