By Tony Erha
Following extended and incendiary uproar, resulting from the communal clashes that emanated between Igiode and Uzanu and the querulous police detention of four traditional chiefs and elders of Uzanu, Edo State Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu, had lately uttered that the ‘detained four’ have been released to go warm their feet and breathe the fresh air of freedom.
The news about their release was conveyed through by Musa Ebhomiana, a journalist and former Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor. The statement exuded his rebuttals, obviously to exonerate himself from the gummy accusations at him having re-ignited the crisis and causing the alleged trump-up arrest, thus leading to starving, poor treatment and torturing of the said Uzanu noblemen.
However, the news of the release of the ‘Uzanu Four’ wasn’t devoid of palpable doubting by some concerned folks of Uzanu, who told the media that it was premature for them to jubilate over the said release. Amongst the ‘doubters’ who commented to journalists, rhetorically, was Comfort Idokosi, a mother of six children, a farmer and petty trader. “Are we sure it is not another hoax or mere political statement by the number two citizen of the state?” Interjected another adult woman alongside, under anonymity; “Why the haste to announce the final release of those still under lock and key? Is it not in the same manner the Deputy Governor earlier promised to release them, to no avail?”
At the backdrop, Igiode and Uzanu, two important and adjacent communities of Etsako East Local Government (LGA) of the state, got entangled in internecine clashes over the ownership of a contiguous land area. Then, it was professed to that the two communities had had centuries of somewhat gentle co-existence by suppressing their differences, which snowballed into bodily injuries, destruction to property, road-blockages and economic losses. But the same respondents from within and outside the ‘love-lost’ communities respectively told probing journalists that the two are kin, with Igiode simply goaded by outside influencers to do avoidable battles with Uzanu, its brotherly community.
The Uneme-Uzanu community seemed to have given credibility to the analogy of undue external interference, in a letter dated 30th April, 2021 to the Acting Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba and other vested authorities. The petition, signed by Ibrahim Izenobor and Ibrahim Omokpua and four other co-traditional heads of Uneme, Uzanu connected the Deputy Governor as the mastermind, who stoked the dousing furnace of the communal disagreement, by his revisiting and upturn of the progress so far made after final courts’ verdicts to near-genial amicable settlement terms, by a formidable stakeholders group.
The Uzanu’s petition had criticized Mr. Shaibu as having tricked the said four helmsmen (namely; Emmanuel Ikeme, James Alugbei, Peter Ajegba and Anthony Adamu) to the police cell, following an official invitation to parley with Igiode, at his instance, in Benin City, the state capital, since Monday 29th March, 2021. It, amongst other things, also pressed the IGP to summarily release the besieged four men from the continued detention, adding that it was a phony allegation and arrest over the killing of an old man from Igiode, whose causal death turned out to be chronic hypertension, via a medical autopsy officially carried out by the Police, in conjunction with the state government and Etsako East local government. The Acting IGP was urged to extensively investigate the matter and apply sanctions.
“In what appears an expert motion and or Surety, the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Rt. Hon. Comrade Philip Shaibu, swiftly out of his magnanimity, prevailed on the issue by ensuring that the bail application was granted, and the suspects now reunited with their families and loved ones”. The Deputy Governor thereby uttered of been moved into acting on receiving the delegation of the Uzanu National Development Association (UNDA), to who he disclosed his frantic efforts to ensure the chiefs were released within the industrial action of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JASUN), which had also affected other legal proceedings, since due processes are always involved in issues of that magnitude.
Adhering to the ‘watchdog’ obligatory duty is the benchmark of journalists and writers. And the sensational matter had to be given an objective close-marking, as it is core to escorting the interested public, with updates. Ditto this follow-up report, even though, few days ago, before the Deputy Governor’s latest statement, a situational investigation was conducted by this writer, as wannabe analysis and opinion reportage; “Igiode vs Uzanu: Re-fueling a declining crisis between brothers”
Pertinently and justifiably, the Deputy Governor, needs to clear a fog as to whether oldies and feeble men as the ‘Uzanu Four’ could indulge in the energetics of committing murder, more so that their like are usually harmless and peace-loving noblemen, to necessitate their arrest? Did they detail others to commit the alleged murder? Were they detained in lieu of the allegation that Uzanu community committed the heinous murder, while on invitation to a parley called by the Deputy Governor? Solving the riddle could help to grasp the enormity of the alleged unwarranted incarceration and maltreatment of the four. Did it impinge on their self-esteems and worth, since they are men revered in their community?
That the Deputy Governor said he regretted failure by both communities to cash in on the one year grace given them for amicable settlement of the dispute must have put a lie to it. Whereas, the various persons earlier spoke to in both communities, including the intervening testimony of the Afenmai Patriotic Development Association (APDA), a respected organization of the people, the mechanical interference of the Mr. Shaibu and Governor Obseki’s led government, was said to have despoiled the progress that had been made in reconciling the two communities.
With Mr. Shaibu admitting to be closed to Uneme-Uzanu, many of its natives and being an inborn of the area, why did he initially decline to engage both communities in genuine reconciliation, as chairman of the Edo State Committee of the National Boundary Commission (NBC) and being a number one citizen of the generic Edo North senatorial zone? Who would be swayed by mere profess to loving a people and at the same time dethrone its king and fuse the clan into another, as the state government did to HRH Benjamin Ikani, the Oniola (king) of Uzanu and South East Uneme Clan? Isn’t it nondescript for the Rt. Hon Philip Shaibu, a man who is claimed to be politically sagacious and one sworn to the simple ideals of the masses, which earned him the ‘Comrade’ label?
Excepting for the gullible, who would believe his acclaimed affection for Mr. Clem Ikanade Agba, the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, a native of Uzanu, who Mr. Shaibu publicly threatened to arrest over the same crisis? If they are truly friends were there no other ways of dialoguing with Agba and Senator Francis Alimekhena, a native of Igiode, who is senator representing the Deputy Governor’s Edo North senatorial zone, said to be amongst those seeking for a truce? Funny enough, Agba and Alimekhena, by their exalted offices of a Minister and Senator, are seniors to the Deputy Governor in the Nigeria’s leadership rungs.
For some of us, who bears the same ‘Comrade’, it had ben supplications that one of our own is rising political profile, But, is it not disheartening seeing a plethora of political crisis he is alleged and confirmed to have masterminded and been involved in?. “Must a man wash his legs in the mud of every stream he passes, in the presence of clean water?”
Tony Erha, a journalist and public affairs commentator, is based in Benin City, Edo State.
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