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Insight into shocking Ogoniland events stemming from Nigerian crude oil discovery decades ago

Bomu-Lewe Incessant Crises: What Authorities Should Know

By: Nii Poi Vikem

After the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri, Bomu was the next place crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria and it was the entry port for a multinational oil giant like Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC into the belly of Ogoniland and Nigeria.

This strategic economic significance has made Bomu the pride of Nigeria’s economic growth, though completely denied the appurtenances derivable from the major role it played and still plays in Nigeria’s economic indices.

In the interest of those who are not familiar with the terrain, it will be relevant to mention that Bomu and Lewe are communities in Gokana Local Government Area, in Ogoni, Rivers State.

Typical of the close-knit residential pattern of the Ogoni society, Bomu and Lewe share closeness that it takes superior diligence to know the boundary between both communities.

Over the years, there has been reasonable coexistence between both communities to the point of intermarriage and cultural lending.

However, there have skirmishes and some sort of frictions that led to communal clashes, especially, in 1986. Induced by unwarranted land dispute, the communal clash of 1986 was, with all due diligence and credence to truth, ignited by Lewe.

Historically, Lewe cannot lay claims to the land they occupy today by dint of strict adherence to the tenets of tenancy, Nweol and Bomu communities are the landlords of Lewe.

This fact, is given further credence by the reality that Lewe, at least in the recent past, never converged at or held any community gathering at their town square without obtaining permission from the Nweol community.

The Zorgba family of Lewe, if they want to tell the truth, can attest to the fact that Bomu has, over the years, been super hosts to their Lewe brethren who, necessitated by epidemics, were driven out of their original settlement. One core attribute of the Ogoni people, at least in the not-too-far past, has been love, especially for those in need. This was the love demonstrated by Bomu and Nweol communities that led to the ceding of portions of their lands to their Lewe brethren.

Mindful of the “strangers” they did not know well, the fore-fathers who demonstrated this magnanimity kept these visitors in their front and not at their backs so that they (the forefathers) will see clearly what their guests were up to. This explains why Bomu ceded their lands that formed their boundary with Nweol to their Lewe brethren. Proximity has always been one of the agents of cultural lending, manifest in most cases, by intermarriage. This proximity-induced intermarriage has been one of the core attributes of the Bomu-Lewe fraternization.

Given the solidarity that the communal tone of such unions engender, certain harsh considerations are not usually the options in cases of provocation. Ironically, the Bomu-Lewe relationship is a replica of hospitality gone sour, making the hospitable (Bomu) appear to be the victim of her own benevolence.

In recent times too, especially imbued by the wrong use of technology where even the identity of God is forgeable, people are at ease to distort records and create fictitious ones that will satiate their greed, not minding the volume of bloodshed that may, in most cases, accompany such acts.  Such mean and reckless actions, besides the vile actions of most politicians from the area,  are the bedrock of these incessant crises between Bomu and Lewe.

Again, a bit of retrospect that appears a digression is called for here. In 1994, there was the hue and cry against the brutal murder of what has been popularly referred to as the killing of the Ogoni Four. The murder of the prominent Ogoni chiefs, namely: Edward Kobani, from Bodo, Albert Tombari Baddey, former Secretary to the Rivers State and also of Bodo, Samuel Ntete Orage from Bomu and his brother Theophilus Bariziga Orage, who was the secretary to the Gokana Council of Chiefs and Elders.

Popular news narratives have always asserted, wrongly though, that these chiefs were murdered at Giokoo in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, by Ogoni youths at the instance of Kenule Beeson Tua Saro-Wiwa and so, Ken, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, who at the time was the commissioner for Commerce and Tourism, alongside seven other promising Ogoni youths and elders, were hacked at the gallows having been accused of the murder of these four men.  Common place as this narrative appears, the truth about that heinous crime has not been brought to lime light.

Let the record be therefore corrected that only THREE Ogoni chiefs were murdered at Giokoo by the mercenaries of the powers that were, infiltrating the ranks of Ogoni youths who were in eager waiting for the arrival of Ken and his entourage who was campaigning to represent Ogoni at the National Constitutional Conference.

The fourth person, Chief Theophilus Bariziga Orage was brutally murdered by Lewe people and his head dumped in their community shrine. Chief Theophilus, upon getting wave of the development at Giokoo that fateful day,  went in a hurry to save the situation. Though his efforts could not salvage the carnage already planned and executed, he made further frantic efforts to see whose life or lives could be saved.

This too, failed as the henchmen were on top of their game. He escaped death by the whiskers at Giokoo, and followed a path leading from Nweol to Bomu through Lewe. On sighting him, the people of Lewe grabbed him, and hid him in the house of a woman and they kept close watch over the house until it was night fall when they took him and murdered him. Chief Theophilus’ offence was that he produced all the documents that proved Bomu’s ownership of parts of the land Lewe occupies during the court sittings after the 1986 Bomu-Lewe crisis. Irked by the chief’s proficiency, they (Lewe people) secreted the malice until that “opportunity” struck.

