On my recent cautious visit to Nigeria in late 2010 – where I had treaded softly, softly because I was reliably informed that I was detailed to be trailed by a spy who pretends to love me – what I saw during my short stay was shocking. It is unfortunate that in Ibusa, a town which is in the Delta state capital territory, there is no govt presence at all. The question that easily came to my mind was whether the town is really part of the so called Delta state capital territory. I could not believe that in the state, a particular ethnic stock, which seemed to have hijacked and literally ‘appropriated’ the state, would practice this type of discriminatory development against other ethnic groupings.
In Ibusa, there is no single state Ministry located in it, yet the town is just about 7 km away from Asaba. There is a rising youth unemployment, which has allowed cultism to gain firm root. The Black Axe, the Buccaneer, the Eiye Confraternity (all of which are called Otu-nzuzu in Igbo) and, local 419ners, have become land lords in Ibusa. Their members operate in a triangular fashion: Ibusa, Asaba and Okpanam. They harass and instil fear in people and occasionally, unleash bloody clashes. It is unfortunate that because of lack of jobs and skill acquisition centres, these youths have decided to seek comfort in cultic practices. They are also being recruited and used by politicians to cause confusion.
Linked to the above is the issue of kidnapping in the community. Going by my records, about eight people have so far been kidnapped in that once a sleepy town. It is on record that despite the state government’s efforts to help stop this dangerous act, it is still going on. Most recent, was the kidnap of a doctor who was driving home to his house in Asaba. The doctor has a private clinic in Ibusa. He was waylaid and abducted near the small stream of Iyi-abii along the Ibusa – Asaba road on Sunday, the 6th of March 2011.
Electricity supply in the town is just as good as dead. While Asaba, Okpanam, and some of the neighbouring communities have some occasional flicker of light supply, that of Ibusa has grown from bad to worse. There is none at all. The street light, which is being powered by solar energy, does not function properly.
The most despicable however, happened between Novembers 2009 and 2010: going to farms by Ibusa poor peasant farmers, especially the womenfolk, was a nightmare and still is. About six to eight peasant women were brutally murdered either on their own farms or on their husband’s. Nothing to date has been done by the law enforcement agents to track the criminals who carried out those dastardly acts. Presently, the women hardly go to farm anymore. As a result, the cost of living has skyrocketed in the community. The poor peasants, because of fear of the known, could neither farm nor harvest their surplus for the local markets. Is it now a crime to be a govt neglected poor peasant farmer in Ibusa?
The sale of some farmlands, to “non-indigenes” ( I hate to use term), for development and, the manner of sharing or non-sharing of the money generated from those sales, had equally resulted in reckless and unwarranted loss of lives and property in the community. In some of the cases, the lands were sold and the money hijacked by a few individuals at the detriment of others. It was only a matter of time for the bubble to burst and when it did burst, there was no hiding place for some of those who took advantage of the affected poor people. Brothers killed brothers in the name of money and sometimes, dirty lucre. This is not only unfortunate but touchy too because those involved were consanquineously related.
The Obuzor of Ibusa should try as much as possible to show strong leadership qualities too by trying to take the people along. I have read a few of his books which streamed lined his thoughts but there is a need for him to divorce some of the duties and obligations as defined in the State Government White paper from what the people themselves overwhelmingly said they want. Sticking rigidly to the White paper recommendation or interpreting them in absolute terms seems to be generating unnecessary conflicts. For example, that the Obuzor is granted the status of overall traditional leader of Ibusa does not mean that the spiritual functions and other traditional roles of the Diokpa of Ibusa should be ‘appropriated’ by his office. Secondly, and though it may seem late, I will advise he equally takes a second look at his concept of “Isi-nka“or “Isi-kanka“. He’d and perhaps in conjunction with his council of “Olue-eme” or (Think Tank), chose the new name to replace the former title of “Senior Diokpa” of Ibusa.
