It is amazing that while democracy is being fine tuned all over the world, the tragedy of it in Nigeria is that it is all pretence everywhere. When no body turns up at the polling stations to vote, palm kernels take place of humans to vote, imposition is taken as consensus, opposition is seen as effrontery to government of the day, and repression and emasculation is the standard of response.
The situation was not different in Ebonyi state. The double tragedy of the state is that politics is the only industry, while her power brokers are few individuals materially empowered with the creation of the state in 1996. However massive looting that took place in the last eight years has created an army of jobless novo-rich who are disquieted by non relevance in the present circumstance.
While candidates went about selling their programmes to the people of the state in 2007, Ex-governor Sam Egwu thought otherwise. In his usual authocratic manner hurriedly imposed Chief Martin Elechi on the ruling party, the PDP and by extension the state. Infact it was common knowledge, that days after the imposition and months to the general election, Chief Elechi rode on convoys longer than that of the sitting governor. This is a topic for another day
Chief Elechi was the immediate past chairman of the Ebonyi state creation movement. Those opposed to his emergence are not necessarily because of the compromised and flawed process that brought him in, but that when an elder throws his heart to the ring, who would settle any emergent troubles. As the saying goes ”what cannot be changed, should be endured”, Ebonyians accepted the imposition rationalising that as a former chairman of the state creation movement, he had a well grounded knowledge of history, strength and problems of the state and its people. Events of late have proved the people wrong and hence are ready showing that by taking the law into their hands.
From his inaugural address on the 29th day of May, 2007 it was made clear to him that he was a pretender to the seat as his gospel of peace was not only disregarded but flagrantly breached. He acknowledges this in his address on 2nd October, 2008 “ever since then, there have been in varying magnitudes, disquieting trends and tendencies in different parts of Ebonyi state”. Again the governor agrees to his helplessness when he says in his address ”the response was not encouraging as the burning of homes and the killing of fellow Ebonyians continued” .One is forced to ask, does he not see the hand witting on the wall?
The governor seems to be out of touch with his people that he cannot differentiate intra-communal clashes with that of external aggression. Or is it a case of pretence to justify a well-packaged agenda to emasculate a group, whose only offence is that they are in majority. The governor was economical with truth in his address that “the bloody conflict was between the people of Ezillo and Ezza-ezillo”. For the uninformed, Ezillo is one community in which live two prominent nationalities the Ezillo and Ezza among others. Hence,it is rather amusing to give the impression that these are two distinct communities. The historical basis for this cohabitation which is undisputed is that the Ezillo gave a parcel of land to the Ezzas after the latter helped to ward off incursions from Ngbo war mongers. The governor has also continued in his pretence when he says “was between” Ezillo and Ezza-ezillo when infact, the arsons, killings and abductions are ongoing as he read his speech and even as I write this article. Testimonies are abound of instances whereby helpless travellers of Ezza descent are waylaid, kidnapped and are missing till date by some ezillo youth.
The event of May 18th as recounted by the revered governor gives an insight to how major and serious government business of providing security has been reduced to Stone Age process. While one may not be interested in the “notable men of experience and stature”, the “very strong” outcome of their discussion leaves us with no alternative than to ask who these men are. Are these men in the ages of my great-grand father because my grand father would have been weary of such pronouncement? Government nevertheless accepted this rather analogue recommendation and enforced it. After the traditional oath, what happened? Why has the government refused to allow the mandatory period usually allotted to this age long process to run before her next move? Is it admittance of misdirection or simply a case of government running out of ideas or simply buying time?
Government did no rely entirely on the efforts of the custodians of our culture but continued the search for “permanent” peace. A 30 “wise men” committee was set up made up of people “Who have distinguished themselves in settling disputes in their communities”. Where did they settle these disputes, which communities and what were the out come? What of the disquieting trends and tendencies” as earlier acknowledged by the governor?
It is clear from above that government ran out of ideas. The correct position is what happens when “messianic” mentality is introduced into governance. The leader sees himself as a saviour whose benevolence sustains the people and his absence is irreplaceable. This is a government that is far removed from the people. The deputy governor is just negotiating his re-admittance into his own community of Okposi after been expelled by his own kinsmen months ago. Otherwise how can a people friendly government rationalise that a peace committee set up without recourse to the sensibilities of the parties and headed by an interested party can proffer solutions for lasting peace. It was clear from day one that such an ill-structured committee will churn out jaundiced recommendations. Clearly, the committee was dead on arrival. No government operates this way as if it came from the moon in this digital age.
Here is a government that it took five months to take action on a very brutal conflict situation, rather than apologising to the Ebonyians tried to blame her inaction on “rumours, fables, plethora of petitions and allegations which were calculated to misinform and mislead; and need to hold further dialogue; so that government ultimate decisions will not be faulted”. Bravo! Infallibility has a place only in the pulpit. It is further pathetic that the result of such a” painstaking consideration” of the report is this ill-conceived recommendation. Unfortunately, I am sure that the government is inwardly blaming itself for this misadventure. Five months down the road what do you find in the conflict zone? Blood shed and displacements of course. Is that the result of an infallible decision?
If the truth must be told, the good and peace loving people of the state will ultimately demand answers from the government if not now, then later. This government has acted and continued to act as if she is the sole custodian of wisdom and knowledge. Unfortunately common sense has eluded her in her awesome distance from the governed. It is common knowledge, even though difficult to accept openly that the actions and inactions of government so far have continued to stork the flame of war in Ezillo community. This state of insecurity has crept into government. Only recently, that road transversing the Ezillo community was taken over by a swarm of fierce looking soldiers, mobile police men and regular policemen, who lined the route to welcome his Excellency from his vacation abroad. This probably is the only moment that Ebonyians and visitors alike passed that stretch of the road without carrying their hearts in their hands. This was one of such fleeting moments of peace for the past one and half year. As reported in the Dailies there have been skirmishes in and around Ezillo even by last month and maybe days before his Excellency’s arrival.
This government must humble itself and accept her failings. I challenge them to do this and probably go down in history as the first in this era of official arrogance. The crux of the matter is that there are far more stakeholders to this conflict than the government try to accept.
Government decided to approve among others, that for peace to reign permanently at Ezillo, the Ezza-Ezillo should relocate to Egu Echara land originally allocated to them by Ezillo people through the customary method of land allocation (imabe ogbu)”. This is the sore recommendation that is not only simplistic but a hatchet man job. How can government come to a conclusion that segregation is a permanent solution? It never worked in Ife-Modakeke conflict, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and cannot find a place here.
That lasting peace can only be evolved from within the community itself through a painstaking, mutual accommodating dialogue involving primarily the Ezillo and Ezza people with the government providing an unbiased platform for peace talk, negotiation and arbitration. For the umpteenth time government can not decree peace, certainly not at this jet-age.