No one has still been killed but most of Olanyega Village in Okpokwu Local Government Area of Benue State in Central Nigeria ceased to exist after unknown gunmen attack it. The LGEA Primary, Olanyega whose site is the subject in contest has been burnt down. Believed to be part of an on-going feuding between the village and Iwewe, its nieghbour on the other side of the Otukpo-Enugu Federal Highway over which of them the ancient primary school there should be named, this has been the most violent wave of it.
Eye witness accounts based their conclusion about unknown gunmen on the cartridges found in the village in the aftermath of the attack. Multiple sources attest to the withdrawal of the detachment of the Police that arrived at the border between the two villages last Monday afternoon. It was thus possible for the attack to be launched.
It is said that only older men and the youths were found in the village last night when the attackers arrived because women and children have since been evacuated to unconstituted emergency IDP camps in neighboring villages, decided by the ‘refugees’ in terms of perceived allies or foes status of the destination of choice. That is what is generating the more worrisome but plausible next level of the conflict because each conflict party is now rating each village in terms of friend or enemy depending on which ‘refuges’ it is hosting. Villages identified to be hosting ‘refugees’ from Olanyega are automatically rated as enemy of Iwewe and vice-versa. What observers and elite from the area are, therefore, fearing is that this could quickly transform into an absolutely needless violence between the nine villages of Amejo and the same or so number in Okonobo clans.
The puzzle over the age-old conflict has been how the current phase escaped 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. None anticipated, got a whiff of or intervened to nip the current escaltion in the bud even though the case has been there and even been a subject of contention up to the Appeal Court, with some saying the Supreme Court.
The tragedy is that no individuals with sufficient conflict management system around the area 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.
The first wave of violence flared up late Sunday night between the two culturally, linguistically and territorially contiguous entities. It is not clear what might have triggered the wave when 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 assumption was that everyone will return to the status quo with the arrival of the police Monday afternoon. That has turned out a pipe dream, leaving the big question: what institutions or individuals with moral authority can intervene immediately and calm the situation while a peace process is awaited? A rural formation, Iwewe-Olanyega axis lacks the presence of NGOs and even media vigilance, leaving only the police and the LGA as the key law enforcement agencies. Coming at a time when struggle for power is uppermost at all levels in the country, the effectiveness of any of the two is better imagined than mentioned, particularly in a case that needs reconciliation more than law and order in the end.