From Emmanuel Uzor, Abakaliki
RECENTLY, mayhem broke out at Amangwu-Edda, the gateway community to the Edda Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, formally known as Afikpo South.
It was a day the community’s foundation was shaken beyond normal by her own people. It was a day of rage, anger and sorrow. Women of the area took off their clothes, took to the streets and protested naked, apparently trying to show the intense bitterness and anger in their blood.
Both men and women, old and young were not left out in the protest. Women in their late 70s covered themselves with ashes and sackclothes to showcase their anger over what they termed the unnecessary intimidation of their leader, Dr. Ndubuisi Ekumankama, by a group of people from the community. The men were not involved in the naked protest; they merely gave the women security and backing.
While the women, who had earlier protested naked, were going round the community singing various songs and showing solidarity to the chairman of the town union, the men, especially the aged ones, converged on Ogo-Amebo village square where top and important decisions, concerning the community are made.
Among the old men that came out of their houses was a 126-year-old man, Agwu Iro, as well as other elders of the community. They all came out, wielding their walking sticks and announced that they were ready to die with their chairman. They called on the state government to intervene in the lingering crisis, which they said was created by some highly placed individuals from the community.
When the reporter visited Amangwu-Edda to know why the women protested naked, he discovered that the mainly old women, who protested round the community wore mourning clothes and rubbed ashes all over their bodies. They said their action was to show that they were really angry with what they described as the overbearing attitude of some privileged members of the community whose aim was to intimidate the leadership.
Pa Iroh told the reporter that the reason behind the lingering protests by the women of the community was because of the intimidation and arrest of the President General, Amangwu-Eda Progressive Union, Dr. Ndubuisi Ekumankama, over alleged demolition of a widow’s building.
The centenarian further disclosed that the women would not stop the protest until the state government and the relevant authorities intervened in the matter, adding that some privileged individuals in government, who also hailed from the community, were bent on persecuting their town union leader because he allegedly refused to play to their own tune.
His words: “The reason these women have been protesting and agitating is because some powerful individuals from this community have refused to allow one of our illustrious sons, Dr. Ndubuisi Ekumankama, to work for us. He is the only person, who came back after his retirement and saw that the community was not progressing and made efforts to reposition the community. Through his effort, we had electricity, he even built two culverts for the community. But some elements have refused to allow him do what he has been doing for us and that is why we the members of the community have refused to sleep until justice is done.”
The old man further said the cause of the recent crisis was because one man, Okechukwu, built a house on the Ebirinta Road, an ancient road that leads to other communities within the town.
He said the action did not go down well with the community and that the said building was demolished. It was gathered that Okechukwu was building the house for his stepmother, Mrs. Vicky Kalu, a widow.
He said the community had stopped Okechukwu’s father from building a house on the same road on the ground that the road was an ancient one, a road that the community makes use of during festivals and other cultural activities.
“When his late father wanted to build on the land, we the elders of the community went to him and stopped him because it is an ancient road that leads to other villages. It is not meant to be blocked, because when we are having our festivals or other cultural activities, it is the Ebirinta Road that we use and it has been like that since the days of our ancestors. But the young man came and started building on the land despite the warnings given to him by the entire community. That was why the community demolished the house and he ran to the police in connivance with some individuals from the community who are not happy that our son, Dr. Ndubuisi, came to liberate us,” the centenarian asserted.
Also in her reaction, the leader of the women in Amangwu-Edda community, Ezinne Ukpai, narrated that before the election of Ekumankama as the leader of the community, Amangwu-Edda had been in darkness with no development. She said rape, cultism and other forms of criminality were the order of the day, noting that all that had become a thing of the past since he came on board.
She revealed that some powerful men from the community whom she said were acting undercover, were using the opportunity to instigate crisis in the community. Their aim, she noted, was to destabilise the leadership of the town union executive led by Ekumankama. She informed that the women had sworn to continue with their protest until justice is done.
Ezinne Ukpai, however, lamented the arrest and detention of their community leader on the orders of the so-called powerful individuals in the community, describing the act as one of the ploys to intimidate the people and browbeat the community into submission.
Also speaking with Daily Sun, Chief Hyacinth Udo Okporie, said the community, until the formation of the town union headed by the embattled Ndubuisi, was pure hell for both old and young persons. He said cult activities and other forms of criminality were the order of the day.
He said that when the town union was formed, with Ndubuisi Ekumankama as the chairman, the town union was able to bring peace and stability to the town, and rape and other forms of criminality were fought with great commitment. This, he said, had resulted in the peace the community was enjoying. He lamented that despite the efforts of the chairman and other members of the executive, some elements were bent on pulling him down.
“We formed the town union and everybody became happy that Ndubuisi, who retired as a consultant gynaecologist, emerged the chairman. When he came on board, he was angry with the way things were going, that despite the type of people Amangwu had produced, there was no visible development in the community and our community was being held down by some unseen forces. He restored hope and returned peace and security to the community and now, some individuals went and arrested him because he was trying to sanitise the community of all evil.”
Chief Okporie also said that the community first wrote a letter to Okechukwu and his family members to respect the wishes of the entire community by not blocking the Ebirinta Road. He noted that when that failed, the community also wrote another reminder on February 2. He said both letters were ignored, leading to the demolition of the obstructing structure.
One of the oldest men in the community and the landlord to the Okechukwus, Paul Nkma, further disclosed that he drew Okechukwu’s attention when he discovered that the house he erected was encroaching on the communal road. He regretted that Okechukwu ignored his observation. He said he thereafter wrote an official letter to the town union where he notified them of the on-going construction that was blocking the ancient Ebirinta Road.
Meanwhile, the widow whose house was demolished, which led to the crisis, Mrs. Vicky Kalu, said she was in her house on the April 19 when the town union executive came with a bulldozer and pulled down her house, which was under construction.
She said she was not given any notice, concerning the construction of the house, which she claimed was being erected for her by her stepson. She accused the chairman of the town union of using his position to intimidate her just because she is a widow. She called on the state government to come to her aid.
Daily Sun gathered that the embattled chairman of the Amangwu-Edda Development Union, Dr. Ekumankama, was immediately arrested by the police, following a complaint by the widow that he was responsible for the demolition of her house. He was later arraigned and remanded in prison custody before he was granted bail. The matter is still in court.
The Ebonyi State Police Public Relations Officer, George Okafor, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, said the matter had been transferred to the court. He said the duty of the police was to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order. He then assured the people of the state of adequate police security while warning that the command would not tolerate any form of violence.