By Danladi Alaku Akwati
There is hardly need to begin to reel out the media exposure – both mainstream and online –local and international alike - of the murderous siege on Nasarawa State by the armed Eggon cultists called Ombatse, leading up to the mass slaughter of dozens of security operatives on the night of May 7, 2013 when they (personnel) led an operation to burst the hideout of the armed gang and their chief priest, Baba Alakyo in Alakyo village. Doing so is to take up precious space and time, especially in an era when information for those who value and care about their usefulness to guide public commentaries – is only a button click away.
Also, for those who do not value reading as an instrument to guide their judgment of events, presenting a list of the media capture of the campaign of massacre by the bloodthirsty Ombatse on one hand and the position of Egoon elites on the other – will amount to a futile exercise. But I do know, as I have learnt from reading - that lack of knowledge is an easy way to a perishing mind. Scriptural injunctions from the two universal religions of Christianity and Islam best capture this fact.
Godwin Onyeacholem, a public commentator; obviously doesn’t care or value reading. Lest, he would have decided on the option to keep quiet and remain so over the issue of Ombatse and the elites among the Eggon people of Nasarawa State to whom he is beholden to. He has a position that is at complete variance with all known norms, ethics and facts. That he is a public commentator who enjoys the public instrument of the media and yet doesn’t value the media for what it presents, beats my imagination. Onyeacholem simply defies logic in his outings on Ombatse and the Eggon people since the event of Alakyo.
First, in his attempt to justify the murder of security personnel on a law enforcement duty, by a group of armed and murderous heathens in modern day, Onyeacholem ran quickly to the Banjul Declaration called African Charter on Human Rights. A child who just learns a new word is quick to mention it even when it doesn’t fit the speech situation. That is what Onyeacholem is, otherwise,he should have understood that Article 20 which he threw up to fetch a defence for the murder of innocent people including security agents, and by extension, throw women into early widowhood and their children into tender orphanage, does not fetch morality.
The charter is on Human Rights as captured in all the articles including Article 20, and supporting one ethnic group to go on the spree in the massacre of other ethnic groups and security personnel as happened in Assakio, Agyaragu, Angwan Alaku, Burum-Burum, Kwandere, B.A.D, Bassa, Igah and Alakyo, defeats the essence of the Banjul Declaration. For Article 5 gives Africans including Nasarawa people, the freedom from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, just as Article 8 gives defencles Eggon Christians and Muslims the freedom to practice their religion, from being forced into shrines where Ombatse have a field day brutally administering blood oath on them.
Article 20, under the People’s Rights and Group’s Rights of the Charter, gives Eggon people the right to self determination so that they can chose, as a group or people, where they want to head to, including shrines in modern day. But doing so in a manner that violates all other articles is what will always set law enforcement agencies off against them, for investigation, arrests and punishment.
Fifty-three nations are signatories to a charter; it cannot be to give justification to the acquisition of, and arming one ethnic group with weapons, illegally, to massacre of others; and the only excuse to the crime is that the ethnic group on this offensive is bigger in size than the others. The people of South-Sudan who are yet to become signatory to the charter, will then abstain from signing because a charter that returns them to the days of the old Sudan where they faced similar treatment as the other ethnic groups of Nasarawa, cannot be one to welcome.
In Onyeacholem’s books, Eggons account for more than half of the population of the state; and are the most enlightened (and liberal too.) And he was quoting a census population exercise of 2005. He should have remained silent on this matter, than advertise his crass ignorance…he should go read properly, if he loves reading – and then he will understand there was no such exercise in 2005 as his books told him. Apart from the first post independence census exercise of 1963, no other exercise: 1973, 1991 and 2006 have the characteristics of ethnicity and religion. How Onyeacholem got his figures, therefore, beats the decent mind about the extent of his warped reasoning.
