BIO speaks on Ebonyi communal clashes, says it's political sword of Damocles


Prof Benard Ifeanyichukwu Odoh (BIO)
, the former Secretary to Ebonyi State Government has described the communal clashes and hostilities in the state as a political sword of Damocles. 

It is ironical how people who have common ancestral lineage and have been in peaceful co-habitation dating back centuries will suddenly turn against each other and turn  their communities into war zones.

Read him: “Everyone has a right to peaceful coexistence, the basic personal freedoms, the alleviation of suffering, and the opportunity to lead a productive life’’-Jimmy Carter

1. This is certainly not the best of times in our state. What has led us to these precarious times, and where have we gone wrong? Ebonyi, our dear state is historically a peaceful state. It has never been a state at war with itself most especially because the peculiarity of the state derives from its existence where the various clans within the Abakaliki bloc and some parts of the South have a common progenitor. It becomes ironical how ordinary misunderstanding between or among brothers have turned so bloody and left in its trail, very destructive impact of grief, bloodletting and wanton devastation of communities.

2. Many innocent citizens have suddenly become refugees in their own state. They have been reduced to Hobbesian existence; their lives have become brutish, nasty and short. This is a festering sore, the shame of Ebonyi State in the 21st Century. It will be a profound historical mistake for anyone to either pay lip service to this life-threatening crisis or to pretend as if all is well. For the avoidance of doubt, all is not well in Ebonyi today. Some people’s   daily existence has been mindlessly violated with their entire lives’ struggles and achievements up in flames.  While the state is still grappling with the recent gruesome murder of citizens in the Benue border Communities and how to cope with the Internally Displaced Persons, the aftermath of the Ezza -Effium crisis, who are living in squalid conditions in some parts of the State, our brothers in Ikwo and Izzi are daggers drawn against each other in what is spreading like a hurricane. 

3. It is ironical how people who have common ancestral lineage and have been in peaceful co-habitation dating back centuries will suddenly turn against each other and turn  their communities into war zones. It is painful watching how an ordinary misunderstanding over a parcel of land between two villages of two brotherly clans has metamorphosed into a rampaging monster, weaponized as it were, by agent(s) of internal slavery to launch a relentless war of attrition against each other. Political jobbers are already postulating their conspiracy theories linking the instability to 2023 elections. That this vast conspiracy unfolding in a dizzying spate is alleged to have the imprimatur of the highest level of government in Ebonyi state is troubling and misleading. Why would any government elected by the people for the people deliberately create instability for a section of his state? I reject this conspiracy theory!

4. Notwithstanding the perception of certain persons and groups to this crisis, it may not be right to  lay the blame at the door step of the state government as it could be seen that Governor Umahi has been making frantic efforts to douse the tension. He had conveyed Stakeholders meeting across the three political zones and on Thursday, 10th June, he held another all-encompassing Stakeholders and political office holders meeting with a view to addressing the problems. But one of the challenges of human nature is that once a violent matter is not arrested at the embryo stage, it becomes more tasking to handle when it is full blown. Many state and non-state actors take advantage of every situation of this nature and exploit it to the detriment of the generality of the people.

5. However, many citizens of the state had wondered why the state government appeared reluctant to address the raging issues at the beginning and watched the situation to deteriorate before searching for solution. Government appeared to have down played the severity of the situation. Instead of demonstrating leadership and decisiveness at the earliest stage, government attitude seem to have emboldened these agents of death and destruction making a bloody harvest of their neighbours. Their irresponsible, unconscionable and ignoble activities are an indelible stain on the map of our hitherto most peaceful state in Nigeria. 

6. I am pleading with all Ebonyians and mostly our brothers in Ikwo and Izzi, Abaomege and Ishinkwo Ukawu, Effium and Effiumites among others to shun every act of violence and embrace peace.  The major characteristics of ordinary Ebonyi man are hard work and commitment to service. That is why despite the classification of Ebonyi as one of the poorest states in Nigeria by  the National Bureau of Statistics, the World Bank and other International Organisations, we as a people are still able to cope and live peacefully with the produce from our farms.  

7. Our historical antecedents do not favour acrimonious war of this nature. With twenty two (22) years of return to democracy to Nigeria which our dear state is actively involved, we should be celebrating freedom, progress and development not fighting needless wars and spilling innocent blood. Through the effort of Governor Umahi, Ebonyi has been listed among the developing states in Nigeria in the area of physical infrastructure and many parts of the world can discuss Ebonyi and its development potentials. That is what politics ought to bring to the table: progress and not war. Any politician instigating war in his own domain against the people he ought to protect is not worthy to be a political leader. 
As I have always said, what is ahead of us is greater than what is behind us. We do not need to fight each other. Our common enemy is bad political leadership which we have the capacity to eliminate through the ballot box at the appropriate time. No one should instigate crisis between and among us. We should refuse to be used as canon folders. 

8. The blood of one Ebonyi man, woman or child spilled needlessly is the blood of every Ebonyi person. Abakaliki bloc has always been known for its unity and strength of character. Politics must not come to divide us. Standing together, there is no Ezza, Ikwo, Izzi, Ishielu or Effium because we are the children of EKUMENYI.  Indeed, Ebonyi State is One. Afikpo man lays claim to Ekumneyi. In old Ohaozara, Ukawu, Abaomege, Ishinkwo, Ugwulangwu, Onicha Igboeze etc all derive their source from Ezekuna. The only fight we ought to fight is the fight for liberation, fight for good governance, fight for the consolidation of democracy in our state, fight for equitable distribution of our commonwealth,  and fight for social infrastructure and good living. It is not and should not be fight against ourselves to destroy our homes and villages. 

9. I urge the Governor of Ebonyi state to hold on to his oath of office to serve all Ebonyians irrespective of their class, political persuasion, religion, ethnicity and creed. This oath of office comes with enormous responsibility. As the political leader of the state, he is expected to make himself equally available to all citizens. His administration should as a matter of urgency, take all necessary steps to restore peace in all parts of the states where communal clashes and misunderstanding are rife. History teaches us about the transient nature of power. Those who fail to learn from the enduring lessons of history do so to their own peril. No one can enjoy peace of mind where his family is in crisis. Ebonyi people must work together to protect our common identity. We will all come and go and  Ebonyi will remain.


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