By KufreAbasi Essien
The drums of war have never created any beautiful dance step; nor has it ever choreographed into any meaningful economic gain. Yet, with the obvious needlessness of war, we still find many communities engage in senseless bloody brawls, wasting human lives and Resources. Even if they were to un-tether their untamed animal side, it wouldn’t – and shouldn’t have been- at a time like this when the country is already broken by ravaging hunger, hardship and viral religio-cultural feuds.
It is a shame that recently, the warring people of Ikot Offiong in Cross River State, and Oku-Iboku in Akwa Ibom State resurrected the demons of their age-long communal clash, which was supposedly resolved when they signed a peace accord in 2015, as newsmen report. For years these two communities have engaged in this enterprise of war without anything good to show for; rather, they have lost precious lives, property, goodwill and peace of mind. One therefore would wonder if this war is needed anyway.
Yes, it is obvious that war doesn’t just start. The feud between Ikot Offiong and Oku Iboku has always been traced to land dispute. Sad as it may be, while they war over the land, other people with creative minds have made money out of their misfortune by making folk-songs with their war as the reference. A typical example of these folksongs is one that was taught to me in the elementary school. The lines run thus: “Anwan Ikot Offiong ye Itu O, Itu se enwando.” The song may sound good, but it is tainted with a history of bloodshed wasted human lives, aggravated pains and generational hate.
It is true that this perennial clash is pre-colonial; therefore, something must be done to stop it completely. This intervention lies within the purview of Federal government who, by 1978 land use Act, own the land. If nothing serious and long-lasting is done about this clash, soon, other people –mostly innocent citizens – will be sucked into the cauldron of this senseless war. This associated effect of war began to show itself in part on Monday, January 16, 2017, when commuters along the stretch of Calabar – Itu federal Highway, affected by the war, experienced a temporary blockade by the warring youths on both sides of the Itu bridge. If it persists, we do not need a seer to tell us that the cost of seafood will rise, and the economy of families in both states who depend on the affected water body for livelihood will also crumble. These and other negative consequences of this war must be prevented.
Since peace pacts between these communities have been made and broken severally, it shows that they do not have the capacity to live peaceably as neighbors. Therefore, a near-permanent solution to the trouble will be for federal government to take possession of the land under dispute. This will provide a buffer zone and lead to the quelling of the crisis in the area. If the federal government does this, it won’t be the first time such a strategy is deployed to handle an issue of this nature. The boundary crisis between Ikot Umo Essien came to a halt when the land under dispute was taken over by federal government. When the conflict between Ikono and Ibiono along Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road reached a crescendo, government intervened by taking over the land and setting up the Civil Service Training Centre at KM9 Uyo-Ikot Ekpene Road. Recently, the killing fields in southern Kaduna, where Christians in their hundreds were reportedly massacred by gun-wielding Fulani herdsmen were taken over by government; and to further ensure peace and safety in the region, two battalions of the Nigerian Army have been assigned to be accommodated there.
If lasting peace is to be brought to the Ikot Offiong – Oku Iboku crisis, government should adopt a strategy similar to that used to restore peace in other areas mentioned above. However, for the peculiar economic nature of the area under consideration, government might want to consider an integrated version of the previous strategies. In such a version, while the land under dispute is taken by federal government, the land could also be used for productive agro-business operated and owned by an agency of the federal government. To provide security, a permanent military outpost positioned in the area could do the magic. By so doing, the federal government would have succeeded in bringing peace to the troubled area, and at the same time build a new economic community: a military-protected agro-business reserve.
The cost of war is high. Bringing peace to the feuding Ikot Offiong and Oku Iboku communities is an emergency. Government should not delay any longer as further delay could lead to further loss of lives. The intervention by government should be such that the area remains protected while being transformed into an agro-economic hub. We don’t need this senseless war.