By Henry Umahi
Even if your heart is made of stone, it will melt with pity if you set eyes on Mr. Ihemelandu Ogbonna, popularly known as Kankom, a native of Ahaba Ehuma, in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State.
Kankom is wallowing in pain following an attack on his farm by herdsmen from the pit of hell. Indeed, he was lucky survive the encounter because the herders intended to cut off his head. Although the herdsmen didn’t succeed in severing his head, they left a wicked mark on him, something he will contend with for the rest of his days. According to Kankom, the attack was such that pain has become his companion, searing through his brain.
When Daily Sun traced Kankom to his abode in Isuikwuato on Wednesday, he painted a pitiable picture. His face was caked in melancholy. Show me a man who is weeping in the valley of agony and misery, and I will show you Kankom.
In an anguished voice, he narrated to the reporter how he missed death by the whiskers. His crime was asking some Fulani herdsmen why their cows were grazing on his farm and trampling on his crops.
He said: “That day, I went to our farm here in Ahaba Ehuma and I saw some Fulani herdsmen with their cows eating and destroying the things planted there. I went with someone to the farm. So, I asked one of the herders, who owns the cows destroying our farms? And he derogatorily answered: ‘If no be me, na my brother.’
He spoke in a way that meant, who am I to question him? We started exchanging words there and two of them pulled their machetes and charged towards me.
“Unfortunately, my brother took my machete, which I left on the ground to drink some water, and ran away. As they started chasing me, I stumbled and one of them lifted his machete to cut off my neck. I used my hand to defend myself and the machete landed on my wrist. My wrist was almost cut off; it was dangling, held by a vein.
“The second herder gave me a deep machete cut just above my knee. With the last strength in me, I jumped at him and his machete fell. But I couldn’t stand up to take the machete and they ran away. I was bleeding profusely, helplessly. Some people who were returning from their cassava farms saw me and raised the alarm. The villagers ran into the bush in search of the herders but they had escaped towards Ohafia area. That was what happened.
“So, my neighbours and fellow members of the Ahaba Ehuma Welfare Association (AEWA) took me to the hospital and treated me. I have been a member of the AEWA for the past 16 years and I think the goodwill is what saved my life. My kinsmen and age-grade also supported in treating me. The hand, as you can see, is totally useless. I cannot use it to lift anything or do anything. I’m living with excruciating pain every minute.”
Asked what sort of assistance he would want from government, if any, he answered: “As it is, the only thing I can ask from government is to assist me in training my children. I can’t do anything tedious now. I can no longer run around as I used to do. The hand is now stiff and useless. What I’m thinking of doing is to go and amputate it from the wrist so that I will stop carrying a dead fist about. The pain is debilitating; it touches my brain. Sometimes, the pain makes me cry like a baby. It’s unbearable. I lost one of the fingers and the wrist is held by a bandage.”
He said he had the ugly encounter one week after burying his in-law in 2019.
Kankom’s experience is certainly not an exception. Investigation revealed that killer herdsmen are running riot in Abia North. Where they are not raping, maiming and killing, they are kidnapping for ransom.
Take this from Obinna Okereke: “Fulani herdsmen have destroyed my life. In fact, the life I live right now is worthless. They raped my wife and my daughter in my presence in my farm. If only they had killed me. As they deflowered my 16-year-old daughter, she was calling on me to rescue her but I couldn’t do anything because they held me down and took turns to rape my daughter. The evil men raped my wife and taunted me. They were armed with sophisticated weapons. My wife is yet to get over the trauma since the incident happened late last year.
“People are afraid of going to their farms nowadays. Our crops are being destroyed and our people are being maimed and killed. We are suffering so much in the hands of the herdsmen.”
Chidi Anyamkpam’s experience was blood-chilling. He went through the valley of the shadow of death but he escaped to tell the story. He said: “I was going to my village from Aba but when I got to Uzuakoli at about 7pm, I saw some figures emerging from the bush. So, I sped off and they opened fire on my car but somehow I was not hit. My car was riddled with bullet holes. I’m still tormented by fear.”
A commercial motorbike operator, who identified himself simply as Johnson, disclosed that the kidnappers pick their spot.
“The kidnappers usually stay where the road is bad because motorists must slow down when they get there. Sometimes, they operate just a few metres from police checkpoints on that road. The kidnappers operate with so much confidence and shoot with precision. Worse still, they know the bushes inside out,” Johnson said.
A few days ago, the chairman of Isuikwuato Local Government Area, Chima Agbaeze, raised the alarm that kidnappers and other criminals had laid siege to his area.
In a statement, Agbaeze decried the rate of kidnapping and other violent crimes in recent times in the adjoining roads leading to the area. According to him, the unwholesome act of kidnapping and other forms of criminal activities has generated fear and anxiety not only on Isuikwuato residents but other road users.
“Let me inform the people of Isuikwuato Local Government Area that the issue of kidnapping and other criminality going on in different parts of the local government, including Umuahia to Isiukwuato, ABSU to Isiukwuato and Nunya roads, which has been a recurring decimal, is giving us serious concern.
“Just on January 28, the ugly incident of kidnapping of a man travelling with some members of his family, along Akoli to Isuikwuato Road, which led to his murder, rent both social, print and electronic media, and this is highly regrettable.
“I must confess that this gruesome act is condemnable by both God and mankind has added insult to the injury, as the life of the promising young man was cut short,” he lamented.
The council boss is not the only person troubled by the ugly development. Seventy-year-old Ogbonnaya Obike, from Umuogbe, Okoko Item, Bende Local Government Area, is also aboard the ship of anxiety.
Obike told Daily Sun: “Bandits are disturbing us round the clock. The worst hit is the Isuikwuato axis. If you are travelling, your heart will be trembling because you don’t know if you will get to your destination safely. Going to the farm is also dangerous because bandits hide in the bush.”
Kalu Odo from Ohafia is on the same coach. “There are bandits and herdsmen troubling people travelling from Umuahia to this area, particularly the Isuikwuato axis. People are afraid to travel on that route because you don’t know how your journey will end. So, government should help us by providing security on that road. Safety of life and property is not guaranteed anymore.
But the Commissioner for Information, John Okiyi, explained that the state government would cut the criminal elements to size. He told the reporter: “Last week Friday, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu convened a security council meeting to review the security situation around that axis and also incidents of robbery attacks on POS operators in Aba. Some far-reaching measures were taken. One was that security agents would have to dominate the particular area around Isuikwuato where we have noted that those people come out from the bush to attack our people. The governor immediately mobilised the state Ministry of Works to commence repair work around that strip of road that is bad because we understand that motorists slow down around there and they are attacked. We are already working there. The Ministry of Works has mobilised to the location. We also agreed to beef up security. We have gone after those POS robbers in Aba and we think that it will be a matter of time for us to bring in all of them.”