Victoria Chintex murder: One death too many

Curbing Violence Against Women (VAW) in politics, which is becoming a norm during election periods across the country, has been focus of discussions in many quarters following the murder of Labour Party Woman Leader, Victoria Chintex, in the run up to the 2023 general elections, Ene Oshaba writes.

The next general elections in the country has been scheduled for February 2023, that is less than 70 days away and it has been a beehive of activities since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officially gave go ahead for campaigns to start.

With the campaigns came the fears of experiencing political and electoral violence which have characterised elections in the country.

Sadly, women often fall victim to these violent acts.

This is as the 2019 murder of Salome Abuh, and the recent murder of Labour Party Woman Leader, Victoria Chintex, remain fresh in the minds of Nigerians especially women.

In a bid to equip Nigerian women, especially those vying for office, the Women in Politics Forum (WIPF) convened a National Dialogue where political stakeholders and duty bearers are expected to map out strategies to put an end to political violence against women in the forthcoming 2023 elections.

Speaking during the Dialogue, WIPF President, Barr. Ebere Ifendu, said the killing of women politicians was deliberate attempt to discourage women‘s active participation in politics to influence engagement in the electoral process.

“Recently there has been an increase in various forms of violence against women in politics ranging from assassination, hate speech, blackmail, intimidation, cyber bulling, physical assault, destruction of campaign materials, sexual violence and others.

“At the last elections in Kogi state Mrs Abu was burnt to death in her home for choosing to participate in politics and this year another woman, Victoria Chintex, just paid the ultimate price. Nigerian women will not accept this ugly trend and demand that women and indeed everyone should be protected from violence,” noted.

According to the forum president, the strategic dialogue was to seek the contributions of all stakeholders with the aim to bring an end to violence against women in politics.

VAW in politicians

Violence against women has become a reoccurring situation causing vocal female women, especially politicians, to tread carefully and cautiously. The situation has also discouraged many women from actively participating in politics.

It is worth noting that a number of women have suffered violence and even paid the ultimate price including Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, who was assassinated on June 4 1996 over her pro-democracy campaign.

She was assassinated whilst her husband, Moshood Abiola, was being detained by the Nigerian government following the botched 1992 presidential election.

Similarly, an Alliance for Democracy (AD) Woman Leader, Emily Omope, died in March, 2003 at University College Hospital, Ibadan, after an acid attack in December 2002.

Also, in the run up to the 2019 polls there were several reports in the media over attacks the Governorship Candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi state, Natasha Akpoti, suffered from thugs suspected to be sponsored by the opposition.

Unfortunately, the Woman Leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi state, Salome Abuh, paid the supreme prize as she was mercilessly burnt to death on November 18, 2019, for being a vibrant politician.

It was, therefore, not surprising that condemnation has continued to trail the gruesome murder of the Labour Party Woman leader, Victoria Chintex, in Kaura LGA of Kaduna state, on November 28.

The woman leader was shot and killed in her home in Kaura LGA of Kaduna in the period Nigeria joined the world in the 16 Days Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

Speaking on the incident, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, decried the fact that a woman and her family had, again, become victims “when we thought we are making progress as we move into the electioneering year.”

The minister in a press statement condemned the act, stating that every man, every youth and every woman has the right to choose and belong to a political party of their choice without fear of intimidation according to the tenets of our democracy.

“When will all of this nonsense stop? Violence against one Nigerian Woman is Violence against all Nigerian Women, irrespective of political affiliation, creed, tribe or status.

“I condemn in strong terms the unfortunate incident which sparks cowardice. I have no doubt in my mind that the perpetrators will soon be apprehended and brought to judgement,” she said.

“As it stands now, we are still far from achieving the 35 per cent Affirmative Action. Women are still denied positions in politics, bullied, harassed. Just last week, we woke up to the shocking news of the gruesome murder of Mrs. Chintex, the Woman Leader of the Labour Party of Kaura Local Government in Kaduna state.

“As Nigerian Women, we mourn this loss with her husband, whom I understand was also shot, but recuperating. We condemn this as an act of cowardice and are confident that the perpetrators will soon be apprehended and brought to judgement,” the minister lamented.

Similarly, while reacting to the murder of Chintex during the WIPF Dialogue the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, regretted that VAW in politics has been mostly ignored in the Nigerian political scene.

She noted that the advocacies against Gender-Based Violence had not yielded much impact in the political terrain.

“It is quite sad that most interventions in addressing Gender Based Violence do not look into the violence that happens in politics, forgetting that this, to a large extent, is a deciding factor of women’s political participation in Nigeria.

“In my years of being a politician, there have been incidences of grave violence against women in politics, from bullying to outright elimination and what we see is that there are constantly no dire consequences for these actions and it is time we put an end to this,” she lamented.

Don’t be intimidated, women urged

Against the backdrop of being forced to relinquish their positions and hard earned ticket to contest for political positions, women have been charged to not give up or step down but fight for what is rightfully theirs as violence in politics is aimed at discouraging women from participation.

Commissioner of Women Affairs in Kaduna state, Hafsat Baba, also gave the charge at the WIPF Dialogue in Abuja.

