Alarmed Nigerian soldiers were forced to abandon their mission to hijack ballot boxes during the March 9 Governorship/House of Assembly elections when a leader of the protesting women of Ogu/Bolo communities in Rivers State, out of desperation, sprinkled blood from her drenched menstrual pad on military patrol vehicles and by some mystical interference, the engines refused to kick.
The protesting women leader and Vice Chair, Ogu/Bolo local government area, Barrister Christiana Tamunoberetonari, confirmed she took off her heavily- soaked menstrual pad, squeezed the blood all over Army patrol vehicles and the drivers could not start the vehicles. It was mysterious.
Tamunoberetonari, the Nigerian Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to pour a bottle of dry gin on the military vehicles and prayed or rather uttered incantations before they started. Following the strange incident, soldiers left, aborting their mission to cart away ballot materials.
Ocasio-Cortez is an Amercian politician and activist noted for her social media presence and described by Time Magazine as “second most talked about politician in America.”
She and other women activists shared their experiences at a one-day seminar on “Mobilizing and Raising Women’s Voices against Election Violence,” in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, sponsored by the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta, PIND, and European Union, EU, facilitated by Academic Associates PeaceWorks.
The boldness of the heroic women from Okrika, Ogu/Bolo, Abonnema and others, who took non-violent measures to stop soldiers and police to some level from tampering with votes cast by the electorate and preserve ballot materials, necessitated the event.
How G5 mobilized women for action
Barrister Tamunoberetonari, vice chair of Ogu/Bolo local government, who was the cynosure of all eyes at the workshop, said:
“When it comes to expression of female power in our community, it is not narrowed to the very young like us. We have various groups meeting regularly to strengthen women role in moving our community forward.”
“Then we have this friends’ circle, the Gallant Five, G5, which advocates unifying force around other groups. When challenged by communal violence, the Obolorebi, a body of women, who have attained menopause, comes to the rescue with inherent powers to avert looming violence. We belong to different political parties, but we agreed that the overriding interest during elections was the peace of our community, peace of the local government and the state at large.
“On the day of the Presidential Elections, we already heard what was happening very early in Abonnema. We knew there was danger ahead of us and the Obolorebi mobilized for action. We ruled that after voting, no female leaves her unit. You must stay-put, insist they count votes and winner declared in your unit.
“So after voting, we heard some soldiers were coming in their numbers at the prompting of one political party to hijack the results. We ran to the local government collation center. A woman that we had been alerted about came, brought the army, but they were unable to invade the collation center. Successfully, they collated results. For the results to get to the main collation center at Elekohia and INEC, we reasoned they could intercept the men in transit and hijack the results.
“We (women) went in more than four vehicles escorted the results to Elekohia, first with results for the senatorial, and to INEC to drop that of the Presidential and House of Representatives, that in Port Harcourt, the state capital. However, we heard they took away results for Okrika, our mother local government area away.
“We bled in our heart and communicated to the women in Okrika to emulate what we did to ensure affliction did not arise the second time. We are glad they listened and the outcome was in the affirmative.
“Coming to the governorship and state assembly elections, we had to build more on the precedence we had set. Some women in other localities said they would not come out with what has happened, but we told ourselves in Ogu/Bolo, every woman must come because the hijackers would do more than they did in the Presidential election if we do not come out to vote and protect it.
Captain led military incursion, rebuffed DPO
The revolt leader further said, “On the Wednesday before the governorship election, military came into Ogu, broke into houses and arrested several youths, including Ambassador Best. They pulled him from the ceiling, broke his head, beat up the wife, so many persons. Our men were molested and taken away. Some ran into the mangroves.
“We became aggrieved. Women came out with placards protesting against the military for disrupting the peace in our community. The DPO in the locality confirmed appealing to the Captain, who led the invading soldiers to let the community be.
“We went to the JTF, DSS in the area to report to them, crying. We marched to the community square and reminded God of our plea not to allow politics divide and destroy our community.
“On Thursday, some military personnel intercepted RAC agents from different political parties, who went to escort materials to the council headquarters, taking 11 of them away. The resident Army team, unhappy with the development, got signals from their commander ordering recovery of those materials from the unknown soldiers who hijacked them. They succeeded in recovering and bringing them down to the community.
“From that point, we gathered at the local INEC office to watch over the recovered materials. We ate there, slept there, praying to God that no enemy comes to take away the materials. We kept vigil there.
Some thugs attempted breaking into the INEC office on Friday, we stopped them, we waited until Saturday morning for materials to be distributed to various wards and polling units.
“We left on strong note of advice, challenging every woman to locate their units, cast their vote and watch the process till results for your respective units are counted and declared and escort the materials and result through the ward to local government collation centers. Some people were also party agents. We did as collectively instructed, followed the results all through to local government area center where results were well determined and copies given to all party agents.
“With documentary evidence to show the genuinely collated results, we escorted the INEC officials to the local government collation center where reports were being put together from various wards. We then heard that Army aided by a politician hijacked the ones from Bolo wards 7, 8 and 9.
“We concluded that we would not fight over those wards already hijacked. We said let us ensure the remaining of the 12 wards were kept intact. As we were there, six vans full of Army came, aside the resident military we had in the community. One of the collation agents from the collation center now alerted us, saying they had arrested them, held them hostage. Do not allow them to come in. They would hijack everything.