It is no longer news to hear that Ebonyi State since creation has never made significant achievement, due to what I wish to describe as pockets of conflicts spread across the ethnic (groups) of the young state. One of the achievements or legacies of the late General Sani Abacha was the creation of Ebonyi as a state, aimed at developing the state from the grassroots and empowering its citizens economically.
Sad to note that the people and, indeed, their leaders do not appreciate the initiatives and contributions of the military leaders, creating Ebonyi. It is important to point out again that while the state is bedevilled with crises…. (also) Ezza – Ezillo has since 2008 attracted global attention . It is no longer news that the state government under the leadership of Governor Martin Elechi cannot resolve the dispute, which arose, following a disagreement between two phone vendors, over who should mount an umbrella at a point in a market square.
In fact informed sources disclosed that the governor had ruled out the possibility of the two communities living together again. This is a confirmation of the fact that the number one citizen cannot settle the conflict. Governor Elechi recently wrote to the National Security Adviser (NSA), to come and take-over the land, that Ezzas could no longer co-habit with the Ezillo people. Investigation also confirmed that the Ezillo people have concluded arrangement to attack innocent citizens plying Enugu-Abakaliki expressway.The state governor is well informed about this security report. The fact is that any plan to dispose the Ezzas of the little piece of land through the Inspector-general of police and NSA will be judicially contested. It is on record that Ezza-Ezillo communities are farmers.. This, honestly cannot be allowed at the time President of the Senate, Senator David Mark has initiated peace dialogue.
It is obviously an act of the governor’s much rumoured historical scar said to have been inflicted on him or his relation by the Ezzas. It should be noted that wisdom does not entail that one should be all-knowing but that such a man knows when he has gotten to his reach on a matter and allows others to intervene. The governor has chosen to be all-knowing. There is no doubt that the governor is frustrating all efforts to make enduring peace, insisting on his ego-driven but nakedly biased solution. The federal government should as a matter of urgency call governor Martin Elechi to order, to stop promoting the Ezza-Ezillo crises by spending his security allocation on fruitless venture. He is not in any way empowering the people of Ebonyi State; rather he is worsening their poverty situation. If the Igbos can live in Kano, celebrate yam festival, build churches and carry out their tradition/culture, I see no reason why the Ezzas and Ezillos cannot live together. In Lagos State the Igbos are holding public office, in Ebonyi State, the Ezzas are not allowed to move freely, they are not allowed to live at Ezillo and train their children. Why is the crisis between the Ezza and Ezillo taking a different dimension? Why is it that the State government is acquiring arms against one of the communities?
Agreed that this misunderstanding between two brothers resulted in arsons and killings, among other senseless acts, by the communities in 2008, one would wish to ask where the government lies, if since that time this has continued to attract “bad blood”. Investigation shows that Ebonyi State Government’s over-bearing interest in the case is the main reason that the crisis has remained unresolved. The state, according to sources close to government house Abakaliki, commits N600 million monthly to prosecute Ezza-Ezillo crisis. If you multiply this amount by four years, you will appreciate the fact that this state government has not been fair to both Ezzas and Ezillo people residing in Ishielu Local Government. Another
issue that needs to be re-examined is the reason for promoting the crisis between two brothers who have been leaving together since 1958 rather than settling it. It is important to state that if the state could not resolve the conflict, it is honourable to invite the federal government or the federal lawmakers, as it stands at the moment.
What happened on the 31st December, 2011 when many innocent persons were killed by unknown gunmen could have been avoided if the state government had shown interest in settling the matter. As other organisations have commented, this senseless killing of innocent persons, is condemnable and the culprits must be fished out and brought to book. It is also condemnable that the state is spending tax-payers money to promote killings in a state with rising poverty and diseases. It is on global record that Ebonyi State is the poorest in the country.
