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It is becoming prevalent that there is hardly a local government and community in Cross River State that could boldly say it has not had one form of strife or violent face-off with its neighbors and groups over disagreement on land issues or other mundane matters.
Resorting to conflict and violence is one thing that civilization, Christianity, and education have not extricated from the psyche of communities in the State and its people who are always quick to settle scores and disagreements with one another through machetes, guns, and other diabolic means.
Cross River State, the “People’s Paradise” with a population of over three million people, and blessed with thousands of kilometers of landmass stretching through virgin forests, hills, mountains, and rivers which any visitor to the State would question when such land would be developed or put to use. Conflict-related matters such as gang clashes, power tussles as well as boundary disputes among others cannot go unnoticed.
Conflict, which has different meanings to many, can be described as a disagreement among groups or individuals characterized by antagonism and hostility. This is usually fueled by the opposition of one party to another, in an attempt to reach an objective different from that of the other party. The elements involved in the conflict have varied principles and values, thus allowing such to arise.
Though comes naturally; the clashing of thoughts and ideas is a part of the human experience. It can indeed be destructive if left uncontrolled. However, it shouldn’t be seen as something that can only cause negative things to happen. It is a way to come up with more meaningful realizations that can certainly be helpful to the individuals involved.
American ethicist, and political philosopher, Niebuhr Reinhold postulated that humans are driven by a natural quest for “will-to-live and will-to-power ” to seek power, personal security, and survival at the expense of others around them which in the process ignites hostilities.
The recent Nko-Onyadama face-off which has claimed many lives, many injured, and properties worth millions of Naira destroyed on what could be averted, is a few of those communities who have taken up the destructive missiles against themselves.
The Wanikade and Wanihem neighbors in Ukelle, Yala Local Government Area, 2017 took up arms against each other and the outcome was massive destruction. The conflict which raged for four days was only put to rest when soldiers from the Brigadier Ally Battalion in Okuku near Ogoja were drafted to the area to stop the hostilities.
In Obudu where the State Governor, Ben Ayade comes from, two communities, Kutia and Okurtong were in a serious face-off over a piece of land. The two villages fought a bitter war in 2017 over the land in dispute and to forestall another outbreak of full-blown skirmishes between them, the Governor convened a meeting of leaders of the two communities in his office to sort matters out.
Soon after the Obudu ‘war’ came the Akparabong – Bendeghe Ekim in Etung LGA conflict which also led to the destruction of several lives and property from the two communities who have lived and intermarried for many decades.
Next on its trail came the Inyima community in Yakurr and Onyadama in the Obubra LGA crisis in March 2016, where women, children, the aged, and the entire houses in Inyima were set ablaze. The conflict which has become a recurring decimal was first fought in 2008 and then in 2014 and repeated in 2016. The cause of the war according to sources is that an Inyima man was said to have harvested cassava in a disputed portion of land with the Onyadama community and since the first outbreak of the conflict many years ago, there has continued to be bad blood and recurring skirmishes which have kept the two erstwhile sister communities at daggers drawn.
In November 2018, the Palace of Chief Edward Osim, the Paramount Ruler of Abi Local Government Area and father-in-law to former President Goodluck Jonathan, and other members of the Usumutong community were razed by their Ebom neighbors in a communal conflict. The conflict saw three neighboring communities, Afafanyi, Ediba, and Ebom jointly attacking their Usumutong neighbors.
The conflict which is a squabble over land has been lingering for many years with the Ediba and Usumutong communities engaging each other in frequent attacks leading to the killing of many and the destruction of many houses and farm products.
At about the same time, communities in Odukpani Local Government Area engaged one another in a fierce war leading to the destruction of their villages by the communal conflict which took place in the area.
The conflict which engulfed the Obom Itiat-Mbiabo ward led to the killing of several persons and razing of houses in villages in the area including Edere, Erong, Mkpan Oruk, Mbiabo Edere, Etege Ntem, Otong Ediong communities.
Similarly, there came three days of battle among four communities in the Biase Local Government Area of the State in the first week of December 2018 which claimed many lives and houses. It was gathered that the engagement started between the communities of Abanwan and Orugbam where three people were killed when the people of Abanwan reportedly launched an attack on their Orugbam neighbors.
The conflict then spread to the nearby communities of Afona and Ibini. The ritual was also repeated in May 2020.
Saturday 6 of June 2020, saw no fewer than four persons feared dead in a renewed conflict between Bishiri communities in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State and Mbakunu community of Kwande Local Government Area of Benue state.
Also, there was palpable tension between the neighboring communities of Uyangha and Ojor in Akamkpa Local Government Area in December 2017 where many lives were lost and houses razed in the ensuing crisis.
The Nko-Mkpani conflict which is the fiercest of them all erupted in Yakurr Local Government Area in the central senatorial district in 2016 with sophisticated weapons reportedly used in the combat which lasted for many days leading to the killing of several people including soldiers, pastors, women, and children while educational institutions, hospitals, and residential houses were set alight.
Records have shown that from time immemorial, communal crises have never benefited anyone rather it comes with their agony and regrets.
As civilization continues to illuminate and change man’s mindsets from primitive ways of thinking, it is therefore pertinent for stakeholders to stretch the warm arms of peace.
The Government should, as matter of fact, make laws frowning against communal conflicts and stiff punishment for offenders.
Community leaders should realize that they serve as mediators between peace and war. They should be held accountable for their actions and inactions as glue or as dynamite.
Civil Society Organizations should take up the responsibility of educating the people, especially those in the rural areas on the need to live in peace and harmony amongst themselves.
The people should also know that no one came into the world with a parcel of land nor will anyone return to dust with a plot of land. Peace is cheap when understood but expensive when not. We have fought enough, let’s tow the path of peace for a better Cross River State.
Patrick Obia is a journalist and writes from Calabar, Cross River State.
NB: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Patrick Obia, and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.