By Ofonime Honesty
A new political administration has set sail in Akwa Ibom State. Manned by Pastor Umo Bassey Eno as Governor, the administration has the responsibility of catering for over 7 million Akwa Ibom indigenes and residents of the State.
Expectations are high and huge. Agriculture, tackling unemployment, education, healthcare delivery, and other lofty plans have been penciled down for implementation by the administration.
Also in the mix of promises of the new administration is the “sustenance of peace.”
Having campaigned vigorously on the promise to “sustain peace”, all eyes are now on the administration to walk the talk.
It is on this note that I am constrained, as a peace-loving and law-abiding citizen, to draw the attention of the new administration to an issue capable of jeopardizing its peace agendum. I am taking this step with the strong conviction that His Excellency may not be aware of the fratricidal war of conquest instigated by politicians in our communities. Our villages have become active volcanoes on the brink of eruption.
Like cancer, politicians have taken their greed to the nucleus of the traditional institution by politicizing and monetizing the village headship stool. King makers (family heads) in respective communities no longer have the final say on who emerges as village head. The final say now belongs to a bunch of greedy individuals who use the cover of “government” to influence and bastardize the process.
I recently had a chat with an elderly friend, who is also a traditional ruler; well-read and widely-traveled, with a distinguished career in the military. The theme of our engagement was on the subject matter which I am writing on. My friend went memory lane to when the traditional institution was held in high esteem. In those years of yore, no “bloody” politician would dare measure up with the traditional institution.
“Village headship is now for the highest bidder. It is now for someone who can dole out plots of community land and money to politicians. I have never seen this level of assault on the traditional institution in my years so far on earth. We are now seen as nobodies by these boys in government,” my friend sighed and shrugged in disgust.
Like my friend, our founding leaders are also shrugging and sighing in their graves. They look up and see yes-men in this hunger-ravaged society nodding at the ignoble situation in order to satisfy the god in their stomachs.
But, against the run of play, one traditional ruler recently spoke up. He hit the bull’s eye with pinpoint accuracy. Paramount Ruler of Uyo Local Government Area, His Royal Majesty, Edidem Sylvanus Okon during the commissioning of the 17.95km Anua-Mbak-Ishiet Road and the 1.65km Outfall Drain in Uyo, spoke truth to power without batting an eyelid.
“Governor Udom Emmanuel has done very well. I score him 99% but I’m withholding the 1% because of sad happenings at the Ministry of Local Government caused by the Secretary to the traditional rulers’ council, Mr. Emmanuel Umontuen,” the Paramount Ruler was said.
HRM Okon called for the immediate removal of Umontuen. He looked at his domain, Uyo LGA, and his heart broke.
Mr Umontuen works under the supervision of a ministry headed by a commissioner. A TRC Secretary cannot be powerful than the Ministry he is serving. He is just the errand boy, or sacrificial lamb in the controversy. He takes instructions from his superiors.
We should know where the rain started beating us. We should spare the mud and blame the rain for causing the mud that dirtied us.
Governor Umo Eno should brace up to confront this issue headlong. His peace agendum would be defective if headship of villages does not enjoy the consent and acceptance of the people. Co-opting the traditional rulers into playing set security related roles is tantamount to seeking local solutions to local problems, instead of waiting on troops to come and fish out local criminals, most of whom are known to the locals, who are loyal to the traditional rulers.
This can only work when there is synergy between a community leadership and the people. Security is local!
Governor Eno should walk his talk. He should handle the situation with boldness. He should ensure that the greedy mission of our politicians in communities is checkmated. Instigating crisis, hatred and bad-blood in our communities must be discouraged.
May this new dawn bring peace return to our communities! Kings are made by the people!
(Ofonime Honesty writes from Uyo, Akwa Ibom State. firstname.lastname@example.org)