1.0. It is a season of yellow-bellied, insipid and colorless press statements of lies by some persons in Emede, this time by one Mr. J. Okpeki, Chairman, Emede Progress Union (EPU), Lagos. The press statement, issued in the Isoko Mirror Online version of 28/12/2020 and supposedly a response to the Igbide rejoinder of December 21, 2020 widely circulated on the social media, was a contemptible admixture of pathetic conjectures, puerile arguments and barefaced lies concocted to hoodwink uninformed members of the public. Ordinarily, Mr Okpeki’s mumble jumble distortion of historical facts and warped narrative of events would have been unworthy of a response. However, we consider that this may be one instance where silence might not be golden as some folks may believe Mr Okpeki’s concocted narrative. Hence, we are compelled to, once again, respond appropriately to educate Isoko people in particular, and Nigerians in general on the truth of the matter.
2.0. Discerning Isoko people, and indeed Nigerians, who read that claptrap press statement must be wondering the matter with Emede since their history keeps changing like quicksand. The historical presentation by Mr. J. Okpeki is yet another version of their ever-changing history and markedly differs from the one told to the world during the 1985-87 crisis, the one stated in the Pointer Newspaper online version referenced in our earlier rejoinder to Emede’s press release, signed by one Mr. Omrys Ofo, and the more recent history narrated by their “accidental writer”, Endurance Edafewotu. Isn’t it strange that a community that claims to be one of the oldest clans in Isoko has no documented history that could be referenced?
2.1. In a comprehensive rejoinder to “The Isoko Ethnic Nationality: In Time Perspective” by Endurance Edafewotu, published in the Vanguard newspaper of January 09, 2020 pages 28 and 29, Igbide intellectually, with cited documentary evidence, shredded the pseudo-history as far as Igbide and Emede are concerned. For the rejoinder, please visit www.politicsgovernance.com/the-isoko-ethnic-nationality-in-time-perspective-by-endurance-o-edafewotu-a-rejoinder/
2.2. The definition of CLAN by Merriam-Webstar Dictionary is: “a group of people tracing their descent from a common ancestor”. Communities with a common ancestor were grouped together as a Clan by the colonial masters, based on the histories of the respective communities as they (the indigenes) told them. Igbide and Emede had a common eponymous ancestor, hence Emede was grouped under Igbide Clan until 1955 when Emede clan was created [The Partridge Report (Isoko Division, 1974), paragraph 12 and 13]. Since its creation, Igbide accepted Emede as an autonomous community and has respected the set boundaries. It sits logic on its head and indeed insane to claim that a clan that was created in 1955 gave the mother-clan land on which it settled.
2.3. The initial nine Isoko clans all have Intelligence Reports of their own documenting the history and customs of each clan as told by their leadership to the colonial officers. This informs why Igbide, Enhwe, Olomoro, Uzere, and others have Intelligence Reports. While PV Main (ADO) wrote the Intelligence Report of Igbide in 1931, ER Chadwick (ADO) wrote that of Olomoro, Enhwe, Erowha and Uzere. FM Woodhouse wrote that of Evwreni in 1931. Emede has no Intelligence Report documenting its history outside of that contained in the Igbide Intelligence Report.
2.4. Section 22 of the Igbide Intelligence Report (PV Main ADO, 1931) states in part “Eru, (the founder of Igbide) had four sons, Eheri, Ekpo, Uruwre and Okpohro. The three present quarters of Igbide (main town) are named after the younger sons”. The eldest son, Eheri founded Emede. This is the one and consistent history of Igbide and Emede documented in government records by T.J Southern (1929), PV Main (1931), E.R Chadwick (1931), The Partridge Report (Isoko Division, 1974), and The Justice Ighodaro Judicial Commission on Chieftaincy Titles Review (1978). Other than government records, books by historians and academicians attest to the history of Igbide and Emede including James Welch (1935), J.W Hubbard (1948), R.E Bradbury (1958) and our own Prof. Obaro Ikime (1972). These sources are uncontroverted and indeed incontrovertible. All these cannot be wished away by concocting history!
2.5. It is also gratifying to note that some key facts of Igbide history and tradition, carefully and elaborately documented as indicated above are not isolated, rather they have corroboration or confirmation in the Intelligence Reports not only of the then four surrounding Clans of Olomoro, Enwhe, Erowha and Uzere (E.R Chadwick, 1931), but also in the Intelligence Report of Evwreni by FM Wodhouse (1931). For instance, E.R Chadwick (1931), at paragraph 21 of his Intelligence Report on Enhwe Clan and paragraph 42 of his Intelligence Report on Uzere Clan confirms convincingly and most unequivocally the ancestral and blood relationship between Igbide and Emede.