The new name does not seem to go down well with the generality of his people. Most see the concept of “Isi-nka” as derogatory. Others see it as an insult to the Diokpa. Perhaps, he should, through his “Okwulogbes“, try more consultaions to explain the meaning and rationale behind the change to his people. There is no need to hurry. He should use more dialogue and persuasion to arrive at a consensus. He should avoid situations in which he is seen to be in perpetual conflict with the Diokpa institution. He should also be able to give in once in while. As a concerned Ibusa son, my advise to the “Obuzor” is that he should leave most, if not all, traditional and spiritual matters to the Senior Diokpa and concentrate squarely on the task of modernising the town. I believed that that was the principal reason why the institution was created in the first place: to help the people feel government presence. However, the principle of the unity of understanding, tact and diplomacy, use of approaches and dialogue, ought to be deployed always, for positive effect. The Obuzor and the Diokpa institutions ought to be working hand-in-hand.
Above all, what gives me butterfly in the stomach is the role of the educated elites in the community. As far as I am concerned, they are the architect of most of these problems. While most are using their education to help develop the community, some others have used and are still using theirs to cause avoidable chaos. I call on the following personality to come to terms with the “Obuzor institution” and strive to work with him in the interest of the community. They are, namely, Prof. (Obi) Chike Onwuachi, former Senator (Obi) Nosike Ikpo, Retired former Permanent Secretary – Mr. George Nwanze, Ambassador Oliesemeka, Prof. Pat Utomi, Chief Peter Nwaoboshi, Prof. Emenanjo, Retired ACP Frank Odita, Fidelis Odita (QC & SAN), Dr. Obidi, Peter Okocha, Prof. Ashinze, Prof. Elueze, Rear Admiral Dele Ezeoba, Commodore Onwordi, retired Col. Nzekwue and a host of others still serving and retired.
The present “Obuzor” is a human being like all of us and was a distinguished Professor, a retired lecturer and academics in the U.I. He is not infallible. He is prone to mistakes like us but that does not mean some of us should abandon him for one reason or the other. We clamoured and agitated for that institition to be established and we got it, we should all strive to make it work. There is therefore no doubt that what is happening in Ibusa today is a manifestation of the failure of some of the above named respected individuals to participate, tolerate, compromise, and respect a general consensus. We can also see that the youths in Ibusa have gone berserk because the elders are not setting good examples.
Role models have become a scarce commodity. When some elders are busy secretly planning and executing disorder, what do we expect of the youths? If elders belong to secret societies, what moral justifications do such elders have to caution the youths against cultism? This seeming contradiction, which is a moral dilemma, is currently playing itself out not only in Ibusa but in the whole country. This is quite startling and unsettling. There are secret societies in every clime but the difference is that in Europe, especially in the UK, there is no blatant discrimination against non-members of any of such as we have it in Nigeria. What we have in the UK is tolerance, respect for diversity of opinions, regards for individual differences and guiding philosophies of life and, belief systems.
Sociologically, I understand partly, the predicament of the Obuzor. He is the first to be so crowned by the people and given staff of office. He was chosen by the Ogbes, which made up the Otu Odogwu, to pioneer the new institution. He was supported by the other Ogbes that made up the Otu Uwolo and Otu Iyase. Therefore as the pioneer instrument of the much clamoured new change, he is not expected to cosy along easily. He is bound to encounter problems and these problems come in different shades. As a retired academic, the Obuzor should see problems as challenges. I believed that with time, Ibusa people will learn to adjust to the new system and to perhaps in the future, re-define and tailor the Obuzor institution to their need.
Again, with the ‘harpies’ called youths who are wont to wandering about looking for sins to commit. I will advise the Obuzor to start now the process of transforming the offices of the Odogwu, the Uwolo, and the Iyase, of Ibusa. The holders of these offices are regarded as war lords or modern day General Officers Commanding (GOCs). In those days, part of their functions was to recruit, mobilise, train and contribute able bodied young men for wars or in readiness against any aggressions. The holders of those offices then were revered and feared because of their daring war exploits and magical powers. But these days, we are no longer fighting 14th and 15th century inter-tribal wars or Ekumeku war. There is therefore the immediate need to start retraining the holders of these offices to enable them become pace setters in line with modern development.
