· We need peace in Uzere kingdom as the fishing of lake Aze collectively has cemented the peace process– Amadhe
· I commend Uzere people for their cooperation and understanding – Uzere PG
· All parties involved have realized the importance of peace – Ikpopo
· As community leaders exonerates Ogomudia of complicity
By Kelvin Ohoror
Peace has finally returned to oil rich Uzere community in Isoko South local government area of Delta State after 10 years of crises that bedeviled the community.
HRM Odhebe Odhiwhu Isaac Udogri 1(JP), and prince Henry Etuwede put a final nail to nip the crises in the bud and ushered in peace as prince Henry Etuwede formally paid homage to HRM Udogri 1 in bid to resolve the crises that engulfed the community since November 29th, 2011 and lasted till March 23rd, 2020, was not a smooth journey for the oil rich community.
It will be recalled that Prince Henry Ukenukpapia Etuwede was brought in by the community to filled the vacuum created during the crises on June 12th, 2012 that led to the fleeing the community by HRM Odhebe Odhiwhu Isaac Udogri 1
Meanwhile, there has been peace process which initially met a brick wall until Prince Henry Ukenukpapia Etuwede made up his mind to vacate the throne and paid homage to the gazetted King of Uzere kingdom by the Delta state government, HRM Odhebe Odhiwhu Isaac Udogri 1.
The peace process was made possible through the steadfastness effort of the Isoko South local government council chairman Hon. Itiako Constantine Ikpokpo with a committee that was set up by him with notable names like Major Gen. Paul Omu, Sir MOC Eto, High Chief Dennis Etaluku, Bishop J.U Aruakpor and some Royal Father’s from the Isoko nation.
Earlier, the people of Uzere community in Isoko South local government area of Delta State on March 12th held stakeholders prayer/ meeting and thanksgiving for the return of peace to the kingdom.
The programme which was held at Uzere civic center was put together by Hon. Itiako Ikpokpo, Chairman Isoko South local government council in collaboration with Isoko South peace committee, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (P.F.N) to ensure that peace returns to the oil rich community with prominent illustrious son’s held in high esteem.
Speaking to newsmen Hon.Ikpokpo said, “As government of the people, when crisis engulfed a community, the need for interaction with the people becomes necessary”.
He maintained that peace has returned as HRM Odhebe Odhiwu, Udogri 1, the Ovie of Uzere kingdom has returned, adding that all the parties involved in the crisis have realized the importance of peace. Hon.Ikpokpo stated that, the state government and security agencies have been on top of the situation even as the state commissioner of police, Hafiz Inuwa, the commander 63 Brigade Asaba, Brig. Gen. I.M. Jallo and the State Security Service are committed at ensuring that final peace returns to Uzere kingdom.
Also speaking, the president general of Isoko development union, high chief Iduh Amadhe, reiterated the need for total peace in Uzere kingdom, noting that the month of March is a period that residents of the area go for fish farming and planting of groundnut as the early rain has commenced.
He called on those who fled to neighboring communities at the wake of the crisis to return as Uzere people prepare for their fishing festival.
Hon. Amadhe thanked God that contrary to speculations of death, only few persons sustained cutlass and gun injuries during the crisis, adding that the injured have recovered except some that are still been treated.
Earlier, the chairman of Isoko South peace committee and former commissioner public complaints commission, Sir Mathias Eto, members of Isoko peace elders council, Brig. Gen. Paul Omu (Rtd) and Chief Dennis Etaluku, urged the people to embrace peace and resist the temptation of destroying their own fortune.
The Archbishop of Bethesda Gospel Mission, Archbishop C.A.O. Apena, also urged Uzere people to be wise, saying God has blessed Uzere people with illustrious sons well positioned that attracts development to the community.
While speaking from the book of James chapter 4, the Bishop of fountain of life Bible church, Bishop Sam Oyede admonished the people to be united to benefit from God’s blessings in the community.
The clergyman appealed to Uzere people to allow peace reign even as he urged those still brewing for crisis to embrace peace in Uzere kingdom.
The residents sue for end to the crisis rocking the community during the interactive section and commended Ikpokpo, the clergymen and security operatives for commitment and love toward ensuring that peace returns to Uzere kingdom.
While commending the state government and security agencies for sustaining peace in the area, the president general of Uzere kingdom, Mr. Felix Ewenede commended residents for cooperation and urged them to accept the peace efforts by the local government chairman.
