Things Are Falling Apart Down South. | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Things Are Falling Apart Down South.

Posted: Apr 11, 2016 at 5:14 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)







MajiriOghene Etemiku


Two news items sizzled and brimmed like hot Ukodo and Banga soups last month. The first was the aftermath of the rerun elections in Rivers State. Two prominent sons of the river, Njesom Wike and Rotimi Amaechi, kicked up a violent storm and locked horns over who should control the state house of assembly. Both traded jibs and insults, and when the heat generated from their exertions began to cool, the colour of the river changed to red without a Moses lifting his rod – several persons with no biological or political affiliations to both combatants had become the sacrificial lambs, whose blood propitiated the appetites of the duo. What came off from the tragic death of the abducted youth corps member – he was ‘compensated’ with immortality, the naming of an institution after him – did nothing to assuage the sombre reality that we have yet not imbibed the import of the quip that no politician’s ambition is ever worth the life of a human being. In the end, we Niger Deltans served ourselves on a cheap plate to Mr. President and to the international community and effectively replaced the sobriquet of Rivers State from Garden city, and took over from the South-West of Nigeria as the most dangerous state in Nigeria.

But just after the Rivers rerun, gist trickled in from the mill that several of our people had sustained injuries in Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja. At first I thought nothing of it, but the recurring decimal of violence in the South-South activated a nagging tintinnabulation in my head. Unlike Agbatu, the injuries and unfortunate deaths from the fracas of the two neighbours did not come from the Fulani herdsmen seeking pasture for their flock. It came from an internecine conflict between brothers and sisters living side-by-side, divided by rivers and lakes and the uncertainty of tongue. The irksome story, according to eye-witnesses is that youths said to be from Ogbe-Ijoh allegedly beat up three farmers for trespassing Ogbe-Ijoh land. As a reprisal, Aladja youth blocked all roads leading to Ogbe-Ijoh. Before the fracas ensued, institutions of state in Delta responsible for the peace, headed by a Muazu Mohammed were lukewarm and docile, and therefore the brouhaha became unavoidable. In a report by the Independent of Thursday, March 31 2016, people of Ovre-Eku community, Ethiope East of Delta clashed with their Benin brothers over land.


What then runs like a thread through both incidents is the predilection of our people to fight one another rather than come together to confront a common enemy. For most of the time in the past, if it is not the Ijaw locking horns with the Itsekiri, it would be the Urhobo and the Isoko, or the Ijaw and the Isoko or the Urhobo and the Itsekiri. A lot of the time, the struggles are usually over land or the rights to the localization of industries.  In an article in the Nation Newspaper, November 23, titled ‘Brother against Brother, reigniting Itsekiri, Ijaw tensions, the story is told of how hot air over the citing of a $16 billion Delta Gas City Project – aka the Ogidigben Export Processing Zone, EPZ, messed things up.

All of these internecine wars and bickering over land will not develop our region. I believe that we should stop fighting one another. Sometime ago, I wrote an article South-South Unity Comes First. Just so that we may, together, confront the issues which are confronting us, I have decided to reproduce some parts of it thus:

Many people believe that every society has historical institutions which create room for tension, mistrust, suspicion and threat.  There are also attitudes and actions which create the ambience for conflict to escalate into a full blown crisis.  What about our shared economic, social and cultural values? What about the commonality of our experience as a diverse group of people living under the same roof as a nation with our common frustrations and vicissitudes? What about our shared experiences as we drive on the same roads every morning, looking to gain advantage over the other person perhaps in the office, the local assembly or in the market square? Even though we may experience situations of conflict each within contexts that are determined by internal and external influences, how we respond can largely depend on what drives us.

 Apart from internally generated problems, external factors play a role as well. Take for example this information from the CIA website. It indicates that the Ijaw ethnic group represents 10% of the entire peoples of the South-South. The compilers say that the Kanuri make up 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, and the Tiv 2.5% of Nigeria. While it is true that the Ijaw ethnic group spread right across the South-South in Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo states, they are actually a part and parcel of major ethnic groups in states like Delta and Ondo States. In the South-South, the Isoko, Urhobo, Ika and Edo constitute a heterogeneous group of people with great influence in and on the affairs of Nigeria. It is from these ethnic groups that Nigeria has derived its income for more than 50 years, and there is nowhere on the CIA website was a mention of this made. As a matter of fact, because Nigeria’s population is a product of speculation rather than fact, I would like to suggest to the compilers to the CIA website that they should kindly realize that these days, population figures, and ethnic configurations are not the only factors you consider in determining the contributions of a people to nation building. A people may be more in number but may have no significant contribution to the development of a country. That fact is so true of a Nigeria that apparently runs on a Pareto principle, and ignores the principle of true federalism.