Baba noted that it was wrong to impose these rules on women as it is also an emotional violence to order a woman to hand over a post she fought hard to earn to a man.

The commissioner admonished women to make concerted efforts to uphold their mandate and not allow the male dominated system hamper the work put in to attain these positions.

She said, “If you truly believe in your political party and want to aspire for anything, you should know that it is not going to be a smooth ride, as there will be hurdles along the way but how you manage those hurdles is the most important question.

“Aside from physical violence, there is also emotional violence that women face when asked to step down from that position when you have gotten a ticket.

“The party should not subdue any woman to step down for any man or anybody whatsoever. I think this is wrong, not advisable; women should not step down for anybody. Let them learn to fight it because it is only when we fight and maintain it that we are being taken seriously.

“I am not an advocate for violence, but I don’t want to be scared of a platform where one can contribute one quarter to the development of the nation,” she said.

Violence and voter apathy

On her part, WIPF President, Barr. Ebere Ifendu, lamented that violence had deterred many women from bringing their expertise to the field. She added that it might create voter apathy as some persons may be afraid to vote.

“Many women try to get into politics but when they see the violence they will run away. It is affecting our participation; it is also going to affect the number of persons that will also vote because many will be afraid to come out.

“In this period of 16 days of activism, we are taking it back to violence against women in elections. Apart from culture and finance the other setback in politics is violence against women

“A woman was recently killed in Kaduna state, last election a woman was killed in Kogi state. Every other day INEC facilities are being vandalised and burnt down, I pray that there will not be voter apathy as we need to get things right this time,” she stressed.

Impact of GBV laws

The minister while accessing impact the campaign against GBV had yielded, especially the 16days Activism with the colour orange signifying solidarity with victims and survivors, regretted that the crime continues to dominate the space amidst shared responsibility and roles to carry on the message.

“From media reports and feedback from our state counterparts, the Unite Campaign has come to stay for renewed Hope. This is a welcome development which we must applaud.

“But, beyond all these yearly talks and orange colour, the concern is how do we sustain the progress we have made in connecting and uniting with all stakeholders and critical partners; either as government, networks of civil society and women’s rights organisations, organisations working with men and boys, the UN system, the Action Coalition on Gender Based Violence, Human Rights Defenders, schools, universities, private sector, sports clubs, associations and individuals,” she pondered.

“Beyond the Laws and Policies in place, my major concern is implementation and funding of the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies saddled with addressing the issues,” the minister added.

Way forward

The minister called for increased interest in protecting and even preventing all types of violence from taking place, stressing that community surveillance is everyone’s responsibility.

She also charged traditional and religious leaders to ensure that their communities are safe havens for survivors and must hand over perpetrators to law enforcement agents.

“I have always emphasised the fact that if you see something, say something to end violence. Community and religious leaders must ensure that prospective settlers in their communities are properly profiled before they allowed to properly settled in,” she stressed.

Ikeazor, while commending WIPF for putting together the strategic dialogue to ensure that there was swift prosecution of incidences of violence against women, demanded that perpetrators are caught and investigated by responsible security agents.

“Prosecutors are swift in charging perpetrators to court and our judges should ensure that justice is duly served by law else, our women will continuously be at risk as their lives are offered at the altar of politics with no repercussions,” she said.

Ikeazor further urged all to lend their voices in ensuring that beyond 2023, the narrative of political violence against women in Nigeria comes to an end and women are able to freely participate in politics, as threat to one Nigerian woman is a threat to all.

“It is only fitting that as the world marks the 16 days of activism to end violence against women, stakeholders and duty bearers are reminded again of their responsibilities in combating the evil that is violence against women in politics in Nigeria.

“I want to state further that the times we are in call for caution and respect of our individual choices to justify our corporate existence.

“As we mourn the untimely demise of our sister and sympathise with her family, we recommit to a society free from violence and say loudly No!!! to any form of violence against women,” she said.

Similarly, a human right lawyer/activist Frank Tietie, called to action political office holders to be held accountable for every act of violence perpetrated against women in their domain.

Tietie noted, “The principal expectation is that the political beneficiary of a form of violence perpetrated against a woman is either the status quo or the opposition, if they cannot explain or in any way show that it has not tolerated that violence, then who ever that person is should be held liable, responsible and accountable.

“There should be a way of listing those that have tolerated violence, that had responsibility of protecting women and they failed and their actions are complacent against women, those are the persons that should be held accountable at all times and this starts from those who hold political leadership.”

On her part, Ifendu called on women, youth and PWDs to exercise their franchise at the polls and not sell their votes but rather use their PVCs wisely, calling also on all security agencies to be alert and ensure the safety of women in politics, pre and post elections.

“It is our political right to take part in the governance of our country directly or indirectly. We are also imploring on Nigerian women to not be intimidated and shaken by this ugly incident but to stand firm to ensure that our voices are heard.

“There should be swift prosecution of violence against women in politics and by extension women in general during the electioneering period. Security agencies need to assure women in politics and Nigerian women as a whole of their safety pre and post the 2023 elections.

“Finally, we demand that all perpetrators of violence are arrested and adequately punished. All security agencies should be more proactive to curb political killings. We call on Nigerians to unite against all forms of violence against women in politics,” she added.

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