Mr. Ewenede noted that, the crisis which started on the 9th of November 2011, would have been resolved if the peace meetings were called earlier.
He commended Sir Ikpokpo and urged the people to embrace peace as Uzere kingdom is blessed with natural resources that should be harnessed for the common good of the people.
In attendance were Bashorun Askiah Ogieh, Chief Iduh Amadhe and the secretary Isoko South local government area, Mr. Dennis Obrogo.
Others are the clergy and members of Christian Association of Nigeria Isoko Chapter, Pentecostal fellowship of Nigeria, prominent sons and daughters of Uzere kingdom, some councilors from Isoko South legislative arm, men, women and youths of Uzere kingdom among others.
In furtherance of the peace process, the community happily besieged Lake Aze in their numbers with fishing nets of various sizes and construction as fish capture devices to fish in the lake even as the exercise was with excitement and celebration of the final peace that returned to Uzere kingdom.
Speaking to newsmen, the Oletu Ode of Lake Aze, Mr. Augustine Agari said, the Uzere fishing festival has been an annual event over the years, but the crisis which created animosity led to the abandonment of the fishing activities which normally holds yearly.
He maintained that the return of HRM Odhebe Odhiwu Udogri 1, the Ovie of Uzere kingdom facilitated and activated the fishing activity of Lake Aze as one of the lake owned together by the entire community and activation of the fishing activity was a sign of unity and love by the people, because they came together to perform that exercise is an indication that peace has finally returned.
The fishing activities of lake Aze had always previously and now draw people from neighbouring communities such as Emede, Irri, Oyede, Aviara and other Isoko communities. Agari added that the Lake Aze area with water lettuce is normally sold to indigenes and non-indigenes that formed groups for same fishing exercise, noting that the purpose is to raise money towards the community development.
He commended the President General of Isoko Development Union, High Chief Iduh Amadhe, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of DESOPADEC, Dr Bashorun Askia Ogieh, the Chairman of Isoko South local government area, Sir Itiako Ikpokpo, the Odiologbo of Uzere Kingdom, Mr Boniface Anigheno, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman Isoko South, Chief Godspower Obaro and others for their efforts towards the final peace that has returned to Uzere kingdom.
What led to the crisis
Meanwhile, some Uzere community leaders recalled what led to the crisis in 2011 and narrated that one month after the deposed Ovie of Uzere Kingdom, Isoko South Local Government Area of Delta State, HRM Isaac Udogri returned to the community from exile, some leaders and indigenes have absolved former Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Alexander Ogomudia (rtd) of complicity in the crisis engulfing the community.
The indigenes who rejected the return of the embattled monarch to the kingdom, threw their weight behind the parrall traditional ruler of the clan HRM Henry Etuwede lll, while accusing the President General of the Isoko Development Union, IDU, Chief Iduh Amadhe and the Managing Director of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, DESOPADEC, Bashorun Askia Ogieh of being instrumental to the crisis rocking the community.
It will be recalled that palace of Udogri was set ablaze in the midst of the crisis that erupted in the oil rich community in 2011, a development that saw the embattled monarch fleeing the area as a new traditional ruler, HRM Henry Etuwede lll was subsequently installed by indigenes of the kingdom.
Though there has since then been an uneasy calm in the community, tension again heightened in the area in December 2019 over attempts by some stakeholders to bring Udogri back to the community as some buildings were set ablaze in the area.
But few days after Udogri’s return this February, hostilities escalated in the community as over 15 persons were reportedly inflicted with machete injuries and the country home of a former President General of the community, Chief Columbus Oguname was set ablaze even as hundreds of persons have fled the area to neighbouring communities.
The crisis, according to a former Chairman of the community from 2010 to 2014, Mr. Believe Odugu originated “due to the Shell Petroleum Development Company which we were saying should sign a GMOU with the community, because the company has been exploring oil since 1956.
“The Royal Majesty (Udogri) did not grant audience with our administration. Crisis arose in which we lost some sons of the community.”
Saying that the crisis led to the burning of the monarch’s palace, he said “A new king emerged when he was in exile. A vote of no confidence was passed on him. Now, he is back, he has sworn in a cabinet on top of the one that is on ground. The case is still in court, it has not been decided.”