As a confirmation of Ebonyi State’s interest in the matter and inability to amicably resolve the crisis, it was reliably gathered that Senator David Mark, the President of the Nigerian Senate responded to a petition before on the protracted crisis by Ezza Community and decided to invite the two communities to Abuja on a round table dialogue, with a view to listening to them on the best way to enthroning a lasting peace in the poor communities.
It is absurd to point out that rather than exploiting the opportunity from Senator David Mark by the two communities to settle their differences, it was gathered that the Ezillo Community bluffed the invitation from the President of the Nigerian Senate. To my mind, this is the height of irresponsibility on the part of the Ezillo people. They threw this ample opportunity into the trash- can. I strongly believe that the Ebonyi State Government that l know is unable and will never want people to return to the community or Ezza-Ezillo. The state governor also told the President of the Nigerian Senate when he called him to inform him of his (Senate President) interest to settle the matter that he (Elechi) is not interest.
It is not far- fetched that the state government may have asked the Ezillo people not to honour the invitation or since they are in majority in the state workforce, the people have been warned against making any trip to Abuja. Whatever the issue is, the Ezillo people should understand that there had been wars in other parts of the country and in the end, there
was peace and the people eventually came to leave together. Agreed that the recent killings are traumatic, but we should not forget in a hurry that something led to it. We should capitalise on the support being offered by the Senate President to enthrone a lasting peace. Senate David Mark should be commended for his interest in Ebonyi State crisis.
Cut in the web of the crisis is the Ebonyi State Government that issued the white paper, ordering the Ezza to relocate to Eguecharra. Whereas the government may have acted based on the report of a panel it set up on the crisis, the Ezza people say that some of its people reside there. Besides that, the land is too small to contain all the Ezza-Ezillo people though
the Ezillo people countered the argument by saying that the land is even too much for the Ezzas. Ezillos maintain that part of their own land was carved to increase the Eguechara land.
The Ezza accused Governor Elechi of composing a panel headed by an Ngbo man, who the Ezza alleged may have carried over the grudge of the olden days war against the Ngbo, adding that this led to the judgment against them.
The panel was made up of not only the Ezillos but Igboesa, Izzi, and Ngbo, headed by an Ngboman, that Ezza people fought to get the land. How do you think that the person we fought to get the land from would now say something good of us. Ezza people protested that they don’t have confidence in the panel that was sitting in Ishielu Local Government Council Secretariat. Twice, Ezillo people attacked the Ezza people that tried to attend the sitting of the panel. We told them that the panel venue should be shifted to Abakaliki but they refused. Even the chairman of Ishielu Local Government was on the Ezillo side. The Ezillo on their own account said that whereas seven Ezzamen were members of the panel, no single Ezillo man was a member.
With the withdrawal of the military in 2010, the then Inspector-General of Police, Ogbonnaya Onovo, ordered a large scale police operation in the area to flush out militants who by then were killing innocent users of Abakaliki-Enugu Expressway at will. In what may be regarded as a major breakthrough since the beginning of the war, the police captured 34 persons, including women. A combined team of men of the Ebonyi State Command and those of the Force Headquarters, Abuja, stormed six enclaves of the warring militants. The operation which lasted seven days was led by then Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dipo Ayeni, and Acting Commissioner of Police in charge of Mobile Force in the Force Headquarters, Abuja, Mr. Felix Uyanna.
The operation witnessed the deployment of police helicopter and over 1,500 mobile policemen from various mobile units across the country. The police sacked the remaining Ezza people from the disputed area and were forced to relocate to Ezza North Local Government area (their ancestral home) where they are staying till date. That was around April 2010. But the operation witnessed a huge casualty with more than 400 lives lost, including those of 16 policemen, three soldiers on the Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway. The large scale police exercise then brought the crisis to an end, until the December 31, 2011 attacks that re-opened the old wounds. Observers believe that permanent peace can only return in the area if the matter is withdrawn from court and amicable solution sought through continuous dialogue. However, killing and revenge actions will only cause more pains and make reconciliation a remote possibility.
Ben-Bright Mkpuma, writes from Abuja
He can be reached on 0803 400 4207
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