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Defending Intergenerational Equity In Bight Of Benin

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By EKAIWE IGINUA OSEMWEKHA {Update 09/10/2017}

FOR over two thousand years the story of “Oke-Na-Lubode” the exit hill for the departed soul in Gele-Gele had been handed over from generation to generation.

So, in the early sixties as a child, there was the gathering of already women in the neighbourhood moon light, telling the youths and kids the stories they had inherited from their ancestors.

The story of exit, departed soul was the most intriguing and frightening. So, a dirge will obviously remain unaccomplished without reference to “Oke-Na-Lubode” the hill that separate the living and the dead in Benin Kingdom.

In one of such memorable dirge to my father’s mother in the early 50’s, there were lited gas lights with traditional musicians in attendance, women dressed in motely apparels danced to the famous “Ugho” traditional dance. After the dance, it was a congregational supplication to God and our ancestors that the demised mother do not fall in the exit hill to the spiritual world because the departed spirit could be shrouded in mysteries if the negative takes preminence.

One of the moonlight stories instructors Mama Agnes said; “in my youth I visited Gele-Gele with my grand Pa Omozusi in the early 20’s. We actually heard voices from the Southern axis of the village and we were specifically warned not to respond if we heard our names called”. According to Mama Agnes who is about 120 years said; other spiritual relationship was that if you are cooking about 20 pieces of yam in a cooking pot, the numbers of such pieces could double to 40 pieces. What you do in such circumstances is to cover your pot raise alarm and run into the house. “The yam is ready” come and remove yours”. By the time you come back to check you will be amazed that half the prepared yams in the pot are gone”. So, Gele-Ughoton, Ugbine and all the coastal villages in Bight of Benin share the same lineage of cultural, spiritual human and material endowment which is the bonafide properties of Omo N’Oba Uku Akpolokpolo.

The agricultural potentials in the social villages in Benin empire is enormous – ranging from cassava cultivation, yams, maize, e.t.c. Forestry reserve at Okomu had been thriving for about 50 years now which made wild life which were considered endangered species to flourish.

This had made the area a potential tourist destination in West Africa sub-region. The Ijaws migrant fisher men were very often present in the area and their main occupation was fishing.

Mangroves create shelter for so many endangered species of fishes, reptiles and birds. They also protect the environment by filtering polluted water. About 85% of game fish from nomadic fishermen depend on them.
In recent times, the nomadic fishermen are systematically laying claim to our forest reserves and coastal villages. Every year, an area of forest equal to the whole surface of 5,000 hectares is destroyed by Ijaw fishermen who had turned peasant farmers. We shall by the year 2020 lost 65% of forest in the humid topical zones. According to local inhabitants, ten trees are cut for every one planted. Illegal cutting of mature and ammature timbers which are transported through the coast to other states.

A respondent, Mr. Ezekiel said; “the activities of the Ijaws in Benin coastal villages is becoming a threat to the hungers in the communities”. Any bus driver loading or off loading in the area were compelled to pay landing fees to Ijaw Youths or you face being attacked with cutlasses, guns and other dangerous weapons.
The Odionwere of Ughoton also confirmed the incidence saying that “for over two thousand years the area had been peaceful but the Ijaws are currently creating tension in the area which could culminate into a communal figtht”.

In the light of the above, the state governor and all relevant security agencies should as a matter of urgency wade into this matter with a view of preventing a possible break-down of law and order. The Ijaw nomadic fishermen can reside there but they should desist from claiming ownership of the area.

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