Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha
So it was that we, members of Urhobo Renaissance Society (URS), a pan-Urhobo socio-cultural organisation dedicated to the upliftment of the Urhobo people, made up of professionals, academics, businessmen and some other patriots, paid a sympathy visit to our bereaved kith and kin in Uwheru Delta State on Friday the 20th of March 2020. Recall that on the 15th of February, the community was savagely attacked by herdsmen, reportedly aided by some men of the Nigerian Army, as the preliminary statement from the State Governor’s office confirmed. Ten persons were brutally killed in Agadama, a town which enjoys lush and green vegetation all year round.
Initially, there were conflicting news reports. The State Commissioner of Police disputed the figure of the dead presented by the community. Some bodies which had been hurriedly buried by the invading scoundrels were exhumed and when the burial took place on the 19th of March, ten corpses, some burnt beyond recognition by their attackers, were buried. It was a tense moment in the entire kingdom. The sight of ten white coffins laid out in a truck was extremely provocative. The community grieved for the dead. Their brothers. Their sons. Their husbands. One of the bodies was buried in Uzere Isokoland, his paternal home. Sad. Heart-rending.
Donation of relief materials
The dead? They were all young people. Men who had hopes. Had children. Life was not too good. Life was harsh. Even uncertain. But it was life. Their lives. In their God-given land. But their lives were cut short, brutally, by total strangers. Savage strangers. Like soldiers of forced occupation. Savages who carried tools of death. And served death to those who owned the land. A national decimal, now. Gruesome deaths. Tragic. Inside their homeland. When we visited the mass grave, soon to be turned into a cenotaph, a young man passionately described the dead people. You could feel the emotion in his voice. It was the voice of the painfully dispossessed. He tried to be brave. Almost in tears. And some of us were in tears too.
One of the dead men was the football coach of the community. According to him one of the young men was felled by a bullet fired by a soldier right in the heart of the community. He was running away from the invading soldiers when they shot him. Why should a soldier shoot an unarmed youth in his community? Why have the herdsmen remained permanently inside the forest preventing owners of the land from farming? Why has it been impossible for the drafted soldiers to move the killer herdsmen from the community? Why was no arrest made after the massacre? What gives the herdsmen the temerity to say that ‘our father is president of the country; there is nothing you can do to us? Questions! Questions! Questions!
The report hit the headlines for the first time since these murderous herdsmen started fighting indigenous peoples over their God-given land in the last ten odd years. The spokesman of the community told us that at last count about eighty persons had lost their lives to encounters between herdsmen and people of the community! The herders rape women in the farms. At a point, villagers had to offer gifts of bag of rice, packets of cigarettes, fish or clothes before to the herdsmen before being allowed into their farmlands. A young man walked up to me to show a bullet wound which he sustained last year from a herdsman. We were told that people of the community cannot visit their farms anymore. The herdsmen are lodged in the deep forest and make forays into the communities at will. For some reason, they have not been dislodged from the forest. So, our brothers and sisters live in fear and uncertainty. It is not a pleasant story. It is a tragic story that the world must hear.
Uwheru kingdom lies in the boundary between Delta and Bayelsa States. It is an agrarian community where Izon and Urhobo people had lived in relative peace for decades. Farming is crucial to their survival. Nature has blessed them with rich vegetation that makes farming highly rewarding. It is the green grass, suitable for grazing that has attracted the herdsmen to this laid-back, quiet and peaceful community.
We call on the federal government, father of the scoundrels, to get those men out of Uwheru community. Their stay has not engendered peace. The state government too. Protect the people from invading monsters armed with AK47s. Their cattle feed on crops. If their cattle must feed, the people of Uwheru, noted for their sweet potatoes and groundnuts, must feed too. They are entitled to the good life even in material poverty. They are entitled to happiness, as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria. We call on the South-south governors to create without much ado their own security network. The federal forces of occupation cannot defend the Uwheru people, cannot defend Nigerians as eloquently articulated by retired General Yakubu Danjuma. We need to defend ourselves. We need to defend our homeland. We need to defend our region. We are entitled to only ONE life. One life. Not two. Not even one and a half. It cannot be replaced. It cannot be replicated. Let no one violate it with impunity. This is an extension of ethnic superiority, now a dominant narrative in the land.
If the federal government fails to defend the people, the people will defend themselves. This is what has given birth to Amotekun. A vote of no-confidence in the capacity of the federal government to protect the people. It will, it should give birth to more. It should give birth to a true federation. Not a federation where parasites have more power. Where those who produce the wealth of the nation can only eat crumbs. Injustice should not be, cannot be forever. Ultimately the yoke of bondage will be overthrown. And for that dawn, we all must work for, hopefully, faithfully, and we shall not die before it breaks!
Condolences, Uwheru, condolences! Condolences I say! Let hope wipe away your tears. Let strength flow from your hearts. The death gong shall sound no more in your homeland. No. Never again. The sweetness of our land shall be ours. Never again shall we bury our young men massacred in our homeland.
-Never again! Never again! Never again!