Oshimili North chairman, Louis Ndukwe, has written his name in gold to have taken a bold step in the fight against the marauding Fulani herdsmen in Delta state. For the first time a local government chairman in the volatile Delta state is taken a decision that is attracting national attention. It is believed in most quarters that local government chairmen dread taking some major decisions because they are tied to the apron strings of their various governors. But this decision of Ndukwe to rid the bushes of Oshimili North of miscreants and Fulani herdsmen is a decision that will go down into history as mile stone in the administration of local governments in Delta state.
I got to know Ndukwe when Barrister Peter Nwaoboshi was to contest for Delta North Senate in 2014. Then I was the editor of Delta Herald, a local newspaper floated by late Sunny Ofili, who died in August 2014 through a ghastly motor accident. As at then, Ndukwe was also preparing to contest for the local government election for the first term. After that, we had no much contact until 2017 when an issue arose between us as a result of a publication but was amicably resolved and we went our different ways. But for this decision of Ndukwe, I’m re-awakening my interest in his administration.
Fulani herdsmen have given the Nigerian state much sleepless night. Their murderous actions, as some believe, may not be unconnected with the belief that the Northern oligarchy controls the federal seat of power. Hence, they assume to have unlimited right to unleash terror on all Nigerians living in different parts of the country and go unscathed. Delta state has received its share of murderous actions by the Fulani herdsmen. The herdsmen, ordinarily appear weak and harmless with their seemingly fragile body, the action they display at their ungodly moments is hard to comprehend.
Their murderous actions have been felt in Delta central and Delta North where the dwellers in the agricultural zones have received the sledge hammer of the Fulani herdsmen. Abraka and the surrounding communities have been badly dealt with by the herdsmen. Many were murdered, women raped and crops grazed with reckless abandon. Police were fearful to approach the bushes in search of the deadly killers. Farmers in Abraka rural communities had to abandon their farms as the herdsmen appeared untouchable.
In Ughelli North, the local government of the Nigerian deputy senate president, Barrister Ovie Omo-Agege, specifically in Uwheru communities, the herdsmen had unleashed terror on the residents, destroying their farms and killing not less than 10 men and burying them in shallow graves in the bushes. It was a communal and state mourning that followed the murderous action of the Fulani herdsmen. Available reports say a delegation sent to the forest of Uwheru met ferocious herdsmen who gave marching order for the team to retreat or face superior fire power from the camp of the herdsmen.
In Issele Azagba, Aniocha North local government area, the people there have resigned to fate as their life now hangs in the hands of the Fulani herdsmen. At the least suspected time, the herdsmen will invade the community, kill, maim, rape and retreat back to the bush. The community leaders had cried, called for different press conferences but there seems to be no respite to the inglorious reign of the Fulani herdsmen in the area. At one of the times, they invaded the secondary school in the community, sent panic everywhere, the whole community ran helter-skelter, the school community was in total disarray as the need to save individual life became paramount. Teachers abandoned their students, students forgot their friends and classes and everybody fled to the bush. The herdsmen trailed them to the bush, dealt with as many as they could, injured many, a development which led to the hospitalization of some teachers at the federal medical centre in Asaba for weeks. That was in a nutshell the share of Aniocha North local government area of the state.
Coming closer to Asaba, the Delta state capital, another onslaught was launched against Okpanam, one of the leading communities in Oshimili North local government area of the state. The vigilante chairman was killed while others in his entourage fled for their lives. Residents in the community that is sharing boundary with the state capital are at the moment afraid of their lives due to the anticipated unexpected violent visit of the herdsmen. Their cup is gradually getting full in Delta state and it is already overflowing.
This may have led to the executive order recently passed by the Oshimili North local government chairman, Louis Ndukwe. The order mandated everybody living in the bushes surrounding the local government communities to come out of the bushes and live in the communities. And to every sane mind there is no wrong in that order. The order, ordinarily, should be applauded by the people living in the forest. One wonders why in this 21st century, human beings prefer living in the bush to dwelling in communities with fellow human beings.
One therefore begins to wonder when the Fulani people living in those bushes trooped to the streets in protest against the order, preferring rather to live in the forest to the directive, imploring them to build or rent houses and dwell in communities. There are modern buildings which they could rent and enjoy their lives with their family members. The protest against the order was highly uncalled for and a show of uncivilized culture and backwardness. The protesters were seen calling for aid from both federal and state governments to allow them remain in the forest. They said they pay rent and that they have receipts in their hands (This will be a report for another day). And because they pay rent they should be allowed to remain in the forest as their preferred place of abode.
However, from the view of a sane mind, the decision of the local government chairman is worthy of commendation and emulation. Out of all the 25 local government chairmen in the state, I think the chairman has made a great decision for the safety and well-being of his people. One of the primary functions of government is the protection of lives and property and the provision of basic amenities for the people. This decision is in tandem with one and the most important function of government. And the local government chairman has said that the council has reached out to the police, the DSS, the traditional rulers and community people have agreed and the die is cast.
He explained that the local government will come down heavily on defaulters as the people are ready to carry out the order to the letter. It is recommended that all the local government chairmen in the state should understudy the decision of Oshimili North and implement same in their local government areas. This is especially important to Aniocha North, Ethiope East, Ughelli North, Ughelli South, Ndokwa east and west, Ukwuani and the two Isoko council areas. It is advisable that the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) in Delta state take up the decision and save the lives of their people. A hard decision is needed in hard times to save people’s lives.