It is not about which camp is right or wrong but about how so poor a community that should not be worrying about violence is, however, now the theatre of day long bloodshed. As at early evening today, Monday, July 29th, 2019, three persons have been speculated lost in the day long gun battle between one group and a set of vigilantes that sought to contain them. “Oyi, serious is an understatement for the violence today” is what an informed source told Intervention early Monday evening. ‘Oyi’ in Idoma language refers to brotherhood
Monday’s explosive violence between the two camps at an adjoining site to Okpoga, the headquarters of Okpokwu Local Government Council of Benue State has a long history. One solid account has it that while people were in the church in the morning, about six young men known as the ‘Ollo boys’ went to the popular Okpoga Roundabout and started shooting and burning motorcycles. The vigilante boys from Okpoga community reportedly trailed them, according to this storyline and there was gun battle. It was in the gun battle that the vigilante lost a person and another one said to be missing. “I don’t have information on the causality on the side of the Ollo boys”, said this source who also told Intervention that the Ollo boys are also on war path with the Ingle boys. Ingle is a nearby but separate village from Okpoga. That confrontation is the second theatre of the violence, signifying how Nigeria is exploding in violence here and there without the state being able to respond in a systematic manner. “Oyi, it is really very sad” was how the absolutely neutral source put it.
In relation to the second theatre of today’s violence, sources close to the High Command of the Vigilante run by the Okpoga community claimed that before today, some elderly women were robbed between Ojapo, (the huge, emergent agricultural products market serving lower part of Edumoga – the most populous District in the LGA) and Ingle on their way back from the market after sale of garri. Two of the suspected robbers were arrested. It is to that arrest that the violence in Ingle is being traced. In other words, there is element of a reprisal by the ‘Ollo boys’. Once again, the lamentation is “We are in a terrible situation. Imagine our community where people live from hand to mouth now having to worry about violence” was the sense of discomfort of a worried elder.
The search for solution is not making much progress. While some people say it is a crisis of youth unemployment, others argue it is a crisis of prolonged violent use of young people by politicians. Yet, others insist it is pure criminality. There is just no consensus about where the violent instinct is coming from. The use of force by security agencies is not producing reconciliation but more anger and greater violence. There is a belief that if someone who understands their feelings talks to them, the crisis could be managed. But who could that be? Would that be Senator Ameh Ebute or David Mark or Abba Moro or Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom? That leaves the search for solution in whom the young people might listen to at a productive discussion with them to convince them to abandon the path of violence and reconcile with order and stability.
Meanwhile, the implications are being pointed out. What is happening is the end of farming in the area, said one source. Herdsmen violence and massive compacting of the soil by large number of herds in motion have already made farming a no-option for a long time, he said. Now, robbery of women who make ends meet from selling garri and similar agrarian products have been added to that at the same time that sporadic or random violence has worsened.
Those who push this line of analysis are those arguing that it is not time for blame game anymore but for action, one of which could be a serious conversation between political leaders and the Ollo boys towards healing and reconciliation. That is one option. Others are considering other options while violence could expand as the police in the area is too under-equipped to cope. The military has not been sighted in the area yet.