On allegations in some quarters that Ogomudia was sponsoring arms to the community, he said “the General himself is a peacemaker. He set up a panel at that time that they should go and meet the two traditional rulers to ask them their opinion so as to bring peace but l was made to understand they did not even go to any of them to get their views.”
Mrs Oki Oghenero, a woman leader and others had alleged that Amadhe spearheaded the dethronement of Udogri. Oki said “he removed Udogri from the position of kingship and brought Henry Etuwede and everyone rejoiced and danced, but for some time now, Amadhe reversed back to Udogri and began to frustrate us.”
The women noted that Ogomudia had been doing his best to mediate and bring peace to the community.
Speaking in the same vein, a leader in the community, Chief College Owiefe alleged that: “One faithful day Chief Iduh Amadhe came to me, begging that the king on exile Isaac Udogri should be forgiven and that he should come back. I was shocked because he removed him and installed the new one, HRM Etuwede, I refused.
“Chief Iduh is a close fellow to me over the years; he was my boy. So I was blunt when I told him I will not support what he is begging for.
“Before Iduh came with his demands, the case was already in court, the community took it to court, the community has decided to abide by the court’s ruling if the court says he should be enthroned so be it, provided there is no appeal at a higher court, but he refused.
“The Governor invited General Ogomudia to government house, discussed the way forward to settle the crisis, we also set up committees to to resolve and foster peace in the community, but Chief Iduh Amadhe refused to comply. Even the council chairman was nonchalant about the issue; until we got to Asaba that was when he apologized that he was not around.
“Then General Ogomudia (Rtd) decided to set up a 12 man committee to settle the matter finally .one of the agendas was to write an MOU, the second was to secure a bail for those in police custody ,those youths who were driven out should come back, and another is to write constitution and enshrine in it how people ostracized should be accepted back into the community, as regards the Kingship he said the community should meet with both kings and find out their intentions before they decide the way forward.
“The meeting has not lasted up to three days , Idu’s faction started challenging Gen. Ogomudia asking who gave him the authority to preside over the matter, that the Ovie Isaac Udogri must surely come back. He then went ahead and brought Isaac Udogri back, paraded him round the community, people were just silent, surprisingly they said they want to install another President General and the leader of the other three quarters that was when the crisis started again, people were injured.
“My pain is that the General has been so insulted and humiliated by people who feel they have money, if you make your findings you will know that Uzere has the richest people in Isoko, but no input, it is the General that has empowered people yet he has been so humiliated even on the pages of newspapers.
“Those report on papers of newspapers and online reports that Gen. Ogomudia (rtd) sponsored arms and boys to cause crisis in the kingdom are all stories fabricated by Chief Iduh Amadhe.
Also speaking, Chief Columbus Oguname, a former President General of the community, said: “l want progress in the community, even those who fought me and burnt down my house, I forgive everybody. I want the spirit of forgiveness to reign now, I forgive unconditionally those who felt I have offended them, I pray for their forgiveness, where we are now the community should embrace forgiveness so that there will be peace.
“The last meeting that was held in Asaba, the commissioner of police was there and everybody was advised to embrace peace.
“Uzere was the second community that oil was discovered after Oloibiri. Oloibiri has long dried up but today, Uzere is still loaded with oil but nothing to show for it. Uzere has produced great men, General Ogbomudia is one of them. He is the greatest. The man has been so humiliated and you will feel sorry for him”.
On allegations in media reports that Ogomudia sponsored boys and arms, he said: “That is not true, a retired general, a four-star general, I doubt If we have more than nine four star generals in Nigeria. He did not rise by political appointment, he rose by rank and file. He is the only general who has held the office of Chief of Army Staff and Chief of defence staff in this country. General Ogbomudia is a four star general that doesn’t like noise.
“He is quiet and doesn’t make noise. If he is the type that makes noise, the world will know that we have a general in our place. Ogomudia has tried to bring peace but for individual selfish purposes along with one reason or the other, the move for peace did not work.
“The two kings are the problem of Uzere and I expect them to come together and advice themselves let one leave because people are dying because of them, if they have conscience one should withdraw.”
Chief Elotoma Felix, Secretary Uzere council of Chiefs noted that “The removal of Isaac Udogri was not the first to have happened in Uzere Kingdom. What stop any king who is not ruling well from being dethroned?
“When the Kingship tussle started it was unanimously decided that enough is enough and he was formally dethroned after which he went into exile and the is still in Court up till now and the other Isaac Udogri group are causing problem whereas the court case has not being decided.