That Onyeacholem’s “Eggon” are the “most enlightened” (and liberal too), of the ethnic groups in the state, makes me the more sick. Whatever that means, I hope he has not forgotten that this same people; taking advantage of Article 20 of the Banjul Charter, have gone on the spree of forceful initiation of Christians and Muslims into the heathen Ombatse criminal cult of elites who are willfully led by a stack illiterate chief priest. An ethnic group that recruits a militia of heartless murderers to put Assakio, Agyaragu, Kwandere, etc etc, under a bloody siege, while killing their neighbours of other ethnic origins, defy all forms of liberality.
The story of a young lady of Eggon origin, who is mourning because her husband-to-be was murdered by her very own people is apt. Onyeacholem did not read this story in the media; he would have had a second thought at his choice of words. The lady said marital arrangements were complete and consultations to schedule her traditional marriage was ongoing when her husband was drafted for the Alakyo operation. Her story says she phoned her husband’s line to find out if he and his colleagues reached their destination safely, only for a strange voice at the other end to scream insults at her for marrying a Plateau State man as if Eggon nation is facing a scarcity of men. Her story says she pleaded in Eggon for understanding because their captive was her husband to be, but that her people told her on phone that they have no mercy for people of other ethnic groups no matter their relationship with any Eggon person.
Onyeacholem’s defence of the gruesome murder of innocent people including security personnel by Ombatse, and his support of the sponsorship of the criminal gang by Eggon elites, to whom he is beholden to, talk about a perceived organized persecution of Eggon people by successive governments in the state. He is obviously not informed about happenings in the state since 1999,otherwise he should have heard that Eggons have had the largest share of political offices within the period under review. The present government of Alhaji Umaru Tanko Almakura can even be accused by other ethnic groups of favouring Eggons to the marginalization of others.
Even members of Ombatse including its legal adviser, a supposedly learned man, Zacharia Alumaga, is widely quoted in the media to have said the administration of Almakura – which Onyeacholem accused of progressing the persecution of Eggons, has several appointment slots for the Eggons. Wherefrom did this commentator raise his ill-gotten facts?
His skewed presentation of events relating to Eggon people in his baleful commentaries has raised questions thus: if other ethnic groups of the state are in cohort against Eggon people, and have deployed arsenals to cleanse them from the landscape of the state as claimed in the hate presentations; how then was it possible for Eggons to get the mass support they got in 2011, to occupy elective seats like the Lafia-East and Lafia-West state constituencies, as well as Lafia/Obi federal constituency in areas where they co-exist with other larger ethnic groups like Alago, Bare-Bare, Mighili, Tiv, etc, etc?
In Akwanga zone where the two leading political parties of the PDP and the CPC clashed during the 2011 election, the countdown leading to the emergence of Solomon Ewuga as senator would have been instructive for Onyeacholem if he cared about facts. Ewuga was clearly leading in the PDP nomination because other ethnic minorities in Akwanga and Wamba were solidly behind him. But his Eggon people, led by Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku and Mrs. Patricia Akwashiki – all of them Eggon – teamed up with other Eggon politicians to deny him the PDP ticket.
When Governor Almakura brought him into the CPC and single-handedly handed him the ticket inspite of the fact that his Alushi ward had no CPC on ground to register him, all Eggons on this platform opposed him. His kinsmen of the same community, namely, Senator Patrick Aga, Engr. Reuben Audu and one Mohammed Elyakub, who was the CPC chairman at the time and their Eggon supporters rejected him. They even signed and provided evidence to the police Force Headquarters in Abuja to lead to his criminal prosecution as a cheat who falsified vital documents just for him to get to the senate. The records are there for Onyeacholem who is beholden to Senator Ewuga, to know the true inside story of happenings; that Eggon people are their own problem, not any people; not any administration.
To claim that Nasarawa-Eggon, home to Eggon people gave the CPC on which platform Almakura emerged victorious as governor, to beat the PDP is to continue with the falsification of facts. No grave, as the saying goes, is deep enough to bury the truth. The truth is that Eggon people divided their votes as is typical of their style of politics; giving the PDP 20,000, and the CPC 30,000. How then did this writer get his facts that Eggon people gave Almakura overwhelming and ‘block’ support to account for his victory?
