Saturday 8 December, 2018 would go down history as one of the most important days in the history of Boki local government and Cross River State at large as warring communities, Okwabang and Beebo whose clashes have left many dead and properties worth millions of Naira destroyed, were united to present the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar with a title.
The situation between both communities got so bad that indigenes of the warring communities could not see eyebolts to eyebolts. They did not talk even if they met outside the communities. The strained relationship was so bad that many had thought that they may never live together as sister communities again.
The State Government set up several committees to help resolve the crisis which was always about land disputes but yielded no results. Security agencies on the other hand have tried to intervene through peace meetings amongst others but the crisis persisted.
In the past two years or so, hardly, can you see any report from Boki, one of the six local government that make up the central senatorial district of the State and about 300 kilometers away from Calabar, the State capital without the mention of war, death and or destruction of valuables.
Perhaps, the local government traditional rulers council too may have tried in their own way to end the crisis but the persistent crisis shows clearly that their efforts didn’t yield the expected results.
Boki was so divided at some point such that it was difficult for indigenes to walk freely in their communities because of the fear of what will happen next.
However, like the saying that whatever has a beginning must have an end, the unity which evaded the people of Boki for years leading to crisis was restored penultimate week by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Zana Akpagu.
Without prejudice, the truth is that the quintessential administrator didn’t go to Boki that day with the intention of going to unite the people he calls his own. He went there purely to be honouried and celebrated for doing so much for the University and Boki people.
Recall that the Paramount Ruler of Boki and Council of Chiefs in collaboration with Boki Community in UNICAL had invited him for a special Holy Mass in his honor as well as conferment of Otu Ochikanong Obonghe Mu Boki and Onyi Otu Ochikanong Obonghe Mu Boki on him and his wife.
In fact, it was in the ceremony that he, the celebrant and many others understood the historical importance of the event which was the first of it kind in over 30 years.
Speak at the event, Dr. Pius Tawo, Chairman of the occasion revealed that it was the first time in over 30 years that the entire Boki nation will gather to confer honorary Chieftaincy title on someone.
“This Boki traditional title today is very important and significant to us for two reasons; This is the first time in over 30 years that Boki nation is conferring Chieftaincy title on anybody. It is not just like others because it is only given to someone who has performed exceptionally”, Dr. Tawo said.
By divine providence probably, the breaking of the over 30 years jinx by Boki people to honor someone from another place soon turned to another development they have also waited for for years.
From thanksgiving mass and Chieftaincy conferment, the event became an unusual peace meeting. Some Boki people who never saw eyebolts to eyebolts because of the ceremony were seen shaking hands and embracing.
The Boki Paramount Ruler, Otu Fredaline Akendu, blessed with the wisdom of Solomon called all his Chiefs out including Professor Akpagu who was the newest member of his council of Chiefs to dance round the mammoth crowd that came out to grace the occasion.
In the crowd were warriors and gladiators from the communities that have lived in fear and agony because of war. Leaders and opinion molders from the communities watched their Chiefs dancing together and embracing each other in total disbelief but huge excitement.
At that point, the historic event which was just to celebrate Professor Akpagu metamorphosed into something else. It became a peacemaking event.
When the Chiefs were dancing and singing, some men, women, youths and children lost control of their emotions as some were seen shading tears. To them, it was a long way to freedom; freedom to live together once again as one people.
As tears were rushing down the cheeks of those who couldn’t hold them back, the courageous and determined Otu Akendu picked up the microphone and made people even more emotional.
He said “Today is a special day for Boki. Because of one man, Professor Akpagu, the Boki people after many years and several efforts have come together as one people and the togetherness shall continue.
“To everybody here and to the press men, please go and tell the government and anybody you see that finally, Boki is now one. I want to say that the crisis ravaging some Boki communities have been put to rest because of this function.”
Indeed good leadership is like honey that attracts so much attention from ants.
Little did Professor Akpagu knew that his efforts in making UNICAL a global brand and a leading University in Nigeria and Africa was what was needed to unite the Boki people to end the communal clashes which has brought untold hardship to the people.
For over 30 years, Boki didn’t confer Chieftaincy title on anybody and for many years Boki never came together as a people but in a day, one man changed the tide.
Through Professor Akpagu’s incredible performance in just three years as VC, Boki broke 30 years jinx to honor which helped the once warring communities to come together in agreement to eschew all bitterness and live together as one indivisible family again.
May the peace, unity and togetherness remain permanent in Boki.
Inyali Peter, a journalist and lecturer, is the founder of FearlessReports Newspapers.
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