Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
It is a new dawn for Uruoji village, Ogidi and Mgbuke village, Umunnachi, two neighbouring communities in Idemili North and Dunukofia councils of Anambra State. After nearly 100 years of hostilities over a land leading to arson, hostage taking, exchange of gunfire, kidnapping, attempted murders, deep bickering and enmity, peace finally returned and the two communities embraced one another in love and brotherhood and capped it with peace accord.
For a dispute that lingered to the Supreme Court without truce, it was like a dream and a significant moment for the people. And to celebrate the return of the much elusive peace, they rolled out the drums, organised a red carpet event with an interdenominational church service.
The celebration held at the now demarcated boundary between the two warring communities attracted the Deputy Governor, Dr Nkem Okeke, Anglican Bishop on the Niger, Rt Rev Owen Nwokolo, the Metropolitan Catholic Bishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, traditional rulers of both communities, captains of industry, town union leaders and politicians among others.
Traditional Ruler of Ogidi community, Igwe Alex Onyido in an opening remark while breaking the kolanut described the day as a long dream come true. He said he was not yet born when bickering over the disputed land started, stating that the tussle predated early 1930s while every effort made in the past to resolve the dispute failed.
He ruler noted that when one of his subjects, a titled chief of Ogidi community, Sam Anyanwutaku came to him about a year ago seeking for his permission to be allowed to wade into the matter in search of amicable resolution, he did not hesitate in giving his blessings.
Igwe Onyido noted that he was actually surprised how Chief Anyanwutaku was able to pull the necessary strings, talking to all the gladiators, literarily pressing out water from the stone and finally succeeded in resolving all contending issues. He thanked Anyanwutaku and prayed that peace will also remain with him and his family even as he noted that such should be emulated across all parts of the state where there are existing feud of any sort either between families or communities.
Chief Anyanwutaku expressed gratitude to God, who he addressed as the ultimate author of peace, noting that he was merely an instrument used by God.
“I’m happy a new day has come. No one will be shot again neither will any house be demolished henceforth because God has enthroned a legacy of peace here. God only sent me on an assignment and I never knew it will turn out this way that two of us can mingle again. Where we are standing today is the boundary that from my right is Mgbuke Umunnachi while from my left is Uruoji Ogidi,” he stated amidst a thunderous applause.
Executive Secretary, Anambra State Boundary Commission, Nze Emma Nwokoye recalled that members of his team were terrified at first when they ventured into the disputed area for mediation but thanked God that they were at last singing victory songs.
Anambra Deputy Governor and Chairman, the State Boundary Commission, Dr Nkem Okeke disclosed that issues of land dispute have been the most difficult job for him since he assumed office.
He wondered why people, most times, prove so difficult on land issues and even in some cases chose to ‘murder’ the truth because of land forgetting that after everything, the permanent portion of a man’s body goes six feet below.
He painfully revealed that many communities in Anambra were having issues over land and cheerfully stated that the Ogidi-Umunnachi issue was the first time he had been invited to witness an amicable settlement over land in the state.
Rt Rev Nwokolo while praying in sealing the peace pact reminded the people of the biblical statement in Mathew 5: 9 which says “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.” He prayed that the peace enthroned will last forever and called on the people to remain as agents of peace at all times.
High-point of the resolution ceremony was the warm embrace and receiving of copies of the gazetted peace pact from the government by the President of Umunnachi Town Union, Ike Odionu, lawyer and his Ogidi counterpart, Jideofor Onubogu.