Annexation, Re-Mapping Attempt in A’Ibom: Is Violence the Best Option?

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It is no more news that government and policy makers in Akwa Ibom State have begun steps to adjust boundaries within the state. Perhaps the need for adjustments and readjustments of boundaries are due to some important reasons yet to be popularly canvassed and properly communicated to the citizens of the state. Hence, since government does not exist for itself, it is improbable to assume that such plans, no matter how necessary, can manifest, in the absence of approvals by communities involved.

There is a new map already in circulation. The map, people think, is the greatest albatross that shall finally sink the present government in the state. Whatever the case, it is in the public glare that the plan basically touches on the intention of government to annex some communities in some local government areas to others in other LGAs. While ONNA, Mkpat Enin and Ikot Abasi LGAs are the potential beneficiaries, the local government areas negatively affected are Eastern Obolo and Ibeno and perhaps Mbo LGA by extension. It is clearly noted that oil bearing communities in Eastern Obolo and Ibeno are to be annexed to ONNA, Mkpat Enin and Ikot Abasi. Whatever the collective interest, the coming days may have a better explanations.

It was precisely on Thursday, September 16, 2021 that the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly passed a resolution during its plenary, after deliberating on the proposed new map. This followed a motion moved by the Member representing Eket State Constituency, Rt. Hon. David Lawrence, mandating the Surveyor-General of the State to “take immediate and appropriate steps to produce a new map for the State and ensure it is approved and gazetted”. If that happens, boundaries in the communities and LGAs would be readjusted. Also, while the landed areas cannot be uprooted and moved to other locations, they would now belong to other places. Question is, can anyone be forced to deny their roots and take the identity of another? Supposed the said areas were inhabited by human persons, would they be asked to burn their certificates of origin (from Eastern Obolo or Ibeno) only to assume new origins (ONNA, Mkpat Enin or Ikot Abasi for instance)?

In what appeared as a swift response from affected communities, people from Eastern Obolo quickly made a press release, stating that they would not sit back and watch such annexation of their heritage. Speaking through the Secretary-General of ILIMA Obolo, Dr Amah Williams, the people wondered why the remap became necessary just few days after the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act. Amah Williams, together with a lawyer and others, were subsequently hosted to a radio show. They condemned the resolution in strong terms and described the idea as illegal and fraudulent against Eastern Obolo Local Government Area which they said is a creation of the Federal Government of Nigeria. They stated in clear terms that they would resist any attempt by government or any group to distort their historical heritage, geographic and demographic linkages.

As if some persons were alien to civilization, Ibeno communities are said to have commenced physical attack of other communities. It has been reported of how Iko Nsung village, a community of fishermen and farmers in Esit Eket LGA of Akwa Ibom State was on Tuesday, October 26 attacked by some youths from Ibeno LGA. Scores of people are said to have been injured and houses destroyed. The Chairman of Esit Eket LGA, Hon. Iniobong Robson was said to have visited the village in company of divisional police officers (DPOs) of Eket and Esit Eket LGAs. “I went there with the DPOs of Eket and Esit Eket. We took stock of the damages and left but surprisingly, I was informed that another attack took place few hours after we left”, Hon Robson was quoted to have said.

This attack may not be unconnected with the recent remap move of the state government. But the question begging for answer is, must people resort to violence to be able to drive home their points? Methinks, violence must not be employed in this kind of struggle. There is certainly no reason to believe that Ibeno LGA is being couched into Eket or Esit Eket. At least, the recently shown map does not have such provisions. Except for previously defective action, such could never be far from misconception. Regardless of that, it must be emphasized that violence should never be considered. Peaceful and harmonious coexistence is the only sure way to development. No matter the case, diplomacy and dialogue must be the only way out.

For instance, the annexation of Òròn land in the 1970s by the Brigadier-General U. J. Esuene’s Administrator to the then Eket division which now falls into Ibeno has never been visited by violence. History is just and vindicates the Oro People for having not engaged in any form of violence on the matter. The People have ever demonstrated civility in their approaches to seeking a reversal of that ignoble decision. Intellectual engagements have rather dominated the line of actions in this regard. There is room for public awareness through position papers, communiques and press releases. Consistent engagements in this regard could go a long way in proper education of the public which helps in winning sympathy from truthful, honest and peace-loving members of the public.

Definitely, violence can’t be the best option in resisting this unpopular style of governance. If Oro Nation has once been violent, maybe the State would not exist. If Oro had ever been violent, it could be the PEACE we preach will run away and we will be left empty handed with absolutely nothing to MAINTAIN. If Oro had ever been violent, maybe the oil money will not be there and our leaders would lack the resources to develop their areas and build their phantom industries. If Oro had ever been violent, maybe our leaders will be humble, having been stripped of the spirit behind their pomposity, loquaciousness and cockiness. If Oro had ever been violent, maybe there won’t be discussions on majority and minority in Akwa Ibom State. If Oro had ever been violent, maybe no one would talk of ethnicity or voting strength in Akwa Ibom State. If Oro had once been violent, perhaps those who understand nothing aside the language of violence, would have come to their benighted senses.

Although some highly placed government functionaries have assured yours truly that no annexation would be done, it is painful that humans can attempt to shift the ancient landmark. Even when they posses no moral justification for their actions, they chose to impose their ill-will on citizens with absolute impunity. Perhaps their intentions are always to give unnecessary advantage to their native origins. But they forget that nothing on this ephemeral earth lasts forever. They would never be on the saddle for eternity. Their kinds who did the evil in the past, have lost goodwill, even in their rotten graves. Instead of continued proclamations of blessings on their souls, their names are constantly cursed. Is it more profitable to leave a just and worthy legacy? Or should we leave behind a name which reminds future generations of the anguish and trauma in our names? It was James Shirley who passed a verdict on every soul. Shirley did so while reflecting on the apocalyptic possibilities of the human mortality. He said, “Only the actions of the just Smell sweet and blossom in their dust”.

Therefore, since some persons will smell sweet in their graves for their actions, while others will rotten in their graves, let us eschew violence and strategically engage stakeholders. In times like this when it becomes an offence to be a minority, in times like this when a state of minority smacks vulnerability, in times like this when PEACE is angry with the PREACHER and threatens to RUN AWAY, in times like this when assuming LEADERSHIP becomes a license for RULERSHIP, in times like this when it seems that the rich is approaching the doorstep of the poor to take from him his PRECIOUS STONE, let us remain calm and put a diplomatic call to PEACE. Let’s appeal to PEACE to make a homeward bound, because violence can never be the best option.

Joseph Atainyang is a journalist and public affairs commentator.

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