The new Eleme Local Government Caretaker Committee Chairman, Hon. Johnson O. Nwogu assumed the leadership of Eleme at a critical period when the security and social structures of the area had almost collapsed. But all hopes are not lost because his pedigree proves that he has all it takes to fix the situation. This piece aims to give a brief roadmap to guide the local government boss and the leadership of Eleme in an effort to reconcile all feuding groups and return peace and unity to Eleme.
Delay is dangerous. So goes the saying. In other words, Obiε ebo obi be ͻmͻ oku eji. Severally, it has been speculated that that weak leadership fuels cultism in Eleme. The weak political and traditional institutions is said to have given openings for rampaging cult activities and associated crimes like kidnapping, armed robbery, rape and assassination in Eleme. The inability of recognized institutions to counter threats from these rival cult gangs further their growth and influence. And the strength and influence of these armed gangs is fast growing that if nothing is done urgently to contain it, Eleme will soon be sacked, then the Federal Government of Nigeria will abandon force and open a peace dialogue after so many lives might have been lost and properties destroyed.
Each armed gang operating in Eleme appeared sponsored by both internal and external patrons bent on colonizing. The rival cult gangs seem motivated by a complex mix of economic, social, and political conditions. They grow in power as these conditions are exploited by a series of patrons seeking their own objective.
Growing from a small politically motivated group with no distinct organization, they have created a network of terrorist cells in all towns and villages of Eleme with an emerging administrative structure; and have become a major threat to Eleme.
The unique conditions of Eleme provide fertile ground for external enemies with their internal collaborators to provide the central foundation for armed gangsterism.
Ideological indoctrination, sweetened with tangible material benefits is a powerful force, particularly when the controlling apparatus are acceptable for personal gains and aggrandizements.
There is no smoke without fire. For fire to occur there must be heat, fuel and air or oxygen. Who are those heating up the area and fueling the cult crises? It is speculated that those who arm and send this young ones to terrorize Eleme are mostly corrupt and criminal minded elites chilling in their air-conditioned mansions outside Eleme and ridding in their super cars.
With funds and morale support provided by these elites comprising some politicians and traditional rulers who are sympathetic to these criminals coupled with huge returns from robbery operations and kidnap ransom, acquisition of sophisticated weapons, recruits, training, charm preparation and motivation becomes more elaborate and attractive.
The war must be directed at both the cultists and their patrons. The elites, political and traditional sympathizers must be identified and made to reject and renounce violence and condemn the activities of these armed gangs in clear terms.
Until armed gangs no longer serves the ulterior motives of these crops of individuals, until the people of Eleme finally reject cultism and violence as primary means to solve their problems, cultism will likely continue to grow in power and influence.
Whether armed gangs are motivated by a desire for wealth, a desire for land, a desire for political power, a desire for followers, or a combination of all these, all armed group share a common link. They only grow beyond the level of criminal annoyance when they remain unchallenged and have support of existing authorities.
The people that tolerate the existence of armed gangs invariably do so not because they approve of them, but because they find them useful for furthering their own end. Even when they do approve of the basic motivations of the group in question, such as political or economic motives, when it ceases to serve their purpose, they will withdraw their support, and at worst, will verbally attack the group or destroy it completely, if possible.
The dangerous aspect of armed gang is when through the support of the patrons it is able to consolidate its power and influence to the extent that it has the strength and resources to openly challenge both its patrons and other existing authorities. Once this threshold is crossed, it can no longer be treated as criminal annoyance. It must be dealt with through one of the following ways:
1. Power politics, whereby the activities of the group is ignored and alienated to the detriment of the society.
2. Open attack and complete destruction of the group.
3. Acceptance of the group as a coequal and integrate them into the socio-political order.
The last option is not particularly desirable. But then, neither are the first two, which invariably prove costly in terms of blood, treasure, and political-economic capital. At some time, the piper must be paid. But when will he be paid, and what currency will be used?
Over the years, Eleme have adopted the first option. The leadership is perhaps waiting for Eleme to be sacked and law and order totally broken down before action is taken to restore normalcy. The cases of Odi in Bayelsa State, Zaki Biam in Benue State, Ogbakiri, Omoku and Buguma in Rivers State are still very fresh in our memory. Mmi rε εdͻdͻ àkprikpa àtama àkprikpa.
