Posted by By Emma Amaize Regional Editor, South-South on
For a matter that no elder or chief in the two affected communities would want to publicly speak about because they consider it a shame, an embarrassment and an infamy, youths from Obiaruku and Abraka..
For a matter that no elder or chief in the two affected communities would want to publicly speak about because they consider it a shame, an embarrassment and an infamy, youths from Obiaruku and Abraka communities in Ukwuani and Ethiope East local government area of Delta State, recently went on the war path and reduced to rubbles in a twinkle of an eye buildings that took some of their poor parents over 30 years of hard labour to build. What is this contentious matter? Saturday Vanguard tells the full story.
The elders and chiefs of both communities are still shell-shocked many days after the incident. All they have been doing is shaking their heads in utter disapproval of the event. To them, such a thing is forbidden, a taboo. It is not a thing to be discussed at the village square for it is an insult to the dignity of the people. They only talk about it in whispers.
Such a calamity has never happened before between the two neighbouring communities whose people inter-marry. In fact, there is hardly any Obiaruku family that has no bond through marriage or otherwise with Abraka and vice versa. To burn down houses is itself a taboo but by the time an inventory was taken, no fewer than 40 houses, estimated at several millions of naira and the water board from which water was pumped to both communities have either been burnt, destroyed or vandalised while over 1,000 persons were rendered homeless. Both the Ovie (traditional ruler) of Abraka, the Okpalauku (eldest man) of Obiaruku and their elders prefer to speak in parables whenever the issue was mentioned in their palace.
Dilemma of a peace maker
The Delta State commissioner for Inter-Ethnic Relations and Conflict Resolution, Mr. Ovouzorie Macaulay found himself in a dilemma when he visited both communities on a trouble-shooting mission some days after the incident. Leaders from both towns kept referring to the issue as an unfortunate incident between the youths of both villages but nobody mentioned the bone of contention.
Not even a very powerful herbalist at Abraka who is one of the refugees saw the gathering storm in his crystal ball before he travelled out for an assignment that week. He only came back to see that his house had been razed in an orgy of violence that followed a heated row between youths from his village and Obiaruku over a charm that another native doctor was alleged to have prepared for an Obiaruku youth.
‘Eti ada’ charm
The Igbo people call it “eti ada”. It simply means ‘knock and fall.’ That is the charm you would use to beat a person and he would fall no matter the tiny size of the person employing its powers or the massive frame of the target (read victim).
And so it was during the burial ceremonies of 105-year-old Mrs. Ejuvweguo Okotie, a native of Obiaruku, married to an Abraka man whose corpse was brought home for interment that an Abraka youth who saw something good in an Obiaruku damsel, approached her. Unluckily for the randy fellow, the girl’s lover was within the vicinity, keeping a close watch on his apple. When he saw that the Abraka boy was pushing too close, he challenged him for making advances to his girlfriend. The young man from Abraka hollered and in a twinkle, punches were freely thrown.
Some Abraka youths who came to Obiaruku for the burial thought that it was a mere joke but for many minutes, their kinsman remained sprawled on the ground. It was only after considerable period of time had gone and the man was not making any hurry to get up from the ground that it dawned on them that a “charm” might have been used on him. They pleaded with the Obiaruku boy who later revoked the power of the charm .
But the Abraka boys felt slighted by the “disgrace” of their kinsman and launched an attack on Obiaruku youths. Raymond Enuma told Saturday Vanguard that he was stabbed at his family’s No 19 Ekereuche Street residence, Obiaruku by the rampaging Obiaruku boys who allegedly vandalised some buildings in anger.
Battle line drawn
The battle line was drawn that Friday cum Saturday and from them on, the young men and women from Obiaruku and market women were said to be constantly harassed by Abraka youths on their way through Umeghe village to either school, market or work. Okada (commercial motorcycle) riders from Obiaruku were also not spared. But the matter came to a head at Obiaruku when farmers trooped back one morning from the farm, saying that they were attacked and chased away from their farms by their foes who destroyed their bicycles and motorcycles.
Thus, they mobilised and stormed Umeghe village in Abraka and set the town ablaze. Most of the young men in Umeghe community were said to have gone to work that day, leaving the aged ones at home. The town was completely wrecked and the destruction massive when this reporter visited.
It was from other people that Commissioner Macaulay got to know what actually happened and why the traditional rulers and elders of Obiaruku and Abraka were speaking in coded language to him.
Government’s intervention The Delta State government has set up a committee, headed by Macaulay to look into the immediate and remote causes of the fracas. The committee visited the affected communities, last week, to assess the situation on ground. The Ovie of Abraka and the Okpalauku of Obiaruku maintained that there was no dispute between both communities and preferred to settle the matter amicably than go and wash their dirty linens in the public. According to them, the matter was a misunderstanding between some drunken youths from both communities at a burial ceremony.
The youths who actually took part in the mayhem were said to have fled the communities but the police are on their trail. Already, the State Security Council has ordered that the perpetrators of the crime be brought to book fast by the police. However, Macaulay who has fought many peace battles since his appointment noted that the issue of compensation is ruled out. “It was not the government that burnt their houses, why are you asking me if government will pay them compensation? Do you pay compensation for what was will willfully destroyed by the people?”
Secretary to the Delta State Government, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan in an interview with Saturday Vanguard in Warri also ruled out compensation for the victims, saying that government did not send anybody to destroy houses and should not be held responsible for the action of the hooligans.