How the native intelligence system of elders, political leaders of Edumoga District to which all two villages belong, the police authorities in the area, the elite platform called EDEMA and the Okpokwu LGA failed to anticipate the violence and nip it in the bud is the puzzle now. What is not a puzzle anymore is how Local Government Education Authority, (LGEA) Primary School, otherwise known as St Peters Primary School, Olanyega in Okpokwu LGA of Benue State is now the site of an on-going violent tussle between the two surrounding communities claiming the land. No lives have been lost yet as at midnight February 18th, 2019 but several houses have been burnt on both sides and heavy military moilisation is said to be going on.
Violence flared up late Sunday night between Iwewe and Olanyega villages whose only difference is that they are on opposite sides of the Federal Highway from Otukpo in Benue State to Enugu in Eastern Nigeria. Otherwise, they are homogenous in cultural, linguistics and religious terms, barring very minor differences in practices.
On Sunday night, the homogeneity gave way to violence as Iwewe on whose side the school is located asserted its claim to the school by wiping Olanyega’s name from a new signboard some food vendors just erected there. Olanyega which was reportedly alerted of mobilization for an attack quickly mobilised. The violence that ensued has left refugee camps in neighboring villages depending on which is perceived by those fleeing to be an ally. Olanyega combatants are are believed to have carted away all the documents regarding the school from the Headmaster’s Office for ‘protective custody’.
Conflict over the prestigious primary school established by the colonialists is nothing new but this time, it is fiercer than ever. Unconfirmed insights speak of the conflict as being in the Supreme Court, with Olanyega having won at the High Court and at the Appeal Court. Intervention did not confirm this.
What has been confirmed, however, is the eventual arrival of a detachment of the police by Monday afternoon. Whether the presence of the police will stop the conflict from degenerating is a different question.
The two villages are so interwoven that the consequences of the conflict is better imagined than mentioned. For the next two or so weeks, farming activities would be out of it because of fear of attacks. Although a very local conflict, it speaks to what seems to be that everywhere in Nigeria has chosen this moment to explode in one form of contestation or the other. At no other time are conflict managers needed to be on the move but at no other time have honest brokers been this scarce across Nigeria.