OGBUNKA, OWERRE EZUNAKA CRISIS:
The Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District in the Senate, Dr Andy Uba from mere physical appearance has the look of a humble and peace loving man. No wonder the first major challenge in his constituency that attracted his attention is the violent crisis that engulfed two brotherly communities of Obunka and Owerre-Ezukala in Orumba South Local Government of Anambra State.
The crisis has already claimed lives and many property including two schools, one in each of the warring community and was taking a more dangerous situation before Senator Uba waded into it.
In a record time, he has visited and met with the communities two times, visits keen watchers of events in the area see as going to yield the most needed reconciliation and peace to the two communities.
Uba whom the former President Olusegun Obasanjo pronounced as his closest and honest aide, seem to have brought the experiences he acquired from the old General in conflict resolution to bear in the Ogbunka, Owerre-Ezulaka crisis where he is presently working assiduously to ensure that real peace returned.
The efforts of the Senator and that of the member representing Orumba North and South Federal constituency at the House of Representatives, Chief Ben Nwankwo, who was the first to visit the area shortly after the destruction at Owerre-Ezukala and the fleeing of Ogbunka people of the homes due to evasion by the combined forces of Police and Army of the community, is believed in many quarters to bring the expected peace.
Interestingly, both communities which seem not to understand the state government's position on the matter, were excited at the intervention of the law makers especially Senator Uba whom they have giving open permit to find solution to their problem.
Dr Uba had at one of his visits to the communities addressed the people separately at the towns saying, 'I know that as you all have gathered here today, there will be peace. Anything that happens to you people has happened to us because we are all brothers. You people are not only neighbours but brothers. There is no difference between Owerre-Ezukala and Ogbunka; you all are brothers. I am here not because I want to apportion blames on anyone; I'm here to access the level of destruction. While I was campaigning, I always say that we must stay together. If we are not together as one, we will lose.
This is because the people that are ready to help us will not help. If you are fighting, there is no way I will come to help while you people are fighting. There will be no development. These schools that were destroyed among other things were what the state government could have come to renovate but when you are fighting, they will not come to do it. So, it is good that we come together and repair all that happened. The people that were injured and the people that their properties were destroyed; we thank God that you people are alive because no one knows the reason behind this incident but we will try and find a way to come together; both communities will come together and settle this matter because we are running out of time. We are running out of time in the sense that there are certain things that would have come to us but because of this fight, we are not getting them.
'So, it's important that we settle this issue. There is no conflict that cannot be resolved and settled. We are just here temporarily and if this conflict goes on, it will be passed onto our children and the children unborn. So, I am not here to apportion blames on anybody, I am here to appeal to everybody to be patient. I gathered that NEMA has visited this place to access the place. We will look at that assessment and know how to follow up because it is not only to do assessment but how to take care of the people that were injured and the people that their properties were destroyed from both sides. How do you compensate those people that were affected?
Though the speech which he made at each of the two communities was received with joy by the people the community leaders did not hide their feelings as they took the opportunity of his coming to accuse each other of being the trouble maker.
The Caretaker Chairman of Owerre-Ezukala, Mr. Alphonsus Ikeagwu who spoke for the community when the Senator addressed them at the premises of the destroyed Community Secondary School, Owerre-Ezukala, among other things said, 'We are still listening and thinking as to why we were invaded. We don't have much to say. Like I said before, cars and motorcycles that were captured at the bumps, speed breakers in Ogbunka; about five or six bumps, anybody that they stop there, if you are from Owerre-Ezukala, they will beat the person mercilessly. If they catch a motorcycle belonging to any of us, they will beat the owner and destroy the motorcycle. One of us who is a teacher was kidnapped, his two motorcycles were taken, his car was taken. All his documents and original credentials that were taken along, up till now have not been returned. His car is at the police station.
'This old man here, as old as he is was kidnapped late in the night from his house and by the grace of God, he came back alive. So, we lack words to express the level of destruction the people who are supposed to be our good neighbours meted on us. We thank God that you came here to see things for yourself. We are very happy and excited that in spite of your numerous engagements, you were able to find time to come here and see things for yourself.'
For the President-General of Ogbunka, Hon. Crowell Obi who responded on behalf of the community when Uba visited them at their civic centre, the Owere-Ezulaka people had frustrated all peace attempts.
He said, 'We the people of Ogbunka are peace loving people. This crisis between us and our relatives did not start now. It did not start this year. Since it started, we have been supporting His Excellency in his bid to return peace. Ogbunka people both at home and in diaspora will always support him in his quest for peace. Since this matter started, many groups, panels and committees have intervened, suing for peace and each time conclusion is about to be made, our brothers will spoil it. We have evidence to that effect. I don't know why they do such things.
'In 1976, our people wanted to build a College where Ikpebu Primary School is currently situated; our brothers came and destroyed it. In fact, the blocks that has been erected has reached window level, they destroyed it. They also looted all the things kept around there. We said no, that we will not fight them because if we fight them, it will prevent us from building what we want to build. We now came here and built this Boys Secondary School. We didn't fight them. In 2003, they came and destroyed that primary school building and captured one of our people and chopped off his hands.'
He knows who did it to him. So, the headmaster of that primary school, Mr. Okoli Sam Mba was kidnapped and held hostage for almost a month and his motorcycle is still being held till now.
'At the meeting which held on January 12, Owere-Ezukala people came and said that we are not going to write any report; that instead, we all will revisit that forest again after we have visited the place for three times. We then said no that we will not go there again. Why would we go there again? They then said that some witnesses didn't come then. We told them that it doesn't mean anything. If you called witnesses and they don't show up, it doesn't mean anything. That was the reason they spoilt the process again.
'So, surprisingly, they wrote their own report and sent to the deputy governor. We got to know about the report when the women from Ogbunka that were married to Owere-Ezukala and women from Owere-Ezukala married to Ogbunka went to plead with the deputy governor to intervene and they were told that a committee was set up and the other people brought their report while we refuse to bring ours; that we are the cause of the problems because the people of Owere-Ezukala had brought their own report. A committee that was set up, I don't know how they wrote their own sectional report. When we got to know about it, we wrote our own report and sent to him and also gave him our video clip.'
Meanwhile, Senator Uba's intervention is talked about in the area and every one is looking forward for the peaceful resolution of the crisis soon with the hope that the state government which is being accused of playing politics with the matter would support the Uba's initiative for peace.