A former member of the Labour Party, Col. Chinyere Obi (retd.), shares with DANIEL AYANTOYE how she was shot by suspected political thugs and allegedly abandoned by the party

You sustained a gunshot wound during the general elections. How did it happen?

It was a painful experience. I was a Peter Obi supporter. I made a lot of sacrifices during the electioneering but was abandoned after the attack while defending the Labour Party at my polling unit. I was in my village in the Ideato South Local Government Area of Imo State to participate in the election. On the day of the House of Assembly election, I went to cast my vote at my polling unit, Ward 1.

Somehow, I noticed that something was wrong; when anyone wanted to vote for the Labour Party, one of the INEC officials on the ground would take his hand and ensure that the person voted for the APC. So, I told them to allow people to vote freely. Later, some thugs started beating the LP agent there and I intervened. A guy then approached me and said they had been observing me in the community. He said they saw how I gave rice to people and that I was busy promoting the LP. I didn’t know when he brought out a gun from his bag and shot at my leg. When I recovered, I went to the police station.

What did the security men at the polling unit do when you were shot?

There was no police officer there. I asked the chairman of the local government council why he came to the polling unit without security personnel.

What was the reaction of the state government on the matter?

Nothing; it was when I went to the State CID that they arrested the boy but released him later. So, I went ahead to petition the AIG at Umuahia Police Headquarters, Zone 9.

You said you made some sacrifices during the campaign. What were some of the things you did?

During the first flag-off at Lafia (Nasarawa State), I contributed and shared food to the people who came for the programme. After the flag-off, I invited the Arewa group from the 19 northern states for mobilisation and encouraged them on the need to work effectively for Peter Obi and the party at large. I gave them food and transport fares without any support from the LP chairman. At the grassroots, I bought 200 bags of rice, noodles, bags, and customised shirts as well as other items which were distributed. The painful part is that none of the people came to sympathise with me when I was shot. I don’t know the kind of human beings people are. I sold all my property to campaign for Peter Obi. I know if it was Tinubu, I would not be suffering like this. He would have sent for me.

I challenge them; nobody in the LP did up to what I did for Obi. Not even the National Chairman, Julius Abure. I was busy borrowing money and selling some of my properties, but all he (Abure) was doing was collecting money. Take for example, how can you collect N25m each from 15 persons in Imo State for the same governorship ticket and he didn’t screen anyone out? Who does that?

How did you get treated?

After I was shot and reported to the police, I went to the Owerri Health Centre. That’s where they started the treatment. I have been selling my property to treat myself. I sold my SUV of N4m for N1.5m just to pay the hospital bills after the gunshot because I’m diabetic. You can imagine having diabetes with BP and a bullet wound. It was a lot of cost for me during my stay at the hospital. I had to also borrow from some people. One of the people I borrowed N250,000 from has called me for the money.  I will have to look for something to sell. I can’t go out again because there is no car. Transport fares costs have also increased.

I can’t believe that the LP could do this to me. I was even calling them to send me money for food while I was in the hospital, but they didn’t respond. Only two people did; Dr Omoh and Mandela, who sent me N20,000 and N10,000, respectively. I sent Kenneth Okonkwo the receipt for the car that I sold and called the national chairman, Julius Abure, but no response. I wish it was (Lamidi) Apapa that is the chairman; I know they would have come to see this old woman who suffered for the party. I just came back two weeks ago since the incident happened and am still being treated.

You mentioned that you sent pictures of the injury to the LP. What was the reaction of the party to your plight?

Yes, I sent messages to all the Labour Party leaders that I was dying in the hospital. I sent a picture of my injured leg to Abure. If I had not looked for alternatives, that leg would have been amputated. None of them visited me even though we have LP representatives in the South-East. They couldn’t send anyone to check on me. If I knew, I would have followed the APC and I wouldn’t suffer like this.

Was there any frosty relationship between you and the LP that would have led to such a reaction?

Not at all; I was visiting the office regularly and like I told you, I was actively involved in the campaigns. Abure knows me very well. I committed my time and resources to the course and they were all aware of my contribution; I have proof. Even when I hosted the Arewa people, I financed it and when the funds finished, I asked Abure to assist and said that we needed more funds to take care of the Arewa guests, but he declined. In my village, I was going everywhere, including visiting all the markets and sharing T-shirts, bags and food just to gather supporters for Obi. However, when this issue came up, they abandoned me. It was after they didn’t respond to me that I called a press conference.