The leadership of Eleme must come together to address the problems of cultism and associated security challenges in Eleme. Abandoning Eleme in these perilous times is disservice to Eleme. Blowing cool and hot pumps more fuel than water into the heat up environment. The people of Eleme must be determined to move Eleme from darkness to light, from crisis to peace.
To effectively dismantle cultism and restore peace and normalcy to Eleme the new Eleme LGA boss must look beyond these young ones. Investigation of armed gangs in Eleme by security agencies must extend to include the youth leaders, elites, traditional rulers, and politicians who in one way or the other instigate, support, encourage or sponsor cult activities.
While this is necessary, an amnesty committee comprising security agencies, government officials, youths and traditional rulers should be setup to provide necessary incentives, mop up illegal arms in Eleme and pardon repentant cultists who return their arms and denounce cultism.
In the interim, there is need for a contingent of mobile policemen sufficient in strength to check these armed gangs and enforce law and order to be deployed in Eleme until the cultists are disarmed completely and normalcy fully restored and the threat posed by these armed gangs are removed.
The elites, traditional rulers, and politicians working sincerely together can approach the appropriate authorities to deploy a mobile police contingent for an extended period of duty in Eleme. The Old Health Centre in Ebubu can serve as quarters for such a mobile force in Eleme.
Secondly, except the police, or the Armed Forces, or approved and authorized security agencies, all armed groups, parties or gangs, or individuals forming part of a group, however described should be banned from entering Eleme with any such arms (guns, knives, cudgels, etc)after the expiration of the given amnesty period.
Equally no fire arms should be exhibited, paraded, displayed or demonstrated at any funeral, wedding, or any other type of ceremony in Eleme. The only exception to this rule should be the firing of ànáa ebibi (canon) authorized by the Ͻnε Ԑε Eleme or the proper Ͻnε Ԑε Eta during funerals of entitled Chiefs.
To make the above effective and bidding, the CTC Chairman should ensure that violators are promptly arrested by the police and security agencies and dealt with according to law.
Thirdly, the formation, existence, operation and activities of any cult group, by whatever name they may be known or referred to should be banned in Eleme.
Accordingly, no such groups, bodies, parties or any components of them should be permitted to enter Eleme for meetings, displays, operations or any form of activities in or out of uniform or to be represented in any function or ceremony in any manner or form in Eleme.
To resume normal life within each community, former members of cult groups whether ordinary members, leaders, or patrons should forthwith openly surrender their weapons and renounce such membership before the Ͻnε Ԑε Eleme-in-Council or the Ͻnε Ԑε Eta-in-Council. The presence of government officials and security agencies is necessary for all such ceremony.
Violators of the above should be arrested by the police and security agencies and promptly dealt with according to law.
Fourthly, Eleme is a civilized Christian society with several Churches dating back to nearly a century. Therefore, excepting the practice of recognized traditional worship or practice all other evil forms of voodoo, occultism, metaphysics, invoking of juju intended at causing inimical or debilitating consequence or any poisoning of individuals, groups, Eleme at large or any section therefore should be banned in clear terms.
Violators should be subjected to cleansing by their Church, or be subjected to recognized traditional cleansing and oath taking before Nkpͻrͻ Eleme or any other form of openly recognized oath taking as the case may be.
Where such practice involve public nuisance or malfeasance, the police, the Ͻnε Ԑε Eleme-in-Council or appropriate Ͻnε Ԑε Eta should promptly and appropriately deal with the person concerned. The taboo on shedding of blood of the son of the soil in Eleme land should be respected and enforced.
In the spirit of reconciliation and settlement, let all feuding groups within the communities of Eleme cease their open or secret feuding or confrontation forthwith and let all sons and daughters of Eleme make peace among themselves and pursue unity and reconciliation.
Towards this end, the Ͻnε Ԑε Eleme-in-Council should make a royal proclamation to this effect and declare a return of peace and unity to Eleme. Where the Ͻnε Ԑε Eleme is indisposed, the CTC Chairman can make an executive proclamation to this effect and is bidding on all.