“So there are facts that the Etuwede was formally crowned as king of Uzere Kingdom by those now turning round fight him and the community. Now Udogri who has been castigating Iduh Amadhe years back is now his angel.
“Now the white paper for the Commission of inquiry have not been released since 2012 till date. We wonder why the government is seating on the white paper. It’s because if the government paper had not favoured Udogri, if it has favoured Udogri, it would have been released before now but they sat on it so government. What I am trying to establish is that the government are partial and biase in their intervention”.
Speaking on the development, President General of the kingdom, Engr. Felix Enwenede accused Amadhe and Ogieh of not allowing a peace committee set up to resolve the problem to function.
Enwenede said: “It was surprising that instead of working at the committee levels to make sure that results are achieved, on the 15th of same February, the Odiologbo of Uzere Kingdom, Chief Boniface Enighenor, was brought into town by Chief Askia Ogieh to confer on him Odio of Uzere Kingdom.
“I want to make here clear that in Uzere Kingdom we have title chiefs and the Edio in Council. The Edio and the Original chiefs that works with the Ovie in the palace, we three each from the three sub communities in Uzere Kingdom.
“Surprisingly, on Sunday 16th the Ovie that has been in exile since November 2011, Isaac Udogri was paraded round the community led by Chief Iduh Amadhe and Chief Askia Ogieh against the court order and proceedings with is contempt of court because they case was adjourned to 20th March during the last proceedings.
“Instead of waiting for the next adjourned date to come, they went ahead and paraded Isaac Udogri as the Ovie of Uzere kingdom. But nobody confronted them. We were all watching them. Now, the following day, he came out to award chieftaincy titles to his loyalist.
“The parading and forceful enthronement of Isaac Udogri into our kingdom is not acceptable because he has done grievous things to leaders of the kingdom before he was chased out. He has written bundle of petitions. It is the same person that is entering the kingdom forcefully. It’s so painful.”
On his part, Chief Iduh Amadhe said: “Uzere people made a mistake. As at 2001, demonstration took place at the flow station. It was not properly handled. The security agents did not handle their own side well. I was not in the community but what happened on that day led to the killing of two sons of the community and it was a calamity because the soldiers that came from Kwale were the people that opened fire on them.
“That led to the burning of the palace of Isaac Udogri and he couldn’t have gone to one place to stay in the community, so he left and all attempts to resolve the matter at that time failed and the community felt we must put somebody to act as king.
“The person that installed at that time was installed during the crisis period. We expected the traditional institution as at that time, the Edios to resolve the matter but it was not possible and the installation was done after six months of the crisis.
“We knew at that time that the tradition of Uzere says that if a king does not die, he cannot be changed. Yes, the king offended and he went on exile. Nobody drove him away. He left because there was no place for him to stay. For about nine years, the community has be saying how it can be solved and the man too, has been trying to settle people separately so that he can come back.
“That one too did not see the light of the day until a group of people went to court in Otor-Udu. Court granted them the opportunity to go and settle internally and report back to court. Court granted them permission to settle out of court. As they were doing that, some people were cooperating while others were not cooperating until the man said he wants to go and settle all the community, all the quarters and he came back.
“When he came back, the community went agog and there was jubilation from the beginning to the end of the town, but some people who were not happy with the way the peace process was going went to hire arms. At our level, we cannot hire thugs and mercenaries to come and fight in our own community, so we cried to government and security agents.
“The peace process is building up, right now, so many groups are saying since you are the one recognized with staff of office, let us see how we can settle every other person so that it will be a win win approach. In the community, the leadership of the committee for the peace process made offer of N50 million to the one that has no gazette so that he can go and settle.
“We are of the conclusion that let’s continue to settle like that so that there can be peace because for many years, peace has eluded the community, no development.
“Yes, the other man was installed, but he was installed in times of crisis and apart from that, he was not supposed to be the rightful person. Most of the issues that made the community to make U-turn is that that one has promoted much criminality in the community.
“At the 21st century, Uzere community cannot have such a person. Uzere is the only community where people are being macheted as if it is Boko Haram.
“Where we have reached now, let’s settle, win win, let the community settle you so that you can go and live your life.
“The state government, Commissioner of Police, Director of SSS, the local government and the peace committee set up by the local government came to find a way to resolve the problem. We pray that they will be able to settle the problem completely.”