How Onyeacholem picked his facts that Ombatse is “purely a spiritual group” says much of where he got his facts; he obviously had sat with the sponsors of the group to agree on a contract to do the dirty job of damage control. Otherwise, he should have asked himself how on earth he accepted a role to promote Ombatse as peaceful when one of their leaders told the BBC a day after the Alakyo incident that they (Ombatse) killed the security personnel with knives. Their chief priest, whom Senator Ewuga led a group of Eggon leaders to visit after the incident, kick-started this damage control when he said that the god of Eggon people killed the security personnel after making them drunk. Onyeacholem only picked from there to continue with the damage control.
Onyeacholem’s claim that this group is purely spiritual is to reinforce their earlier claim that they are only practitioners of the religion of Eggon people. But there are literatures about the Eggon people and their deity; none mentions Ombatse, but Ajiri as the god of the people. Ombatse, Eggon for “our time has come” is a statement that describes the mission of the group – the time has come for an Eggon to rule the state. No wonder, when Ombatse militia murdered dozens of innocent people during one of their siege on Agyaragu over a mere quarrel between two motorcycle thieves, Senator Ewuga granted a press interview in Abuja to deny that the mayhem had anything to do with his political ambition in 2015. When they murdered security personnel in Alakyo, again, the senator raised defence for them as he also denied any interest in the governorship race in 2015.
Onyeacholem’s write ups are therefore, only a continuation of this line of defence for murderers. That Onyeacholem did not condemn the gruesome murder of security operatives on a law enforcement mission to Alakyo in modern day Nigeria, speaks volume about who he sat and listened to, to end up with those vile writings. A leader, Senator Ewuga, did not see anything wrong with his people laying ambush on security operatives and slaughtering them with knives or through their god, but see everything wrong with a large number of security men on a mission to arrest one man! If one man keeps a militia of armed youths in large numbers as the ambush suggests, shouldn’t the police go after him with one operative? That the security men were murdered in their tens – a casualty figure of law enforcement agents not known to Nigeria since the civil war, suggests how well informed the police were about the size and strength of the militia. That the police sent only less than that number to challenge Ombatse means the police underrated the extent of the blood thirst of the group. That one man thinks law enforcement agents cannot do their job unless they seek the approval of local chiefs sounds laughable. But that another man buys that line of thought to go to town with advertisement such as Onyeacholem did, is to completely throw morality to the dogs.
The muddy stream of defence for the November 11, 2012 incident at Nasarawa Eggon where members of Ombatse held traffic for hours as they unleashed mayhem on innocent travellers to different parts of Nigeria, sounds like the others. Onyeacholem, having listened to his paymasters, wrote thus: “They (Ombatse) were meeting peacefully on November 17, 2012, on the hills of Alogani, off Nasarawa Eggon, when some soldiers suddenly arrived in trucks and started firing at them. Of course they did not respond, and when the soldiers saw that nothing happened to their targets they fled. This caused a massive protest by the people, leading to the closure of Lafia-Akwanga road for hours until the governor arrived.”
If soldiers will shoot at targets that are prepared against bullets and get tired; and then run off, should that spark a protest? Logic is that the “peaceful worshippers” will go to town with celebration, not protests. If Senator Ewuga’s mien is that of a lover of peace because he has spoken of the need for peace in his media interview as neatly captured by the writer, it means Onyeacholem believes what he gets from the media. Yet, in his outings, be preferred to ignore completely, what the media captured about the event of Alakyo and the ones that preceded it. The senator believes in peace, yet turns down an invitation for him to attend stakeholders’ meeting on peace in his state, only to turn out, the next week for a political rally with posters for 2015. This senator would rather visit a bragging evil priest than do a brief stopover at the police or State Security Department to sympathize with them. That this Senator has not raised a farthing to support the families of slain officers says it all about him and his apostles.
Onyeacholem’s piece of writings is at best, war drums. He has sounded them once, and may sound them even louder once more.
— Danladi Alaku Akwati can be reached on alakuakwati@ yahoo.com