3.0. On Oruzu land, we excuse the monumental and arrogant ignorance of Mr. Okpeki. We stated that ALL the court cases were determined in favor of Igbide up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria and the then West African Court of Appeal. Igbide did not lose any of the cases and had no reason to appeal to any higher court, as Mr. Okpeki would want to mislead his readers with a needless reference to the then Privy Council.
4.0. Once again, and even more clearly, the press statement by Mr. Okpeki of Emede Progress Union obviously seeks to affirm the claim that Igbide does not exist. Their ridiculous claim of owning Urie Lake and even Owodokpokpo and parts of Igbide town, as elucidated in the Press Statement, is the strong motive on their part for the crisis. The government and Isoko people should not gloss over this unreasonable and unfounded claim.
5.0. We have persistently stated that the fundamental issue in this crisis is not about some boundary dispute but about the very existence of Igbide people. For those Isoko communities and individuals who may have succumbed to the propaganda that Igbide is always involved in communal crisis please we crave your advice on how to resolve an issue with a neighbor who contends that you and your territory do not exist! What concessions would you be willing to make to bring about peace? If you were from Igbide community, how would you react to the section of the Emede press statement stating that Emede and Enwhe donated land to Igbide to settle?
6.0 . Although the narrative was warped, we are at least relieved that Mr. Okpeki was honest enough to confirm that the respected President General of Emede was brutalized by Emede youths, necessitating his admission to the hospital and his house vandalized. The Emede monarch escaped by the skin of his teeth but his palace suffered vandalization from Emede youths. If their own youths have no respect for their own monarch and President General, so much so that they wanted them killed, what stops them from attacking and killing their neighbors, which they did on the 8th and 9th of December 2020? Herein lies the dilemma of Igbide people.
7.0 . It is laughable that in a bid to deny the fact of their (Emede) aggression, Mr Okpeki delved into fairytale about how one non-existent serving Nigerian Army Major of Igbide origin masterminded the latest crisis to avenge the death of his father in the previous Emede-Igbide crisis 30 years ago! We want to assume that Mr Okpeki must have confused Emede with Igbide in that section of their write-up as there is no such individual from Igbide. This can be easily substantiated by checks. As part of their build up to the December 8th 2020 attack on Igbide, Emede people had intermittently brutalized Igbide people and indeed other commuters on the Emede section of the Iyede-Olomoro-Emede-Oleh highway. (Again, these numerous incidents were reported to the police and the Local Government authorities). Their assault on Igbide on December 08, 2020 was a two-pronged attack where one group of heavily armed youths launched the actual attack on Igbide community while another group barricaded the Emede stretch of the highway to trap and kill unsuspecting Igbide commuters. Igbide is still taking stock of several of her indigenes known to have taken that route on that fateful day that have not been seen or heard from since then.
8.0. INDICTING THE COMMANDING OFFICER, DPO AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT CHAIRMAN. It is most regrettable that Mr. Okpeki could recklessly and flippantly indict the army Commanding Officer, DPO and Local Government Chairman of colluding with Igbide people. These are people who worked tirelessly to prevent the conflict, but for the obstinacy of some Emede people. And when the crisis broke, they risked their lives to restore peace. Does Mr. Okpeki know that his false indictment of the young Commanding Officer and the DPO is weighty and could put their careers on the line? Does he know that the military and police do not take such accusations lightly? The military and police authorities will surely investigate and if none of such happened, Mr. Okpeki will have some explanations to make. However, we challenge Mr. Okpeki to name the so-called military officer of the rank of Major of Igbide descent, who he claimed coordinated the Igbide side of the conflict and with whom the CO and DPO colluded.
9.0. We have laid bare the verifiable facts of the history of Igbide and Emede (which is the underlying cause of the conflict and can only be resolved by establishing the truth) for the government, Isoko people and the general public to be properly informed. When two brothers are involved in a fight, the third makes peace by telling the brother that is at fault the truth. If truth is suppressed, the crisis festers. Let us speak truth to ourselves and call our erring brothers to order. That is the panacea to the crisis. Keeping quiet or tacitly supporting the ridiculous claims by Emede, against common sense and copious documentary evidence, is acquiescing to injustice. Fortunately, throughout history, good ultimately prevails over evil!
Finally, we are throwing a challenge to investigative journalists and their media houses to investigate and verify the avalanche of documentary sources cited to establish the truth and publish same.
Engr. Toff Oyuwe
Chairman, Igbide Union