To the perpetrators of this monstrous atrocity, the gruesome murder of Chief Theophilus Bariziga Orage, who produced those unindictable documents of Lewe’s tenancy, was mission accomplished. Ever after, their aggression against Bomu has intensified. Aided by their destructive confidence and their sponsors, Lewe saw (and still sees) Bomu as a walkover in their inordinate quest for the satiation of the nuts of their greed and ingratitude.

The same chief Theophilus Orage that they murdered, was the same person who negotiated a path through one of Bomu’s farmlands called Bookpodoo, to ease Lewe’s access to the Bomu waterfronts, particularly at a time when tension between both communities rose and some of their indigenes were allegedly waylaid by some persons from Bomu on their (Lewe) way from the Bomu fishing ports.

For a period spanning over twenty years, there was a lull in the hostilities between both communities, a remarkable development that boosted intermarriage and even the odd practice of concubinage. There was a flow of vibrant economic activities so much so that commercial buses plying Gokana-Port Harcourt came into Bomu as early as 4am to convey commuters. However, in the later part of 2016 there were some unfounded claims and counter claims about some unidentified Bomu youths that stole “kpofire,” (illegally refined fuel) from some Lewe youths. News later filtered in that some Lewe youths, in retaliation, stole a car from another Bomu person, still to be identified till now.

The same unidentified Bomu youths, who allegedly stole the “kpofire” product mobilized and recovered the stolen car. None of these allegations and counter allegations was substantiated. However, Lewe got hold of two Bomu persons on the 2nd of December, 2016, who rode on motorbike past their community on their way to their business, and killed them on the spot. Bomu never went in retaliation. Talks were initiated with the Lewe people and nothing tangible came out of them.  The belligerent community began to beat war drums against Bomu.

On the 15th of December 2016, in the early hours of the morning, fully prepared for mayhem, Lewe launched an attack on Bomu and set one hundred and forty-six houses ablaze aided by heavy shootings. The security agencies were slow in their response and by the time Lewe was repelled, more houses were destroyed. For yet another time, Bomu did not react. The community however sent her youths on night watch to ward off further attacks.

As if the harm already caused was not enough, while Bomu was busy with her new year day’s party on the 1st of January 2017, Lewe launched yet another attack on Bomu, following the ancient fishing route called Bookpodoo. The music and dancing in Bomu went silent in seconds upon the discovery of the attack, and again, Lewe people were repelled. On the 2nd of January 2017, when the Lewe people planned a relaunch of their attacks, Bomu community offered resistance on all fronts by means of self defence and that led to the successful ousting of Lewe people.

This resulted in the destruction of houses on both sides. Meanwhile, there was no official statement or proactive actions from the then caretaker committee chairman, Hon Louis Alawa, to quell the carnage. So, the crisis degenerated. The tension increased until Hon. Dum Ben took over as caretaker committee chairman in Gokana. He doggedly waded into the Bomu-Lewe crisis, visiting both communities, holding peace meetings. Ironically, Lewe again breached the peace moves, which Hon Dum Ben arrested promptly.

This singular act gave a fresh breath of hope and economic activities gradually returned. The Bomu-Lewe road from Mogho junction also became accessible to a reasonable extent, including the road that goes through Lewe to Adookoo bus stop.

People thought that peace had finally come to stay until shortly after the swearing-in of the incumbent council chairman: Hon Paul Vidag Kobani. Lewe welcomed the new council chairman with the destruction of Bomu farmers’ crops on the 15th of June, 2018. Shortly after this provocative action, same Lewe people kidnapped a Bomu woman from her farm right in the heart of Bomu farm settlement. Thanks to God, she was not the right material for their ritual as prescribed by their juju priest who fortifies them ahead of their invasion of Bomu. She was released after several rounds of molestation and assault.

There were countless trespasses by Lewe people on the land of Bomu such as entering the Seventh Day Adventist church premises in Bomu, harvesting plantain and throwing feaces into Bomu, which is an indication of a ritual act.

On Friday 13 July 2018, after a failed ambush on the paramount chief of Bomu, Chief Kingsway Nasikpo Nledi, Lewe then made good their threat to attack Bomu when they launched their fiercest attack on Bomu on Saturday July 14th 2018, destroying houses and churches in good number. Interestingly, the phone lines of the security chiefs who would have mobilised their men and officers to the scene to repel the attack on the said date, were all switched off. Not surprising anyway, Bomu did not retaliate.

It is worthy of note, that the path of peace towed by Bomu appears to many to be that of weakness. Many who claimed they were making peace between both communities were mere wolves in sheep’s clothing, enriching themselves at the expense of communal stability.

Disclaimer

The views, information, allegations or opinions expressed above are those of the author of the article. They have not been substantiated by the publisher of this website and may not represent the publishers views.

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