Perhaps, wherever a certain Edo State-born girl, Benson Cordilia Onosetale, is at the moment, she might be wishing that a chain of sad incidents that happened in her life years ago never was. This is the shocking wish expressed by a fellow Edo lady who simply identified herself as Sofia, claiming that she was the lady’s friend and confidant.
With nostalgic feelings, Sofia recently told a blood-curdling tale of what her friend she prefers to call Cordilia went through after she was caught in the web of cult clashes on the Benin-Uromi corridor in Edo State, which is increasingly becoming a signature of the area.
Sofia described what befell her friend as raw tragedy, lamenting that her whereabouts had remained unknown to her.
Sofia’s narrative of her friend’s ordeal was triggered by reflections on recent clashes between two bitter rival cult groups – Eiye and Black Axe in Benin City area. The deadliest last May, for instance, left 11 persons dead. Sofia says she is burdened by this string of unending tragedies, recalling that she knew one of the 11 victims of the cult murders in Benin personally and wondering why nothing is being done to stop them.
Sofia, in an encounter, told what she knew about the cult murders and wished they never were – and on each occasion, she felt she was in dreamland. Something kept tormenting her as she went on with her narrative and that was visible to see.
Hear Sofia: “Cordilia and I were close friends back in our secondary school days in Benin City,” she recalled. “Both of us wrote our school certificate together.
“While in school, she was dating one Eric; both of them were close friends, but none of us knew Eric was the head of Black Axe in the school.
“It happened that his group had had a fight with a rival group, Eiye, somewhere in a community on the outskirts of Benin. Some lives, we later learnt, were lost. That was about March or so in 2010, shortly before we were to write our Senior Secondary School, (SS3) examination.
“As a result of the fracas, the Eiye cult members mounted a desperate search for Eric unknown to us. Having learnt about the search, he simply disappeared without trace; Cordilia could not reach him; his contact telephone number was permanently switched off.
“A little after we finished our examination, Cordilia and I visited their home, a village somewhere around Uromi. Incidentally both Cordilia and Eric hail from the same area.
“Unknown to us, the Eiye group was still searching for Eric who could not come out from hiding. Then at some point, the group thought about getting Cordilia believing that if they got her, she would reveal to them how to get Eric. So they stormed her family home that day, but she was away luckily.
“Cordilia and I were at a birthday party in the next town when the cultist arrived. They held her mother at gunpoint and threatened to kill her if she failed to produce her daughter. But later they left, promising to return and kill her if she failed to produce her.
“As soon as they left, her mother called her and narrated what transpired – how some boys came from Benin with guns looking for her. She warned that she should not return to the village. She sent some money to us immediately to flee to Benin.”
Sofia recalled that the “next day, the cult members returned looking deadlier, threatening to deal with everybody at Cordilia’s home should they fail to produce her in place of Eric.
“Her father, who was a former soldier and a traditional title holder in the area, called their bluff, warning them to leave his house and look for their target elsewhere. They got infuriated; in the process, they fired at him and he sadly died instantly.
“They didn’t stop there; they proceeded to rape one of Cordilia’s sisters right in the presence of her mother and other family members before leaving.
“When the news spread, Cordilia and I went to hide in my aunt’s home. I was afraid too because some of the boys probably knew both of us as friends.”
Sofia said the tragic death of her friend’s father was to later open another can of worm for her. She said: “As the days wore on, Cordilia’s family members began to blame her for the killing of her father and called for her head. They felt she deserved to die as a consequence for allegedly belonging to a cult group that killed her father and unleashed mayhem on the family.
“Some said, we were told, that tradition demands that if a traditional title holder like Cordilia’s father or someone of such status is killed, the killer might be severely punished. Death might be a possible option.
“We were later told that police investigators frequented Cordilia’s home looking for her. We later learnt that police took her mother to Benin but later released her to go and mourn her husband.
“Gradually, Cordilia became depressed; my aunt who was harbouring us feared she might contemplate suicide. So, we began to keep a close watch over her.
“At some point, my cousin, Linda, mooted the idea of both of us learning a trade, and hairdressing became the ready option.”
Sofia recalled how she and her friend learnt fast. And coincidentally, midway into the venture, they met a certain woman, Osaro, who visited their salon frequently to make her hair, and all of them became friends. Gradually, their friendship grew and they began to confide in her – taking her as a big aunty.
“Cordilia told her her story and she was very sympathetic.
“She advised both of us against staying in Benin. She said that the city was not safe for both of us as it was a matter of time before Cordilia’s traducers would find her out and I would be linked to her supposed crime.
“Then, she mooted the idea of taking both of us to Europe possibly, claiming that she had a sister who lived overseas and ran a salon; she said both of us would be useful to her. She suggested that since we had learnt fast, it would be easier for us to survive there.”
Sofia said while both of them were excited with the prospects of moving to Europe, the woman sprung up a surprise. She went on to suggest something untoward.
“She insisted on taking us to a shrine in Benin where we would be compelled to take an oath of allegiance to pay her $50,000 for taking us to Europe.
“But at that point, Cordilia was becoming desperate and that was easy to see and understand. My aunty would hear none of that.
“It was at the point that Cordilia finally agreed and eventually left to work with her that both of us parted ways,” Sofia lamented, saying that since then both of them have never seen each other again.
Sofia equally lamented that the most recent deadly cult clash in Benin, which claimed 11 lives, revealed that her friend’s brother was a victim.
“The young man – Efe – was a student of College of Education, Ekiadollor. But we never knew he was a cultist. His death was such a tragic one. He was simply cut down in cold blood when Eiye and Black Axe clashed.
“It was a follow up to previous clashes between the two.
“Till now, the family is regretting and mourning the loss,” she stated with a sign of resignation, while wishing that something could be done about the spate of ugly incidents now looking like a black hole in which many youths in Edo State would bury themselves.