The world is literally going bananas in different facets of technological development. We should not be seen to be consulting our dead ancestors while the white man is, any moment from now, preparing to start going on holidays to the moon. Any appointed Odogwu, Uwolo, and Iyase, should be well armed. They should be proactive and able to discern afar. For example, I expect the holders of such offices to be holding and organising seminars for our roaring youths; to be organising and inculcating self employment principles in them; to be submitting proposals on partnership by reaching out to the Local Government Council, other governmental agencies, the private sector, individuals and groups. The theme of these proposals should revolve around how to empower the youths, the dangerous effects of drugs and substance abuse, basic health education and security consciousness.This will help to cleanse the youths of their quest for quick money and “ego di na oshia” siege mentality.
At present, our territory is under invasion by rampaging youths, cultism, kidnappers and some clueless native politicians; while the three war lords seemed to be doing nothing.These offices of the war lords should start transforming otherwise they would in the near future be rendered useless. In all, the onus does not lie on the Obuzor alone or on the war chiefs. No. It lies on all of us. There is the saying that if you cannot be a good follower, you can equally not be a good leader. Whether you reside in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Enugwu, Benin city, UK, USA, Canada, and Germany, we are all guilty of the probable mess Ibusa is turning into. The fact that one lives far away does not make one immune to the dangerous tendencies in Ibusa. Not to show an atom of concern is an admission of self guilt.
The Obuzor is not the Nigerian Police Force neither is he the IG. He could only do his best when it comes to crime prevention and leave the rest to the law enforcement agencies.We can only question – and this is relative – his method and style of leadership. The security of Ibusa just like that of Nigeria, is the responsibility of all of us. So let most of us climb down from our high horse and stop the blame game. Attending or opening a branch of Ibusa Community Development Union (ICDU) where ever you are; joining any Ibusa social clubs; contributing ideas at such fora and, paying your levies too, are ways of making positive contributions to your community. By so doing, you wash yourself clean of curses coming from our angry ancestors who still ‘see’ deep and whose spirits do not ‘sleep’.
Above all, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the ICDU should also be seen to be helping in this healing process. Though conflict is part of human nature, but Ibusa cannot continue to be in perpetual conflict, especially conflicts that are overwhelmingly polarising and destructive. The NEC should always strive to take the route of dialogue and peace making. Its members should not be seen to be exacerbating conflicts. They should be seen in all intent and purpose to be working to resolve conflicts in the community. NEC should never ever choose side in any conflict. Granted that once in a while, it could apportion blame, its overall interest should be to always work for peace and unity of Ibusa. By now, if all the branches are working in one direction, one should expect the skeletal staff of the Obuzor to be under the payroll of the NEC.
As a concerned Ibusan, I appeal once more that the town belongs to all us.We have no other place except Ibusa. Individuals should embark on soul searching to cleanse themselves of acrimony, hate, petty jealousy, and ego. What we need is peace, tolerance and respect. Our Extended Family System and practice, which is one of our solid bedrock, should always be preserved and reinforced. It should not be allowed to start dying “ma’ka iwe na awu’wo”. As for Ibusa sons and daughters who called themselves politicians in the present amorphous Delta state, I leave them to their very conscious and self calculating game of chicanery. One day, history will judge some of them harshly.My only advice for them is that if you are in politics, whether your are elected, selected and imposed, please try and make the BLACK race proud by striving to serve the people. For now, with the level of poor performance by most African political leaders, Africans in the Diaspora have been made a laughing stock in Europe and America. In all, I say to Ibusans both at home and abroad, “Ekwu-siho-gwem-weli“!
Long live Ibusa!
Obuzor: Agu! Agu!! Agu!!!
Ndi Obi: Igwe nuo’o
Ndi Nkpalor: Onowo!