Does this mean that Obi abandoned those that worked for him after the election?

That’s what it is. I regret joining the Labour Party. I suffered; I drank garri without groundnut despite being a diabetic patient.

Do you suspect anybody to be behind the attack in which you were injured?

I know it was one Emeka. He is from my village. They arrested him but he was bailed later.

From all you have said, it appears that you were a good supporter of the ‘Obidient’ Movement. What made you commit so much support?

I believed in a better Nigeria and that is what I was fighting for. My commitment to this course had been there since I was in the Peoples Democratic Party with Peter Obi. In fact, during the 2019 electioneering period, I spent about N12.7m on Atiku’s campaign and followed him to the 36 states. But after the election, when Obi left, I also left because after the election, Atiku didn’t show any form of appreciation despite all my efforts. So, I joined the Labour Party not knowing I was going from frying pan to fire. I am not fighting for anything. I don’t want any post. I have served my country for 35 years; my concentration was for Nigeria to be better. Despite being 74 years old, I still believe that Nigeria can be great again.

You mentioned the lack of proper funding as a factor that affected the LP, but it is understood that the party was supported financially by different individuals and groups. What do you think happened?

People brought money but they used it for themselves. All support groups spent their money on mobilisation. I spent over N8m and I have proof.

You are a retired colonel after serving for 35 years. How has life been after your retirement?

I disagreed with (General Sani) Abacha, and they locked me up in detention without trial. I was later released. I then travelled to London. In the year 2000, I came back and took my children to London. I retired in 2000. The last time I was paid even while I was in service was August 31, 1996. When they started the movement for Atiku and Obi, I came back with a container to support them but this is what I got after all the sacrifice. You can see me frying plantain as we speak, if you know how I struggled to get it…I can’t even afford three square meals a day. Our pension has also been stopped a long time ago. All I have left is to sell my microwave oven to get some money to eat.

What was in the container you talked about?

I came back to Nigeria with lots of property; three cars and other items that have been sold. After engaging in those political activities and then having the gunshot injury, I became indebted. I had to sell my bed for N400,000, my chair for N300,000, my dining table for N100,000, and the centre table for N150,000. As I said earlier, I also sold my Honda Pilot SUV that I bought for N4m. I sold it for N1.5m. I have sold everything, including the rug. There is nothing in my house again, all because of Obi.

What was your family’s reaction when the incident happened and are you considering going back to your children in London?

Why not? If I have money, I will go back to my children. My house rent has even expired since March while I was in the hospital. Before now, my children usually sent me money on the 24th of every month, but they stopped because of Obi. They said every time they sent me money, I would use it for Peter Obi. Would you blame them? When I suffered this gunshot wound, they became angry with me. They don’t talk to me anymore. I will never forgive Labour Party and Obi.

There will be a governorship election in Imo State in November. Do you think the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodimma, has a chance of retaining his seat?

I doubt it with the level of killings in the state. It is going to be a tough one because the governor is bent on winning the election. The only person that will take him on is Samuel Anyanwu of the PDP. If I have my way, that’s the person I will support for this election because that is the only person that can save the state.

What can be done to ensure that troublemakers don’t have their way on the day of the election?

Adequate security should be provided in Imo. If there is provision of efficient security, we will not have much problem. Without security, we will have a very difficult situation during the governorship election in Imo State and it is going to be hot. Everything must be done to ensure a violence-free election.

How will you rate governance in Imo State after the death of Sam Mbakwe?

There has not been any governor who can match Sam Mbakwe’s legacy. He was a performer and everybody knows that.

Are you considering vying for any elective position at any point in your life?

No, I was just supporting those I believed would transform this country. I didn’t want to stay overseas and ignore my country without contributing to the development but this is where I found myself.

Now that you have left the LP, which political party are you supporting now?

I don’t know who to support; I am confused and tired. Who else do I support? Is it the All Progressives Congress? That is where they will cut my neck.

What will you do if you are invited by President Bola Tinubu?

I will gladly go and meet him without hesitation. I will say, ‘Baba, here I am.’ If he was the one I supported, I would not have suffered like this. I know he is a good man and would not have abandoned me in this predicament.


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